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E121 | The Smarter Way To Job Search with Sam Franklin

If you struggle with recruitment, either as a recruiter or a job hunter, then don’t miss this week’s episode with Sam Franklin. Sam is co-founder and CEO of Otta, the recruitment company helping job seekers find roles at the world’s most innovative companies. 

Formerly a consultant at McKinsey, and then Interim Head of People at, Sam cut his teeth working on the pressing problems of this fast growing startup. At Nested, he formed the Business Operations team and led the Recruitment, HR and People Operations teams. It was in this latter role that he realised how soul-destroying the recruitment process was for many applicants. 

So he set up Otta with two other co-founders with the aim to be the number one platform for job seekers looking for jobs in tech firms in London. 

They went niche because, simply, that is what they’re passionate about. 

This is a fantastic story about how to solve recruitment from the candidates’ perspective and how to potentially drive good behaviour from employers so they get the best people applying for their jobs. Don’t miss this great conversation, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  

On today’s podcast:

  • The Otta story 
  • How Otta differs from other hiring platforms
  • Hiring diverse candidates
  • How to write a cover letter
  • Tinder for jobs
  • Rating a company’s interview experience

Sam Franklin is co-founder and CEO at Otta, a company looking to build a smarter way to find jobs at tech companies hiring in London. Prior to Otta, people would tell Sam how soul-crushing job searching was, a phrase he found incredibly visceral.

“As soon as I started hearing that from people, it really made me want to understand why it was bad. How you can improve it. For me, it’s a very pivotal part of your life, changing jobs. And it felt like all the options out there were very average.”

So how does Otta work? Well, they curate the companies they offer candidates. Where LinkedIn says they’ve got all the jobs under the sun, Otta focuses solely on the best tech companies hiring in London. 

Another job board?

Sam is keen to stress that Otta isn’t simply another job board. Unlike LinkedIn, an enormous job board at one end of the spectrum and the tiny niche boards at the other end, Otta aggregates roles from tech companies.  

“We’re not trying to cover the whole world. But our promise is if there’s a tech company that’s interesting, we have their jobs on our platform.”

The genesis of Otta

In Sam’s former role as Interim Head of People at, a fast-growth startup, he spoke to a lot of job seekers, and the one thing they all told him was that job hunting was incredibly frustrating – there was no guidance, no support, the who job search process was an incredibly soul-crushing experience. 

And worst of all, the majority of options out there were average or rubbish. 

So Sam and his co-founders were keen to explore a way of building something better, more innovative, a place where people feel confident, excited and as if they’re accomplishing what they want, which is to find their dream job. 

The problem Otta solves

Recruitment is a broad term, but the one aspect of it that Otta doesn’t deal with is the assessment stage. 

“What we effectively do is we say, ‘here’s a candidate, we think they love your job’, and you go interview and you go understand if they’re a fantastic candidate or not.”

And their approach is working – the quality of candidates on Otta is much higher than other platforms. More Otta candidates are progressed forward in roles in comparison to Glassdoor or LinkedIn or any other competitor. 

Cover letters

For a lot of candidates, cover letters are archaic and they find them hard to write. Otta has a middle ground whereby they ask candidates to answer the simple question of: ‘why do you want to work at X company.” They encourage candidates to write two or three paragraphs in response, effectively negating the need for a cover letter. 

When you apply for jobs through Otta, they coach candidates on what to write in the cover letter and how long to make it. They want to bring cover letters into the 21st century while still allowing candidates to sell themselves, to put across their personality and get to the next stage in the application process. 

“And that’s one of the reasons that people progress well from Otta because the rest of the platforms are encouraging you not to write this stuff, they’re encouraging you to basically be the bland candidate that just gets muddled in with the rest of them in the pile.”

Otta for candidates

Otta takes a different approach to sign up candidates. Rather than asking you fill out a box detailing your work history, they ask you 10 or so leading questions from how experienced you are to what job type you’re looking for, and from there they ascertain what you like before they start sending you targeted job openings. 

“That really catches people who are maybe not quite looking with intensity. But if they find something that’s interesting, they might be swayed. And so that’s something that works pretty well for us.”

Hiring talent

Otta themselves are still a small company and Sam stresses the importance of hiring right. 

“[It] really does damage [your small company] if you don’t bring the right person in, because they affect the small number of people. And my strong belief is the worst thing you can do for great people is bring in an average person.”


Otta ask candidates to provide feedback on their application process, more so, they ask candidates to report which companies responded to their applications and which didn’t. Otta hopes by doing this, they can curate a list of companies that are the best at responding. Because who wants to waste an hour of their time filling in an application only to be ghosted?

“The other thing we do is, when they have an interview, we ask them things like, what was the quality of the interviewers? And did they ask interesting questions? And were they professional? And how was the end of the process? And it sounds quite rudimentary, but actually, you start to really surface the companies that are shit and the companies that are great.”

Part of Otta’s plan for 2021 is to encourage companies to give candidates a great hiring experience.

“Airbnb has this concept called ‘Super Host’ where they say things like, ‘if you can maintain a feedback score of nine out of 10, and you have check in that’s quick, etc, you can be a super host,’ and that makes their listings more prominent. Basically, I think that the same logic will apply to jobs where we’ll say things like, ‘if you have a great experience for interviewing, we’ll show your jobs more prominently and more positively to candidates.”

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