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From Geoscience to Technical Recruitment: chat with Tosin Anifowose

Today, we shine a spotlight on the inspiring journey of Oluwatosin (Tosin) Anifowose, who made a daring pivot from Geoscience to Technical Recruitment. From facing rejection emails to launching the "Dear Candidate" initiative, Tosin shares her story of perseverance, determination, and the passion that drives her to help job seekers succeed in their career journeys. Whether you're a technical recruiter, a job seeker, or simply someone looking for a change, Tosin's story is sure to inspire and provide valuable insights.


At Skillfill we are great advocates of a skills-based economy, we prioritize skills over credentials or backgrounds. It was really interesting to see that you shifted from Geoscience to Recruitment. Can you tell us more about this change and its challenges?

I am originally from Nigeria (one of the top African oil & gas producing countries) and like most graduates of geoscience in my home country, my dream was to work in an oil and gas company. So after completing my Bachelors degree in Geoscience, I tried to get in but was unable to. So I branched off into another field where I was heavily involved with project/operations and some aspects of human resources management. This was when, the initial seed of interest was sown because I immensely enjoyed working in these areas. However I decided to relocate to Germany for my masters program in Marine geoscience. Again, I hoped that upon graduating, I would be able to land a Job in either an oil & gas company or in a renewable energy company so I could do something in line with my educational background. However I still was unable to get a suitable job in my field and that basically drove me back to the drawing board and I began to deeply question my ‘why’ career wise. 

After making the decision to pivot to a people related function, I started to send out applications and for about 15 months I was  deeply immersed in an avalanche of rejection emails. Employers were looking for experienced professionals but I wanted a chance, just one chance. However the rejections kept coming. It was very demoralizing to say the least, I employed a couple of strategies in between (a lot of which I have shared with the candidates I coach and on my podcast) but in a nutshell my first break came when I got a voluntary internship offer in a Berlin start up company. That opportunity was a game changer for me, I learnt so much within the 3 months that I was with the company. Part of my learnings included but were not limited to working in an actual tech team with developers, supporting with QA, UI/UX and product management related tasks. It gave me the solid foundation I needed for my career in tech recruitment. This has been pivotal to my success as a technical recruiter. 


I loved how you described 'The Dear Candidate initiative' as your “brainchild”. Can you tell us more about the initiative and its mission?

The Dear Candidate Initiative is very close to my heart, it was born out the frustration of a recruiter (me) who wanted candidates to succeed so much that it was so hurtful to see them architect their own rejections by how they presented their application documents and how they interviewed

My passion for helping job seekers and my experience with successfully helping people scale through the hurdles of finding a job particularly here in Germany was the reason why I started a series on LinkedIn in 2019 called ‘Dear Candidate’. At some point, I could not handle the scale of reach outs so I decided to launch Dear Candidate (podcast & blog) to make the tips I shared personally with candidates open source.  

The series was to address the common mistakes consistently made by job seekers and to help them approach the job search journey in a smart and informed way. Some of the things I share are things that I had to learn the hard way. I actually remember a time when I was basically close to giving up because everything I tried was just not working out. Looking back, I also find it incredible that I consistently made those mistakes without sparing a thought.

I honestly wish ‘dear candidate’ existed at that time but I am even more grateful that I went through some of all that so that candidates can learn not to make such mistakes. I do not claim to be a ‘know it all’ or one who has figured things out completely, however my hope is that as candidates navigate this journey, they will find solace in knowing that they have an ally in ‘Dear Candidate’ that is cheering them on. The mission of ‘Dear Candidate’ is simple and that is: to educate and to demystify the job search journey. I want to be the candidate’s guide through the job search labyrinth.

I also need to give a huge Kudos to my husband ‘Olaoluwa Anifowose’ who has been my sole partner on the Dear Candidate Project. In summary, he is the backend of everything you see on ‘Dear Candidate’ and I am the frontend. 😀


For job seekers, especially with the recent rounds of layoffs, what advice would you give them right now?

  1. Learn from it : There are different dimensions to the phenomenon called ‘You’. The Job you are seeking is going to be just one dimension of you.  Be intentional about building your own personal brand even while you seek that Job with the aim to be one that is known and interacted with not just because you are working for company xyz but because of the value you bring to your space (online or offline).
  2. Don’t loose Hope : The Job market is indeed saturated with lots of incredible talent but that doesn’t take away your uniqueness. I’m an optimist so my view is from the angle that ‘the sky is wide enough for all birds to fly without obstructing each other’. So dear job seeker, you’ve got your own space in that incredible vast sky therefore don’t loose hope.
  3. Be Agile: Be even more agile with your Job applications. Try not to slack off or allow distractions to take you away from your goal. Be laser focused on what you want and go after it. Now in doing this, you also have to recognise the need to be flexible based on the current market dynamics. The route most of the time is not linear so give room for some flexibility. For instance, my goal at the start of my career in Germany was to get a full time permanent position but that was not forthcoming, but my decision to take a voluntary internship position with a 3 months contract eventually led me to my first full time permanent position.
  4. Reskill for the future: Understand what is going on in the market, research, listen (validate what you hear) to thought leaders and professionals in your field and with that information continue to learn, unlearn and relearn so that your environment does not evolve faster than you.


We’ve mentioned the concept of skills-based economy before. Several studies show that in 2023, recruiters are going to pay more attention to candidates from unconventional backgrounds, since it increases diversity and widens the talent pool. As an industry expert, what are your thoughts about this?

