The Muselet #4: The Point

Note: If you’re lucky enough (?) to be an OLX employee, you may recognize this email as something I already shared a few days ago as one of my internal Weekly Updates. Good catch! Because I’m extremely lazy, I forked the content, and attempted to make it a bit less OLX specific. I’ll leave it up to you if you want to relive this experience in a mildly less OLX-specific way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For everybody not currently an OLX employee — yes, if you want to get more email from me, your best bet is to apply for a job here.

My favorite topic to explore during interviews with candidates is their motivation to join our company: Why are you applying to us, what are you hoping to find/learn/achieve here, or any other company you apply to?

Obviously, there’s no correct answer to this question (OR IS THERE). It’s highly personal. Some people have no real answer to this: it’s a job, I need work, a stable income. Some have a clear career path in mind: “I want to be CTO one day and joining your company will help me get there.”

However, over the last month or two I’ve been hearing a different answer more often. Now, it may well be that I’m projecting, but I’ve spoken to some other interviewers, and they have noticed a similar trend:

“I want to do something that has a point. Something valuable.”

“What do you mean by that exactly, what do you consider valuable?”

“I want to work on something that helps people, something that has a positive impact. I would never want to work at one of those mobile gaming companies that just try to trick you into paying more money. Or a gambling company. Or Facebook.”

My theory is that this shift is a result of the pandemic. What I see happen is that all the restrictions put on us result in a higher level of frustration: here I sit all day in an empty house, with my laptop on my lap. I can’t meet my friends. I cannot have coffee with my colleagues. Shit. What’s the point of all of this? Why do I do what I do, anyway?

The pandemic is a bit like a near-death experience: it causes people to reflect on life, including their professional one, and that can lead to two things:

  1. They remember why they joined their company, and that it’s still a good place to be. Great 👍 This is like renewing your marital vows.

  2. They realize, given the circumstances — they need more. 👎 

So, some of them start to look around for something different, something better.

And then, one day, they end up having an interview with a cheerful Dutch dude who sincerely wants to understand what they’re looking for. 

Hello 👋 

I love helping people with their careers, to make sure everybody ends up in the right place for them. This is part of my job for the people in my teams, but I also do this for the people we recruit. Potentially that may mean that we have a great candidate, but I know they would not be happy at our company. We end up not hiring those people, because it’s neither good for them nor us in the long term.

This is the reason the “what are you looking for?” question is so important.

Like our candidates, I went through my pandemic-journey, near-death experience reflection, and the answer for me is: option (1) I’m still in the right place. Vows renewed. I’ll get to why in a second.

The group of candidates that I’m talking about here give a hint of a scope of considering (as Carol Sanford calls it) that goes beyond “me, me, me”, beyond “doing what’s good for the company”, towards caring about “what’s right for the world.”

And here I believe OLX has a good story.

While I will use OLX as an example here, the purpose is not to recruit you (although we’re hiring again), but to encourage you to muse on the purpose of your own company and how you present it — “sell it” if you will. I think companies are quite different in this sense, some are extremely mission focused: “we’re here to change the world!” Others will almost ignore what they build or why during recruitment (or in general). “Join us for a cool office and fancy Macbook Pro for tapping the codez! We will give you a role with ‘Ninja’ in the title too #forrealzies

Pandemic and post-pandemic times may require a different strategy.

For those that don’t know OLX — it’s a classifieds site. Thinks of it like craigslist, but better looking and more advanced. It’s a marketplace focused on consumer-to-consumer trade.

Let’s put things in perspective for a company like this: we’re not curing cancer, we’re not finding a vaccine for The China Virus, we’re not solving global warming, nor will we bring world peace.

However, do I believe the world would be better off when people would use OLX more? My answer is a resounding — excuse my French — fuck yes.

There would be less perfectly usable stuff stored in attics or dumped into the trash. People with little money would be able to afford more stuff they need. Small, niche, no-gluten, vegan or 100% meat confectionaries would find more customers. Companies would find employees more easily when the economy picks up again. People that lost their job, would find a new one quicker. Also, I would go less insane at home because of my kids fighting, because they’d be less bored with their toys, as it would be easier to get rid of the old, creating space for the new(ish).

The world would be a better place if people would use OLX more. 

If you believe this to be true, and you care about it, OLX is a good place to be. Or craigslist. Or eBay classifieds. Or Marktplaats. Or whatever your local equivalent is.

This is the story I’ve been telling candidates more often recently. Because more and more express they want to contribute to something that has a point. And while I cannot always judge if this is “the point” they’d be interested in contributing to — more often than not, I see their eyes light up at least a little bit.

However, that may just be a Zoom network glitch. Who knows.

What is the point of your company, of your team, of the position you’re hiring for? With everything going on, it’s easy to lose track of the basics, the foundation, the point. We all need to have a story here. For recruitment, but to remind our current people as well. More than ever, we need to hammer on the story, the purpose, the point of all of this.