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The Weekday Show: Inside the Mind of an HR Manager: Harsha Kumar
Podcasts
Jun 6, 2024

The Weekday Show: Inside the Mind of an HR Manager: Harsha Kumar

In this blog we talk about our podcast with HRs from top companies in India. We have also shared the transcript of the whole conversation between Harsha and Amit.

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Have you ever wondered what HR managers look for when screening resumes? Should you negotiate your salary? How can you shine during interviews? These are common questions everyone faces during their job search.

To get answers, we interviewed Harsha Kumar, Associate Director of Talent Acquisition at Brillio. Harsha has a wealth of experience, having worked for companies like Wipro, Mindtree, Cognizant, and ITC Infotech. We asked him all your burning questions and more in this episode of The Weekday Show! Listen to the podcast on any of the platforms below. Or read the transcript of the podcast.

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Harsha Kumar: I'll tell you, not more than 30 seconds. That's all that a person spends. Be it a hiring manager, be it a recruiter. Even before they pick up the phone and call you. I would say don't apply for every job that has relevant skills that you have in it. Okay? So, there is a lot more than the job description. 

Amit Singh: Would asking for references, does it ensure that your resume is at least seen by a recruiter?

Harsha Kumar: It does. Okay. But again, a lot of companies have this policy policy that doesn't prioritize the source, prioritize the basis of competence, right? That will get you an interview, but it will not get you through. A gap year adds so much more value to your personality, your career also. Because people come rejuvenated after a one-week break, imagine a one-year break.

What people fail to do is explain that gap effectively. So no HR manager is happy when people ask for more money because you have to bust your grades, higher compensation, you have to take so many approvals, nobody hates it, nobody likes it, no HR manager likes it, but I would still say ask for more money.

Amit Singh: Hello everyone and welcome to the Weekday Show. I'm your host Amit Singh, founder and CEO of Weekday, a hiring marketplace where job seekers can 8x their chances of finding the perfect job and recruiters can supercharge their productivity by accessing the largest database of talent in the country. We have 80 percent of white-collar workforce of India on our platform. Check out Weekday at  weekday.works. Happy to present to you the Weekday Show where recruitment leaders share actionable insights and answer the most common hiring FAQs and explore the hiring process from both sides and dissect real-life interview scenarios. Hello, everyone. Welcome to our show. Our guest for today is Harsha Kumar, who has taken more than 5000 interviews, probably many more.

He's a decorated talent acquisition leader within the country. He has been in the talent acquisition space for more than 15 years with experience ranging from consulting companies like Wipro, Mindtree, Cognizant, as well as tech centers of retail companies like Falabella where he worked as the head of talent acquisition for India.

He's currently the associate director of talent acquisition at Brillio, one of the leading consulting companies and which has a major presence in India. We'll start off with a very quick rapid-fire question. Then we'll talk about a little bit of a deep dive over your journey. And then we'll do another very fun section called Hire or Pass.

So Harsha, what's the most creative way a candidate has ever tried to stand out from the crowd? 

Harsha Kumar: Okay. I recently interviewed a person for a role in my team. Okay. And the discussion was pretty intense. It took. More than the slotted time for the interview. And then the next day I got a message from the candidate, appreciating all the questions that I asked, and appreciating all the learning that he got through the discussion, with a link to a white paper, which had most of the concepts that we discussed in the interview, and he stood out.

Amit Singh: Oh, I've interviewed a lot of people, never seen that. Okay, what's the most used, less skilled people list on a resume? 

Harsha Kumar: I don't know if I've seen one like that on a resume, but I was interviewing one of them for one of the roles. And then this lady in front of me asked her, is there a skill that you're very proud of, which is not there in your profile?

Then she said, yes. What is it? She picked up the pen on the table, started swirling around and said, this is the skill. Then what is the utility of this? It helps me think better. I said, maybe. 

Amit Singh: Oh, it's one of those fidgets. Have you ever hired someone based on a strong gut feeling, even though their resume wasn't perfect or didn't match the job?

Harsha Kumar: No, never. I've never hired anybody based on gut feeling. I have a concept in my mind which is called proof of work. I always look for proof of work, right? And conversations always go around, okay, can you explain how did you go about solving this? There are cases where the first 20 minutes, 20 seconds of the discussion, pretty impressive, charming personality. I'm already wanting to say yes, but I have certain parameters on which I'm assessing in more than three, four areas. If the person has fallen short, I'm not doing justice to the role if I had that person. 

Amit Singh: Next one. What's the biggest red flag you have encountered on a resume or in an interview? 

Harsha Kumar: In an interview, it quite often happens, right? Whenever, whenever a semi comes, okay, somebody in tech space or non-tech space, whenever I'm interviewing a person, I try to look at the depth of their understanding in their area of expertise, right? When I ask questions that that person has, That would need them to go to the depths. They start throwing away big names, big titles.

I've worked with CTO. I worked with CIO. Okay, I understand you collaborated with a lot of big people in the company, but did you solve the problem? How did you go about that? How did you break the large problem into micro problem statements? What solutions did you consider? What skills did you apply? What solution worked?

What's your learning out of that? If you can't explain that to me, then you're basically trying to dodge my question. That's a big red flag. 

