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In Conversation with Santosh Alex

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Santosh Alex

In my first meeting with Santosh, I knew that all this guy knows is “recruitment”. And I was surprised to know that he never dreamed of being a recruiter. Rather he wanted to build his career in sales and marketing. As like most of us, recruiting was “By Chance” for him too.

Santosh is a great example of willpower, dedication, and continuous learning. With these abilities, he started from nowhere and in 15 years he is one of the best-recruiting professionals I have known. Data-driven and a person who believes in following the recruitment process is what makes him a seasoned recruiter with Twitter today.

Today in my series of “In Conversation with..” I had an opportunity to steal some moments from Santosh and bring his recruiting journey in front of you. There is a lot to learn from him which cannot be covered in a few questions, but I have tried to capture as much as it was possible with the limited time I had with him.

Here are exerts of my conversation with Santosh:

Tell us who is Santosh Alex?

Originally from Bangalore in India, I have been in staffing since 2001 in the US. I have always been in CA and guess this is the job market I’m most calibrated in.

How the journey of recruiting started for you?

I’d love to say I always wanted to be a recruiter but, that’s not the case. I came to the US in May 2001 to do marketing on IT solutions. The dot-com bust had already taken its toll but, post 911, the small-to-midsize IT solutions industry went on a downward spiral. Most companies in this segment decided to fold shop on the solutions front and get into staffing which was an obvious and safe bet. My choices were to return to India or get into staffing. That’s how I got started in staffing. Looking back, I’d say, things have a way of falling into place.

What have been your major achievements?

Not sure if I’d call them achievements, definitely not major in any way. The way I look at it, career for me meant the ability to make a decent living, challenge myself and to continue learning. Looking back, I can say with certainty that I was able to meet these 3 needs and that to me, if any, is my personal achievement.

What is the impact of recruiting career in yourself, emotionally and mentally?

To piggyback off my earlier response, recruiting has shown me the way to make a comfortable living, definitely challenging to convince an individual on their next career choice and lastly, the pace of tech ensures that you are learning along the way. What’s important at a personal level is figuring out what matters the most to you. If the definition to that is accurate, it goes a long way in shaping one’s career.

Corporate Recruiter vs. Recruiter in a staffing firm. What are the differences?

I guess it’s probably the same as selling a Maruti and a Mercedes. The core of what you are doing remains the same, the stakes are different.

The most important thing is to listen and the next is to ask the difficult questions. What made me a good recruiter is when I started listening and talking less. Start with listening to what your client wants, listen to what a candidate is seeking and get them married only if there is an honest connection. We always know the right questions but I feel we fail to ask them because we are afraid that we might not like the answer.

I failed almost every time when I forced a connection, whether it’s as a corporate recruiter or in staffing.

Have you done hands-on Recruiting? If yes, what has been your success mantra?

Yes, for about 15 years.

Like I said, listening and asking the difficult questions. It is equally important to pay attention to detail and learn along the way. I have seen recruiters who call candidates without having read the job description or the candidate’s resume. I’d consider that setting myself for failure. I have to be smarter on my 3rd call for the same job description because I learned something from my first 2 calls.

As a recruiter what has been your best tools to hire quick and best?

I think for corporate hiring, LinkedIn has become the best without a doubt. For staffing, I prefer Monster since it covers a diverse skill set. Dice works for specific roles in pockets.

What have been your major challenges while working with recruiters in India?

Few seem to have clarity on why they have become recruiters. If you are doing it so that you can get a paycheck, you should find something else. The ones that want to really be a recruiter, I generally start by asking what/where they want to be in 5 years.

There is no better satisfaction professionally than to be a mentor and I’m happy I was able to be that mentor. It’s not a challenge, it’s an opportunity when you are working with the right set of recruiters, and be it in India or US. Most companies see them as commodities and they tend to either become dead weight to the team or leave.

I generally start with communication and thereafter technology-related training with most of them.

What did you do the deal with those challenges?

Personally, going out and meeting them as individuals helped me the most. I’d spend 1 week working with my recruiters, at a time and I’d do that twice every year. I was fortunate that the company I worked for at the time, Collabera, realized this as an investment and not an expense.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Everybody wants to be successful. Once these basics are clear, you can set clear steps on how you’d measure or track progress to success. Most companies seem to copy the metrics without any attention to basics.

A fresh recruiter vs. a seasoned recruiter, who according to you is the best bet?

