Our CEO Tina Evans and CCO Toine Diters have been honourable guests of the University of Economics Varna’s Career Academy podcast. They shared insightful advice on topics like job applications, in-person interviews and LinkedIn presence to help students improve their career options.
Listen to the podcast and get useful tips and tricks straight from the experts. Find answers to curious questions like “How do recruitment companies find you?”, “Does the number of LinkedIn connections matter?” and “What to wear on your first job interview”.
Read the full interview
Hello and welcome to our podcast Career Academy in the Univerisity of Economics Varna. Today we are here with our guests Tina Evans and Toine Diters – the CEO and CCO of Blue Lynx – a recruitment company that has an office here in Varna. Can you introduce yourselves?
Tina: I’m Tina Evans, the founder and owner of Blue Lynx. I’ve had the company for 33 years. I’m originally from London and I moved to The Hague in the Netherlands 35 years ago where I started my career working for Shell. Shell helped me start my own company which is now located in Western Europe and Eastern Europe with offices in Varna and Sofia. We specialise in international multilingual recruitment.
Toine: Knowing Tina for 5 years and working as an external consultant I joined Blue Lynx a few months ago as the new CCO of the company. Currently, we’re starting to grow our first sales team in Bulgaria so I am mainly working from Sofia.
Tina: We not only work for the Fortune 500 companies but also for the level below that – SMEs (small and mid-size enterprises), small non-profit organizations, startups and young dynamic companies that have fantastic ideas but cannot find the right staff. They all use our services and we find them great talent.
That is very impressive. And how do you actually find talent? How do you source?
Tina: There are several ways. One primarily is our LinkedIn network because we have been in the business for 33 years and we have an absolutely enormous network. We also advertise on our own website and use external parties for ex-pats who we know are looking for employment in international organisations. We have a digital marketing team in Varna that runs campaigns on social media. We advertise positions mainly on Facebook and LinkedIn. In fact, our biggest sourcing tool is LinkedIn. We have experienced talent sourcers that spend their day researching the market and looking for candidates.
Toine: We are a very data-driven company.
Tina: Yes, we even use artificial intelligence but the traditional old-fashioned recruitment which is actually getting to know your candidates, talking to them, and finding out what a candidate really wants to do is very important.
We are not only client-driven but also candidate-driven so we treat our candidates as clients as well. Our company’s slogan is “People make it work” and when we are presenting ourselves to audiences we always say that we put “Human” back into Human Resources.
That’s a cool saying. What can you tell us about LinkedIn? For example, how can students improve their Linkedin profiles to be discovered more easily?
Toine: We have a very large and fast-growing LinkedIn community which goes over 31 000 followers. On the other hand, I think LinkedIn is less used by candidates here in Bulgaria but in the Netherlands, everybody has e LinkedIn profile. The better your LinkedIn profile is arranged and filled in, the easier it is to find a job.
Tina: What’s also very important is not only your work experience but also your academic experience and your languages. Many people don’t list their languages – for example, we have a lot of Dutch people in the Netherlands who don’t mention the fact that they speak English. And when companies are looking for a bilingual person, they won’t be found because they don’t mention the fact that they speak English.
I would always recommend using keywords that recruiters can find very quickly. Don’t overwrite anything on LinkedIn because people in recruitment are very busy so they want to extract the most important information as quickly as possible.
Find more LinkedIn tips in our article:
LinkedIn Tips: 10 Ways to Make Your Profile Stand Out
And one of the biggest tips I can give anybody is: to focus on charity work, on helping out in the community, gain some experience from that, and always mention your internships so employers can see your work experience during your study period.
Do not have any gaps. That’s basically the biggest mistake you can do. Don’t write something like “I’ve been unemployed for 8 months because I was tired” or “I’ve done a really great job, I’ve got my degree and I’m gonna just hang for the summer”. Employers want to see people that are focused, determined and don’t waste their time.
Toine: If you want to travel abroad, take a gap year, do something for good causes and fill it in with something nice that is beneficial to your career. Do something useful with that time.
Tina: Some people are unfortunate – they fall ill or a family member falls ill. List that, say “Due to family circumstances, I had to take a gap year because I had to take care of a family member or have been unwell myself”. I would say honesty is the best policy but don’t write silly things like “I was having a rest because I was tired”. You’re out there competing with everyone on LinkedIn. The pool of candidates is enormous – you have to promote yourself and sell yourself in a very good way.
If you are looking for a job and you want to work for a specific company – read the LinkedIn profiles of people that work there and try and adapt your own profile and writing style to match the requirements of that company.
A lot of people on LinkedIn send connection requests without actually knowing the people just to expand their network. What do you think about that?
Tina: Well, I have a recruitment company so I would accept every request that comes to me – after all, every person can be a candidate.
So it’s not about knowing people on Linkedin, it’s more about expanding your network?
Tina: If you read the small print it would be about knowing the people, but trust me, that’s not what happens.
Toine: It’s more like a status – having more than 500 connections. Every person who fills in a LinkedIn profile for the first time wants to be a 500+ member. I was less picky until I had 500 plus connections and then I started being pickier to build specific connections.
Tina (laughing): I was really upset when Obama didn’t connect with me on LinkedIn when I sent him an invitation.
What can you tell our students about their university – does it matter what university they went to?
Tina: That’s a very good question. Yes, absolutely – recruiters and employers do like to employ people from better universities.
Interviewer: And what about their certificates and spoken languages?
Toine: I think language is key to success because you can open up to many other countries and companies from abroad.
When you look for employees, what language level do you look for?
Tina: It would be a fluency level – C1. If you want to work for international companies where the business language is English, definitely C1. And also another tip: if you have the opportunity to do an internship at a company where English is the business language, do it.
Can you give us some tips on in-person interviews?
Tina: Always go smartly dressed.
Toine: Dress well.
Should you for example wear a colourful outfit for your interview?
Tina: No, unless you’re going to an interview at a design studio or some really hip and happening startup. Check the company’s website for photographs of the staff and see how they dress. It’s that first impression that matters. Men, wear a tie, women – make sure that your hair looks good and your nails are done. Come prepared, and have a notebook. Have some notes, have some good questions, and keep eye contact.
Toine: Read the website, know something about the company. Don’t be too stressed – relax.
I’ve heard that recruiters prefer extroverted people. Is this true?
Tina: Not always. If I’m hiring for a bank, I don’t want to have people that come in and go “blah-blah-blah”.
Toine: It’s also important to listen. Sometimes we choose exactly the person who is not the loudest in the room.
Tina: Something that you will probably experience when you’re being interviewed for a job is – very often the person giving the interview doesn’t know how to do it. They haven’t been properly trained for it. It could be a very awkward experience.
Another important tip: after the interview, always send a “thank you” email. I’ve been in the business for a long time and I find this very courteous and charming I know a lot of employers do as well. Don’t hassle recruiters or HR departments too much – be patient. Have a positive vibe, be polite and friendly and learn people’s names.
Don’t be fake. A highly trained interviewer would have the right questions to prick through the fakeness and then you really fall on your face.
Don’t forget – if you’ve got to the interview stage, they are interested in you, they are investing time and money in interviewing you. So you know not that you become overconfident and smug but you’ve done well to get to the interview. And then after the interview – write some notes: what you did right, what you did wrong. Sometimes it’s good to go to interviews for practice.
Toine: Always write down all the feedback they give you.
Tina: Yes, practice makes it perfect.
I think that has been all my questions. Thank you for your time and your useful advice. It is very important to us and to our students.
Toine: Thank you for inviting us.
Tina: It was wonderful to be here.