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CEO & Founder at Talentroo
There's definitely a need for more information about how to manage and deal with remote work.
Paul Arnesen is a global, multilingual HR, recruitment & executive search professional with 20 years of experience in a multitude of industries. He has been an entrepreneur for 8 years and is a Norwegian-born, international citizen. He founded Talentroo alone in 2019 as an independent recruitment agency and strategic human resources partner. He individually developed recruitment strategies that have placed more than 12,000 candidates since 2020 through using his experience of operating a full-suite digital marketing agency and headhunting methodology.
Talentroo is now a growing global recruitment agency that is currently focusing on scaling up massively. It contracts people all over the world and is proudly a remote-first company.
Paul Arnesen founded Talentroo in 2019, an independent recruitment agency that also works as a strategic human resource partner – and is a proud remote-first company. Paul and his team contract people from all over the world and support their clients in finding not only the right candidate, but also the right human resource approach for each employee.
Paul joined host Sandra from his sunny office in Italy to talk about what led him to start Talentroo, from initially conducting recorded interviews for businesses, to starting his own recruitment agency.
He also shared some insights about Talentroo’s vetting process for candidates and the important topic of global compensation, before giving some food for thought about what the future of work has to offer.
With Paul Arnesen, Founder & CEO at Talentroo
Sandra Redlich 01:38
All right, I see a sunny living room in the back. Thanks for joining us, Paul. Where are you joining us from today?
Paul Arnesen 01:45
Well, thank you for having me. I'm joining you from Italy. I'm in Milan. So northern part of Italy. Yeah, it's sunny, a little bit chilly. So it's a late spring here now. So we're still waiting for the warm Italian weather to come in. But yeah, it's a beautiful day outside anyways, but yeah, a little bit chilly.
Sandra Redlich 02:03
Yeah. And, Paul, I understand that you're the founder of Talentroo. I've introduced you before to our listeners, and I wanted to get a little bit into what was your motivation behind starting your business? And what exactly is it that you do?
Paul Arnesen 02:20
Yeah, so the business started, it's a little bit of for me, now, it's become an interesting story. Because I was living in Portugal for a few years, and I met a lot of young entrepreneurs, startups and everything like sort of Lisbon has become, in the recent years, like a hub for a lot of nomads and everybody coming in there. It's a beautiful place, highly recommend going there. So when I was working with a lot - or not working, sort of mingling with a lot of these young entrepreneurs, as I said, they always had this issue with recruitment. If you're in a startup, one of the things you want to sort of save money on is basically everything, but recruitment is one of them. They've never really seen that as an issue, because there's so many different ways of finding people that is sort of a little bit overwhelming. I was actually working in another type of industry back then. So I was sort of like an entrepreneur in many, many fields. And I did a lot of marketing as an agency. I was working a little bit with data protection, but I also had my background in HR and recruitment. So I decided, after talking to a good friend of mine, to say, well, I can probably help you with recruitment. He had this idea that he didn't really have time to do interviews, because he was so busy with all his business dealings. And he also doesn't like interviews, he thinks they're very boring. He doesn't like to talk to people, he drains his energy, he is very introverted. So he said, if you can just do the interview, record the interview and send it to me, I'll be happy.
