Xuntos is a close-knit team of enthusiasts who are devoted to the beauty of technology. The company is based in the Netherlands and helps customers bring design to life with the help of tech expertise in front-end development, web applications, mobile development, CMS, and other technologies. Each member of the Xuntos team is unique, but passion for technology unites them all around a common goal to create high-quality websites and software.
Recently we had an opportunity to interview Jan Willem Bergsma, Managing Partner at Xuntos. Jan Willem told us how Xuntos was established and what recruitment approaches have helped him hire “cultural fit” candidates. He also shared some details on his experience with Grid Dynamics, as well as advice on successful remote cooperation.
Q: How did Xuntos get started? What was the idea behind your company?
Jan Willem: I’m one of the three Xuntos owners who founded it eight years ago. Previously, I’d worked as a developer at a company with its own content management system. By the 14th year of my work there, I was responsible mainly for management issues. That’s why I decided to quit this job and create a place where I could continue pursuing my passion for building software.
The main idea that stands behind Xuntos is helping companies bring design to life through technical assistance. Our specialization is purely technical, we don’t create designs. But don’t hesitate to contact us for technical help—we’re really good at it.
Our specialization is purely technical, we don’t create designs. But don’t hesitate to contact us for technical help—we’re really good at it.
Q: What makes Xuntos different from competitors?
Jan Willem: We help our customers transform designs into fully functioning websites. There’s a shortage of software developers on the Netherlands’ market, so when companies need tech assistance, they can either spend a lot of time trying to hire engineers or use the services of Xuntos and the like.
There are three main things that make Xuntos stand out among competitors:
- We’re fast. Usually, companies contact us and within two-three weeks we start building their project.
- We’re flexible. We specialize in a variety of content management techniques (Umbraco, Kentico, Episerver) as well as in simpler frameworks like ASP.NET. Our broad knowledge allows our customers to choose whatever technology fits them best.
- We’re innovative. We continuously strive to expand our tech expertise and always try to find new niches in markets.
Employers need to structure job offers carefully to make sure they’ll stand out among other opportunities. And “stand out” doesn’t imply the salary, because it’s just one of many other important factors.
Q: What challenges do you typically face when hiring software engineers for Xuntos?
Jan Willem: One can post vacancies and find candidates on Dutch job boards, but at Xuntos we don’t use this resource. For us, the best way to find talent has been to cooperate with companies like Daxx or find a recruitment agency (usually unreasonably expensive).
We’re currently in the middle of changing our work model as the majority of our customers now want us to come to their offices and solve all issues at their locations. Before we were able to complete all projects in-house, which enabled us to use remote cooperation for a while. We received an order, a customer visited our office to discuss the details, we developed a product, and when everything was ready, the customer visited us again to install the software we’d developed. Generally, companies in the Netherlands seek onshore cooperation as they value the ability to observe the development process and communicate directly with the engineers.
Q: How would you describe the tech talent market in the Netherlands?
Jan Willem: There are many tech companies but not enough software engineers. It doesn’t depend on the city, there’s a nationwide shortage. Some companies try to find “back doors” to get tech talent—they contact developers who already work at some company and try to lure them away from their current workplaces offering a higher salary and additional bonuses.
There are many tech companies but not enough software engineers. It doesn’t depend on the city, there’s a nationwide shortage.
Q: What is the interview process like at Xuntos? Do you take part in interviewing developers?
Jan Willem: We conduct three interviews before hiring a candidate:
- With me and the other co-founder. At this stage we just talk with the candidate and try to feel whether they’re right for us. If we decide the candidate may be the one we’re looking for, we proceed to the next stage.
- With the rest of our team. We believe it’s important to make sure people can work together before hiring a new candidate. At this stage we introduce the candidate to our team and let them communicate for a while. Our colleagues then give us feedback about the candidate which determines whether we proceed to the final recruitment stage.
- A conversation on organizational issues. At this stage we discuss the salary and other conditions concerning the position. If they fit the candidate, they can start within 30–60 days depending on their current occupation.
We believe it’s important to make sure people can work together before hiring a new candidate. At this stage we introduce the candidate to our team and let them communicate for a while.
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Q: Is it important to make hiring decisions fast considering the specifics of the Dutch job market?
Jan Willem: Yes, it’s very important. You have to make hiring decisions fast because candidates always have a few other options in addition to yours. Employers need to structure job offers carefully to make sure they’ll stand out among other opportunities. And “stand out” doesn’t imply the salary, because it’s just one of many other important factors. I’d say that your company’s specialization, work environment, and the technologies used in the process of software development are the main factors that will help you attract the right candidates.
