Teddy Dimitrova: “Have a hospitality mindset in recruitment”

Introducing one of our keynote speakers for Talent Acquisition Live: Teddy Dimitrova.

Teddy is originally Bulgarian and moved to the Netherlands 10 years ago to study. Although she is 100% Bulgarian, after a decade here she does consider herself one third Dutch. After several years in the hospitality industry, she realised it was way too corporate, too many layers, rules and stiffness. She got headhunted by a recruitment agency and before she knew it she was a “IT recruitment consultant”.

Three years later she can say without a doubt she has found her true calling in talent management. We interviewed her about her experience in the field and her keynote on TA Live.

So what is Talent Management for you?

‘Recently I’ve discussed the title with several people from the industry and some say it is a fancy name for a recruiter. On this, I don’t agree. A recruiter is a separate profession. As talent manager I help startups and scale up grow – from setting up the whole infrastructure, through recruitment strategy to the actual growth. Think about everything from employer branding, EVP (values, benefits), employee happiness, on-boarding programs etc. What I really love about it is the fact that in the startup world there are very few restrictions (e.g. budget or not enough FTE’s for the projects), but for the rest – you can be creative, think out of the box and just create something unique – what is a better challenge than that?’

Your background isn’t in HR, but in hospitality. Does the service attitude you learned there help you with your current career?

‘According to statistics, 97% of the hospitality educated people don’t end up working in the hospitality industry. One of the main reasons is that they get headhunted in their early post graduate years by many industries – for one big reason – their hospitable mindset and attitude. This is something you mostly can’t really teach someone, it is something you are born with. Characteristics you would often see are adaptability & flexibility, passion, empathy, patience, team work, great communication skills, quick minds, customer centric etc. I strongly believe that having those qualities has not only helped me to be successful in my job, but has made my approach and work ethics quite distinctive.’

‘The hospitable mindset and attitude is something you can’t really reach someone.’

‘When talking about “service attitude”, the hospitality industry has changed a lot in the past years. Every industry has recently been through influences of new generations and digitalisation. Therefore, we don’t talk about servicing anyone anymore, we are talking of giving great experience. And that’s something that has become a huge topic in the talent industry as well. Candidate experience is one of the most important pillars in your recruitment strategy these days.’

So where do you get your inspiration, how do you develop your own skills?

‘Well, I’m super proud to be part of the Recruitment Slackers Community, where I often help organise meet ups, share knowledge during sessions and also stimulate others to do so. Actually being part of this community and being so active in there is a big part of my day to day life and has helped me become a better recruiter, sourcer and overall better person.’

You moved from Bulgaria to the Netherlands during your student years. Do you think your dual perspective helps you recruit better?

Yes, I moved to study and stayed. Having the background of Eastern European and the experience moving abroad, starting my life from scratch helps me a lot. I mostly work with candidates from abroad and when I share my experience, challenges and successes with them, we manage to create quite a bond and it also helps me persuade people to move. Also, being an expat has made me aware of a lot of cultural differences between the Dutch and all other nationalities, which helps on the side of hiring people on cultural fit. For the past years, I pretty much managed to map European countries and know where to find certain type of candidates. For example: I know that it wouldn’t make sense to headhunt developers in Bulgaria, as their financial status is quite good and they don’t want to relocate. Especially in comparison with Macedonians or Serbian for example, who would rather relocate to central Europe to escape political situations in their countries.

April 18th at TA Live you will be talking about recruiting with the end in mind. Tell us a little about your talk.

‘When I was an agency recruiter, I would often talk with startups and would hear the same issues – no budget, high urgency, no strategy, delayed projects etc. But due to the lack of budget, the only thing startups would have is creativity. I couldn’t help to think: what would I do if I was in a similar situation? When I joined Bloomon, we were talking about hiring 8 developers. But we knew that this might change very quickly and grow to 30-40 open roles instead of 8. And yes, the challenge was the same – low budget, no agencies, no branding, no strategy – so we had to be creative. We sat down with the CTO and mapped out everything we could think of that didn’t cost (much) money. I was super lucky to get all the freedom and flexibility to experiment. There were also failures for sure, but I learned a lot. Now with those learnings I am more than excited to help other startups in their journeys.’

Last but not least, can you tell us something about you most people won’t know?

‘Oh, that’s a challenge. I’m quite open about myself and pretty distinctive in things I like or don’t like and people know that. Perhaps the fact that 10 years ago I was convinced that I would be General Manager of a luxurious 5 star hotel in Rome is not very well known. Also what actually NO ONE knows is the exact number of pair of shoes I have. More than 120 for sureā€¦’