Paul Arnesen 03:57
And I said, Okay, that sounds like a business ideas. So I decided to basically develop talent at the beginning to be a portal for companies to, in essence, have a subscription of pre-recorded interviews. So I will do interviews of talents around the world, I will put them on the platform, and they could sort of come to me and instead of them having to interview, I'll just send them the interview or they can send candidates to me, I will interview them, and I will send them the recordings. So that's sort of how everything started. It was a good idea, at least in my head for a while and it sort of developed into me just getting more and more attention from other companies and people I knew they wanted to have like more traditional recruitment. They they sort of knew me from before and then they said, Okay, you do a recruitment agency now. Okay, can we work together? And I sort of put that idea away, I said, Okay, this recorded interview thing could probably work, but not for what I see the world is wanting, this is not something that I can sort of develop and sell by myself. I'm sort of bootstrapping everything. So I just basically turned the company in the direction of becoming an agency instead, like a traditional recruitment agency. But my focus was only on sort of remote work, and finding global talents. So when I was sort of thinking about this, this is also a story from many years ago, when I came into HR, the reason I started to have an interest in HR was also to see that... So whenever, like, my girlfriend came to Italy through an agency, one of the big, you know, recruitment agencies, and she now works for a company. And I just understood how those agencies really worked. And also, with my understanding of HR, I saw there was a gap in the market for an agency that could actually tap into a global marketplace of talents. And I wanted to be that company, I wanted to be that company that could say... A company can come to me and say, Okay, we want to have a marketing manager. But we don't need them necessarily to work in our location, we want them to work remotely. If that same company had come to one of the big agencies, they would then have to basically deal with... They will have to actually say, Well, you need to tell us a location because there's a lot of limitations there. They don't know, for example, about you know, services like Lano and stuff like that, where you can have employer of record contracts. So I was just saying, Okay, let me do that. I have my resources, I have my network, and I can find those people for you. And that's basically when... That's sort of where Talentroo is today, where we are like now a global recruitment agency, we do not only do remote work, we also do like, relocation to location or specific places. We also do traditional recruitment. We also like, for example, at the moment, we are working with a... I'm in Italy, and I work with a client in Italy, as more traditional recruitment. But we have no limits, basically. So that's sort of the long story there, where Talentroo started and where it is at the moment.
Sandra Redlich 07:26
Yeah. Do you still record interviews?
Paul Arnesen 07:30
I don't, I don't. We have that as a service. But it's not necessarily something we do. But we do.... If a client says that we can do, like... We can ask them, Do you want us to record the interview and send it to you, as sort of a service? One of the things I see with recorded interviews, which is actually a benefit, is that if a company is hiring, and there's more than one decision maker, if they have a pool of, say, three or four candidates, and they're all recorded interviews, they can sit and watch those interviews together as a team. And they can sort of decide. So in many ways, the recorded interview is something that we can present and I have the setup for it. So I know how to sort of, you know, easily just start a recording. I do a little bit of editing, and stuff like that. But yeah, in essence it's not part of the main core service. But yeah, I can do it on request.
Sandra Redlich 08:31
I just thought that that concept was quite fascinating. And yeah, pretty cool to have kind of like a vetting process of finding a candidate, which obviously, talent agents are anyways, they're kind of the intermediate person who is vetting people depending on their skills and their knowledge, but also maybe in terms of how they're performing in interview settings. So I thought that was really interesting, and I haven't heard about that before. So do you... Do I understand it correctly that you're working with both companies who are looking for new talent as well as potential candidates who are looking to find a position?
Paul Arnesen 09:13
Well, at the moment, we are solely focused on client and companies, because we had a... I think the biggest issue with working with candidates is unless you have a strategy for how to, as a company like us, as a recruitment agency, to monetize that in some way. Like we can sort of say, Okay, we have a pool of candidates, like one candidate that's very good. Like, say, a headhunting agency would work right. We want to place them as soon as possible. So in essence we have - because I think that the remote world, remote work has opened opportunity for so many people to say I want to be part of your talent pool - that I had to sort of put a stop to the requests I got, because I got so many requests from people that want to be part of our candidate database, that the selection and the vetting process was sort of something that I didn't really have time to develop. Because obviously, I still want to work with candidates, because we know that with a big good talent pool, it's easy for us to place candidates in with clients. So when someone today comes to us and asks us, can I be part of your database? We say yes, and we take them into a talent pool, but we don't really work with them. As I did at the beginning, when I started everything, because also, I sort of branched Talentroo out to be also a service for candidates that sort of were there. I saw also the opportunity there to provide extra services to clients. It's in there in the back of my head to sort of develop something for that in the future. But at the moment, we have so many clients coming as well. So it's just time permitting.
Sandra Redlich 11:04
Yeah. So what type of clients are we talking about? Do you have a certain type of industry that you work with a lot or a certain size of company, or can anyone just reach out to you and get your services?