Assuming both are individuals that want to be recruiters, they have their own advantages. The fresh recruiter does not think he knows. Easier to write on a blank board than to erase and rewrite. I prefer to have a mix of experienced and freshers. The only mistake, not to make is calling someone experienced because they have been doing something wrong for many years, which I have seen many companies do.

An experienced recruiter is someone who has discipline and can provide consistent metrics (2 hires a month). If that’s not the case, the resource is NOT experienced. Having an experienced recruiter helps mentor your junior while giving him bigger challenges. Not everyone will be an opening batsman, not everyone needs to score in boundaries and everyone is important for the team to win.

How important it is for recruiters to go through with training sessions, even if they have been recruiting for years?

Training sessions are important only if they address a specific gap. Every recruiter should be assessed by his lead/mentor and by himself. I have attended many pieces of training but learned something only when I had an open mind going into the training. It’s not that training was bad, it’s that my mindset was wrong. Training not only help learn new things but they also enforce good practices. As I got older, I’ve decided to spend more time reflecting on my blind spots and then seeking training to get over these gaps, which seems to work better for me.

What is your advice for people who want to take up recruiting as their career?

Recruiting is as good a career as any. It needs to be a personal choice based on an individual’s needs. I wanted to make good money, challenge myself and learn along the way. I can tell you that I make money in par with folks that work in fields including software, I have challenges every day and I have never stopped learning.

Santosh Alex at Twitter

About Santosh Alex

Santosh has over 15 yrs of experience ranging from Delivery Management to IT staffing and IT recruiting. He has demonstrated success in the end to end planning, strategizing, sourcing and delivery management on accounts in domains ranging from Utility, IT Product companies to Manufacturing to Media Services and IT Services.

Specialized at building teams to support and drive revenues and gross profit while achieving SLA metrics. Delivery & Strategy Management, Team Management, P&L Management, Assist in Proposal preparation, MSA / Contract Negotiation, Bulk Buy, T&M, Fixed Price Engagements. Experience mapping new accounts and building proactive candidate pipelines for niche skills ranging from BI/DW, Mobility, Big Data, UI/Front-end Development, and Cloud computing technologies.

5 Best Recruiting Books for Recruiters 2018

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Recruiting Books
Recruiting Books

People wonder why reading is important. Many, like me, hate reading a book. The thought of reading a book itself is too boring. And recruiting books for recruiters does not make sense to many. Some believe that recruiting can only be learned by doing it, not by reading it. If you also think so, you may stop reading this article here. For those who want to be a recruiting superstar may continue reading.

If you are not reading, you are limiting yourself. And if you read what you should be reading, you explore the all-new world of possibilities that were hidden from you till then.

There are plenty of other benefits to reading including improved concentration, improved vocabulary, improved communication, improved awareness, improved imagination and much more.

A good recruiter is a combination of all listed above. So what should a recruiter be reading? It is an investment of time and money that you invest in reading I will ensure that you get full ROI of your investment.

Whether this is your first time in recruiting or you been recruiting for quite some time, these recruiting books will open new dimensions in your recruiting career.

Best Recruiting books for HeadHunters

Who: The A Method for Hiring – Geoff Smart and Randy Street

Who - Recruiting Books

Who refers to the person you are trying to hire. It also refers to the people responsible for decision-making. The quest for hiring the best person for your team ends here. I believe it to be one of the best business books that teach in fact-based simple methods to build an “A-Team”. Consider this book to be a professional recruiter’s handbook.

The book says that the average hiring mistake costs up to 15 times an employee’s base salary along with the productivity loss. And this is a serious cost, isn’t it?

This recruitment book helps in building new perspective and framework on recruiting processes. It lays out a 4 step process for hiring the best talent for the businesses.

The hiring process described is little lengthy and might suit best for hiring the C-Level executives. The same might not stay true for junior level hiring. However, the excellent ideas described in the books can be further customized to suit any environment for that matter.

You will enjoy every bit of this book without any obviousness.

Hire with your Head – Lou Adler

Hire with your Head

Lou Adler has seen recruiting industry evolving through the eyes of a recruiter and believes recruiting to be a systematic and straightforward process.

Adler recommends performance-based hiring to build great teams. The performance-based hiring process is free of prejudices and biases. This recruitment book describes a methodical approach that eliminates mediocre candidates and focuses on hiring superior people for the organization. He advocates the evidence-based decision making instead of gut-based decision making.

