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October 14, 2013

Leadership Hiring: Experiences & Lessons Learnt

Hiring is one of the most talked about function of HR. Impact and contribution of this function increases many fold in times of growth as well as significant change in organization’s direction.
During my career, I have had opportunity to work with, for and observe some of the best leaders/organizations in world across India, Europe and USA. I was responsible for hiring people in these regions. 
Through this write up, I would like to share real life experiences and examples to highlight Lessons for both Hiring Managers/Recruiter & the Job Seeker.

For Context of this article
  • Leadership roles are the ones reporting to/ working with CXOs, CXO+1s, SBU Leaders, Functional Leaders etc.
  • Observations/ experiences are based on going through Advertisement, experiences with Industry Leaders, Fortune 100 companies, across technology and services (e.g. banking, insurance, BPO/KPO etc.).
  • Observations/ experiences are based on Top tier recruiting firms or online portals.
  • Skills and expertise needed aren’t available in abundance and one is not expected to attract hundreds of applications for these openings.
1) Job Specs/Advertisement : (Print Media, Social Media & Search Firms) When I look at Job specification/Description,  firstly they look like a Laundry List and similar looking across platforms e.g. Print Media / Social Networks like LinkedIn, Online Job Portals and communications from Executive Search Firms. It is so evident that the people releasing them understand neither medium of communication nor basics of communications. To my dismay this trend is consistent across Organizations. 
Pointer for Hiring Managers / Recruiters
  • Invest your time and effort to communicate what you are looking for and what is special about this opportunity. Only then you are going to get the special one.
  • Don’t use all platforms to tick boxes on a list, if you (your team / organization) don’t understand a medium, don’t use it.
  • Well begin is well done, a poorly created/communicated specification can never get a great employee.
Pointer for Job Seeker
  • Look for inconsistency between stated values, culture and objectives of the Organization. All touch points are moment of truth and provide great insight. Reflect and assess, don’t ignore.
  • Remember these hiring managers are most influential people in the organization you are pursuing, and JD tells you about Learning and Growth opportunity for you to say least. It’s your Career!!
2) Role Currently designated as X but offered as X-something I was approached couple of years back by Leadership Hiring Leader of a reputed Organization in BPO/KPO industry. They were looking for someone to lead HR function at one of their Locations, pitching the job towards senior end of a grade. I was asked to contact current incumbent and his number handed out to me and so on. I never made that call; wonder why?
Pointer for Hiring Managers / Recruiters
  • When you are contacting someone, you have to make them feel good and wanted (even if they are currently unemployed)
  • People have to be able to trust you with their careers and need to feel valued.
  • Evaluate before hand, if people communicating / hiring are competing, feeling insecure or threatened by the role or potential hire. If yes, take remedial actions.
Pointer for Job Seeker
  • I had knowledge that currently role is being performed for over two years by someone already in one grade above what was being offered. That too, in an organization which has stated policy of people being promoted/ given grades and pay based on their role irrespective of years of experience and education.
  • So, what I understood was either the Organization is reducing its business at this location or certainly not going to grow here for foreseeable future. Leaving me in a dead end job where I will be searching for next opportunity within or outside in 6-9 months.
  • Worst, they were trying to short change me for being unemployed and exploiting.
  • Bottom line, do your home work, be clear why you are pursuing or not pursuing a Job.
3) Budget midsized sedan and specifications of Mercedes S Class You will find jobs being advertised as HR Leader / Operations Leader/ Director by top US MNC/ Leading Indian MNC etc. in Technology, leader in Healthcare equipment, Financial Services requiring people with 10-20 years experience and PG/MBA from Top Tier Institutes like IIM/TISS/XLRI etc. @ Salary budget (per annum) INR 1.2 mm to INR 2.0 mm. Whereas per annum market rate will be INR 3 mm to INR 6.0 mm.
Pointer for Hiring Managers / Recruiters  Loop back to point one, invest in your specifications and do a reality check.
Pointer for Job Seeker
  • Anyone publishing a job specification with 10 to15,18,20 years (basically large range) work experience is a potential lack of clarity about the Job / skills requirement.
  • Either the quantum of experience mentioned doesn’t matter or hiring manager has no clue what they want from new hire.
  • If after 10+ years in relevant organizations and roles, institute of your PG/MBA is must, then possible red flag. Look more closely at the Organization culture, work styles, informal networks etc.
4) Salary discussions & Lack of Numbers (Hard facts, business size etc.) Recruiters/hiring managers/interviewers will feel comfortable describing a job in terms of people (3000 people/ 10000 people) or 4 large customers etc., more so I guess because jobs and opportunities I looked for are in HR space. However, insights shared here are not limited to those personal experiences. Similarly, there is a big bias towards people discussing/ negotiating money/salary as a negative.
Pointer for Hiring Managers / Recruiter
  • Talking numbers gives a definitive scope and impact of the Role. So brush up your finances (especially HR/ recruiting community).
  • Talking number of people is great but that doesn’t make anyone more people centric, ultimately it’s numbers on balance sheet which ensure an organizations ability to take care of customers and employees. (even if you are an NGO or Charity).
  • You don’t go to your customer and close a deal without discussing/negotiating financial terms, so don’t expect your prospective employees to do the same.
Pointer for Job Seeker
  • Be relentless in asking/seeking financial details. That gives you a clear idea about your ability to add value even in functions like HR.
  • All talks of IQ, MQ & EQ are worthless if you are not able to realize that ultimately you are in a business transaction. Your knowledge and skills should be able to help you price your services appropriately. 
5)Managing In person interviews - It is pretty common to come across – Making people wait and having them sit in common areas like reception. More so if candidate has arrived early, which is expected to happen with commute involved. Entry of personal details/contact information in visitor log; in name of security process
Pointer for Hiring Managers / Recruiters
  • Avoid meeting/calling people especially at early stages to office where they can be seen by lot of people.
  • Move out and meet in less obvious settings, best hiring happens in less formal and equal footing conditions.
  • Ensure, candidate is ushered immediately to private space on arrival.
  • It’s good to have security process but do you want everyone coming in to know who you are pursuing to hire. It’s like putting details of your hottest deals in a register at gate for everyone to see.
Pointer for Job Seeker
  • Protect and assert your right to privacy and dignity. You have applied for a position in confidence. Organization breaking / not being sensitive about that confidence is red flag.
  • Evaluate your reaction, do you accept it as normal, feel offended or see as an opportunity to make a positive change.
  • Use both above pointers as data points while evaluating the Job.
I would like to end this with a quote from Steve Jobs - “I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it. Real artists sign their work,”

Warm regards,

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