January 24, 2024

Holger Seim

Learnings from scaling Blinkist to +200 employees

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Summary of #TalentBuzz Episode with Holger Seim from Blinkist

Introduction to Talent Acquisition at Blinkist

In this episode of #TalentBuzz, host Samuli Salonen discusses with Holger Seim, founder and CEO of Blinkist, about the key learnings and challenges in talent acquisition as Blinkist scaled to over 200 employees.

Early Hiring Challenges and Realizations

  • Initial Inexperience: As first-time founders, Holger and his team faced challenges due to a lack of experience in people management and specific roles.
  • Realization About Quality of Hires: The quality of hires depended significantly on the average quality in the recruiting pipeline. Active sourcing through recruiters or agencies helped raise the average quality, leading to better hires.

The Importance of Comparing Candidates

  • Comparing to Other Candidates: Holger notes the risk of being misled by the quality of other candidates in the pipeline.
  • Comparing to Company Needs: Understanding and refining the company's needs through discussions with candidates is crucial.
  • Founder's Unfair Advantage: Founders have an inherent advantage due to their deep understanding of the company and lack of employment baggage, which impacts their expectations from employees.

Building and Evolving Company Culture

  • Initial Lack of Focus on Culture: In the early stages, the focus was more on product launch and marketing, leading to a diverse mix of values and working styles.
  • Challenges in Aligning Culture: Founders' fights often stemmed from a lack of alignment on fundamental values.
  • Resetting Culture: As the company grew, the need to reset or evolve the culture became evident. Blinkist shifted to a more outcome-focused approach, allowing individual styles within a cultural framework.

Implementing Company Values

  • Value of Pragmatism: 'Just Get It Done' is a core value at Blinkist, emphasizing pragmatism and fast decision-making.
  • Validating Candidate Fit: During interviews, Holger looks for examples of candidates' problem-solving abilities and their approach to overcoming challenges.

Impact of Market Situation on Hiring

  • Adaptation During COVID-19: Blinkist was affected by COVID-19 and shifted towards managing for profitability, leading to more cautious hiring and team restructuring.
  • Continuous Reallocation of Resources: The company focuses on investing in areas with growth opportunities, like their B2B segment, and divesting from others.

Closing Remarks

  • Samuli Salonen's Reflections: Samuli discusses the importance of aligning hiring with company needs and values, and the challenges founders face in adjusting their expectations from employees.
  • Holger Seim's Insights: Holger shares valuable insights on building a strong team culture, hiring based on company needs, and the continuous process of resource allocation in response to market changes.

Actionable Tips for Listeners

  1. Evaluate the Average Quality of Your Hiring Pipeline: Ensure that the pool of candidates is of high quality to make better hires.
  2. Be Aware of Founder Bias: Recognize the unfair advantages as a founder and adjust expectations accordingly.
  3. Focus on Company Culture from the Start: Early attention to company culture can prevent future conflicts and inefficiencies.
  4. Hire for Outcomes, Not Styles: Allow individuality in achieving goals, focusing more on results than methods.
  5. Stay Agile in Resource Allocation: Be ready to reallocate resources in response to market changes and company growth phases.

The episode offers a deep dive into the nuances of talent acquisition in a growing SaaS company, highlighting the importance of culture, hiring strategies, and adaptation to market conditions.

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