Translating Skills to Jobs: Interview with Niklas Jungergard, Founder of Sqore
Today, it’s not always an easy transition from college to the workplace.
Sqore is trying to connect these two isolated worlds. Based in Sweden, Sqore helps to assess skills and connect students with job opportunities.
But how is what they’re doing different than other products out there? To find out, we spoke with Niklas Jungegård, founder of Sqore.
Play the podcast episode above, or download it on iTunes to learn more.
Hannah Nyren: [00:00:04] Hello. This is Hannah Nyren, and today I’m speaking with Niklas Jungegård, from Stockholm, Sweden. And he is the founder of a company called Sqore — Spelled S-Q-O-R-E. Hi Niklas, how’s it going?
Niklas Jungegård: [00:00:20] Hi Hannah. Nice to meet you.
Hannah Nyren: [00:00:22] Tell us a little bit about Sqore.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:00:23] Sqore is a game-based recruitment company that connects great people with great opportunities. We use challenges to identify merits and competencies beyond what we find on a traditional CV. SQORE was actually established back in 2010, with a strong belief that everybody possesses an X Factor. Every single person on earth possesses an X factor, that in the right forum will shine. And then we’ve developed this over the years, pivoted into Sqore in 2015. And from me and three cofounders, we are now 50 people in Stockholm working on connecting great people with amazing opportunities around the world.
Hannah Nyren: [00:01:02] Cool. Tell me a little bit about where it all began. Why did you start this company, and when did you start this company?
Niklas Jungegård: [00:01:09] I think that goes back when I was like 15, 16 years old. I had a hard time putting the finger on my talents. But I knew that if I found my right forum, I would get, you know, full deployment of my energy. And, you know, what I could achieve. So, I wanted to find these alternative forums, took shortcuts to get where I wanted. But I’m also the type of person that liked to speak to other people in an airport, on a bus, to figure out what the essence of that person is. What is the person’s X Factor. And that’s really interesting because that goes beyond the CV. That goes beyond looking at the traditional educational background, gender, last name, or so on. But you start to look at what drives that person, what the motivation is, what skills maybe with this person possess. So that led us into starting a business where we’re really trying to find out what people know and finding out what values that person has and match that to what the organization needs — bridging the skills gap, catering for the millennials, and so on. So we’re on a mission to help organizations to connect and screen and recruit international talent in a very sophisticated, challenging, fun new way.
Hannah Nyren: [00:02:24] How has your company evolved since you first began in 2010?
Niklas Jungegård: [00:02:29] So, we’ve fought with blood, sweat, and tears during the first years of the company. In Sweden — at that time especially — was limited amount of capital raised, and, especially like seed rounds or so on The word hardly even existed. So we really wanted to grow it in an organic, sustainable way. Understood what the return on investment for the clients were and really focused on what we were best at.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:02:54] And that happened over the course of five years. Took it quite slowly, understood what our weaknesses were, and where our strengths were. And then in 2015, we understood that what we’ve done in the past five years could be done on a platform basis, in a more scalable way, to allow thousands of organizations to use our service and millions of people. Sqore [dot] com was born. We raised some capital so we could invest in business development. And we went from more of a creative digital agency, to become this full-blown product company. And now we are 50 people, working in Stockholm, overlooking the Old City and 20 nationalities. And working with companies and universities worldwide to really allow them to connect with amazing people, discover talent through Sqore.
Hannah Nyren: [00:03:42] Wow, that’s really cool.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:03:44] It is cool. And our mission is to provide equal access to opportunity. So I believe that the future is a place where you can look beyond gender, age, educational background, last name. And only look to what the person is good at, what drives that person. If you share the same values as the organization. And that’s what I believe is a more effective way to recruit. So you don’t shift through the same static pile of dumb CDs or all the traditional channels. But you need to look beyond that. You need to cater for the modern person — the millennial — who’s mobile, who’s passionate, who’s purpose-driven. You need to find them and allow them to opt in, and challenge them in topics that they are interested in. And that’s sort of how we trigger people to get into the recruitment process, go through a series of challenges, leave interesting data, so that we can provide a very sophisticated, ranked list of people to our clients.
Hannah Nyren: [00:04:41] What does the typical pipeline look like with Sqore? What does the recruitment process look like from beginning to end?
