Few things can be more frustrating than job-hunting - sending out endless generic CVs and repetitive cover letters to eventually find a job we may not even enjoy. Luckily, Justin McMurray, founder of Somewhere, has decided to do something about this.
Founded in late 2011, Somewhere aims to provide an alternative way for companies and talent to find each other, based on factors that are not commonly considered in the standard job search, while aiming to increase satisfaction and “work joy” on both sides.
Companies have been using the same process of recruitment for years. What made you feel the need to develop an alternative to this standard process?
The standard recruitment process – CVs, interviews, and so on – is several decades old, and no longer that effective or relevant, particularly when you see how many people today are dissatisfied with their current jobs. The main reason for this is the lack of cultural fit between companies and their employees. In today’s economy, an increasing number of jobs rely on creativity and other human characteristics, rather than specific skills alone. A CV can list a set of skills, yet it cannot really show whether or not the employee would have a good cultural fit with the company.
You mention a specific need to consider ‘cultural fit’ when seeking out talent. What exactly does this term mean?
That’s a good question. We don’t think it can necessarily be defined, but we see it as a collection of intangible factors related to how an employee interacts with his or her workplace – for example, the company philosophy, the team, the work style, or the attitude, to name a few. Cultural fit refers to these kinds of factors which can’t really be quantified, yet are still important to both companies and employees.
Do you believe the cultural fit of an employee is equally important as his or her skills directly related to the job?
I think it depends a lot on the company and the industry. For professions that rely on a very specific skill set, such as medicine, cultural fit is obviously not that important. However, we are seeing an increasing number of creative companies where the skills required are diverse, and constantly changing. In these companies, employees can no longer be evaluated purely on their skills, but rather on their attitude, and on the chemistry they have with the company. Cultural fit, in that case, would be very important.
Exclusive screenshot of Somewhere. The product is due to launch next month.
How does Somewhere help place cultural fit at the forefront of the recruitment process?
We’re just about to launch our first product which will mainly be targeted towards the creative industry; so towards creative startups, studios, or design agencies, and to create a rich showcase of what both these companies and prospective talent have to offer. We find that companies rarely provide information that is interesting or even relevant to talent, focusing instead on the interests of customers or investors. For example, employees often want to know about things like the working environment, the company philosophy, or even things like what kind of music they play during office hours or if there are any good cafés or bars nearby – things that will affect their satisfaction with the job in the long term.
Likewise, many companies wish to see something completely different from what they normally encounter when searching for talent. Instead of generic CVs that list a person’s skills and educational qualifications, what they really wish to see is their character – what makes them tick, or how resilient they would be when faced with a challenge – things that CVs cannot really show. Different companies look for different personality traits – smaller creative firms, for instance, may look for someone highly autonomous, while larger firms may look for someone who is sensitive to others and works well in a team.
As a new startup, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced in developing and promoting your idea, particularly as an alternative to such a well-established process? What kind of advice would you give to others who are just starting their own companies?
My main advice would be simply to start. Starting something does not rely on having a fantastic idea, but rather on the desire to solve a problem. Even if you do not immediately know how to solve it, you can simply learn more as you develop as a startup. There are, of course, many challenges that come with that, such as planning and coordinating each task, or time management. The biggest challenge, however, is working effectively with limited resources. We managed to bootstrap our discovery of the problem, the solution and our customer base, and we’ve developed our first product which will soon launch in five cities – London, Berlin, San Francisco, New York and Sydney. However, after that, we will need some outside support, either in the form of angel funding or seed investments, so that we can truly reach out to these five cities.
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Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them.
Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.
Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear.
Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.
Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different.
Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally.
Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.
Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.
Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte
Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.
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