Paul Arnesen 11:18
Well, in essence, we say yes to everything. I'm a generalist, obviously I come from many backgrounds, but I have marketing experience and human resources and management and everything like that. But the typical clients we see now more and more are like a lot of business process outsourcing companies like customer service representatives, tech assistance, and also get content moderators, like companies that basically need like, low level - not low level, but like closer to entry level candidates. And sort of, that's sort of the majority of the business, because a lot of these companies, they need talents from everywhere, because they need different languages spoken. So we can sort of be a good match for clients that need to find specific language skills in specific regions of the world, because they are hard to find unless you work with an agency that is sort of in that country. So when we can sort of cover the globe, basically, in essence, but we also work with some health care providers, like we do work with companies that are looking for specialists like to either relocate to their location site, telehealth and medical ambulances and stuff like that. Because they are, in essence, if they are, if they have a base somewhere around the world, they are like sort of the traditional one that always had like, global workers anyways, they had people like a specialist, doctor, medical professional can be from anywhere, they sort of have to relocate to a base, either full time or part time. So we do a little bit of that. And then, you know, traditional software developers, designer, marketers, and companies like that, as well, that are looking for that, especially startups. We have tried to put our, like, the prices that we put is not like we want to differentiate ourselves from the big sort of established agencies by having to apply a different kind of cost structure for clients. So if you are a startup, we are very flexible, to sort of say, Okay, we know that you're in this sort of phase now. And we also want to work with them. Also, because they are more open to remote work recruitment than traditional companies.
Sandra Redlich 14:01
Yeah. I know we've probably all are sick of talking about it, but we konda have to bring it up. So, the last two years, have seen a lot of challenges, especially in the way companies work and the way companies hire employees and where and when employees work. Have you seen or what are the biggest changes maybe that you've seen in your work over the last two years?
Paul Arnesen 14:26
I think in my way of working I came into this saying, I'm going to do remote work no matter what, right? So I didn't really see it from another perspective. Before that, I see companies changing a little bit, especially outsourcing companies. This is sort of the biggest change I've seen now, is that where they used to have hubs in specific locations to bring in customer support representative speaking different languages, they are now open to say okay, we have tested this now out of necessity, over the last few years, to have our customer service representative team working from home. I'm not saying that the quality of their service was better or worse during that period, because maybe they were skeptical that someone sitting at home in the living room or in the bedroom, helping you solve an issue on your phone, will be less motivated to do that as someone working from an office. But from what I've seen now, and I hear from clients, is that they actually never... They didn't see a loss in quality, specifically for that. So now they are saying to us, at least those companies, the big companies, are now coming and say, Okay, why do we need to pay the cost of having those hubs, the relocation cost, the cost of living usually, we can actually pay a decent salary for people in their location, we provide them with the tools they need, and they can work from home and do the same job as they did from those hubs.
Paul Arnesen 15:35
So when those big companies and we are talking the sort of global top 100 companies that are doing this, now that they have, they need a lot of customer support. The trend will obviously be that other companies will catch on to this instead of like, instead of just having those offices, that is a cost. They now say, Okay, could this person be working from home? Okay, so why don't we just continue with that, and we hire someone to work from home? I think that that hasn't really changed my methodology, because my methodology is still the same. I think it's more that companies now have. There are more and more offers like this, more and more companies and services coming on the market, like Lano. Like video recordings, there are like also services that do that, where they basically, you send the link to a client, they click the link, it opens up in an interface, the interview is recorded, it's either with a person on the other side, or is actually just questions that pop up, and they have to answer them. So it's free. So all these services make it so much easier to at least recruit on scale. Because sort of, that's what the outsourcing companies need. And there's no need for... I don't see, like, also, this is something that now that we are working with a local company in Italy. And even they said to us, well, we need you or the recruit that we have in Italy to come to the location three, four times a week. But we negotiated to say that's not really necessary because we are specialized in doing interviews from home. And the candidates, they don't have a problem with that. Because today, they're so used to being at home anyways setting up calls either if they have a phone or a laptop. So we now actually don't go to their location, even though it's very close. We do all the interviews and all the work from our home. The candidates, and the clients are actually very happy with this. So yeah, I think that those big assessment centers that recruitment agencies set up or a company set up is sort of not that necessary anymore. That's what I'm seeing.
Sandra Redlich 18:22
In your experience, what are the main challenges that companies face when they're trying to hire a remote employee? Or what are the challenges that they're voicing to you? And that you help them then solve?