Hannah Nyren: [00:04:47] Half of the organizations that we work with are universities — primarily looking for international talent. So they want to broaden their recruitment channels, and get smart talent from specific regions to apply to programs — such as undergraduate programs, graduate programs, online courses, or MBAs. What we then do is to promote, in a smart way, what the university’s about, what their surrounding is like, what the USPs, or the, you know, the unique characteristics of that organization is. And we want to challenge the crowd into understanding what the university is about, what the education that they are about to apply to is about. So that you get a much stronger relationship and bond to a potential student applying to your university. So what we do is to put that into what we called an opportunity online that is appealing, nice-looking and challenging. We post that among our million members and 2000 university partners, a person in this specific region clicks probably on a link recommended by a professor or a peer. A link where it’s a question posted in a topic that is relevant for them. They click in. They go through a series of questions. And in the end, they build a strong relationship and understanding for the programs that they are about to apply to. And that’s how we create an extremely strong level of engagement, and increase the chances that they apply and become a very successful student at that university. We do a similar type of process for the graduate employers. So the huge industry players, Fortune 500 companies that uses us to tap into new talent pools and unlock new potential talent.
Hannah Nyren: [00:06:32] That’s really interesting. And what countries and what areas of interest do you usually work with? Like are there particular majors and career paths that are more common with your product? Or are there particular countries that are more common? I’m sure Sweden might be more common, since you’re headquartered there. But what other countries are involved.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:06:54] So we are fairly strong in Sweden. But to be honest, in Sweden you have, the same, something called Jante Law. So people tend to be quite comfortable with what they have and they don’t like to be challenged, in that sense. It’s much more popular in the US…and in, in Asian countries. So I would say.
Hannah Nyren: [00:07:10] I’ve actually heard that from other Swedish people.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:07:12] Right. And uh, being an ancestor from Sweden yourself, you know how it is, right? And what we see is our strongest communities are in places where there’s a high concentration of talent, but maybe a deficit of attractive opportunities. So our focus has been Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, countries in Europe, and of course U.S. We have high English proficiency. And highly skilled people. So the whole belt there where you can find higher English proficiency and people looking for opportunities is where we have over a million people now active that are looking for these type of opportunities.
Hannah Nyren: [00:07:50] That’s really cool. Is there anything else — are there any new products that you’re releasing, or any new initiatives that you’re working on right now?
Niklas Jungegård: [00:07:58] So there’s always something in the, you know, the horizon.
Hannah Nyren: [00:08:01] Right. What’s new at Sqore? Give me the full list.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:08:05] As a CEO, I tried to, I have to be the one with the boring hat sometimes to try to infuse focus into my team and organization. And I cannot be as creative as I was, maybe in the beginning. But there are a number of things now coming up that is a result of all the thousands of activities that we’ve carried out over the past years. And one of the strongest things that we are looking at is the use of data that we collect. So imagine if you have from a single event that we organized, for example with a university lately in the U.S., where we had thirty-seven thousand people from South America, joining in, applying to the university through Sqore [dot] com. Since we are doing this 24/7, discovering new type of talent everywhere in the world, they go through a series of questions, right? Every question is tied with a skill. And as soon as a person goes through that, an answer of that question becomes a nice interesting data point for us. So we know exactly what the person scored in topics and questions connected to a certain skill. So what we have built up is a huge understanding for where skilled people are, where they’re from, how they stand against their peers. How is the talent concentration in city X or region Y? And then we can also compare between different organizations to see who can attract the more motivated ones and the more skilled ones. Ultimately, this is adding up to what we call a skills graph.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:09:31] So in the end, we are able to see, where in the world skilled people within certain verticals, can be found. We can also understand from what digital channels they will come from, and what we should do in order to attract them. That is something we haven’t even explored yet commercially. But we use it as insight to provide a good basis for decision for our clients and for ourselves. But that type of data is, from what we know, unparalleled and unique, and is something that nobody can offer today.
Hannah Nyren: [00:10:00] Cool. Well, it was great speaking with you today, Niklas. I hope to learn all about Sqore in the future.
Niklas Jungegård: [00:10:05] Thank you very much.
Hannah Nyren is the General Manager of EdTech Times. A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.