Case study: The story of Catawiki

As one of Europe’s fastest growing tech companies the Dutch online auctioning platform, Catawiki, constantly needs new talents

Catawiki hosts weekly auctions for collectors, auctioning anything from a lock of Napoleon’s hair, a mammoth skeleton, various large meteorites to the most expensive Lego set ever produced.

As the first Benelux company to have received an investment from famous investors Accel Partners and Lead Edge Capital (first venture capital investors in Facebook, as well as Dropbox, Spotify and Alibaba) Catawiki is one of Europe’s fastest growing companies. Every month, their website is visited millions of times by registered users worldwide.

Catawiki’s offices across Europe house a dynamic, fast-growing and open organization. They believe in not just a casual and friendly atmosphere but have a real ‘hands-on’ mentality with a strong team-spirit, in which employees use their own unique talents and skills. Their mission: to keep offering only the very best in online auctions.

“By virtue of being on Stack Overflow you are immediately seen as a trusted employer by developers.”

James Lesner, Senior Recruitment Manager, Catawiki

The Challenge

“Every company looking for developers faces similar challenges – as well as their own specific ones”, says James Lesner, Senior Tech Recruiter. While their central office in Amsterdam does not require much to attract developers from around the globe, their second office in Assen, which is only two hours away, is a much harder sell.

“It’s commonly known in the industry that developer positions are tough to fill. In addition to this, companies have their own unique challenges.” James Lesner, Senior Recruitment Manager

Being a tech recruiter demands a specific skill set. After years of experience in the tech business, Lesner still sees new and unfamiliar roles all the time. He says, “At Catawiki, product development requires a mix of UX designers, product owners, front-end, back-end, mobile, and data engineers, and a small dev-ops team. whenever there is a new role at the company, it takes time to decide what the ideal candidate may look like.”

The Solution

In the recruitment process, it was important for Catawiki to be smart about how much time they spend on different tasks. The most critical tech roles are published on their corporate careers website and advertised on Stack Overflow Jobs. This tactic tends to generate the highest number of applications. However, Lesner admits that a company with significant demand for developers can never be 100% happy with the number of applications that come through posting jobs online.Therefore, Lesner also spends time actively searching for and reaching out to developers. The process starts with defining new openings together with the hiring managers, researching available profiles in the field, and looking at the profiles of “stars of the industry”. It is also helpful to speak with colleagues that already work at Catawiki to get a sense of the common traits of the ideal candidate. Once he gathers all the information, Lesner creates tailored recruiting messages for potential candidates. He says, “My mission is to get potential candidates interested in the company in order to have another in-depth conversation about Catawiki. So my first email needs to be very engaging.”In the first stage, Lesner knows that he needs to highlight challenges developers can look forward to tackling at Catawiki. The employer value proposition and the information provided to the candidate during conversations need to be authentic. He says, “We need to make sure our message about Catawiki and what we represent to the wider world is consistent with what’s going on inside the company.”

At this point, Catawiki has a good understanding of what attracts developers. They learned that new hires appreciate making changes to the existing products straight away or even work on something from scratch. Lesner says, “Being able to contribute to a company's product is a strong motivator for developers. And reaching over 14 million visitors monthly with the code you built is an exciting bonus.”

“We are a good place to work for developers who want to have an impact on a product and users very quickly. We encourage our new hires to do so at Catawiki.” James Lesner, Senior Tech Recruiter

Lesner also highlights the opportunity to learn. When introducing candidates to the company, he stresses the high level of experience among their existing development team. He says, “We managed to attract people from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Booking.com to come and work here. developers, who are joining, know there will be many senior people that they can learn from.”

Not only did the company focus on acquiring some top talent, they also invest in their continuous career development. This includes initiatives like monthly lunchtime tech talks, quarterly two-day long hackathons, as well as hosting and sponsoring a variety of tech conferences (Europe’s most significant Ruby conference EuRuKo, Amsterdam Ruby, DevOps Amsterdam, Amsterdam UX, Big Data Amsterdam and Rails girls – to name a few). The company really walks the walk when it comes to knowledge-sharing.The recruitment process is designed to provide an excellent candidate experience, while also assessing if a candidate is a good match for the team. The third and final interview typically happens on site. Lesner says, “The technical questions are designed to be based on actual concepts that we’re working on at Catawiki.”

The Results

In the past two years, Catawiki grew their technical team from 30 to 100 people. And not only that, they take diversity in hiring very seriously. Lesner tells us they are working on having a balanced gender diversity and they already have 30 nationalities on the development team. For him Stack Overflow was a strong contributor to this success. In fact, inbound applications via Stack Overflow Talent are one of their biggest inbound tactics. Lesner says, “What I like most about working with Stack Overflow is that our account manager gives us hands-on advice on what we can do to improve our performance on an ongoing basis. I get insightful tips on how companies similar to us are finding success when hiring developers.”

“By virtue of being on Stack Overflow you are immediately seen as a trusted employer by developers.” James Lesner, Senior Recruitment Manager

Regarding Stack Overflow as a recruiting and developer engagement platform, Lesner stresses two advantages the most. First, the high developer engagement on the site truly makes a difference. Developers aren’t on Stack Overflow because they are looking for jobs, but to find answers to coding questions. However, there’s another benefit, says Lesner.

“By being present as a company looking for developers on Stack Overflow you not only get exposure to passive candidates but you are immediately seen as a trusted employer by developers.” James Lesner, Senior Recruiting Manager, Catawiki

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