Insider tips: Strategies for hiring exceptional tech talent in London’s fast-growth businesses


Navigating the challenges and evolving dynamics of tech recruitment in London's rapidly growing businesses with Mikael Nilsson, VP of People at Speechmatics

How do you boost your team strength and culture by finding the best talent to join your business?

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of the tech & SaaS industry, the quest to hire exceptional talent is an ongoing journey. As the demand for innovation and cutting edge-solutions continually intensifies, businesses are constantly on the lookout for individuals who have the right skills, passion and creativity to meet those needs and drive the business goals forward.

For fast-growth start-ups in the tech industry, it’s become a strategic imperative. In a landscape where the next game-changing idea can emerge from anywhere and challenge your offering, organisations are exploring how to hire the best, collaborative talent to unlock the full potential of the business and remain competitive.

We spoke to Mikael Nilsson, VP of People at Speechmatics, a UK based AI company building world-leading speech recognition software, about how they approach finding the right talent to help their tech business find ongoing success.

Where should you start when thinking about finding great talent?

‘Hiring often evolves organically out of necessity in younger companies. Few companies feel the need or have the time to think deeply about the employer brand and candidate experience, or even how to make hiring decision well. However, as your company evolves and changes, you have to evolve how you see hiring too. You need to think about your hiring philosophy, create processes that scales well, and be more intentional around how and who you hire.

For example, will you make democratic hiring decisions with everyone who met a candidate having a voice or will you give the hiring manager the autonomy and the responsibility of their hires? The former achieving more buy in and reduces bias, whilst the latter is faster and clear on the accountability for getting hires right.

There are many of these trade-offs to decide on along the way and it’s likely you end up flexing your style depending on business needs and priorities. The key to all of this is making explicit and intentional decisions that people and the business understands,’ Mikael explains.

What are the challenges and needs of hiring tech talent?

‘It’s interesting to think about how things have changed over the past few years in the hiring process for a tech candidate. The idea of doing a take home coding text or sending them coding challenges is kind of thrown out the window now because generative AI and other solutions exist to help candidates solve problems. So we now have a great opportunity to rethink how we test for those hard skills.

We are also now in a different phase of hiring in the tech industry as well with more redundancies this year. Some businesses think they can take more time in the hiring process but I don’t believe that is the case. Good talent will be talking to ten other companies as well as yours and we still need to move fast with candidates so the candidate experience and hiring process must still be optimised for speed.

You need to be intentional with your process. Be concise and making sure the candidate is aware of what the process should really be like. If you keep adding steps to the process along the way, you come across really disorganised as a business and candidates will see that. There is also a lot of value in being transparent with your process in candidate packs and on your careers page to allow people to prepare and be their best selves.

We are seeing interesting changes around salary transparency and how that is communicated by companies right now. There are now legal requirements in places like the US and a whole bunch of companies choosing to go public with their bands because they feel it’s the right thing for them to do. I would caution against going into this without thinking very deeply about the reasons for wanting to do this and really understanding the trade-offs you make.

You need a robust compensation philosophy to first understand what your drivers are on a company level, before deciding how salary transparency fits into that In either case, making sure you speak to candidates about salary expectations early on in a process is essential to avoid wasting precious time.’

How do you stay competitive to get the best talent?

‘When hiring top talent, you must be prepared to have a strong story to tell. They will expect an exciting mission, room to grow, talented colleagues, and fair compensation. Flexible working and remote working are also still very important to most candidates – forcing employees to arbitrarily come into an office will mean closing off a big portion of the candidate pool most definitely.

Equity shares are also still important to candidates too, it adds value to the employment offer to include share options so definitely something to consider when putting together an offer. However, there is a sense at the moment that with big adjustments to valuation and slowed down growth rates in the tech sector, the most clued up people will ask great questions to understand how equity value has been impacted. Be honest!

You also need to have a decent overall benefits package to compete with companies at a similar stage and size as you. But, health insurance, dental, holiday allowance, and other things is more a necessity than something that will sway people to choose you over a competitor.’

What does the next six to twelve months look like in the tech industry and how will that affect hiring new talent?

‘Despite the many redundancies across the tech sector this year, I don’t think there will end up being a big pool of talent just hanging out waiting for their next role. I think good tech talent will still be employed and tapped up by companies fairly constantly.

I do think another point is that when companies do these layoffs and redundancies, levels of engagement goes down, and there’s research to support this. Good employees will be slightly less engaged and potentially ripe for being head-hunted. Maybe some colleagues who were friends have left, they didn’t think the layoffs were handled well or they are just less excited about the work as a result.

So, the passive pool of talent may grow as well as a by-product of the shifts we’ve seen this year. It’s critical to invest time to understand what motivates your key employees and customise progression, compensation, and non-financial rewards to keep them excited and feeling valued.’


‘I think the aim should always be to understand what you can do to improve your chances to hire the best ambitious, driven, and emotionally intelligent people. If you have capacity, be data-driven in your decisions and analyse when you get it right and when you don’t. Iteration and small tweaks to your process will pay off in a big way in the end. Candidates want to know they are walking into a place where their new potential team will be on their level, challenge their skills and have similar ways of thinking. They want to know they will be surrounded by excellent people and will be always striving for excellence. Your hiring process and the candidate experience is how you show this to them.

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