#TalentQA | 3 min read

#TalentQA: Christa Fellner, Team Lead HR at InterNations

Alex Ford
Written by Alex Ford

InterNations is on a mission to make expat life a great experience. The company aims to connect all expatriates and global minds worldwide and be the one platform where expats socialise, network, and find reliable information and services all around the world.

We talked with the company’s HR Team Lead Christa Fellner about the challenges of modern hiring — from talent shortage to diversity.

Alex Ford: Why do you find having a diverse workforce being so important?

Christa Fellner: Being the world’s largest network for expats living and working abroad, it has always been important for InterNations to recruit employees who could really identify with our mission: to make expat life a great experience

In my experience, workplaces that lack diversity often lack flexibility too. Non-diverse workplaces are typically more rigid, sticking to traditional ways of operating — regardless of whether these practices continue to best serve the company or are the most productive way of working. Our diverse team nurtures a workplace that is always evolving and never stagnant.

The diversity of the InterNations team creates an inclusive and welcoming environment, where differences are not just accepted, but actively celebrated. We have always prided ourselves on this excellent team spirit, which is frequently cited by employees as an aspect they greatly value about the company.

AF: What do you look for when selecting candidates to work for InterNations, in terms of skillset, experience and personality, and why do you look for these things specifically?

CF: As an innovative internet company in a progressively digitalised world, InterNations is increasingly looking to fill positions that fall outside of conventional job profiles, and for which there may be no formal education pathway.

Skillset: depends on the position we are recruiting for, in general we rely much more on our written tests / coding challenge which we send to the candidates during the selection process than on formal education or certificates.

Experience: exposure to different countries, global mind, experience abroad and cross-cultural proficiency.

Personality: self-confident, positive mind-set, open-minded, high motivation, speaking up when there are issues, living an open feedback culture, addressing topics openly, taking over responsibility, hands-on mentality.

AF: Would you agree with the statement that ‘the recruitment model is broken’? Why?

CF: The recruitment model is not broken. I would say it has evolved.

We feel that the market has changed: companies are finding it hard to fill their vacancies. It requires more than posting on a job board these days to receive applications. Most of the candidates are passive; they are not looking for a job but would like the fact that they are being courted for a job. In our experience, our best performers, have been the ones who applied directly on our website.

Corporate branding is key to attract the best talent and this start by making sure your social profiles are updated regularly.

Another reliable source for us, has been our employee referrals.

AF: What’s your perception of external agency recruiters?

CF: It all depends who you are working with. Some forward-thinking agencies, know their market, understand the candidate (skillset, strength and weakness) and aligning this with the company- a digital matchmaker.

Majority simply spray-and-pray and do not really understand the requirement often ignoring culture fit – which I think is key to any hire.

AF: How have you seen candidate’s behaviour change?

CF: Candidates are much more demanding nowadays and they have expectations towards their employer. They look up employer rating platforms, they ask for work/life balance (is working remotely an option?), they want to identify with the company’s product or service, they want to work together with like-minded people.

AF: Do you find sourcing technical candidates, such as DevOps Engineers, a difficult experience, in terms of both the calibre of candidates coming through from internal sources and external agencies?

CF: Yes, I find it difficult because there is no easy way to define immediately whether the candidate is a perfect match or not, the profiles are so diverse, and we might not find the profile we are looking for.

We follow up by using a technical assessment to make sure it is a good fit.

AF: How do you overcome difficulties in resourcing at InterNations?

CF: Global outreach: With the market so tight in Europe, and the war for talent so competitive globally, we can’t just rely on recruiting employees locally. We rely on referrals from our employees and their networks (networking is key). We tap into XING (our parent company) and their resources, they recently opened a new office in Porto where we built a new department,

AF: What other emerging trends are you seeing in the talent acquisition industry?

CF: The emphasis is more and more on employer branding. In the tech area it is a lot about hosting tech events/activities and building a brand which is well known in the tech field. Reviews on employer rating platforms are very popular. Companies have to make sure to offer a good work/life balance. Remote work is a big topic as well

Benefits are comparable and it is not always about the money – candidates want to work with brands that genuinely add value to the society.