Amit Singh: So pro tip, don't use jargon. So what interview question makes you laugh, even though you shouldn't laugh, but like what question that interviewers ask? Why should I hire you?

Harsha Kumar: So you haven't made a bit of an attempt to explain why that person should come and work for you, but you want that person to explain why he or she should be part of your company. It isn't fair, right? Yeah. 

Amit Singh: Oh, not fair. Sell me this pen. 

Harsha Kumar: Yeah, that's old. Okay. The other is why should I hire you? Yeah.

Yeah. So you didn't figure it out in the last minute of the conversation. 

Amit Singh: Why did you call me for an interview? So I think we are all warmed up. We'll talk now a little bit more about your journey. Like post MBA, how did you get into talent acquisition? What were the notions you had before sort of jumped and how has the journey been so far working in different companies?

Harsha Kumar: So 2009 is when I passed out, right, MBA, HR. And I had no clue what talent acquisition is. Okay, I knew talent acquisition is part of HR, like most of the MBA HRs. I never knew what talent acquisition is, right? But I always had this inclination of technology because I did my graduation in computer science and electronics and then the market wasn't doing that great. It is right after the Lehman Brothers crash. Right. 2009, 2008 is when Lehman Brothers happened, and then a friend of mine was already in a company, in a consulting company, and then he said, okay, now it's not time to pick and choose. There's an opportunity. Why don't you come? You speak a lot of tech. This is tech hiring.

I'm not able to understand much of it. Maybe if we can work together, both of us will be successful. Then I went and joined hands with him. Within the first two weeks, I realized, okay, this is a perfect place, intersection of tech and people. Okay. And this is something that I never thought of. Maybe I'll make a career here.

So the first few companies were predominantly these consulting companies who recruited for large enterprises in India. And then Wipro happened. Wipro had a concept called global sourcing team. Okay. So, because for the scale that they did, they had a supply chain model right? Somebody, a team will do the sourcing and then there is a partnering team, which does the business management or SQL to management and then there is a team which manages the post-selection process, which is offer and documentation and whatnot. I was part of the sourcing team. So surprisingly, a lot of requirements that kept coming my way with niche companies were struggling to fulfill and I made it as my USP.

I will only work on these requirements and. I was for different reasons quite successful. I never went after the job boards of the world because they never had the kind of people that we were looking for and the kind of projects that we were hiring for were also slightly different, right? So that helped me create a USP Of my own, right? Don't just do recruiting in the conventional ways. Like I said in the rapid fire, right? Explain why somebody should join your company, right? What we prove is what its legacy is, what kind of customers we're going after, what kind of solutions we're building, how way ahead In the time that we are right now.

So what would it mean to your career? This is what I started explaining. And in no time people thought that, okay, this is an approach that we have not explored so far, and we should build on it. Leadership started investing in it. I started leading a COE and started addressing requirements across geographies.

Center of Excellence. Center of Excellence in Talent Acquisition, right? After a couple of years, we were made to work on requirements without using the generic job boards. We only use social media channels to recruit. Okay. And we worked across requirements that were spread across geographies, be it UK, be it India, be it anywhere else in the world.

If they're not able to find talent, they would come to us. Initial phase, we would demonstrate how it is done. Okay. LinkedIn was big back then. And I became one of the certified LinkedIn recruiters back then. I was in fact. I'm even today. In fact, India's first certified LinkedIn recruiter. So that became big. LinkedIn was also experimenting a lot of things back then. Partnering with LinkedIn helped us do a lot of things differently and my career trajectory changed, right? And right after that, after that three, three and a half-year stint with Wipro, the kind of opportunities that I started getting were more in the talent binding space because it was all about What company is all about?

What candidate experience is all about? Nobody spoke this language back then. It was all about tech and I told you right earlier before this also, we were chatting like services only hired for core skills, they never built on some kind of capabilities. And that was the phase where it was picking up.

And then Mindtree was a different kind of profile. I was in a profile called talent branding. Okay. So it was just the two of us, me and my boss.

Amit Singh: Like for the audience, what exactly is talent branding? 

Harsha Kumar: Yeah. So I'll explain a little bit, right? The initial phase when I was telling you what my work at Wipro basically was, where I was explaining to people what we do as a company. More info about the place to come and work at than just the role. Right. And how do I make sure that people get enough inputs to consider these opportunities at those companies? Right. And now talent branding is pretty big. Okay. There are departments in every company that lead talent branding, which is about what kind of content they put out as far as opportunities are concerned, what kind of content they put out as far as their customer success stories are concerned, right?

How do I package their organization culture in the form of a snippet? Right. To the candidates to consume, to the job seekers to consume. So that is talent branding, right? In simple words, in layman's words, there's a lot more to it. There's analytics around it but in simple words, that's what it is. So that was a different kind of profile.

So as part of that profile, what I did was besides managing tools and technologies for TA teams, evangelizing these new concepts that I had learned back in Wipro, we also did something called, okay, helping leaders create their teams. Talent acquisition, GTM, go to market, right? For example, I'll take an example, right?

Let's say back then, Mindtree was working on its Bluetooth stack for Samsung phones. It was a pretty big thing. It was a cool thing, okay? But not many people knew, okay? So let's say if I have to tell people that this is what we're building, come be part of this practice, you will get to learn a lot.