The Adler 10-Factor Candidate Assessment is a valuable tool. This tool helps the decision maker and the interviewing panel to make an objective decision and avoid the costly mistakes of a bad hire.

According to Lou Adler, recruiting should be a step-by-step repeatable process that is more likely to hire great people. Each step, if followed religiously will eventually end up with a superior hire.

Hiring for Attitude – Mark Murphy

Hiring for Attitude

Murphy is a strong believer of attitude to be the main determinant of hiring. The author challenges you to hire the people with winning attitude and eliminate people whose attitude may lead to organization failures.

Murphy believes 89 % of wrong hires are not because of lack of skills but because of lack of attitude. The book focuses on evaluating the candidate’s attitudes along with other skills to reduce the number of wrong hires.

Usual recruiting books provide a list of questions to ask during the interview process and interpret the body language etc. This book asks you to apply what you read and that means you will have to work and developing your own questions based on what you read.

In Murphy’s words: “This recruiting book will teach you how to select the high performers that will fit and excel in your unique culture. It’s a big departure from the traditional, and generally failed, approach to hiring.”

The book, however, has a lot of self-promotion. The author here promotes his company services wherever possible.

Social Media Recruitment – Andy Headworth

Social Media Recruitment

Social media has taken the world by storm and recruitment is no exception. More than ever, recruiters today need to know how to harness the power of social media.

Social Media recruiting is not just posting jobs on Twitter and LinkedIn, but it is much beyond that. This book help recruiters define social media hiring strategy and attract talent.

This book for head-hunters is full of information, tips and tricks, and dos and don’ts of social media recruiting.

Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is a concept ideated by renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. The author translates complex psychological concepts in layman terms. This book is for everyone who wants to understand human psychological concepts and practice them in real time.

For recruiters, these ideas can be applied that will help recruiters in finding higher quality candidates. Applying these physiological concepts can help you understand if the candidate will be happy in doing the job you have in hand.

A must-read book which deals with the subject of focusing on a particular work in a particular time to achieve excellence. The book is based on a lot of scientific research.

Now that you have the list of best-recruiting books, go ahead and pick the one that excites you. Spend some time, read new ideas and stay ahead in the competition. Rest assured, the ideas in these recruiting books will prepare you to be a recruiting superstar.

PS: I am constantly evaluating more recruitment books and will keep updating this post on regular basis. If you feel that you have read a book that is worth a mention here, please refer me to the book. I will do my analysis and update this list.

All About Startup Hiring

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Startup Hiring
Startup Hiring

Hiring is a step-by-step recruitment process, but when it comes to Startup hiring the road is an uphill drive. Little time, money, and little room to go wrong, startup hiring is a tedious task. You need to execute it with perfection.

Top 5 Startup Hiring Challenges

Startup Challenges
Startup Challenges
  1. Time

Challenge: Startup needs to do so much in so less time and so is the hiring process in a startup.

Solution: Stay active and build a network with people who like your social media posts. Reach out to them and understand their level of interest. When you would need to hire, they will be able to assist quickly, because you kept them engaged with yourself. Recommendations work faster than anything else, saving a lot of time and effort.

  1. Money

Challenge: Startups being a startup have to manage with limited funds. Hiring an employee is a big-ticket item for a startup.

Solution: Ensure matching the candidate goals with the company goals to precision. If you align the goals correctly, you end up hiring asset for the company. If not, the employee and the company both walk in different directions.

  1. Brand Awareness

Challenge: Nobody knows who you are.

Solution: Create a strong social media awareness. Create a strong network and constantly share the core values of the organization. When you hire, make the prospect browse the company’s social media. This will help in creating your brand awareness. Keep your social media up-to-date always. Ensure every team member in the organization is sharing the company’s post in their network to increase the visibility of your brand.

  1. Right Fit

Challenge: Talented folks ask for too much salary.

Solution: All skills fit-in-one do not exist. Be reasonable with your expectations and you will be able to find the right fit faster. A reasonable requirement will also make the prospect comfortable in picking the job.

  1. Wrong Hire

Challenge: While you try to take every precaution in not hiring a wrong person, but it is inevitable.

Solution: The sooner you realize this the sooner you should let the employee go. A wrong hire is a constant damage to your time and money.

Hiring for a startup is always complex especially when a startup is young. But if you follow a strategy and focus on what you want, you will be able to simplify this complex process of hiring.