Q: What are the top three skills you want to see in candidates?
Jan Willem: Actually, they must be perfect! They must know everything. Still, I’d highlight:
- Experience in programming
- Curiosity about new techniques
Q: Based on your company name and social media profiles one can conclude that team spirit is an essential component at Xuntos. What team building activities do you have?
Jan Willem: We have team building events at least three times a year and spend this time simply having fun. The activities we choose are only limited to our imagination. Also, at the end of the year, each member of our team receives a Christmas present. However, we don’t have any special daily entertainments. It’s the environment we’ve built collectively that makes our developers enjoy the work process. Eight-hours-of-work-only won’t ever help you build a great team. Instead, ensure your developers feel free to make jokes and express themselves freely while working. That’s why we carefully evaluate candidates on the initial recruitment stage so as to be sure they’ll easily blend into our environment.
Eight-hours-of-work-only won’t ever help you build a great team—make sure your developers feel free to make jokes and express themselves freely while working.
Q: What challenges did Grid Dynamics help you solve?
Jan Willem: Grid Dynamics helped us find the right candidates with the specializations and experience levels we were looking for.
Q: Why did you choose Grid Dynamics among other providers?
Jan Willem: It all goes back to when we were only starting Xuntos. One of your colleagues contacted us and offered help. We weren’t ready to cooperate at that point as your service sounded too new and scary. However, two years later we faced problems searching for a developer, and my colleague put forward the idea to call Grid Dynamics again. In just two weeks we were already interviewing new candidates.
We faced problems searching for a developer, and my colleague put forward the idea to call Grid Dynamics again. In just two weeks we were already interviewing new candidates.
Q: What was it like to work with Grid Dynamics?
Jan Willem: It was good! Any time we were having problems, we contacted your colleagues and they helped us right away. Unfortunately, due to the specifics of our business we decided to change our model and were forced to stop our cooperation with Yegor, our developer in Ukraine. We hope that we’ll have the opportunity to work with Grid Dynamics again, when we need new candidates and remote cooperation is comfortable for us again.
Q: What do you find most impressive about Grid Dynamics?
Jan Willem: When we were looking for our perfect candidate, Grid Dynamics found not one, not two, but four appropriate professionals. In fact, it was hard to choose just one because each of them was perfect for our needs.
You can find developers quickly in Ukraine because the tech talent pool is really broad there.
Q: How did you set up the communication process with Yegor? What practices did you use to overcome the challenge of not being co-located?
Jan Willem: To make sure the communication is consistent and well-organized, I created an appointment agenda regularly. We used a variety of communication tools such as Skype, Stride, Telegram, WhatsApp, and e-mail. Video calls and screen shares were also indispensable in remote cooperation, as they allowed us to detect problematic points in the work process. At the beginning, we communicated with Yegor on a daily basis as we didn’t know what kind of a person he was. But he proved to be a self-maintained developer who can perform tasks on his own without any supervision. Usually, we gave Yegor an assignment and didn’t communicate for days. After everything was ready, he contacted us and asked to take a look at the results of his work.
The main piece of advice I can give to employers is to get to know their employees not only as developers, but most significantly as unique personalities.
Q: What did you learn about working with an offshore developer? What tips can you give to someone who is considering working with an offshore/nearshore team?
Jan Willem: After cooperating with an offshore developer, I learned that our onshore developers are more emotionally attached to the team. Because of the distance, it’s harder to communicate about simple everyday topics.
Even though I talked with Yegor about many different things, I could always feel the physical distance.
To promote better emotional attachment, employers could invite remote developers to work at their offices at least for a week. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the time to implement this idea with Yegor. The main piece of advice I can give to employers is to get to know their employees not only as developers, but most significantly as unique personalities. If it’s not possible to invite remote developers to your office, make sure you communicate with them on a daily basis.
To promote better emotional attachment, employers could invite remote developers to work at their offices at least for a week.
Q: What is the most important advantage outsourcing gives to companies?
For me costs proved to be the biggest advantage. The cost-efficiency is obvious: a 40-hour task in the Netherlands costs more than 80 hours of work on the same task in Ukraine. Moreover, you can find developers quickly in Ukraine because the tech talent pool is really broad there. Another distinct benefit is that with Grid Dynamics you don’t have to hire developers for a predetermined period, which allows you to stop cooperation with your remote team whenever it’s convenient. In the Netherlands, I can’t stop the cooperation with my developers until a year has passed since I hired them, and it can potentially cause significant inconveniences.