A Dubai-based Startup Attracts Top Engineers from Silicon Valley
Ex-McKinsey consultants Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha wanted to solve a local problem. As frequent travelers who saw firsthand the shortcomings of transportation, they co-founded Careem, an organization that aims to revolutionize this industry. Since establishing a small office in Dubai in 2012, Careem has taken the world by storm – operating in over 60 cities across 11 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Starting off as a corporate-focused website that allowed clients to pre-book vehicles, Careem developed an app that allows users to book rides. Today, they work with over 150,000 drivers who are known as “Captains”, providing transportation services to more than six million people and aiming to always be generous (Careem in Arabic means generous) to their customers, captains and colleagues, while delivering service excellence.
Talent has always been a priority for Careem, and the engine behind their success which lead them to partner with LinkedIn to tap into top quality talent and build their brand in the region and globally. This partnership has seen extraordinary results so far:
• 5x increase in followers in 6 months
• 90% of engineering roles hired through LinkedIn
• Expanded the Careem brand’s reach globally
"If I had to describe LinkedIn in one word, it would be: Essential.”
When Nicki came to work for Careem in 2016, she discovered that the talent acquisition department had room for growth. “Though we didn’t have any trouble getting applications, we struggled to find quality – we were drowning in quantity. There was also a lack of clarity from the department in terms of what skills were needed and a lack of tools to go and find those profiles.”
To keep up with the monthly growth the business has seen, continuous innovation was required. Their talent acquisition team needed to create a brand profile that would attract top talent globally, and to adopt a continuous improvement philosophy across systems, processes and people.
Putting branding at its core
Careem recently launched a completely new brand identity. According to Nicki, it’s been a great success. “As an outsider looking in, you can recognize a Careem ad; you know the content and the imagery – you can see the brand guidelines being enforced.”
By launching a Career Page on LinkedIn, Careem was also able to strengthen the employer brand –showcasing their company culture and work environment.
“When targeting talent pro-actively, you can sell a great story but if you have no content to back up your words it’s harder to convert that talent. We tell prospective candidates to look at our Career Page on LinkedIn. It speaks volumes about who we are and articulates our values and the energy of our environment. Careem is a cool, funky and innovative space to work in; the Career Page helps convey this message for us and our conversion rate is much higher as a result.” This also helps Careem attract talent from other countries: “Our online presence has resulted in a massive spike in followers and placed candidates – it has elevated our brand,” continued Nicki. “We held a recent event in Silicon Valley with TechWadi where lots of candidates were already following us and were excited that we were there. This comes down to our branding and Career Page.”
Building a strong content marketing strategy by activating employees
By continuously pushing out relevant content, Careem is able to engage with passive talent who might be open to new opportunities. “We are constantly sourcing new talent. Using engineering as an example, we approach nearly 700 people per month. While we don’t necessarily convert all of them into placements, we can start a conversation that keeps them interested.”
Engineers and Product Managers are also encouraged to write blogs, allowing followers to discover what Careem is working on and what they would be involved in should they join. “Rather than sending out InMails saying we’re still hiring, we send our potential candidates content that makes them excited about our projects and keeps us top of mind.” This has played a key role in hiring Software Engineers.
Careem also encourages employees to become Brand Ambassadors. “When our employees share Careem’s updates on LinkedIn and with their network, this is then shared again with their wider network; it becomes a ripple effect,” continued Nicki.
After the launch of the Career page, Careem noticed a significant increase in followers. “The look and feel of our Career Page makes people want to share it – they’re proud of where they work. When we went live with our Career Page, the number of Careemers who updated their LinkedIn profiles grew by nearly 300 – they’re proud to be associated with the page.”
Finding and retaining top talent
Careem’s main challenge in talent acquisition is finding top product and engineering specialists, who are in high demand and often outside the region.
Nicki has found that most of their placements come from using LinkedIn. Of course, finding the ideal candidate from a global talent pool is only half the battle. To attract a highly sought-after candidate from an overseas lucrative position to join Careem, and retain them, is something they feel they’ve worked hard at resolving.