Paul Arnesen 18:33
Well, there's a couple of very big challenges. One is that they have a problem with understanding. First, I think the biggest thing is how much should I pay for someone? Basically, compensation is always an issue. Because if you have a company set up in a high cost location, like Scandinavia, or like in, say, you're in Berlin, for example, and you want to hire someone from anywhere, they will ask me, So how much should we pay for that person? Should we pay the rates in Berlin? Or should we just pay the local rates from where they're living? This is always an issue they have. So it's sort of like the understanding... Finding people to work remotely is not a way for you to save money necessarily on salary. It will be in some sense, because this is a very... Compensation, global compensation is a big discussion, no matter what. I think all companies that are remote first have this discussion internally. Like should we pay the rest, we pay everyone the same? If someone is living in a poor part of the world, that's the same as someone who will live in in a rich part of the world. What will that do to the job market in that country, if that sort of becomes the norm that all those people in that market for work are looking to work remotely, because they make more money? The local, basically purchasing power and talents will disappear. In some sense, it will be very limited. So companies sort of have a social responsibility as well to try to figure out a good way to go forward. This is very complicated even for me to try to actually help them navigate this. So it's good to have a specialist professional service that can help and assist with that. So that's one of the big things that is just general compensation.
Paul Arnesen 20:33
Another thing is actually also thinking about location. I've seen this quite a lot, that someone might come to us and say, Well, what we need is people speaking a world language like French, for example, French is a big language. And I will say, okay, so French is spoken in France, obviously, Canada, northern part of Africa, a lot of French speakers. So where do you want them to be from? It's sort of something that they really might not have considered. They just want someone to speak French. But then it comes all the way back to the compensation, right? Because if you are hiring someone, say from a poor part of the world that speaks good French, they can work really well. You have to make a decision. Basically, you have to understand that we can source people from France, but there will be a lot of people that will apply that are not from France or something. So what do you want us to do and we are a recruitment agency, you have a social responsibility as well, we can't discriminate, you know, it's very big, that's a very important core tenant of recruitment, is no discrimination. So you have to understand this complexity, when you are asking for a specific person from a specific country, you have to be open for anyone, you have to set the compensation rate right, correct for you. And then in the end, you have to make the decision where you want the person to come from. It's much more complicated when there are these languages like French or Arabic, Spanish and stuff like that, which is very common. English is not the only language that people want to hire. It's important that most people speak a little bit English, but our clients that say, Okay, we need Spanish speakers, right? That's the only thing they need to speak. Okay, where do you want us to find them? They need to really consider all elements around. Okay, we need a remote worker, a remote worker is not one person, it can be someone from anywhere. So, it's a lot of complexities that where we can also be helpful and try to help them navigate.
Sandra Redlich 22:58
Is inter social, or cultural, I should say, is cultural competence, something that is important to you, as well? And you mentioned before people can speak a certain language, if that's the requirement that the client has, but they can come from different parts of the world, which means they probably have different cultural backgrounds as well. And that can play a role in especially distributed teams where you're working remotely, and you're working online. And it can, I don't want to say cause issues, but there is a higher potential for misunderstandings, and maybe a little bit more of a sensitivity to that needs to be there. So is that a challenge that people have been bringing up to you well, or is that something that you maybe mention to your clients?
Paul Arnesen 23:41
no one has really brought that up to me. I mention it to them. We have a real case of this at the moment internally in our company. Actually it's not an issue, we solve this. I think one of the things of me is that I've been living in so many different parts of the world and living in all continents, you know, I've seen different cultures, I'm very open to everything and tried to understand and I think as a manager or a leader of a company, it's important that at least I have that, because then I can try to tell that to the rest of the team and also to clients. Like for example this month, it's Ramadan, and we have two employees that are actually now currently doing the Ramadan. For us, we knew it. So we are sort of accommodating for this, but say that you are a company that are looking to hire from anywhere and you have someone all of a sudden, that shouldn't be a surprise for companies, they should know this from advance. So part of the thing that I do when I talk to clients, is that okay, do you appreciate that there are you know, different cultural aspects and needs and you know. Public holidays is also something, right? A lot of countries that have different days that they are off because of cultural events or social or things that are happening in their country, you as an employer need to understand that you should adopt your... It's a little bit of an issue when like, the complications come into things of how the company decides to work, if they work on a very synchronous model, that they need people to be online, between certain time periods all the time. Obviously, it's going to cause an issue for them, if all of a sudden someone is away for a week, because in that country, there's a holiday, something happening. If you work, asynchronous with project based work, it*s usually never a problem. Well, that needs to be taken into account from the beginning. And you need to sort of think about how this can affect your work, projects and future of your company. Because yes, if you say I'm open to hire from anywhere and you don't understand this, you might face some surprises, basically, that you don't want. And it's not the candidate's fault. It's actually us and the employer's fault if you didn't necessarily ask for it. I think also maybe the candidate should be informing about this, if they can see this as an issue for themselves.
