Anastasia Uglova is the Co-Founder & Managing Director of MindSky, a new platform that offers free professional career services for job seekers and a free online course that covers CV writing, interviewing, and other job-search skills. She talked to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about her experience and the impact the platform has had on the job market in Rwanda.
How did you come up with the concept of MindSky?
Prior to co-founding MindSky, I worked at the Akilah Institute, and hiring was one of our biggest challenges at Akilah as we always struggled to find great hires, despite the hundreds of applications we received for every position. Recruitment agencies were expensive and didn’t always understand our company mission or hiring needs. When we spoke with other hiring managers, we realized our challenges were not unique. We found a market need for an in-between solution: a smarter job board that provided hiring managers with pre-screened candidates with excellent soft skills.
What was your mission at the outset?
Because MindSky was inspired by our experience at the Akilah Institute, our team has a unique advantage: knowing what it is like in the job seeker’s shoes. MindSky operates from a unique vantage point: we understand both the job seeker and the hiring manager, and we know how to bring the two sides together effectively. Our mission from the outset has been to connect employers to pre-screened professionals, simplifying the hiring process and making it easier for talented people to build great careers.
How do you advertise for your services, given that they are free for job seekers?
Our success so far has primarily been through word-of-mouth and referrals. That works best, because talented people know and can recommend other talented people. When we help members find jobs they love, they’re eager to share their stories that we post on our website. Many people assume that there are hidden fees for job seekers, but I can honestly say there is no catch. All our services for job seekers, including a dedicated Talent Advocate, application review, and interview training, are free for our members. The only thing we ask of our members is to be active and engaged, check their email often, and pay attention to their Talent Advocate’s advice. We make money by charging employers to post their jobs with us, although new clients can try five job posts for free.
What impact has MindSky had to its members?
I’m pleased to say that we’ve had many success stories; both in helping unemployed people find jobs and helping career changers discover new opportunities. For instance, just last weekend, we heard back from our client Earth Enable that they hired one of our members for their Talent Associate position, a role that had been open for months and was very difficult to fill. We are now working with Earth Enable to help them fill the Senior Customer Engagement Manager role. We’re very proud of our successful track record in Rwanda.
Why choose Rwanda as one of your locations?
Rwanda is rapidly becoming a destination of choice for companies, investors, and tourists, both within East Africa and worldwide. Just this year, the Kigali Marriott Hotel, the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Center, and the Ubumwe Grand Hotel have opened. Java House and other international chains are coming here, too. And Zipline, the world’s first drone airport, just started operations. All of these companies need great talent in order to grow. We know Rwanda has that talent, so it’s a matter of identifying and connecting great people to these exciting new job opportunities, and giving just a bit of extra training and guidance to people with great potential but who have never been taught how to market themselves to employers.
How can you describe your experience working with the Rwandan market?
One lesson we learned very early on is that a bad application does not mean the candidate would be a bad employee. We meet many highly qualified people definitely have potential and would make great employees, but their CVs don’t tell their story and they don’t express themselves well at the interview, simply because nobody has ever shown them how to do better. That’s been important to our secret sauce: identify and recruit hidden diamonds in the rough and find job seekers who, with just a bit of help, can be shining stars.
Human resources managers always tell us how overwhelmed they are with job applications. Yet, despite the volume of applicants, they still have trouble finding quality candidates. As an online platform, we work closely with hiring managers to get them accustomed to using our platform and adopt a new technology as part of their hiring. Our goal is to make HR managers’ jobs easier so they can focus more on their other work.
What message do you have for the jobseekers?
If I can end with one piece of advice, it is: Please never write a cover letter or go to the interview before you research the company.By the time you start writing your cover letter, you should be able to state exactly what excited you about that company. Don’t just talk about yourself. Talk about the company and show the hiring manager you did your research. If you can tell the hiring manager what you like about her company and show that you follow them in the news, you will stand out from 99% of other applicants who don’t know that trick.