Part of their strategy is to ensure employees are owners of the company. “Everyone at Careem has stock options – from the most senior to the most junior.”
Of course, Careem’s influx of funding has also ensured that the market no longer sees them as a risky start-up, but as a viable proposition.
As a fast-paced startup, employees work with some of the sharpest minds in the industry – in a role that allows them to grow. “We’re small enough that everyone can really feel the impact of what they’re creating. This has helped us attract people from companies like McKinsey, Google, Facebook and BCG.”
“We also attract people from countries like the US and Europe who have roots in the region. The facts speak for themselves – using LinkedIn, we made 45 new hires in just three months.”
With their focus on establishing a strong employer brand, an innovative content marketing strategy and attracting top global talent, Careem was able to:
Increase followers 5x in 6 months
By implementing this clear plan of action, Careem was able to increase their followers from around 6,000 followers to over 30,000.
“We started off by posting jobs on our website but not really utilizing the LinkedIn platform. To get followers to apply for jobs, we posted all our jobs on LinkedIn and this helped to increase engagement and increase our presence as such,” said Nicki.
“We often need to go outside the region to proactively engage with candidates; our Career Page does a lot of the work for us. Rather than directly engaging with candidates, candidates engage with our page. By constantly refreshing and updating content, we are able to showcase our EVP.”
Hire 90% of engineering roles though LinkedIn
Using LinkedIn to hire 90% of engineering roles, Careem has been able to save time spent on searching for suitable candidates. “Engineering roles are notoriously difficult to fill and highly sought after,” explains Nicki.
“On average we get at least 300 applications for every role we advertise. With LinkedIn, we can filter and search with the Recruiter tool, which helps us find the right talent faster.”
Hiring the best engineering talent is a focus for the team. “We now have a tight view on the calibre of hire we need to make, companies they will have gained experience at, giving us a clear target market. LinkedIn’s Recruiter tool allows the team to be as narrow or specific with those parameters as we want.”
By consistently finding talent or headhunting through LinkedIn, Careem has been able to reduce recruitment costs. “Talent comes in through referrals, ad response and headhunting – a healthy source mix to ensure we have access to a rich talent pool.”
“I had very little knowledge of employment opportunities in other countries and certainly no contacts or means to know what was on offer. But I did know that I wanted to leave the United States and go to Germany.
I first updated my LinkedIn profile with my recent skills, and discovered that you could specifically tailor your notification settings based on company locations. Once I’d done this, I’d see around five surprisingly good matches in my inbox every couple of days.
Having this small number of good matches suited me well, as I could realistically research them to see if they were a good fit. And these matches are how I first heard about Careem, the interesting work they were doing, their fast pace of operation, and their various offices around the world.
From there, I heard back from their chief recruiter and the rest was history!”
- Vijay Nair, Senior member of Technical Staff Engineer, Careem Berlin (ex-Google)
“When I was looking for new opportunities, I didn't expect that I’d be headhunted from Dubai! It all started with an InMail that I received from Careem’s VP of Engineering, Imran Sayed, which turned into a conversation and ended with me receiving an offer from Careem.”
- Thomas Chen, Software Engineer, Careem Dubai (ex-Google)
Expand the global reach of the Careem brand
Careem was able to establish a strong brand presence in the region and globally with their focused branding strategy.
To differentiate themselves, Careem took a holistic approach that saw employer branding as fundamental to successful recruitment. By implementing a strong identity and employer brand, people around the world were exposed to their brand and knew who they were talking to.
“There are not many companies in the region that are growing at the same rate as us; we are pushing boundaries all the time and it’s fresh, innovative and exciting. The total market opportunity open to us is HUGE and there is so much potential. Nobody knows what our business will look like five years down the line, even a year from now. LinkedIn allows us to communicate this sense of growth and opportunity to candidates across the globe.”
A last word of advice:
“If you’re looking to hire quality talent you need to focus on your employer brand. You have to stand out by creating your own identity, and share it with the world.”