You'll become better individuals and you'll probably have a better career. So how do I put the story across? How do I attract the right talent in the first place? And how do I put the story across? People didn't know how to do this, right? Me and my boss, we would sit together, understand their entire scope of work, help them prepare short videos, help them prepare good content and help them reach out to the right set of audience using different platforms, including LinkedIn.

Right. And then we would start teaching our recruiters. How do you pitch these roles differently? Because this is something different, anyways, you run out of the mill skills you'll anyways hire, this is not going to be easy, we'll help you do this better. So that's what I did in Mindtree, that added a flair of talent branding, right?

So besides deep tech hiring, then Cognizant. Cognizant, again somebody I worked with at Wipro was already there, and he was pretty senior, he was at a very senior role in TA, and he said, I, I knew you were slightly different in TA and here this is a company that's going up to scale. They are hiring thousands and thousands of people every year, but in some areas there are challenges.

There are some 20 percent requirements that are creating a lot of problems. People don't know how to solve for this. Would you mind coming on board and helping us solve this? There again, I led the India sourcing team for a couple of practices there. For the first time, I did the scale that I could never imagine.

I don't know. Even if you ask me now, how did you do that kind of scale? I don't know. In the span of four and a half years, about 17, 18, 000 people is what I would have had. But what I take pride in there as well is right. Besides that scale, besides that Chaos management. All that I learned through Mindtree and Wipro came handy, right?

We could take up certain specific assignments where it's do or die. This logo we will lose if we don't do it, okay? Then sit with the customer, understand what they're trying to solve for help them sell their story better to the candidates, and then Bring the talent, do deep tech evaluation, right? So, so much so that every profile that we present to the customer would get through the interview till that point in time.

Zero success. COE started working, center of excellence team started working with all these approaches. Everything that we present to the customer gets through and. Customers going gaga like that became a different kick. Like we were going after only such assignments. Okay, we will take only this kind of thing.

Then that's a substantial part of my journey. And then ITC happened. ITC was a short stint, but still I helped them scale. They were struggling to hire for additional experience capabilities, which is data engineering and big data data science. These capabilities they were at a scale of 20-25 people per month, help them double it, sustain it over a period of seven, eight months and then surprisingly GCC was a word that I was always attracted to back then because we were supporting Legato and few such brands when we were at cognizant then fell Bella came my way and I said, yes.

Falabella was a different experience because retail is something that I got to learn end to end. And I fell in love with it. Two years. Doubled the company size. Hired for some of the senior most roles, including their India leader. And then, then for different reasons, current economic scenario, crisis in logistics and different other scenarios, right?

And also South America is slightly different, right? Inflation is pretty high there. And so it's a company that operates in South America. It caters to South American customers. Things didn't, things were not going that well for two, three quarters. We decided not to hire at all. I was just managing processes and internal mobility, those sorts of things. Then Brillio happened. 

Amit Singh: Before we get to Brillio, So at Falabella for example I think it's pretty interesting how a South American retail company looks.

Amit Singh: In India, look at an India tech center? What are their interactions with Indian talent? Is it translatable to like any other?

Harsha Kumar: I would like to give you a backstory, right?

India has always had GCCs. As we speak, there are about 1,600 plus GCCs. Okay. And the prediction says there will be about 2,400 plus GCCs in India in the next six years. Right. So GCCs help them get a flavor of India. 

Amit Singh: So What exactly is GCC? 

Harsha Kumar: Global Capability Center. Let's say I'm a big retail company.

Let's say I'm Walmart. Okay. And I have always operated in this geography and Every retail or banking or healthcare has an essence of tech. Tech investment is huge. Customer experience comes from there. So that tech work predominantly gets done in India now. Okay, one, there's an advantage of cost and there is an advantage of scale.

Okay, because of this I mean, for quite some time GCCs have been coming to India, like large logos have been coming to India. Besides all of that, let's say, If there are a lot of retail companies that are also in India, you can hire from them. There is already in house knowledge available, and you don't have to build anything from scratch, right?

I mean, domain understanding and all of that. Tech, of course, is available. Domain becomes a problem. So, all that was an advantage. So that's how Falabella came to India. There's Target, there's Walmart. Yeah, there are GCC enablers who bring a lot of these companies, help them settle, give them space, help them with initial leadership hiring, help them hire tech talent. They helped them a little bit and then they're on, on their own. I got into Falabella when they were trying to get on their own, right? There was an enabler who brought them to India. They hired their CIO in India. I mean, initially he was CTO of one of the divisions. He grew up to become CIO, global CIO.

And that was the Falabella story. And then they started to scale. Okay. When I joined, they were about 200 plus people. And when I moved out, they were about 500 plus people. Right. And this is deep. Okay. We would go after the top 25 retail tech talent in India. We would benchmark which company does the kind of work that we are doing.

It could be me. Sure. It could be Tata Click. It could be Walmart. It could be JCPenney. It could be Target. It could be Tesco. And again, we go a level down in that. If you're hiring for merchandising, who does merchandising? Better than India for that kind of retail company, right? Who does separation better?

