In Conversation with 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 of 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.

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About the author, Amit Gupta

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