Owen Murray of Zalando Dublin is standing in a brightly lit office and smiling into the camera.
Owen Murray. Image: Luke Maxwell/Siliconrepublic.com

Zalando’s Owen Murray: ‘The best recruiters are your own staff’

21 May 2020

Owen Murray, recruitment lead at Zalando Ireland, discusses hiring approaches in the tech sector and how your team can be your ultimate company ambassadors.

Owen Murray is the recruitment lead at Zalando’s tech hub in Dublin. Drawing on more than 15 years of experience in the tech recruitment space, both in Ireland and globally, he seeks out niche talents to welcome new perspectives to the company.

Here, he discusses his experiences of fast-paced hiring during periods of upscaling and why knowledge sharing is important for recruitment.

‘Allowing the time to have a good conversation is invaluable in the hiring process’

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role and how much of it is spent on recruitment? 

I would say my role is diverse, from working on initiatives for efficient hiring, strategy for business units and branding, to recruiting for key roles and helping my team members to deliver. The emphasis varies almost weekly, depending on what hiring spikes we have.

What has been the biggest culture change within Zalando in the last five years? 

We are almost 12 years old as a company overall and have seen rapid growth to around 14,000 employees. In Dublin, we celebrated our fifth birthday in April this year and have experienced significant growth here too, not only in staff but also with investment in scaling out other teams, like apps engineering and front-end engineering for our fashion store division.

We initially started out as a fashion insights centre with a heavy research and data science focus. Those teams are still active and growing in Dublin today, and we are adding new teams that are building platforms to enable partners and drive customer and product understanding.

Managing this growth does have an impact on culture, so we work on consistently developing our onboarding programme, giving back to the community through meet-ups and CSR days, and making sure there is an inclusive working environment in our set-up and mindset.

Managing the quality of hire at increased volumes poses a difficult challenge both for the recruiters themselves and the hiring teams. I believe there is also an optimum efficiency you reach when everyone is engaged and active in recruiting at higher volumes than usual.

What is the one thing you think recruitment teams should stop doing, or start doing differently? 

I think recruiters today can be overwhelmed with the variety of skills and requirements in the role. It is important to realise what areas you are strongest in and what topics you need to develop further.

Whether that is employer branding, onboarding, stakeholder management, sourcing, talent management or operations, you can get involved in all of these and end up having impact that greatly adds to a business’s strength and performance.

Is recruiting in tech different to recruiting in other fields? 

Absolutely! Some of the steps and processes are similar, but the tools and the audience sentiment are sometimes wildly different. For example, a back-end engineer is typically interested in the challenge and the impact they can make, whereby someone from a more commercially focused mindset is driven by the scope for market or revenue growth.

I think all recruiters and talent acquisition professionals need to really understand the business and market challenges so they can succeed.

What are the biggest challenges in recruiting in tech?

The best recruiters are your own staff. Enabling and educating them is the challenge, as these are your ultimate ambassadors for the profile you want to attract.

At Zalando, I have seen this work well. A lot of engineers are happy to contribute to knowledge-sharing initiatives, blogs, meet-ups, conferences etc, and these typically contribute to their own role in terms of learning, but it helps our branding massively too, so it’s a win-win.

Do you have any advice for other tech recruiters and people applying to tech roles, such as those open at Zalando? 

I think both should allow the time it takes for natural curiosity to happen. Along with having the skill to identify top talent, allowing the time to have a good conversation is invaluable in the process.

And, of course, always send your recruiter treats!

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