I’ve had a chat with Brendan Bank, CIO of Booking.com to find out all of his secrets about creating a kick-ass company culture to hire tech talent from all around the globe!
Listen to the interview below and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
About booking.com and Brendan’s role:
Booking.com is an accommodation website, we bring supply from hotels, bed and breakfasts, apartments, holiday homes together with customers from all over the world. So we are by far the largest online accommodation website in the world and depending on how you count, we’re the third largest e-commerce company in the world.
I am CIO, so I’m responsible for all technology within booking.com including all the product phases and technology. So we don’t have a CTO, CIO and CTO are embodied into a single role. Currently in technology, there’s around a 1,000 people, most of them based out of Amsterdam, where we build new products and services for our customers and our partners.
Using culture to attract and relocate new hires:
So, we started out trying to find people in Amsterdam. That didn’t work. We then expanded to the Netherlands. That didn’t work. Basically for every person in the Netherlands, there are about three jobs in technology, there’s a huge under-supply. So we went out and we got CVs in through our website and then we got this one CV and the guy looked really promising. And it was just great and so we invited him to Amsterdam, and he came into reception and the guy didn’t speak English.
So we really had to learn the basics of how do you recruit from afar. From that moment on, we said, “Okay, this needs to be different. We really need a good process. We need a better upfront check if somebody can speak English because that’s our corporate language.” And gradually we broke into more areas and found more talent. Then we had a couple Russian people and they loved to work with us so they were very active, we got a lot of referrals from them. This is how it grows and grows and then together with our culture, which is very strong with diversity, our product needs to work everywhere and so when you stay locally relevant and globally scalable.
To be that relevant, we also need to understand what the cultural differences are when people book room. Because there are many differences. If you look at Japan, if you look at the United States, if you look at Europe, even by country there are different booking patterns. So for us to recruit, it was almost a necessity which we needed that global footprint also in our employees to make sure that localisation in our website really feels local. So tying back, diversity and the cultural frames were used, diversity to give it the strength, back to recruitment and then it all came together. So now we have about 70 nationalities in Amsterdam in IT, it goes to over 100 in Amsterdam if you also include the call centres and all the other departments.
The consumer brand in relation to the employer brand:
I think if you are an e-commerce professional and you have experience in tech, then we play in quite a big league, and people know us, generally. And so what we see is that right now around 70% of people that apply with us have just booked with us, so that’s interesting.
I think your brand just helps. So we show potential candidates, what we are all about, and they are like, “Okay, this might be a nice company to work for.” So I think the consumer brand really helps there. But to the employee market we really brand ourselves as a tech company and to consumers, it’s much more consumer brand. There is overlap, but it is not exactly the same.
The top channels for recruiting and attracting talent:
Recruitment through referrals has really picked up this year. We put a lot of emphasis on it, we improved the program a lot, we also feedback constantly through to people that refer candidates, and that helps a lot. So we got a lot more confidence from our employees that if they put a referral in, it’s not this black hole that is talked about, and that helped a lot. So from our hires currently over 40% are now referred, which is great.
The other channel which is really up and coming is LinkedIn, so that’s a very strong channel. And then we have some paid channels that are also working out. But we paid a lot a lot of learning money on paid channels because there’s a lot a lot of money spent on advertisements that never produced one single candidate – job boards, advertisements, online advertising, placement, anything. We tried everything basically.
Booking.com employee blogs:
We started the blog three years ago. Actually it started as a fun project because we had some stuff that is open source. So we created some open source offers that we released in the market. We wanted to blog about it. So we put up this blog and very quickly it turned out that many of our candidates who were later hired, read those blogs, because they really want to know what our company is about.
They want to see some snippets of our code, because good developers, they can see the culture through how the code is written. So they know what you are based on the blog. Nowadays, we try to publish one article a week, which is hard because you have to distract the engineer and developer and designer to write something up, and they’re not professional writers. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s well worth the investment. It radiates this culture even before they’ve even met you. So I think it’s a great way to communicate with potential candidates.
There’s also workingatbooking.com, which is our recruitment portal, and there you find a lot of blogs on the rest of the company, so not just tech but also customer service, finance, marketing, the whole range of jobs that are there. And then we have a blog on Dribble [and Medium], which is more a designer focused blog where we publish all kinds of designs and we talk about design.
Mistakes to be learnt from:
Define your culture very clearly. So what is it that you want to radiate out? Because talent these days, you can hire talent but talent also chooses you. And they choose you based on the company culture, not so much on pay, because the pay is relatively the same anywhere. So, define the culture, make it very clear what you’re about, make it very clear how you do work, and then people can choose themselves if they fit into that culture. For instance, not everybody fits into booking.com and that is fine. That’s it’s totally fine.
There are people that don’t like to work with us and we accept that. Because there is no cultural fit, and if there is no cultural fit from both ends, it will not work. So that’s the main thing that I would say is important and there is a whole list of other things that, for instance, take care of the partners.
If you relocate so many people, we relocate about 80% of all our hires to the Netherlands because most of these hires are not in the Netherlands, you need to take care of their families, their children, you need to pay tuition for school, etc. So you need to do a lot to make these people feel at home. So don’t just take care of the employee but you also have to take care of their partner, making sure that they feel also at home in Amsterdam in this case, in the country where they are hired.