24 November 2017

Revolut: instituting a new rapid hiring process

Doubling the number of employees over a few months is no easy task. Revolut developed a new approach to hiring to make it work.

From its London headquarters, as well as two secondary offices in Russia and one in Poland, Revolut has built an app letting users transfer cash between countries and without fees.

Revolut is part of a coterie of ambitious fintech companies in London, alongside Monzo, Transferwise and Go Cardless. Its founder and chief executive Nikolay Storonsky has defended a tough working culture as necessary for executing the company’s rapid growth plans.

Always hiring

Revolut isn’t alone, and like the other fintech firms, success relies on hiring well, fast and assimilating large numbers of people. Monzo has hired over 119 staff so far in 2017. Meanwhile Transferwise has gone from 450 staff in 2016 to over 700 a year later. They are all battling it out for the best developers.

Revolut, like many rapidly scaling tech firms, has adopted the mantra, ‘always be hiring’. If someone’s good, it makes room for them. For the past three years, the process hasn’t evolved much beyond that.

Bombarded with CVs

As a result, the company got bombarded by recruitment agencies sending them inappropriate candidates, leaving senior managers to weed out the few decent CVs among them.

It also wasn’t giving prospective developers the best impression, failing to get back to candidates in good time and not training managers on how to give a good interview.

‘It was basically just our CTO doing all the interviews,’ says Sophie Theen, Revolut’s global head of human resources – and a recent hire. ‘It was OK when we were 20 people, [but] when I joined they were already at around 120.’

Hiring a hirer

Theen joined Revolut in June 2017, after a three-year stint on IBM’s recruitment team.

She’s been tasked with more than doubling the number of employees Revolut has; going from 120 sta in June to wrapping up the year with at least 250. It’s all part of the company’s plan to launch in 13 more countries globally.

To make it happen, Theen spent her first four months at the company overhauling its hiring processes.

Kill the agencies

Firstly, Theen needed to build out her own team. She now has nine members of staff working in Revolut’s human resources department, including region-specific talent hunters and an ‘on-boarding manager’.

She then put a blanket ban on using recruitment agencies, instead opting to promote its vacancies through job fairs.

Finally, she implemented a structured candidate management process to make sure applications were kept moving in a timely manner.

A to Z of screening

Theen refers to it as an ‘A to Z hiring and screening process’, where each step is clearly set out. Before being invited in for interview, candidates’ skills are assessed for technical roles with an at-home test that takes eight hours to complete. If the results are good, they’ll be invited in for a face-to-face or Skype interview that week. The two-hour interview includes a live coding assessment. Within 48 hours of this, candidates are told whether or not they have a job.

To make sure things are progressing smoothly, each candidate is tracked on a spreadsheet, letting Theen know when to move them on to the next stage.

‘To get everyone else into the habit of the recruitment process took a bit of time,’ she admits.

Changing mindset

It’s also been tough getting Revolut’s management to buy into this new system: a new HR team and the five career fairs the company has attended since Theen joined haven’t come for free.

It’s also required a complete change in mindset, applying rigid processes that are more familiar to corporates than fast-growing startups.

Theen estimates it took a month just to get management to give her the go-ahead on this path. ‘There was a bit of pushback because [management] couldn’t quite understand how rigid some processes need to be,’ she explains.

‘[Now,] when we run candidate experience surveys, the data comes back telling us that having the HR team take the lead on this basically gives positive candidate experiences. Which hadn’t quite been happening [before].’

First appeared in issue 20 Dec/Jan