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Nothing is easy in a pandemic, even recruiting staff.
Corporate travel bookers TruTrip and TravelBank, alongside accommodation provider AltoVita, are hiring for a variety of reasons, from laying foundations to creating specialist pandemic-related roles. But they all have one type of role they’re hoping to fill in common: the product manager.
However, while you’d expect the talent pool to have widened considerably over the past year, recruiting isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
TruTrip is one of few companies to have launched in the middle of this crisis, and its co-founder Hugh Batley actually thinks this will give the Singapore-based business travel platform the edge when the trips restart.
“Business travel will come back more complex, on a route-by-route basis. So how can we help people do that?” said Batley. He now wants to position TruTrip as a platform for smaller and medium-sized companies that doesn’t just focus on booking for them, but will cover all aspects of their travel management.
With a range of specialist companies that offer security or tax advice, he wants TruTrip to be flexible enough to plug into these types of platforms to offer them to customers. A recent addition includes risk intelligence company Riskline, while he’s also looking at insurance platforms.
To do these kinds of integrations, Batley is recruiting for a product manager, product coordinator and growth manager, who can reengineer workflows, as well as digitize and automate processes as much as possible.
“We’re always going to be integrating partners … the idea that a company would go out into the world and find 10 different service providers that it needs, for good travel management, with health and safety, and wellbeing, is unreasonable,” he said.
It’s already a trend among some of his rivals, including TravelPerk which recently acquired travel information API provider Albatross and launched a new tax recovery tool.
TruTrip has 50 customers, 80 percent of which are smaller companies with the rest larger corporates. “We’re also new in the market, so a lot of it is about making sure those foundations are there, to ensure customers come on to the platform,” Batley added.
How to Find the Right People
Building foundations has to some extent been made easier due to the fact more people have adapted to remote work, so the talent pool is wider. However, startups can become inundated with applications — and not all applications are equal, or relevant.
AltoVita operates in the hospitality space, and is looking to take on a full-stack engineer and product designer.
It wants to consolidate its suppliers and integrate with more property and channel management systems. It also connects with other relocation and mobility technology partners, like Benivo. “They have such unique workflows, so we need to build bespoke systems and interfaces for them, so that takes up a lot of product development time,” said founder Vivi Cahyadi Himmel.
After posting the job vacancies on LinkedIn, Cahyadi Himmel said she filtered applicants down to fewer than five people who fit the criteria after receiving more than 100 CVs. She’s also posting the jobs on UpWork, which has a “lot of skilled talented tech people” and product manager community website Mind the Product.
TruTrip’s Batley said that after posting project management roles on LinkedIn, he received 150 applications. “That’s a crazy response,” he said. “We’re trying to be robust in the process, and we all worked over the weekend to reply to all of the applicants, and not be the missing human resources link that people talk about.”
London-based AltoVita has doubled its headcount since the start of Covid to 20 staff, and wants to grow to 40 by the end of this year, but the competition will be tough.
“For operational staff in hospitality, they’ve been easier to find. There are clearly big layoffs in the sector,” said Cahyadi Himmel, citing BridgeStreet’s bankruptcy. “It’s not quite the same when it comes to technology and product development, because you’re competing against other prospering tech-driven companies for the same talent pool.”
Batley agrees. “In Singapore alone you’ve got the likes of TikTok sweeping up tech teams, including neighboring countries. That creates a challenge,” he said, adding sometimes he will approach people directly if he hears that their company is laying people off.
The End of Lunch
California-based company TravelBank has been on the hunt for a full stack engineer, product manager and product designer recently, to further develop the expense product it launched last year.
“There were requests for more robust enterprise resource planning support and the ability to delegate user support for expenses,” said head of product Angelina Kim. “Both of those features are rolling out early this year and speak to a growing need to integrate workflows and streamline communications where possible.”
There were also requests for more visibility into Covid-19 rules and status updates during travel, such as access to flight-specific cleanliness information, which new hires will support, she added.
Kim said the hiring process is different in the pandemic.
“We have a fun and engaging company culture and our in-person interview process included taking candidates out to lunch,” she said. “Now that we have to conduct interviews remotely we’re looking at other ways to get the most out of the process via Zoom.”
On the first day TravelBank posted its job openings it too received more than 100 applicants. “It’s quite a lot. We do see a lot of people who were affected by Covid layoffs and that’s really across all industries,” Kim added.
CORRECTION: This article originally said Alto Vita integrated with Topia, and that it built bespoke systems for property management systems.