How Bench hired 3 senior software developers from VanHack in 3 weeks

A conversation between VanHack CEO Ilya Brotzky and Sarah Jung, a recruitment team lead at Bench.

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Three months ago, Bench, a Vancouver-based fintech and online bookkeeping service for small businesses, raised $72.5 million ($60 million USD) in Series C financing led by Contour Venture Partners, with support from Altos Ventures, iNovia Capital, and BMO T&I, and new investors including Sage and Shopify.

With almost 630 employees, the company is growing at a rapid clip. To support its hiring objectives, the company turned to VanHack to fill key engineering roles. The company hired three senior software developers from VanHack in just three weeks. Here’s the story, as told by VanHack CEO Ilya Brotzky and Bench recruitment team lead Sarah Jung.


Ilya Brotzky: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another VanHack talent success case interview. My name is Ilya and today, I'm really excited to be joined by Sarah Jung from Bench Accounting, who has hired three VanHackers, and she's here to share the story of how that happened. Sarah, welcome, and how are you doing? 

Sarah Jung: Hi, thank you for the introduction. Great to be here. 

Ilya: Tell us all about yourself and Bench.

Sarah: I’m one of the recruitment team leads here at Bench. I've been here for just under four years now and have been with the recruitment team for the past three years or so.

So a little bit about the company and Bench as a whole: Essentially, we are a software as a service company. The product that we offer is bookkeeping. So we provide a bookkeeping service to small to medium-sized business owners that are all located in the United States. The end product that every client typically receives is a year-end financial package that puts their monthly bookkeeping neatly in a package at the end of the year. And then from there, the clients are able to submit their bookkeeping to their CPA or their lawyers to file taxes for them. We also provide tax services on top of that, if that is not something that they have handy for them.

On top of that, there are different levels of innovation and partnerships that we're also working through. Tax services are definitely one of them, and we're working on a banking service. And then, of course, that opens up a lot of doors for just different financial services down the road. 

Ilya: Give us the status of Bench, like how many people, what's kind of the size of the company? 

Sarah: So currently, we just successfully had our series C funding and we are currently at, I want to say about 630-ish employees. It’s grown quite a bit because when I started, I think we were at like 250 or just below that or something like that. So it's been a lot of growth over the past couple of years. 

Ilya:  Can you share a bit of background on your tech team? How hiring has been previous to VanHack. And when and what made you want to try VanHack?

Sarah: COVID really changed a lot of things for us. So I'm going to take us back to pre-COVID because I would say that VanHack and myself had a relationship before COVID. We were working with VanHack prior to COVID hitting and we really wanted to focus our efforts on DEI. We wanted to be able to provide newcomers to Canada and immigrants a fresh chance. And there's no better pool of candidates than people from all over the world that want to come and move to Canada.

So I think that was like the biggest draw for us when it came to actually making a decision to partner with you. And I think honestly looking back, one of the initial really big draws was just being able to even attend those events that you hosted for free for employers.

COVID shifted how people work and what that looks like and what remote work looked like. It's just really propelled I think the entire world to basically be able to shift their thinking around that. And so with that came obviously full-time remote work and our teams were much more supported and felt better prepared to be able to lean into this… fully remote teams… and practice like training people remotely and being able to onboard someone remotely. Things that were not necessarily stuff that we were doing all the time prior to COVID.

Since then, which takes us to now, we've obviously continued our relationship and we've continued to hire people and we've had three in total successful hires from VanHack who with whom we found through the Women in Tech Event last year, and then one of whom that we found through one of your recruiters.

And since then like it's been obviously such a success for us. That event in itself to find two strong solid candidates who are also women of colour that we want to be able to bring on our teams and be able to provide this representation and diverse way of thinking just adds so much value to our team. Those are huge wins for us.

Since then, we've had them join us remotely first. We were able to hire them as contractors first working remotely. Soon they'll be in Canada and be a full-time employee as well with us. So we've had a lot of success. This is my long-winded answer to say we loved the events. 

Ilya: Can you continue to talk about how the process was and what made you want to just jump on these great candidates right away?

Sarah: During the events, we only talk with them for about five minutes and then you have the option to extend that time. I remember for these two particular candidates I kept on extending the time because I was like, “Well, I'm having a great conversation with you,” and I still wanted to dig into all the things.