Who does e-commerce better? Can I pick five, five, six resources from there, right? We in fact had a list of companies that we would go after and then we would only bring top talent from those companies. And of course, there is also this run of the mill talent for which are basically executors, not the thinkers, not the designers.

For that, we would anyways hire from services. And services also had a flavor. Okay, every service has this verticalization, right? They have a BFSI wing, they have a retail CPG wing, they have a healthcare wing. Can we identify such divisions and hire people from there who are supporting companies in retail space, identify such projects, such companies which are on the services side, hire from that. So that's what Falabella was.

Amit Singh: Okay. Okay. So now let's talk a little bit about your experience at Brillio. 

Harsha Kumar: Yeah. 

Amit Singh: Exactly what are you doing and what typically does your weekday look like at Brillio? 

Harsha Kumar: So Brillio is a company that does digital transformation consulting. Okay. So what we're trying to do is, of course, India has a lot of service companies, right? We didn't want to just be one; we didn't just want to become another service company. That's what attracted me, right? So from the time of its inception, they have been embedding AI and Gen AI solutions in the solutions that they're providing to their customers, domain-agnostic customers, right? And that was pretty interesting. And one of my deep areas of interest besides crypto retail and all of that is AI and Gen AI. So that attracted me, right? And right now what I do at Brillio is there are three large practices that I handle talent acquisition for, okay? One is product platform engineering, okay? Where we hire a lot of engineering talent, all your programmers, developers, those sorts of skills. And then there's another practice called digital infrastructure, which is predominantly your infra security, database and asset management, those skills. And then we have another division called data analytics and insights. Okay. There are three COEs within this. Okay. Predominantly, they hire data engineers and data scientists cloud side of the data. So those kinds of skills, right? So I head talent acquisition for these three large practices. And besides this, we have the responsibility of branding really well. We have the responsibility of fixing processes and a lot of other things. Okay. Because like I said, the game has changed. We are not hiring for any service company in India, not just Brillio is not hiring for the kind of skills that they had just four, five, six years back. Yeah. 

Amit Singh: Okay. All right. So let's deep dive a little bit more.

So at Brillio since you are like, this is a director of talent acquisition, let's understand what exactly talent acquisition really means within a company and specifically for people who have not been or not interacted a lot with talent acquisition folks, probably they have had a few email exchanges. They've done an interview. But What exactly happens within talent acquisition? Let's deep dive into that. So for example, there is a requirement that there is one role. How many applicants do you end up getting? Do you look at that as the main source? For example, is there a job? There's a job board that you would post a job on. There's your career space that would be a job. Are there other ways in which you look for talent?

Harsha Kumar: So I'll give you a little backstory to that. Even before a requirement lands on talent acquisition, there's a little bit of work that happens before that, right? Let's say you're a company and you have decided to hire for a particular project.

Okay. A project basically means a solution, right? So you have a customer that you're working with. The customer has a specific problem. It could be application modernization. It could be moving certain applications from a legacy system into the new age cloud ecosystem, something of that sort. So this basically means you need a pod.

Okay. That pod has different levels and you're hiring for that. And depending on the customer technology ecosystem, Okay. The tech flavors of this pod would change.

Amit Singh: And you might have an internal person who is skilled in that or might not?

Harsha Kumar: Okay. So then the first approach is they first cast the requirement internally.

And then there is a team called resource management. The resource management team tries to validate how many people are available internally, right? Okay. Okay. Who is readily available, there is a concept of bench, right? And potential bench, those who could potentially come on the bench, those who are at the flag end of their project in the other teams, right?

So they are their first source of consumption. So if anybody is available, the requirement gets fulfilled, and then we do not even go out externally. But if that is not the case, then the requirement comes to the talent acquisition team, okay? So the talent acquisition team also does two things, okay? So, longevity of the product project matters a lot because not many people think of talent acquisition like this, right?

It's a question of your reputation. If you're hiring somebody for a short-term project, you don't have a foresight of where that person will work after that 5, 6, 7 months or 12 months project, then you don't have a career basically for that person. So then it's a chance of fate. If you land a project, he gets another role.

Otherwise, he's on the bench and the tolerance of bench in companies has a certain limit. And then. You're out, right? That's why we do that due diligence is talent acquisition. Hey, is it a long enough project? Is it a kind of skill at least at the core level that other projects would also like to consume? We do that due diligence and then we go out into the market.

Going out into the market would mean two, three things, right? Very strategic talent acquisition teams. That's what we are behind, right? Let's not just do talent acquisition. Let's be strategic about who we go after, what kind of companies we target, what kind of talent we bring on board, right? So then we say, At the initial calibration stage itself, the question that we ask to the hiring manager is, which are your top five companies which have this kind of talent.

Do you know that? You don't know that. Okay. If you don't, can I help you find that? Okay. What is the measure of success for this role? Okay. So who do you consider to be successful in this given role? Do you have some examples in-house? Then it's easy to benchmark. 

Amit Singh: Individual people who are successful in this particular company or outside?

Harsha Kumar: It could be inside outside anyway, right? If they can even point out to somebody that they worked with in the past, that becomes my first point of reference. See, ultimately, a job description is a set of expectations. That they have from the role. Yeah. But in reality, there is a lot more than that job role that they're defined.

