Hire for the Future

Roline Spijkervet

Head of Talent Acquisition Picnic

From the early days in ‘stealth-mode’, Roline Spijkervet joined the online supermarket, Picnic as Head of Talent Acquisition. Picnic was founded in 2015 and currently employs over 5,000 people. Many of whom are referred to as ‘Shoppers and Runners’ as they sort and deliver the groceries to the customers. Spijkervet is responsible for the recruitment of a growing central team of engineers and business analysts for the Amsterdam and Dusseldorf offices.

Working at Picnic is one big sprint.

What is Picnic’s vision on building winning teams?

This is closely aligned with the company vision. We are building the modern milkman, with an online grocery model that will lead to a profitable business in this challenging new space. Therefore from the beginning, we already had a very strong vision of what kind of people we would need to build this company and which profiles we needed to hire. Building a winning team for Picnic means hiring people with the right skills, personality and fit for the Picnic environment. To be successful in a scaleup, people should be adaptable, flexible and able to deal with constant change. We scale up so fast that you have to be able to enjoy the continuous change. Working at Picnic is one big sprint.

How do you assess skills, personality and environmental fit?

Skills are always being assessed through multiple tests and assignments that we’ve mainly developed ourselves, in addition to behavioral and technical interviews as well as case days. For technical roles, we add whiteboard and programming sessions. The personality part and a candidate’s ability to fit into our environment are mostly assessed during interviews. Our interview team has ample experience how to assess this. They focus on the person, review their energy and genuine motivation to really want to work at Picnic. Our processes take time, but they are professional and transparent and that allows us to focus on hiring for quality. We assess the fit during each step of the process and we are trained to cut out any bias. Positions are not specifically opened up for teams. During the process we don’t aim for a specific position and don’t know which team the candidate will join yet. This helps us to stay objective and focus on the quality, motivation and talent of the candidate. Our first screen calls are often without video. We use scorecards to ensure a fair hiring process and assess if the skills are aligned with the requirements needed. These scorecards are not visible to the other interviewers until all the interviewers completed their feedback in the scorecard and a feedback session is scheduled. Everyone involved in the interview process takes part in the feedback session, during which we learn from each other and make a decision together as a team.

Roline Spijkervet

Head of Talent Acquisition Picnic.

The Picnic team counts 117 nationalities
The Amsterdam office counts more than 34 nationalities.

What is your hiring process?

The world is our playground for recruiting talent. Every resume we receive is screened by an internal recruiter. I don’t believe that an Artificial Intelligence tool can replace this. In fact,I’m convinced that if we used an AI tool we would miss out on talent. To run an efficient recruitment process a high conversion rate of the funnel is imperative. This is why we conduct a strict screening early on in the process. People are honest to us during the process as well; some start doubting their candidacy and step out. The in-depth sessions are intense and put people under pressure, but we get a lot of information from these ‘pressure cookers’. They are a great opportunity to discover how well someone reasons, picks up information and handles pressure from being challenged by peers. We also focus on how many people we can properly onboard; we do not want to overhire and put too much pressure on our teams. Once onboard we have a great onboarding program. The onboarding among other things includes one afternoon of order picking (as a Shopper) and one afternoon of delivering (as a Runner).

How important is the educational background in your hiring? The data sets, amount of data and complexity make our engineering and business analyst roles complex. Strong analytical skills are a prerequisite. We use a lot of data to make our service efficient and being able to handle this requires a specific skill. For the majority of the roles within Picnic, given what people will be doing, educational background is an important factor. For example, we discovered that a business analyst at Picnic with an econometrics background has a considerable chance to succeed. If you hire very smart people, you can grow faster.

The world is our playground for recruiting talent.
We believe in sharing knowledge and are content-driven.

What do you do with regards to your employer branding to get access to high performers? We believe in sharing knowledge and are content-driven. We write blog posts, host webinars, open-source our code and have many thesis students. We have very close ties with the universities and we often give guest lectures. We connect with student associations, mostly computer sciences and other hardcore science studies, because these backgrounds are what we are looking for when hiring engineers and business analysts for our Amsterdam and Dusseldorf office.

Why do people want to work for your company? People very much like the fact that we developed a lot ourselves, such as our delivery vehicle, our own software and that we own and operate the entire fulfillment and distribution by ourselves. Our A-players attract A-players. We have a lot of exposure in the market, we’ve won a lot of prices and the funding has also supported our employer brand.

Over 20% of all engineers at Picnic are female.

How do you assess if someone is future proof?

We mainly focus on someone’s impact on the business. To measure this, we have regular check-ins and start with half-year reviews. Everyone has a mentor, someone experienced, who is focussed on their development, and we provide soft skill training for everyone. We also have a roadmap in which all projects are specified. People are assigned to projects and these are reviewed every quarter.

Do you specifically hire for leadership roles? We don't hire specifically for leadership positions. This doesn't mean we don't hire people with experience who soon can become a lead. At a certain phase people with experience bring value which is needed to continue as fast as we need to grow. Experienced new hires usually start with one project to get a thorough understanding of Picnic and to enable them to soon after take on more complex projects or run multiple projects at the same time. Aside from hiring experienced hires, it's very important to develop our own talent and give them the opportunity to grow into a leadership position. We assess leadership skills from the start because we strongly believe that despite the years of experience people want to grow, and we cannot limit them. We work with very talented smart people, they are constantly challenged and these discussions bring the best results. As a result our churn is very low; people hardly leave.

If I want to attract and build a winning team, where should I start? Very clearly identify what you are looking for first, what type of person would be successful in the role, what are the skills needed and how does this connect to your company values? Always hire the right people and hire for quality over quantity. It is better to wait for the right person, instead of just filling a position, despite pressure on delivery. Hiring the wrong people has a huge impact on the business and the teams; if you doubt someone, it’s better to keep looking.

Always hire the right people and hire for quality over quantity.

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