What that also gave me a chance to do is essentially have the recruiter interview with them right then and there, right? Normally, it’s like a 30-45-minute chat, but I was able to condense that down during the event to 10-15 minutes or so. Then right from there because I knew these are great candidates—they fit our technical skills—they look like they're going to be amazing culture additions to our teams—I’m able to progress them right away into the next interview stages.

At the time for us, there was a technical interview, a coding test to be sent out, a take-home assignment, and then a team interview, and a final team interview that's about three hours long where they get a chance to kind of talk about their coding tests as well as dive into other kinds of components of Bench’s tech team. Then a decision is made typically and then the offer is made out.

That’s where the event came in really handy for us. We were able to cut down on the back and forth.

Ilya: It probably saved you a week. Now that they've joined the team, how has that been?

Sarah: From my knowledge, everything is going super smoothly because we did onboard them remotely as well. There's a little bit of a conversation that takes place around working hours and the flexibility that's potentially needed just so that there's a little bit of overlap at least in the beginning stages when you are onboarding and getting up to speed.

But beyond that honestly, it's been so wonderful having them on the team. Wilson, who is one of the employees that we were able to hire from VanHack, within like a week two, I think he was interviewing for other engineers as well. He had a really cool background experience where he was basically in charge of the entire interviewing process as well. He was talking to me directly about that in our recruiter interviews. It’s really interesting to now be able to apply some of his previous work experience to our work experience and be able to kind of gain from his perspective.

Like what are the things that he looks for when he was doing interviews and have learned from. It's a vice versa learning, right? We get to learn from him. He gets to learn from us as well.

Ilya:  How do you feel it was in terms of speed to offer to acceptance?

Sarah:  That's a good question. So I would say the, from an internal perspective, our offer process at the time was still the same as from a local candidate as opposed to someone who was remote. We're going through the same steps. But I will say that I think that what the candidates were able to offer is so much more enthusiasm.

I think there is a level of goodwill… that is being given from the candidate as well as from the company itself. Like you were supporting them with VanHack help, as well as in terms of immigration. That’s a huge move.

Being able to kind of provide that opportunity for some of these candidates is a huge thing. Their enthusiasm is through the roof because of the weight that it actually carries, right? Like the job offer actually means that they can do this huge life change.

It's very exciting to take a part in it and be able to support them through that. That's the super exciting thing about hiring people that are immigrating all the way over to Canada from wherever they may be. The weight of the job offer is just so much heavier than a local candidate.

Not to say that it's not worth the same, but the weight of it is a little bit different. And so you can really appreciate the enthusiasm that a candidate may give when you're giving that kind of offer call.

Ilya: We hear a lot of stories. One funny story comes to mind: One VanHacker that got hired was called while he was driving and he had to pull over it because he got so excited he couldn't drive. 

Sarah:  Yeah, I could see that. 

Ilya: What tips do have for other recruiters or HR leaders? Things you maybe wish you knew before you started the process.

Sarah: I think we were particularly lucky in the sense that we do have an in-house legal counsel that supports, as well as a really strong HR team that did really support me in terms of just getting the contracts over and being able to kind of maneuver that.

Because it was such a newer thing for me to be able to hire globally, there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to writing a contract and the implications of that. Looking back I would say I wish I had spent a little bit more time understanding all of those details the first time. That way, it makes it a much more quicker and efficient process as you move forward and as you try and hire more people, it only gets easier.

The first time might be a little bit of a hurdle, but the more time you spend thoroughly understanding all those details, the easier it becomes and the more efficient you'll be getting through it as you hire more and more people.

Ilya:  I think it's it is intimidating at first for people. Maybe the first time is a little bit more complicated. But once you get set up on the system, you're almost pre-approved for future hires. Now, the last question: Do you recommend VanHack for other companies?

Sarah:  Yes, without a doubt. I recommend VanHack. 12 out 10!

Ilya: Great, we'll cut that clip and make you go viral. Thanks Sarah. This was really fun, and I really appreciate it. We look forward to continuing to work together for a long time.

Sarah: Thanks Ilya.

Sponsored content: The Vancouver Tech Journal Bulletin Board provides our founding and supporting partners an avenue to share stories and updates with the BC innovation community.