Sandra Redlich 26:23
Is that something maybe you do for your vetting process for potential clients? To say, Do you have a remote work policy in place? Are you aware of these different aspects? What is important to you? Do you need synchronous or asynchronous communication? I kind of see it as almost like a checklist for you as well to take on new clients, because that, in turn gives you information that you can use to find the right candidates.
Paul Arnesen 26:49
Yeah, we do that. And I think that's also why a lot of companies come to us for remote workers, because they know that this is what we screen for. So when we are talking to potential candidates, we want to make sure that also they are aware of the sort of working model that the client will have. I think that a lot of candidates might say, Oh, that sounds great. I'm going to work remotely, work from anywhere, or you know, can I be a digital nomad, they will have all these questions, right? But if I don't know this from the client side, you can build wrong expectations with candidates. So we are well aware of this. And we always try to figure this out with the client, what do you expect from this person? So these kind of, you know, questions of like, okay, what timezone do they need to be in? What language do they need to speak? Like? Do they need to work from home office or can they be flexible? This is also you know, with like, data protection and all that, can they take their laptop to a coffee shop and work from there, stuff like that, it's very important. So we can give the right expectations to the candidate.
Sandra Redlich 28:02
Where do you see then the trends developing into for the HR or recruitment world? Is there anything from your experience, or just you looking back at the years and experience you have working with all different types of people and companies, what do you think are the trends for this year, and also for the years to come?
Paul Arnesen 28:26
Well, definitely this year, the trend is back to office or not back to office, you know? Obviously, this is just because we had the last two years very special. HR departments in that sense, are like, trying to develop these policies now around the need or necessity for remote work. A lot of companies are sort of still fighting against that. But people want that, employees want that, a lot of them. A lot of them say I would like to go back to the office, but there's a lot of people who just want to be, you know, have that flexibility and the opportunity for them to be more with their family. So HR departments now are, you know, definitely developing. That's sort of what I'm seeing now, they are developing more policies for giving opportunity for remote work.
Paul Arnesen 29:25
Also some regulations coming out about developing policies around this. For example, in Italy, now a lot of addendums to contracts are coming, employee contracts where it became sort of like a thing that someone can just say, I'm going to work from home tomorrow, because I don't feel well and the employer basically couldn't say anything because, you know, pandemic. And now they have to sort of put that into a policy now that you can only work from home when it's sort of, you know, ordered from the company or something. So there are definitely trends that are going towards making it more regulated to have remote work. But also in some sense, you know, companies are more flexible now to make it easier if they want to, because they saw that, even though a lot of people were working from home, it wasn't really, you know, didn't really impact their business. So that's one thing I'm definitely seeing. I think that for the future, maybe it's more of a hope. But I see that there's definitely a need for more information about how to manage and deal with remote work. I foresee that some companies now will be a full suite package of you need remote work that has like, okay, compensation rate for every country, payroll services, recruitment services inside of one package, because a company or a client today still has to go to different sort of services basically to find remote work. It's not that easy for a company today that say, Okay, I want to hire someone remotely. Where do I start, you know, they need information about this. And it's on a local basis or on a regulatory basis inside of a country, it's still very complicated for them to find out any information. So I see that also, you know, the future will bring more options and information to help companies hire remotely.