And one person can only think of so much on paper, but it's only when you sit through the conversation, you know that they have a lot more that they're asking for, which is not defined in the job description. Right. That's why we ask these questions. This is called a calibration call, and then we go out. Okay.

Amit Singh: So for example, you mentioned a job description. Who, like all the points, requirements, responsibilities that are written in it, who writes those? Do you write it or does the hiring manager write it?

Harsha Kumar: Most often the hiring manager writes this job description, okay? But this is what I say, right? You have more stake in the job description than your hiring manager.

Because the success of your fulfillment depends on how well the job description is written. If that's all you have as a reference document, and if you are not getting into this kind of calibration calls, then it is very difficult. Then what we do is that's why you say you give me the job description. I also do a calibration call, then I stitch this together, then I have a go-to-market strategy.

I know the people that I have to go after. I know the measure of success. I know the companies that I have to go after. Then I will bring you the right set of candidates. It's because in most companies what also happens is interview fatigue. You've interviewed 100 people, you still haven't found the one that you're looking for.

Either your expectation is not clear, or Mindtree doesn't have the kind of talent that you're looking for.

Amit Singh: Or you're interviewing the wrong people.

Harsha Kumar: Interviewing the wrong people, going after wrong people. Then, that hypothetical expectation has to be turned into reality. That's where the recruiter's job gets very tricky, right?

So, then, once, okay, like you rightly said, there's an outbound approach where we have integrated our application tracking systems with multiple platforms. job boards, LinkedIn, social media channels, or whatever it is, including a career site. And there are opportunities that get floated for internal referrals, employer referrals.

Through all these channels, in a given rec, there are profiles coming in, right? Now the recruiter's job is to screen all those profiles, process the relevant ones for interview, and the one that gets through will get an offer. But they also have a responsibility of giving an answer to all these people who applied.

Which is where the task gets herculean, right? Thousands of applications. The bare minimum is 100 plus in a matter of a week. So, how do you manage that? Okay, of course, a lot of application tracking systems. Every application tracking system today has a thousand applications. Search option within that you get to find who's relevant based on the key skills that you put, you process the ones so you also have to make sure that your team tools and teams are equipped enough to send out emails for the ones that they didn't consider for the role, right?

That's where the task helped him. But I'll leave that aside for now. So once the Once you find the right one, you make an offer, then there is an engagement process. An average notice period of a candidate in the Indian ecosystem is 60 days. So even if I say I'm going after early joiners who are already serving notice period 30 days, 15 days, how do you keep the person engaged for that period?

So that is also the role of the recruiter. Until the person comes on board with your with your engagement strategy, how do you Keep the person invested in the opportunity, invested in the company right? And once the person comes on board, how do you solicit good feedback? That's where a recruiter's role and here in value.

Amit Singh: Okay.

Harsha Kumar: All right.

Amit Singh: Okay. So dialing a little bit back. Yeah. At the application stage, where there is an ATS, you have various channels through which candidates come. What would be like, for example, there's a role, what would the split between channels, like how many people would like, would a lot of people apply through careers link? Is that the majority?

Harsha Kumar: No, I think most of your applications come from job boards. Okay. Even today, still a lot of your applications come through job boards and the second highest set of applications come from LinkedIn. LinkedIn. Okay. And then you have your career site and then you have your employee referral, right?

Amit Singh: And how would outbound stand here? Like outbound would not be the majority, like highest number.

Harsha Kumar: So, ha, outbound is not much. See, but all said and done, outbound is where the success rate is higher. So my recruiter is, on an average, against an open position, I'm only talking about position, not about a full pod, right? One position basically means about eight to ten interviews, a couple of selections, one gets the first preference, and then there is a backup. And this is a typical mathematics that goes behind every hire.

Amit Singh: And the other thing, for example, if there are applications via LinkedIn or even a career site Is it guaranteed that an application would be seen by a recruiter?

Harsha Kumar: No, no, because all these platforms, even if you go on LinkedIn, let's assume that you've not done your eight years integration with LinkedIn, no job wrapping, none of your career site job posts are going to LinkedIn. If you are independently posting on LinkedIn also, every post at any given point in time has about 100, 200, 300. I mean, profiles. Yeah, right. Trust me, recruiters will not spend time screening all those profiles, but an intelligent recruiter, okay, performs a search within the job posting applications and sees the relevant processes. But if they find an eye-catching one, right? So there is an option within most of the job boards to search all applications relevant to your search. The application is lying in some job post, but you performed a search. It shows. Okay, there are 100 applications. In your application tracking system, they have not applied to this kind of a skill, but they've applied to some of the roles. Maybe they are relevant. You still end up considering those profiles, but if the expectation is that I applied for this role, somebody will look at my profile and call me. I'm waiting for the call that may or may not happen.

Amit Singh: Okay. So what could a person, for example, I'm a job seeker? What could a person do to ensure that my chances of getting seen by a recruiter is higher?

Harsha Kumar: Every application tracking system, at least in today's world, has some sort of NLP built in it. Okay. So, you have to identify, okay, which are the most frequently looked at skills for my role.

All right. What are the different ways in which it is written? Okay. And can I have enough of that in my profile? Right. This is not a new trick. People use it. So that's why ATS relevance is a new jargon in the market. Every AI tool today out in the market can help you do that. Okay, so do a bit of job description analysis and try and tweak your resume to some extent, right?