10 Strategies to hire for Startup

Startup Hiring Strategies

  1. Make it inclusive

The fun in a startup is that everyone does everything, so why not hiring. Include everyone in the organization during the hiring process. You have no idea who is sitting in whose network that might be the right fit for your startup.

And when everyone is inclusive, each member of the team will try its best to hire the best.

  1. Collaborate using Collaborative tools

Since everyone is trying to hire, it’s time to dedicate certain task to certain people. Tools like Trello and Slack are really handy in assigning task and responsibilities. This helps in tracking progress and move faster.

  1. Task Allocation

You involved everyone in the hiring process, great. It is also important to identify the capabilities of your team. Assign a role based on their capabilities. A technical person must screen technical abilities and not the communication skills.

  1. Recommendations and Social Media Hiring

If you are looking to hire from job boards, most likely you are on a wrong path. Reach out to everyone, even those whom you think could be least able to help you in recommending somebody. After all, there is no down-side of it.

Push notifications on your social media about what you are looking for. Connect with those who show interest. Do not hesitate to reach out to those who have been in the same field and asking for recommendations.

  1. Sell your benefits

Joining a startup could be a risk for somebody. After all 90% startup fails within the first year. Clearly articulate why somebody should join your startup. Define the benefits for the candidate and it will help you attract the right people. You should also express your vision and mission to potential candidates.

  1. Strong online presence

Strong online presence number of followers is a parameter to your brand value. Larger the number of followers better the brand value. Stay constant with your online engagements. Write blogs and posts to attract talent.

  1. Process vs. Experience

A startup is all about the experience. When you interview somebody, make it an experience instead of making it a process. If you feel you have found the right fit, make them meet the entire team. This will bring the feeling of inclusion and leads to a better experience.

  1. Answer more and ask more

Interviewing is asking questions. The question leads to answers. And answers help you understand the other person better. You ask questions because you interested in the person you are talking to.

Similarly, the candidate would ask questions about the organization. Allow them to ask questions and patiently answer them. Be elaborate in your answers. This will bring more confidence in the candidate in you and the role.

  1. Skill vs. Attitude

Skills to important to perform the task, but remember that skills can always be developed. But it is next to impossible to build the attitude of a person. When you hire, focus on the attitude of the person. If the person has the right attitude but lacks somewhere in skills, he is always a better bet than otherwise.

  1. Be diversity-focused

Diversify yourself. Break the boundaries of the 4 walls of your office. Stop hiring the person who can come to the office. Instead, hire somebody who could get the job done. And they can be physically anywhere in the world.

Focus on the right brain rather than focus on race, gender, culture. A diversity of thoughts, energy, and psychology helps in an organization’s growth. Some people are innovators, some are good in making strategies, some are good for setting up procedures and some are good at implementing those procedures. We all are a combination of Builder, Explorer, Negotiator, and Director.

Take help of psychometric assessment to find the best fit. Use technology to solve the problem of face to face interactions. I know a few people who left their 9-5 job because of their personal reasons. They have capabilities and if given chance could become a rock star for you.

PS: I personally recommend reading top recruiting books that will bring new perspectives to your hiring process.

Top 5 questions to answer before you hire for Startup

Questions for startup hiring
Questions for startup hiring
  1. Do you really need to hire?

There is always a gap between the wish and reality. You may wish to hire somebody, but startups should not hire unless it is important. Sometimes startup starts hiring earlier than required and eventually fail to sustain them.

  1. Permanent hire vs. Freelancer?

A full-time hire comes with a lot of cost and other overheads. Also, unless you have enough work for a new hire, the resource will lose its interest in the work. This underutilized resource is also a waste of your money. Using a freelancer could is always a better bet. I use this formula to make my decision:

Salary for Full Time Hire + 20% >= Freelance cost

As long as this statement stays true, I prefer working with freelancers.

  1. What is most critical?

Make a list of all the roles you need to hire for. Find out the most critical role from the list and focus on that hiring. Do not hire unless the hiring is critical and impacts the growth within the coming 6 months. Define key responsibility areas for each role and evaluate. This sometimes helps in merging two roles into one and reduce the required headcount.

  1. Experienced vs. Fresher?

Everyone loves to work with an experienced person, but you must think twice before making a decision. An experienced person is great to have but comes with its own baggage.

It takes time for an experienced resource to adjust to a new environment. But, it might be easier for them to learn your environment and become productive faster. Hiring experienced professionals from other start-ups can benefit as they are aware of challenges in start-ups. Hiring form start-ups with similar values and vision will be a win-win situation.

