Sonntag, 19. Mai 2019

How technology can be used to make the recruitment process more human - Octagon Career at this year HR Innovation Day

This year's HR Innovation Day is approaching. It is a good tradition to present the keynote speakers and workshop hosts in interviews. My interviewees for today are Vanesa Cotlar and Neil Jennings, Co-Founders of Octagon Careers, an HR Start-up that helps companies optimize application processes for skilled junior positions. Vanesa, who is the CEO, is Canadian, and has an interesting back-story for how she met Neil, her Irish Co-Founder, and decided to set-up operations in Leipzig. I got to know the company through Spinlab - The HHL Accelerator, based here in Leipzig, and was amazed to learn that a Canadian and Irish duo decided to start their company in Leipzig. I am very happy that Octagon Careers will be hosting a workshop at this year's HR Innovation Day. The workshop is entitled “The future of student recruitment: the ecosystem is changing. Are you?”. The HR Innovation Day is very Canadian this year. I think it's unique that I have a Canadian keynote speaker as well as a Canadian CEO of an HR startup on board this year.

Wald: Ms. Cotlar, Mr. Jennings, could you be so kind and introduce yourselves as well as Octagon Careers? How did the idea for Octagon Careers come about? But first of all, I wish you Ms. Cotlar all the best for your birthday.

Vanesa Cotlar
Cotlar: Sure, thanks Mr. Wald. I worked for many years in Management Consulting at Monitor Deloitte, in Canada, where I also led Student Recruitment. In January 2018 I went on Sabbatical, and joined Remote Year, a 12-month global remote working program that brings together professionals from all over the world and lets them experience being digital nomads, while participating in international professional development events. During my time on Remote Year, I began collaborating with Neil on some ideas.

Neil Jennings
Jennings: My background is in law, particularly HR law. I worked in London for several years before embarking on Remote Year also, which is how Vanesa and I met. Initially, we began collaborating on Octagon Careers as a side project, but after meeting with companies, universities and students around the world, there was definitely some interest in what we were trying to accomplish.

Wald: My readers will be particularly interested in how you came to Leipzig?
Cotlar: The question we get asked every time! The short answer is Spinlab - The HHL Accelerator. It had an attractive offering for the stage our start-up was at. The longer answer, is Neil and I were sitting at a coffee shop in Lima, Peru, in October 2018, when we decided to apply to Accelerator programs for our growing idea. We each chose 5 countries, and searched for available accelerator programs. Germany, and Spinlab were at the top of our list. We felt that if we could make our idea work in Germany, it would be much easier elsewhere.
Jennings: We did our interview for Spinlab remotely, in January 2019 from Mexico City. We later found out that we actually pitched to a room full of people, not just the handful we could see on our screen. Once we had been offered a place on the program, we had about a month to go to Canada and the UK, to quit our jobs and move to Leipzig. It all happened rather quickly!

Wald: I've seen you make successful appearances in the last few weeks. Do you want to highlight a few? And: What happens next?
Cotlar: Yes, we have been busy making new connections and we are doing our best to get our name out there. We have been participating in conferences and workshops, and doing as much as possible to show our product and team. At the start of May, I led a roundtable and a workshop at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam. There were over 100 people in attendance at both combined. While there, we also had the opportunity to exhibit Octagon Careers along with other selected startups, as well, we met with many VCs and industry experts.
Jennings: We have been busy, but it has certainly been worth it. Not only has Vanesa pitched and presented to various different audiences, she actually won the inaugural Fiverr Pitch'n'Win event in Berlin and secured the popular vote at the Accelerate@HHL conference. In terms of what is next, we are currently applying for various opportunities and hope to launch some client projects in the coming weeks.

Wald: What can the participants expect from your workshop?
Cotlar: In our workshop, we will be talking about the biggest trends impacting candidate experience for generation Z and Millennials. We will talk about strategies for creating engaging and effective application processes, that enable companies to find the best-match talent for them, while providing amazing candidate experiences for all applicants. Part of what we will discuss is the human time aspect of recruitment, and how technology can be used to make the recruitment process more human, through employing the right tools.
Jennings: We have both worked directly with HR and recruitment teams, so we understand the recruitment process and know that companies spend time and energy recruiting the top candidates. What we would love is to have an enlightening discussion about current processes, possible innovation, and to talk about how technology can assist companies and recruitment teams.

Wald: The motto of the HR Innovation Day is - get companies moving with HR - how can companies achieve this with your services?
Cotlar: Octagon Careers wants to be a catalyst for change - moving away from the outdated CV and cover letter and bringing the application process into the 21st Century. We ensure companies develop amazing candidate experiences. We enable them to save time and money in recruitment, while finding the best-matched talent for the role and their company. Our technology builds a learning-focused application that offers feedback to all applicants. It is a great way to reduce bias in the process too! Truly win-win.
Jennings: We offer companies the possibility to save a significant amount of time screening candidates, while creating fair, engaging and educational application processes at the same time. We know how important it is for companies to find the best talent, and we are the partner they need to build a truly differentiated application process that is extremely easy to integrate into their existing workflow.

Wald: Finally, a question I like to ask all the speakers and workshop-hosts. Why are you participating at the HR Innovation Day 2019?
Cotlar: Participating in the HR Innovation Day 2019 is such a wonderful opportunity for us to meet the wider HR community and to expand our network. As well as getting our name out there, we know that we will also learn a lot by being part of the event. I am really looking forward to listening to the amazing speakers attending this year and building meaningful connections.
Jennings: HR Innovation Day is all about the future of HR, new strategies, and talking about how we can make positive changes to the status quo. We hope there are some companies who want to innovate and collaborate with us to create amazing experiences for their candidates!

Wald: Thank you very much in advance for your kind support of the HR Innovation Day. I look forward to attend your workshop.

My Interviewees are Vanesa Cotlar and Neil Jennings. The Canadian and Irish entrepreneurs currently call Leipzig their home. Their startup, Octagon Careers, was selected to be part of Spinlab - The HHL Accelerator, class 8. They are almost half way through the program, and in the process of securing their first customers. If you would like to get in touch with them, you can contact Vanesa at or Neil at or visit their website for more information.

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