So that when the recruiter performs a search, like I said, within the ATS or on the platform, be it LinkedIn, be it job board, your profile throws up in the, I mean, comes up in the search result on the top, and then you have chances of getting a call.

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And you can send automated email plus WhatsApp plus call sequences to them. Yes, we call candidates on your behalf as well. Because India runs on WhatsApp and calls, we end up getting as high as 40 percent response rate. Gone are the days of sending a LinkedIn invite and waiting for days for someone to accept, just use a big day, whether you're looking for a database to supercharge the productivity of your recruiters or you're looking at a complete AI recruiter to do everything for you, we have a solution for you.

Okay. So let's talk a little bit more about sourcing, like what are the different tools? Like you mentioned, you touched upon a few, but like what were the tools that a talent acquisition like person uses and which are the ones that you would recommend today?

Harsha Kumar: Yeah. Like I said. Most of the talent that we're looking for is on multiple platforms.

Okay. So what I tell my recruiters is that you will find talent But you don't have ways to sell the talent to your hiring manager. Okay, because you have keywords you have profile You're talking to a person who has to qualify in the interview most often This is what I'm hearing off late right since the advent of chat GPT Every profile looks relevant to the job description, but they don't clear the interview They have everything that we're looking for, but they don't have the depth that we're looking for.

So how do you solve this, right? So this is a slightly different approach. I'm not talking about the tools that the recruiter should use to find the talent. This is about what platforms you should go to, to get some proof of work of the person that you're presenting for the interview, right? How do you substantiate your rationale of shortlisting somebody for the role?

There are various means, right? I'm hiring for a data engineering role, let's assume. At any point in time, goes to different platforms to brush up his skills. He's working on some personal projects. He's on Kaggle. He's contributing to some personal projects. So there is a story there, okay? He has a set of people who acknowledge his work.

And these are all community members. Can you get to a level of conversation where you can ask him, can you give me some of your project links on Kaggle, which I can produce along with this profile. First, your screening has to be intense. Of course, if you've been part of interviews, you've understood what the hiring managers ask is, you do a good screening.

Now, you're convinced this profile is good, but you also have to provide proof of this, right? Hey. And also prep the candidates. Most recruiters don't do this. Okay. I think this candidate is good. All skills are there. I gave it to him. He didn't clear the interview. Your measure of success is fulfillment.

If you think he's good, also tell him enough about the role. Hey, this is what this project is all about. This is the tech stack that we're looking for. This is the depth that we're looking for. I see that you have most of it. You are not asking, you're not asking him to cheat. You're just telling him what we are looking for.

So this is what recruiters are missing. Okay? If you're producing a programmer profile for Java or any sort of full stack requirement, how do you make sure that his coding capabilities are up to the mark?

Amit Singh: Right? So there could be GitHub, Stack Overflow.

Harsha Kumar: There are many such platforms. There is enough public repository people contribute to companies.

In-house also companies have GitHub repositories to which people contribute, right? They have personal projects in which they are contributing. Take some references from there and the hiring manager can relate to all of this, right? So, of course, during the evaluation also, how do you educate your hiring manager?

To do evaluation in a structured way, right? How do you make sure it is not just, this is like you said, gut, right? It's not a gut-based hiring. You are generating enough proof of work. If you say this person is not through, you're able to explain to me through your feedback form that why I didn't shortlist this person.

That's why there's this concept called competency-based hiring, right? Competency matrix. You have to come with your competency parameters, and only then you know what you're actually trying to evaluate the candidate on. So this is what goes into recruiting more than sourcing today, in getting this fit right, right?

It's very important. 

Amit Singh: And generally, like for a recruiter, like what are the things, like within a company, what are the metrics or KPIs on which a recruiter is evaluated on, like who is a good recruiter?

Harsha Kumar: Very interesting question. We recently completed an exercise where we created goal metrics, KPIs as we call for the entire talent acquisition team, the conventional ones.

The cost of hire, time to hire, and your offer to join conversion. This you'll get to hear more often. These are the parameters on which recruiters' performance gets measured. But you have to go a level deeper. Now we have gone a level deeper because This has been there for a while. Now, what's happening is, what is your submission to select rate?

Right? Did you not, or did you waste a lot of the hiring manager's time? Right? Because they are working on real-time projects. They're already pressed on time. They don't have enough time to sit and do 100 interviews to get to that one person. That's one of the parameters. Okay? And, Quality, right? And quality is not defined objectively in any company, okay?

Did you do enough calibration so that you defined quality very clearly and went after bringing quality candidates? One of the quality parameters is, okay, if I have listed five companies for this skill, whenever you are hired for that skill, did you present enough profiles from these companies or not? That's one of the parameters on which my recruiter's performance gets assessed.

And they're measured on this? Measured on this, right? And candidate experience, right? So nobody has a CSAT around this. We have a CSAT. We say every candidate that goes through the interview at the end of their notice period, when they come on board, they fill a form, a very simple form, which assesses objectively how their entire experience from the time you called it till the time they came on board, how their experience has been.