Sandra Redlich 31:44
Yeah. Something that I thought was very interesting that came up in a few other talks I've had recently, is the thought of maybe in the future, this year or next year, finding a bit more of a balance between working from home, remote work, and also having these catch-ups in person. So for the last two years, obviously, everyone - or a lot of companies and employees have been forced into a remote setup or work from home setup. And people kind of thought, oh, that's all that remote work is, we're confined to our own little rooms, we can't catch up with people. We like the freedom and flexibility it gives us. But we are missing the social aspect of seeing people in person and catching up. And I think now with borders opening and it slowly getting back to normal, we can travel again. I thought the thought process was interesting to see. We'll have these in person catch-ups again, even if we have a remote work set up. So I really thought that's an interesting thought that that'll play a bigger role in the future.
Paul Arnesen 32:50
Yeah, and there's actually an interesting thing that is happening now that I also see. Just one thing that for example, we're doing in my company, because we are remote first, is that we are going to plan one or two meetups a year with the entire team. So for example, at the moment, I don't have an office other than where I'm sitting now, which is at my home. But we're actually considering getting an office, just a small one. And it's sort of like a way for us to have a headquarters to come to. It's probably not going to be somewhere where we work from that often. And it's not going to be a place where people can come to work, but it's a place for us to come to have some sort of connection to talent in some ways, and we can sort of use that also. I heard an interview with... his name is Matt Mullenweg. He's one of the founders behind WordPress and all that. And he's one of the first sort of remote companies like 1000s of people working remotely. And he said, we still keep an office, because it's important for us to have, you know, potential clients come over, events and everything in a location. And it's helpful to have as you said, to tell people that okay, we do appreciate you and we want you to see each other, it's very, very important that you have a social life with the people as well you know, video and slack messages all day long becomes very disconnected. I feel that myself, but what I'm seeing is actually a trend... I don't know if this is more of a local trend, obviously I haven't been able to travel that much in the last few years, but here in Milan where I'm living, more and more like membership clubs are opening up catering for people that really don't have a company or like a place to go to work. So like you know, you have sort of the well known like we work and maybe spaces and all that they're sort of being around but they're like popping up everywhere now, like co-workspaces and some of these co-working spaces are now taking it also to the next level where they are now developing membership plans that you become a member. And there's a community, you have co-work, there's like events happening, dinners, sort of social things. And all the people that are members are definitely not working for a nine to five job in Italy, because there's a lot of these events happening during the day. So they come there, they work from there, they socialize. And it sort of becomes that you're not necessarily socialized with your colleagues to the same extent, but at least you don't miss that. Because a lot of companies that, well, it's very different between cultures, I think that if you're from a culture where as a personal experience, I'm Norwegian, Norwegians are not really good at socializing outside of the workplace. So for them to all of a sudden be home, like, how do I now socialize? I live in Italy, everybody's social anyways. So like, you go out like this coffee culture, bars, restaurants. So there's definitely a need to give opportunities to your people in your company to have a social life outside of work. So what I'm saying now to people that come to town to say, Okay, do you have a community around you, because I want you to make sure that you take time for yourself to be out with friends and family. And the network is very important. There's something that I see, maybe it's a trend, and I like it, because in Milan, it's definitely a place where there's a need for these kind of communities to come together.
Sandra Redlich 36:44
That was really nice closing words, putting or asking people to make sure that they find their own community, whether it be within their offices, within their colleague world, or just outside of that, just stressing the importance of community. I think that's a nice little thought.
Paul Arnesen 37:04
We don't want to lose the community. And I think the benefit of having an office to go to everyday is that you make friends for life. And you have colleagues, and if you're someone who tends to maybe be more alone, when you're sort of forced to go into an office and see people every day, it's helped. It's very helpful if it's a healthy work environment, at least. So some people that all of a sudden are going to work remotely, they might be very isolated. if you as an employer don't take that into consideration, you might actually see productivity drop, performance drop, because it's important. And it's difficult when you work remotely to pick up signals that you can see in an office. So, the sense of trying to help them understand that do not worry too much about what we're doing here on the video, but I want you to log off, go out in the world and see people. Seek out those communities if they exist.
Sandra Redlich 38:05
Yeah. Yeah. That's lovely. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to have this chat with us today. I really enjoyed getting your insights and different perspectives for both the candidate side and the company side. Really appreciate it.
Paul Arnesen 38:21
Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to talk to you as well.
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