Marcel Poelker from Taledo: “I'm a firm believer in humans behind the job.”

Marcel Poelker is the founder and CTO of Taledo, a Berlin-founded innovative recruiting platform that combines a human-centric approach to hiring with the power of algorithms. Marcel's AI and product development experience also makes him a sought-after speaker on topics such as AI and product design, digitalization, recruiting/staffing, productivity, and personal growth. Besides building products and forming teams, he enjoys creating music.

In an interview with Marcel, we talked about human-centered hiring, discussed the main difference between HR and recruiting, pinpointed the most important things to look for when hiring people, and explored the depths of how Taledo was founded.

Marcel Poelker will speak about his entrepreneurship experience on the sTARTUp Day stage on 26 August.

This interview was written by Rene Rumberg, a member of the sTARTUp Day Marketing & Communications team.

What would you recommend companies do when hiring ‒ look into the previous experience or decide based on the attitude, desire, and passion of candidates?

The candidate first needs to qualify, as it is essential that the candidate can do the required job. This is the minimum criteria. You cannot hire someone just because they're only passionate.

However, once these minimum criteria are met, it's a lot about the human behind that ‒ their motivation, social fit to the team, and mindset. How much do they want to grow? Are they proactive? Are they solution-oriented?

I'm a firm believer in humans behind the job. Once the candidates reach the minimum required skill threshold, this is actually what matters. The required skill-set also depends on the role; not everyone should be the same.

Could you name three essential elements of a good workplace?

Well, it's not something like having an unlimited supply of Snickers.

I'm sure that you'll find at least one person who says that this is the most important thing in a workplace! (laughing)

Definitely! This is the marketing world of it. Recently, someone working with us through an agency  even though most of our people are working in-house ‒, told me that we are maybe the best client he has worked for, based on the support he gets from us. Even though he was only remotely connected with the situation in Ukraine we were proactively supportive which is what he was very grateful for. In the end, that's what matters.

In my opinion, three things are essential: the culture, the mindset of people throughout the organization, and the team itself.

We need to realize that it's humans behind everything ‒ it’s humans who run governments and companies and humans who do all the work. It's a good sign if the company realizes that because this means it treats people as humans.

Building on this, it's also important to give people perspective, both from the company and human side. Where is the company going and does it have a vision? Where does the individual fit in and how can they contribute? What does it mean for their personal growth? Trust, open communication, and transparency are the foundation of that. Sadly I still see a lack of that, which, in my opinion, is a huge mistake.

As you said, it's all about humans. It's the same for investors who invest in early-stage startups. They are looking for humans as a team and don't actually care too much about the idea.

 I completely agree with that. It’s 100% true.

What is the best HR-related investment that a company can make to succeed?

It's an interesting question because we're on the pulse of that with Taledo. First of all, you should see hiring as an investment, not a cost. Typically, HR departments are still seen as a cost center, they're entirely understaffed and not trained for recruiting.

Recruiting and HR are not the same things. Recruiters make sales by hiring new people. Meanwhile, HR is taking care of people already in the company. It's an entirely different thing.

Hiring people is like cold-calling while managing human resources is like account management. One is a hunter, and the other one is a farmer.

Suppose you finally understand that recruiting is not HR and it's an investment. In that case, you can build yourself an in-house recruiting team, go to providers like old-fashioned headhunters, or for more modern solutions, like Taledo.

If you do go down the road of building an in-house team, don't make the mistake of creating a one-person team since they need to have a broad set of skills. For example, someone who can bond well with an introverted developer is probably not so good at bonding with a salesperson and the other way around. Hiring an in-house team typically only makes sense for companies with a constant need for a continuous set of roles. Otherwise, I would go for external solutions.

How did you come up with the idea for Taledo?

Before founding Taledo, we all had touchpoints with HR, recruiting and headhunters before, since we had leadership positions and were involved in hiring. So we took the knowledge that we had since we saw the potential market and understood that, surprisingly, it isn't very digitalized. We also noticed many different ways to attract and close talent, but the solutions themselves are fragmented and a bit outdated.

We also saw that those solutions were typically divided between pure tech-based or labor-based. You either have the classical headhunting kind of thing or tools like chatbots or matching engines. 

We don't believe in either of those since the pure agency type is not scalable, there is so much loss of information, and the purely tool-focused approach is missing the human element. You want to have a personal conversation about your next career choice, that’s a sensitive topic.

Seeing the market size and already existing but fragmented solutions, we saw a huge chance to digitalize it and integrate technology with the human factor. So, we're doing a mix of the two approaches.

What would you say is Taledo's main competitive advantage over its competitors?

You might be surprised, but there are not so many direct competitors who do what we are doing. People typically compare us to LinkedIn, for example. But that's a network, and we're not building a network. We're a recruiting focused company that takes a holistic approach to recruiting. We want to offer everything that you need to succeed at recruiting. We rather see big old classical agencies who still dominate the industry ‒ the likes of Hayes, Robert Half and others ‒ as our competitors.

What do you view as Taledo's biggest success story?

The most recent one was winning the HR Innovation Award, the most prestigious award in our industry. That was a huge confirmation that we are on the right track.

What have you learned while building the company?

I could make a keynote speech to answer this question, but if I had to conclude: the results at work and in your life are directly related to your personal growth. It is my personal mantra that I really believe in.

If you don't grow as a person, your results won't change.

It is true for everyone, but especially in a founder or in a leadership position it multiplies since you're in a position of leverage and responsibility.

A great point! The change starts within you, and to see the change, you need to change and grow yourself.

Exactly! And if see that, then we can ask "Okay, but if it’s obvious, why is it difficult?" which lets us open a talk about the human condition and nature. It's a fascinating topic, and it's super important to embark on that journey. Because otherwise, as said, things won't change!

Read more about Marcel at and come listen to his talk on personal growth challenges when building a company on Day 2 of the sTARTUp Day festival on
26 August 2022.

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