Okay, what is that rating? And flip that a little bit. I give, I do something similar to that with your hiring manager as well. What has his experience been, right? So these are parameters that are there for hiring, I mean for recruiters today. 

Amit Singh: Okay. Yeah. This actually gives us a good insight, right?

For example, whenever someone is talking to you today, you should know what their motivations are as well. For example, when you were talking to them, you would like to understand, like having more empathy towards them. Okay. This is what they're actually looking for. Yeah. So now you mentioned proof of work, right? For example, and you mentioned from the point of view that a recruiter should look for that proof of work, but if it is an interviewer. Let's say that they're submitting, they would want to increase the chances of them being seen. So one is that like making your resume more ATS friendly.

Is there anything apart from one that is like, yeah, yes, you can write your GitHub links in there. Is there anything more that an interviewer can do to stand out a little bit more. 

Harsha Kumar: I would say one is to leave enough links to some of the platforms that we spoke about. That is one way to do that, but you would end up getting a lot of screening conversations with the recruiters.

This happens. Okay, five out of 10 times you will get there, but, and again, from there to the interview, it's 50 percent chances. Right? So, like I explained to you in the interview people throwing jargons, use the same methodology in your initial screening conversation. Recruiter all said and done, I expect them to be more tech-savvy, but a lot of recruiters are not, okay?

For them, the understanding of whether this person can do the job or not matters the most. Can you simplify your explanation a little bit? Can you explain as though you're explaining to a five-year-old what you're actually doing? Right. If you're a business analyst, what do you do, if you're a scrum master, what do you do, if you're a full-stack developer, what do you do, what problems are you solving?

Can you simplify that? So that is one angle that will help you help you. I mean, that'll help you increase your chances of getting an interview. And also I would say don't apply for every job that has relevant skills that you have in it. Okay. So there is a lot more than the job description. Look at what kind of success stories that they have put, what kind of customer success stories that they have put, who is that they are going after.

So what are their problem statements? Have you done something similar to that in the past? Can you leave some proof of that in your profile? Let's say, for example. I am a company that is very big on BFSI. Today, a lot of service companies go after BFSI. BFSI has multiple segments in it. B2B, B2C, payments, digital payment, whatnot.

You, you want to get into this space. And you see that a lot of job descriptions that are getting posted from this company have some other aspects of digital payment mentioned in it. Okay. Can you do a bit of research? Or if you've done some work in this space, can you bring that up in your profile? Right.

Hey, I am a developer. All along my career, I've worked in banking, life science, health care, these kinds of projects, banking projects of these many. In that, I have worked on digital payments domain projects for about two years. That is on the top of my profile because that's the role that you're applying for.

Then your chances of getting through the screening process are much higher. Make the recruiter screening process a little easier. And even the hiring manager, I'll tell you, not more than 30 seconds. That's all that a person spends. Be it a hiring manager, be it a recruiter, even before they pick up the phone and call you.

Amit Singh: Would asking for references from an existing employee or like any other company help there? Does it ensure that your resume is at least seen by a recruiter? It does. 

Harsha Kumar: Okay. But again, a lot of companies have this policy, policy that doesn't prioritize based on the source, prioritize based on the competence.

Right. But if there is, there is somebody who can endorse what you've done because that person has worked with you, nothing like it. But at the same time, like I said, that will get you. An interview will not get you through. Right? So use that connection to understand, hey, I want to apply, but even before I get to a point of a conversation, I want to understand more about what your company does.

Even if you don't have answers, connect me with people who know enough about this. Maybe you're working on a project that does not need what I am looking for. Can you help me connect with people who are doing something similar to what I do? So that helps. That helps.

Amit Singh: So last one, like general, like anything that probably you've not mentioned, like any advice that you would want to give to other recruiters?

Harsha Kumar: For those who are at the very early stage of their career, who are just out of college, done their MBA, want to get into talent acquisition because it will help me get into HR. So HR is a big, big thing. Okay. So talent acquisition is much, much bigger than what you think from outside. It's not just about a few resumes matched to a few job descriptions.

There's a lot more to it. It's a multidisciplinary approach, right? It has research in it. It has analytics in it. It has an understanding of compensation and benefits in it. It has an understanding of policies, benefits of the organization in it. You need consulting and coaching skills because the leaders, the so-called leaders that you're going to work with are very focused on what they want to accomplish.

They don't understand how people management is done, how careers are built, maybe within their given space, but not as a whole. What if you are bringing in somebody whose interest is to become an architect? Become an architect, but don't want to become a people manager. But that career track can only offer people and people management roles eventually.

Then you're setting up for failure, right? How do you make sure that you consult candidates? You consult hiring managers. That's a skill in itself. So work towards this only. I'm telling you, there are only 10-15 percent of recruiters who have all this in their career in whatever span that they have. And there is a branding in it. There's marketing in it. And there's a lot of content in it, right? Unless you look at it like that, you're not going to be successful. ChatGPT is going to do a lot of your work.

Amit Singh: And like it's a very high responsibility work as well. Like you're in a way you're like Handling people's careers, you know, if one person goes through or you've done a good job of it, like you've made one person's career.

Harsha Kumar: Yeah, even for a conventional recruiter, I explained how the measures of success have changed. I'll tell you, I'll give you one more example. One of the companies that I worked with, this is against my deed. I sat with somebody, built this up, and I said, Let's not measure somebody's success just by how many hires they did, where they got from, or quality at the time of hire.

