Skillbased offering new momentum for working world

26 April 2024
Frederika Hornef, founder, tells Hamburg News about platform's new search tool for jobs and professionals

Demographic change is exacerbating the shortage of skilled workers, with a shortfall of almost 3,000 professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions last September, according to the German Institute for Economic Research (IW). Naturally, this is  prompting a rethink of recruitment. Enter Frederika Hornef, joint founder of the Skillbased job platform in Hamburg. This special website aims to open up new opportunities for career changers and create an equal opportunity working environment.  Skillbased prioritises skills and knowledge rather than simply a CV. Until now, the platform has matched more than 300 candidates and brought together more than 1,500 talented professionals and 45 companies, including Hamburger Sparkasse and retailer Valora. Skillbased is backed by the IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH’s InnoFounder funding scheme.

Founder on a changing world of work

Hornef became an entrepreneur in her early 20s and was scouring for new challenges after completing her training as a tax clerk. Together with Ben Reimer, she hit on the idea for Skillbased in October 2022. A year and a half later, Hornef came up trumps in the "Starterin Hamburg" contest in March 2024 and placed second in the technology category. In an interview with Hamburg News, she gives insight into her personal story as a founder and the start-up’s possible impact on the working world.

Hamburg News: What motivated you to found Skillbased?

Frederika Hornef : The idea emerged during my commercial apprenticeship. At the time, I noticed that many companies were having difficulties finding suitable staff. Yet, many companies were open to hiring other (alternative) professionals. My employer, for instance, prioritised motivated candidates over those who had completed an apprenticeship. My joint founder was unhappy in his job in strategic purchasing and wanted to try out something new. He encountered the usual problems faced by career changers nowadays. Together, we eventually hit on the idea for Skillbased, which is devised as a mutually beneficial platform.

Hamburg News: What challenges in the working world does your platform address?

Frederika Hornef: Equal opportunities is among our top priorities. We value anonymity during the matching or application procedure. We do not provide photos, names, age, gender or nationality. We want to change the way talent is sourced and provide companies only with the skills they need to make a decision.

Hamburg News: What experiences have you had as a female founder? Is gender equality an issue in tomorrow's working world?

Frederika Hornef: I hadn't really focussed on the gender issue until that point. But I quickly realised that this imbalance, which our platform addresses, effects my daily work. It's frequently not malicious, but taken for granted that women have less knowledge and are thus taken less seriously. I was once told, for instance, by a female client how nice it was that I was supporting my business partner with his idea. That really irked me because I put just as much work and effort into our start-up. That prompted me to apply for the “Starterin” competition. That is a very cool opportunity for women to take to the stage, talk openly about such issues and make ourselves stand out a little. 

Skill-based app for the modern working world

Addressing skills shortage 

Hamburg News: You spoke earlier about "other professionals". What characterises such people?

Frederika Hornef: “Other (or alternative) professionals do not necessarily meet all the advertised job requirements, but have skills that enable them to do the job. They don't have to have a degree or an apprenticeship. Yet, the culture of recruitment remains very traditional in Germany. We believe that everyone, naturally, has different skills. We  use these skills to bring different personalities and jobs together.

Hamburg News : Do traditional skill-based application criteria play any role at all?

Frederika Hornef: Using a CV to infer skills is one option. However, we found that companies often look at a CV and quickly say: "This person comes from a different field, it won’t work." So we decided to do away with the CV altogether. We don't ask about work experience or anything like that.

Hamburg News: Do you offer companies an alternative to other job portals?

Frederika Hornef: Our starting point is when companies can no longer find staff. Of course, if a company can choose between hiring a trained professional with the ideal qualification and hiring a career changer, the skilled professional will get the job, in case of doubt. But if that expert is not available given the tight labour market, our platform can suggest other (alternative) professionals.

Hamburg News: How do you ensure that companies and candidates see the right profiles?

Frederika Hornef: We have written a complex algorithm that calculates which candidates are suitable for each position based on various categories and criteria. We plan to integrate artificial intelligence to make the procedure faster and smarter, and to automatically suggest complete job profiles to companies in future.

Hamburg News: How did the pilot phase go in 2023?

Frederika Hornef: Our pilot was very valuable. During the test phase, companies were able to post an unlimited number of job advertisements free of charge. We requested feedback in return, which proved abundant. That enabled us to significantly improve the procedure. We were particularly impressed by one successful company that signed the contract within ten days of advertising the job.

Hamburg News: How can platforms such as Skillbased impact the working world?

Frederika Hornef: People who are struggling with the current system are being shown brand new job opportunities. In the long term, we want to expand our idea to include training opportunities and to show companies that a lack of skills is not an obstacle. We want to become a one-stop shop for matching people with suitable jobs all over Germany. We are focussing on Hamburg initially and optimising our functions. Later, we hope to expand to other cities.

Interview by Felina Wellner

Sources and further information

Starter Hamburg

Launched in 2021 by Hamburg Startups, the annual “Starterin Hamburg” contest raises the visibility of female entrepreneurs and boosts their active networking with decision-makers and investors. The cross-industry award highlights the diversity of Hamburg's start-up ecosystem.

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