This was bound to happen at some point in time. Focusing on the same talent acquisition channels with almost the same pre-defined candidate persona (across multiple organizations) is basically part of why we have a huge shortage of diverse candidates.  My experience as a career changer has drawn lots of people seeking to do the same to my network and from my interaction with them, I have seen a pattern. The pattern is simple, people want to solve problems and they want to do meaningful work. The world has become borderless, particularly with the increased flexibility of employers to allow their employees to work remotely. Nowadays, job seekers are more open to exploring new careers of interest and from my experience, people don’t want to be defined solely by what they studied in the university assuming they were privileged to attend one. Instead, they want opportunities that resonate with their core values and that give them the platform to do meaningful work. Interestingly some candidates are even open to exploring multiple career paths over the course of their life. An idea that some employers may not be open to, but something certainly worth taking note of. 


Besides your incredible work at “The Dear Candidate”, you are also a technical recruiter at a major tech company. When you are on the recruitment side of things, what are the biggest challenges you face? Do you have any advice for other tech recruiters?

My advise to my tech recruiter colleagues is to know your craft, familiarize yourself with the tech and be professional in your dealings. 

To know your craft, you and I need to understand that there is so much more to recruitment than just fulfilling head count. As recruiters, we are consultants for our hiring managers and for our organizations. Not only are we consultants, we are also process managers just to mention a few. Simply put, we wear many hats and to successfully wear these hats we need to be constantly informed. There are new and innovative ways to do what we do hence we need to be intentional about our growth and development. 

Also, we need to familiarize ourselves with the ‘tech’ so we can hold intelligent conversations with our candidates and stakeholders. A basic at the very least understanding of tech stacks and some software engineering concepts like (clean code principles, testing, object oriented versus functional programming, frontend/backend, software architecture and cloud computing e.t.c) is therefore important. Now about being professional, one of the challenges I believe we have in this field is that there is simply no ‘Gold standard’, every company defines their own standard and in some cases every recruiter defines their own standard. My personal rule of thumb is to treat candidates the way I want to be treated, to speak up for candidates the way I will want my recruiter to speak up for me and to engage with my hiring managers in an empathetic and respectful way. In other words, ‘ be to my candidates the recruiter I want as a candidate and the recruiter I want to work with if I was the hiring manager’.


It is crucial to let applicants show their true skills to the employer, how do you ensure that you identify the top candidates for a certain position?

From Experience I have found the following to be critical success ingredients for identifying top candidates:

  1. Is the candidate set up for success? Understand from your hiring manger’s perspective who they need and why. This gives birth to your pool of questions, your score card, choice of assessments, interview process, Job description and so on. It is important to attract the right set of candidates from the start and to already set them up for success by being explicit in your Job description or outreach emails for instance.
  2. How well do they fit the requirements for the role ? (Are they able to properly articulate this on their cv?). It all starts from the CV and or cover letter (depending on if they submit one).
  3. How well does the first conversation or step in the process (Step can also be an assessment) validate “2’’ and how does each step validate the other as you move along in the process.
  4. How well do expectations align on both sides? It is important to have this conversation early on in the process to avoid wasting time on all sides. Expectations as it concerns compensation, growth opportunities, career trajectory and the like.
  5. Is the Candidate set up for success? It really starts and ends with this! Now based on all the data points collected, are you bringing them in at a level that they can deliver on based on your expectations? As an organization do you have the right environment to nurture and grow their career? 

In the end, my take is that the definition of a top candidate is relative, a top candidate for company A may not necessarily be a top candidate for company B because of the peculiarities of both companies and what they need. This is why setting candidates up for success is critical.


What do you see as trends for the upcoming months in the recruitment and HR tech space?

1. Market Change

The market will turn, the tech winter like we call it nowadays is a reflection of the cyclic nature of the market. Some products have outlived their lifespan and it’s time to pivot, some other products need rapid optimization or reinvention to meet up with the current demands of society. We should also be ready to see the emergence of new products and the rise of new industries. Recruitment/HR professionals need to dive deeper into understanding the products and the state of the companies they represent so as to engage in intelligent conversations with both hiring managers and candidates. It also makes us better prepared for what is coming.

2. AI, center stage?

My general feeling is that AI might play an even bigger role in the coming years particularly for monotonous and repetitive tasks. AI is already part of our every day lives but we should perhaps expect a more visible emergence of AI in the years to come. Therefore as Recruitment/HR professionals, we shouldn’t view AI as a competitor who wants to take our Jobs so we don’t end up on the wrong side of technological advancement. History tells us that being on the wrong side of technological advancement is perhaps the first step to relegation. Understanding the role of AI and how to use AI to create more efficient processes without negatively impacting the candidate experience is the puzzle we all have to figure out.

3. Reskilling for the future

For Recruitment/HR professionals the importance of reskilling for the future cannot be overemphasized. Staying close to the market and evolving with the current realities to ensure we stay relevant is of uttermost importance. Recruitment managers, Talent acquisition leaders or HR leaders need to ensure that they are setting up their teams for future success. 


Can you share a quote that you love?

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I'm possible” Audrey Hepburn


Caveat Lector : The opinions I share are based out of the interviewee's unique experience and career trajectory, and equally do not speak for the organization the interviewee works with.



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