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The Resilient Recruiter

Sep 2, 2020

What are the parts of your job you’re best at?  What are the things you don’t enjoy or aren’t very good at?  How much of your time and focus is devoted to just those few things you’re best at, versus all the other tasks that eat into your day?

This self-awareness of one’s strengths and limitations, together with a conscious decision to specialize with laser focus, have been key to the success of serial entrepreneur Maarten van der Kwaak.  In this episode of the Resilient Recruiter, I had the opportunity to talk to Maarten, co-founder at MatcHR, Apollo Executive Search, ConsulantcyExit, Legal Top Talent, and The Legal Bench.

Surprisingly, Maaten started his first recruitment business while still in university studying law, recruiting his fellow students and placing them with law firms.  On occasion, he would find himself recruiting people while chatting with them in bars!  Later, he kept his recruiting firm going as a side-hustle while working full-time as a management consultant for an international strategy consulting firm. Since then he’s founded or invested in multiple start-up businesses in both recruitment and technology.   

Maarten shares his wisdom on self-awareness, specialization, transparency, and really valuable insights about successfully running your business even in this time of difficulties.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [4:41] Maarten’s insight on getting quickly into profit from the startup phase.
  • [10:17] On specialization - hear the big difference between sourcing and recruitment.
  • [16:00] How Maarten successfully applies specialization within his different business lines.
  • [29:02] Thoughts on marketing - lessons learned on video outreach campaigns.
  • [38:22] What made Maarten decide to choose a career in recruitment.
  • [51:48] How MatcHR adjusted when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
  • [1:02:00] What special quality can help strengthen company culture during this pandemic?

Applying the Concept of Specialization

Given that there are many different types of activities in a recruitment business, Maarten shared his insights on how to apply the idea of specialization. His analogy is to compare the business in a production facility. “If you would have so many different activities in a production facility, you would have a dedicated person for each activity. But what we do in this industry, we say to one person, ‘These are all the activities, please go ahead and be successful at all of them.’”

From there, he elaborated on the difference between the skills of sourcing versus recruiting which further emphasized his point on the importance of specialization. “If we specifically pick out the responsibilities of the sourcing part, if you look at sourcers and recruiters, very often sourcers have very technical backgrounds, more data-oriented background and what they need to do is very different from that of a recruiter to be successful.”

He continues, “If we look at the recruiting part … you need to turn those candidates into hires, it’s a lot about building relationships, selling the company, managing the process, both on the internal side as with the external side… I do not still understand why many companies still have all these responsibilities within their recruitment team without specialization within the team”   

How Transparency Contributed to the Strength of Culture During Covid19

In these difficult times when tough decisions had to be made, what helped Maarten’s group maintain a strong culture even if they had to let some people go? 

“I’m a big fan of transparency...Everything was going extremely well with the company and then one week after people needed to be fired... I think also research has proven that transparency and having them involved (employees) in the business is also better for their engagement.”

This commitment to transparency led to a strong internal culture. Even when Maarten had to let go of some valuable employees, they understood why.  Even when they were leaving, they wore their MatcHR T-shirts supporting the brand.

Maarten van der Kwaak Bio and Contact Info

Maarten is a serial entrepreneur in the recruitment industry and started his first company, Legal Top Talent, while still in university.  After five years in strategy consulting including an MBA at INSEAD, Maarten decided to become a full-time entrepreneur. In just four years, Maarten co-founded four other companies. The Legal Bench, focused on contract lawyers, ConsultancyExit, focused on former top tier strategy consultants, Apollo Executive Search, focused on leadership roles for PE-owned and VC backed companies, and MatcHR, a sourcing and recruitment outsourcing company based out of Kyiv, Ukraine. All companies are profitable and, despite COVID-19, growing. 

Next to running his companies, Maarten actively invests in technology companies and serves as a board member of several start-ups. Maarten is known for his sharp analytical mind and his vision of the recruitment industry. 

As a former skiing instructor, you can find Maarten every winter for multiple weeks on the slopes in the Alps.



If you wish to contact Maarten, you may reach him through email

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