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Ask a Hiring Manager: Gabriel Golcher and Dimitar Vlahov of ExpatBuddy

In this month's Ask a Hiring Manager segment, Virtual Vocations sits down with Gabriel Golcher and Dimitar Vlahov to find out their idea of the ideal job candidate.
Hiring manager and CEO Gabriel Golcher of ExpatBuddy.


Hiring manager and CMO Dimitar Vlahov of ExpatBuddy.


In this month’s installment of Ask a Hiring Manager, Virtual Vocations sits down with CEO Gabriel Golcher and CMO Dimitar Vlahov—co-founders of ExpatBuddy. ExpatBuddy is a free mobile app that connects digital nomads and expats abroad into an inviting community.

In a highly competitive tech job market, both Golcher’s and Vlahov’s advice allows aspiring remote workers to find out what it takes to land the perfect job.

Before We Dive Into Hiring Questions, What Was Your Inspiration Behind ExpatBuddy?

The inspiration behind [ExpatBuddy is that] both of us (Gabriel and Dimitar) have been expats in several countries. We have witnessed
first-hand how amazing—yet difficult—being an expat is. Living abroad is an incredible adventure that made us grow and become more well-rounded, complete people.

On the other hand, we saw how hard moving abroad is with culture shock, isolation, and homesickness rearing their ugly heads. We found that our expat experiences were substantially better when we had a local community of expats there to support and guide us. We resolved to help other expats discover and thrive with these communities abroad.

Do You Have Any Questions You’re Often Asked by Applicants or Questions You Wish That Applicants Understood About the Hiring Process?

To applicants: We understand that applying for jobs is a time-consuming process. We also know that you are stressed out because you may not be getting an income and are afraid of not finding a job for a long time.

To compound that, you take the time to apply to a job and then get rejected—that rejection can be very frustrating and hard emotionally. Even if you do land a job, you have the fear that you landed a bad job, won’t succeed, or that you’ll get a terrible boss.

We know all these things, and we at ExpatBuddy have sought to tailor our interview process to make it as positive for applicants as possible. That being said, we, as hiring managers, cannot control what other companies do, only what we do.

So, beyond that, what we would tell applicants is to trust yourselves. You were endowed with amazing and unique qualities that make you capable of adding massive value and finding a job that fulfills you. It may take some time to find it. But if you trust yourselves and remain true to your principles, you’ll be very successful. It just takes time and faith in yourselves.

Is a Resume or Cover Letter More Important When You Are Making Hiring Decisions?

Actually, our preferred source of documentary data for an applicant is LinkedIn. We feel a candidate’s LinkedIn profile is more authentic and organic than their resume or cover letter.

It is not just a better reflection of a candidate’s education, experience, accomplishments, and skills, but also an indicator of what is important to them and who their peers are. However, in terms of interviewing, we believe it is essential to speak to the candidate. As a company that focuses on human beings first and employees second, no document matches the experience of actually getting to know somebody.

In Terms of Culture Fit, What Are You Looking for in Candidates?

Culture is essential for our organization. Our culture centers around team members being human beings with unique desires, goals, skills, fears, and shortcomings. Through empathy, our company seeks to understand and empower the individual. When individuals are in a situation where they feel fulfilled, they will thrive in their work, collaborate more effectively, innovate more, and best serve our customers.

As a reflection of this empathy and humanization, we encourage our team members to prioritize their families and their health over work. We know that nobody dies having wanted to work more, and that the company is not more important than they are. Furthermore, our culture rejects authoritarianism, and encourages members to try, fail, and learn.

We hold deep loyalty towards each other and are not afraid of dispensing praise, but also calling each other out directly and clearly, not as a put-down, but in the pursuit of supporting each other’s growth personally and professionally.

What Are Three Things You See on Cover Letters That Will Cause You to Immediately Reject an Application?

We don’t ask for cover letters in our company and have not opened a role that required them. If a candidate does decide to provide a cover letter, they should ensure:

  • It’s relevant to the role s/he’s applying to
  • Does not have any falsities that we can identify
  • Has been proofread

As a Hiring Manager, How Do You Decide Who Gets the Job Offer?

We hire based on four essential ingredients: cultural-fit, passion, skills, and potential. We weight the first two much more heavily than the last two, and we probe on them as the first step in our process.

The way we see it, if a candidate is a great cultural fit and has a passion for expats and our company, then there’s a possibility to find a fit even if it’s in another role. In fact, that’s a key part of our DNA: developing talent. The first question we ask new hires is: “What would you love to do?” We then try to find opportunities for that candidate to work in that area.

One recent example happened with a new member of our Data Science team. After Gabriel asked her that question, she explained to him that business strategy interested her. As a result, they had several sessions where he taught her what he knows on the subject, and [they] have brainstormed on the company’s strategy.

Based on just that question, we did not just get somebody who’s done great work with our recommendation engine, but a potential business leader who may identify the key opportunities that will take our business to the next level.

What Are Some of the Best Or Worst Answers You’ve Heard in an Interview?

Rather than getting into specifics since each question, candidate, and interview have a particular context, we want to get into the essence of a good answer. The best answers to questions center around a candidate effectively and efficiently addressing a question with a structured, reasoned answer plus a relevant example.

Candidates should not get into long, unnecessary stories, and should not try to make up answers. Integrity and genuineness are key since a halfway-decent interviewer will know when a candidate is making things up—or worse—lying. We don’t perceive an “I don’t know” unfavorably, since our culture encourages learning and inquisitiveness.

Beyond that, we believe it’s important to consider the questions [that] candidates ask during an interview. We evaluate a candidate on their questions just as much as on their answers to our questions. What they focus on, what they value, and how they evaluate situations come across in their questions. Ultimately, we don’t hire expecting a candidate to have all the answers, but we do expect a candidate to be aware of what they don’t know and need to address.

Is There Something in a Cover Letter That Makes a Candidate More Attractive?

As we mentioned previously, we don’t usually ask for cover letters in our company. That being said, a cover letter—as a voluntary act by a candidate—is a great opportunity for them to differentiate themselves in their first impression.

A cover letter that has at least some tailoring to our company is viewed favorably as an indicator of interest.

How Do You Feel About the Use of Pre-Interview Assessments?

We have no opinion on their usage by others. From our side, we have not used them yet. We believe that the personal touch is important, but also understand some future roles may need some pre-qualification. What we will say is that hiring should be an integral process that is heavily-focused on the candidate’s experience.

How Do You Feel About Labeling a Job “Entry-Level,” But Requiring One to Three Years of Experience?

We will not judge other companies; they have particular needs and context that we are not privy to. What we can say is that—from our side—we evaluate both existing skills and potential. We have no problem with hiring somebody who is more junior than the role immediately requires because we have a strong culture of coaching, growth, and support. If a person can grow to become excellent in the role, we want them.

Thanks to these insightful tips from Golcher and Vlahov, potential job applicants can see that not all employers have the same outlook on the hiring process. In the case of ExpatBuddy, fitting in with company culture is ideal. In addition, having the right personality and finding a zest for the company are just as important as qualifications. So if you feel like you’re lacking some of the skills often preferred in your industry, don’t fret. Golcher and Vlahov prove that intangibles, soft skills, and motivation are still a determining factor in the search for employment.

Want to Appear in Our “Ask a Hiring Manager” Monthly Segment?

Are you a hiring manager who’s interested in appearing in our “Ask a Hiring Manager” monthly segment? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to set something up with our team. We’d love to hear from you!

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