Perhaps no company in Canada is as famous for bootstrapping its way to dizzying heights than dating website PlentyOfFish (POF). For a few years after it went live in 2003, the Vancouver company had only one employee, founder Markus Frind.
In 2008, Frind finally gave in and hired someone else: the company’s current COO, Kate Manolis.
In its early days, Frind’s company simply didn’t need staff to be profitable. The site quickly racked up users by offering a no-frills service for free. It capitalized on its large and growing user base, focusing its advertising around the idea that a bigger pool would lead to a better match. (Frind has been known to remark that the site is responsible for “one million babies.”)
Even the website design reflected the philosophy this: A 2009 Inc. profile suggested that the thumbnail pictures on dating profiles were deliberately low-quality because it forced users to click, driving more internal traffic on the site and bringing in more cheques from Google AdSense.
It paid off. The company reportedly had $100 million in revenue in 2015, and it was acquired in by Match Group for $575 million in July.
The spread of mobile added some complexity to the site’s operations, and in recent years the POF has started to add to its roster of talent; it now has 75 employees. But while the competition for skilled technology workers is particularly fierce at the moment in Vancouver, POF hasn’t abandoned its disciplined approach to operations.
Here’s how Manolis says POF finds and hires quality talent, a strategy that could be particularly effective for businesses in tough industries for recruitment.
Meetings with executives, even for mid-level jobs
POF has maintained some of the key tenets of it’s early culture, including the preference of company leadership to get involved in the hiring processes.
There aren’t many multi-million dollar companies in Canada where job candidates get to meet with someone on the executive team, notes Manolis. Even if she’s not the hiring manager for a given position, Manolis will make the effort to step in at the end of an interview to introduce herself. It imbues a sense of confidence in the company’s leadership, and also makes the candidate feel more important, which can reinforce his or her desire to work at POF. “There’s immediately more buy-in,” says Manolis.
Roundtables with the entire leadership
Openings at POF, especially entry-level ones, can net up to 500 applications. Once the team has isolated a candidate to focus on, the company’s executive team—Frind included—gather round to discuss the candidate’s potential.
The discussion doesn’t revolve around what that new hire can do for the company. Rather, the focus is on deciphering how the organization can help the candidate grow professionally.
“People want a way forward,” says Manolis, and the company likes to address that desire even before the candidate officially joins the team. If an otherwise strong candidate is lacking in a particular skill, POF will ask, “How can we compensate for something that is not there?”
There’s a lot of unattached, highly-skilled talent floating around in an emerging tech hub like Vancouver, so the temptation for companies to recruit fast and offer a lot is high. But POF’s hiring process can take up to a month and the company does its best to avoid bidding wars says Manolis.
If the firm does find itself competing for talent, it focuses on showcasing what’s special about POF’s culture. That includes “the opportunity for contribution, to help drive the company’s direction ¦ and our open door policy,” says Manolis. “Candidates should know they’re not just going to be another cog in the machine.”
But what if a talented candidate isn’t willing to endure the month-long process? Manolis isn’t too fussed. “If they don’t want to go along with the hiring process, they’re probably not the right person for us.” There are other fish in the sea, after all.
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What do you think of PlentyofFish’s recruitment tactics? How do you beat the competition to top talent? Let us know by commenting below.