On the other side fresher will come at less cost and are generally highly trainable. If given proper training they can do wonders, but it takes time. The brighter side is that it is easier to inculcate your company values in freshers.

  1. Hiring Specialists vs. a mix of all?

Check your goal and decide if you need a specialist of a generalist. Hiring specialist will lead to top-notch solutions to your customers. But you may fall apart in other parts of your business.

If your solution does not need a specialist care hiring a generalist might give you an advantage.  You will be able to do many things together with the limited number of resources.

Top 3 benefits Startups can offer to attract talent

Startup Benefits
Startup Benefits
  1. Work from home

A lot of talent gets wasted when they are not able to commute to the office and continue their 9-5 routine. Women’s are more likely to sacrifice their job in the quest of giving enough time to their child and family.

A work from home option can help you use the talent at a reasonable cost and with longevity. The ability to work at a time and location of their choice can attract a lot of great talent towards you.

  1. Upfront Equity

C-level employees need more than a salary to stay attached to an organization. Upfront equity with a vesting period is a great option for such employees.

The equity might not hold the value in the present. But because they believe in the vision of the company, they understand the value of equities. The equity keeps their moral high and helps them focus towards the growth of the organization.

  1. Stock Options

This option is similar but not same. You offer this options to important people in your organization. The stocks are not given right away. The employee gets the option to buy certain stocks after a certain period of time at current prices.

The time after which the employee can buy company share is the vesting period. The employee keeps the virtual shares till the time vesting period is over.

Top 10 places to look for Ideal candidates for Startups

  1. LinkedIn

Networking sites like LinkedIn are places where people meet others to fulfill professional goals. Investors look for potential companies to invest. Salespeople hunt for potential customers. A significant number of people hunt for better opportunities. And others are always in hunt of their dream role. Connect with them.

  1. Meetup

A Meetup is a place where like-minded people from similar niche meet, discuss, and contribute. Use X-Ray search and filter people based on location and skills. Join other’s meetup to network with people. Create and sponsor a meetup and invite others to take part.

  1. Networking Events

Like meetups, there are many networking events organized by companies. Some are for promotions and some are for knowledge sharing. Networking events are great to market your startup and find potential hires.

  1. Social Media

Facebook groups are a great way to connect with industry-specific people. Twitter and Instagram help you directly reach out to somebody if you know their handles. Connecting with target prospect has become extremely easy using the Social Media.

  1. Open Source Social Media

Github, Stack Overflow, Quora, and Source Forge etc. are great places to find technical folks. Check their work, connect with them and hiring becomes easy and focused.

  1. College Placement Cell

Recently fresh graduates have done wonders. They seem to be more passionate in what they do. Come with a lot of energy and a mind that craves to learn. They adapt quickly to a new environment and are hard working.

  1. Reach out to local specialized institutes

Like colleges, reach out to local institutes. You will find skilled fresh graduates hungry to take up an assignment. These folks will need minimum guidance and could be a great bet.

  1. Industry-specific forums and blogs

Join the forums and follow the blogs that relate to your niche. Question, answers, promotions and many other things keep the forum alive. Follow the people who show the required knowledge in comments. They could be your potential employees.

  1. Freelance Marketplaces

Freelancer, Fiverr, Upwork etc. are places where you can find specialists. Some people do it because they are passionate about what they do and want more challenges and some do it for money. Either way, you can connect with right folks.

  1. AngelList

Angellist is a free network that connects employers with talent. This talent is there to find a potential startup to work with. Create jobs so that people can apply. The downside is that anyone, qualified or not, can apply to your job.

Last but not the least is the Job Sites. This being the last in the list, you still cannot mitigate the importance of it. Given the size of the database they have, you have chances to find the right fit. But, in the process of finding the right fit, you end up getting too many unwanted profiles. This eats a lot of your time and effort.

Recruiting for startups has always been challenging. The key to success is the eagle eyes to find somebody passionate about the idea that you live. Networking and Marketing plays an important role that brings you closer to your audience.

PS: I like to thank Jyoti Hooda for her contributions in making this article complete. She made some valuable points in completing this article.

Hey, I am Amit. I am on my way to build a strong community of people from the recruitment industry. The purpose is to help the recruiters learn the best practices of recruiting and succeed in their career. Join me and experience the change.

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