Let's measure their success after a year. Who they called as their best hire. Did it turn out to be the best employee after a year or not? Did the performance evaluation feedback match with that person's interview feedback or not? If not, then there are gaps in the system. It's a recruiter's job also. That's why I'm saying recruiters cannot just survive by matching profiles to job descriptions anymore.

Amit Singh: And do you think it is like an inbuilt knack that people have that think, okay, this person would do good for this position, or is it something that you can follow processes and just be at it more and more? It can be built.

Harsha Kumar: Okay. So, like I said, I was in an accident. I, I wanted to be in tech, decided to do HR and then HR and tech came together. I like, Why not? So I loved it, right? But may not, may not happen, right? Somebody wanted to be in HR, got into HR, then realized I got into recruitment. It's all about tech. I need to talk to people, figure out whether they're relevant or not. Every time I present a profile, they don't get to the interview. My manager calls me and then gives me a mouthful.

Then that's why I have an inclination, build an inclination, figure out, like, that's why I explained what it takes for you to be successful in recruitment. Do you have some of these in your personality? Do you have a general inclination to these things or not? If yes, get in. Otherwise, don't. 

Amit Singh: Is talent acquisition a place for introverts?

Harsha Kumar: I am a recovering introvert. Okay, but when it comes to the topic of interest, I speak a lot, right? I mean, I don't think that introverts and extroverts have anything to fear. Of course, extroverts are successful, but introverts are also equally impactful because they come with a lot of insights. They have depth. So I think both can be successful.

Amit Singh: Okay. Thank you so much. We'll now move on to our last section, which is hire or pass. Okay. Hire means they go through, pass means you discard them. So let's say this is a, like a candidate that comes to you, hire or pass, an enigmatic emailer, highly qualified candidate in the technical interview, but their communication style during email exchanges was rude and impersonal.

Should the lack of warmth in writing emails disqualify them? Or this should be a case of like a brilliant mind with less than stellar writing style and it's okay. 

Harsha Kumar: So I'll not give a yes or no answer to this. Okay, let me do a dissection of the entire problem statement, right? Imagine if you're hiring for a role, which is extremely customer-centric, okay?

Imagine a role where he's expected to navigate between departments to get to the solution. Imagine a role where he is expected to mentor a couple of people, and he has this attitude. You think he'll be successful? No. In his own interest, I'm setting him up for failure. Though he's technically exceptional, he's not able to communicate in a way that would engage people, then may not be.

That's why, but at the same time, If he could be trained and if it is a trainable skill in your matrix. So that's why I always go back to the competency matrix. Your competency matrix has defined competency attributes for the role. Lot of organizations are moving towards a competency-based approach now.

Okay. If that role has five competencies defined, okay, in that Besides technical behavioral competencies, right? Good communication, good leadership, ability to influence without authority. 

Amit Singh: Let's say it's not, like, let's say it's a very icy, isolated work, but still you're working in a company. You're not like, you're not just.

Harsha Kumar: Even then, I would say if I can train him on this skill, this is an important skill, I would still say yes, but if it's too rigid. Okay, if he's very tech-centric and wants to do only tech, his chances of success in the long run are very few in one case, I'll tell you, there are only two ways in which people grow.

Okay, either they become architects and CTOs or they become people managers and delivery leaders, eventually that I, I always assume that somebody who I hire stays for a longer period of time. If you're hiring with that assumption, are you doing right by that role may not be right. So that's why, but yes, like I said, if he's trainable, coachable. Yes. If no, then I would probably wait to see someone else.

Amit Singh: All right. Hire or pass the relentless negotiator. So a candidate impressed during the interview, but lowball the initial salary significantly, they follow up with both like counter offers each more aggressive. So while they would be a fit for this role, 

Amit Singh: But you are just put off by their lousy negotiation skills. What is like the higher a pass? 

Harsha Kumar: See, not everybody can be, again, there's no simple binary answer to this, right? Not every person comes with a package of all that you're looking for. Okay, somebody is technically exceptionally good, not good at negotiating their own comp, right? But then this happens, they eventually realize, okay, I'm worth more than this.

But as a company, you also have the responsibility of doing the right fitment, right? One of the compensation philosophies, which we had at Falabella also, this is something that I also inculcate wherever I go in future, right? Define your measures of success very well. Okay, and then identify parameters on which you're shortlisting the person and then create levels within it.

Even if you're hiring a senior engineer, beginner, intermediate, expert. Expert basically means who is at the exceptional level of competence for that role, who can probably move on to the subsequent role. If the person is evaluated technically at that level, also has other capabilities that you're looking for, to lead the team, to negotiate and all that, but not negotiating compensation, of course, then maybe it's your job to give him that salary, even if it means a 60 percent hike, 70 percent hike.

Maybe that he is asking only 30%, right? It's your job to give him that, so it becomes that much more difficult for him to go and negotiate elsewhere, first point, and also he's zapped, I've seen, I've had this experience, somebody drawing 15 lakh, I gave her a salary of 25-30 lakh, she couldn't believe, I never asked for this, no, no, this is the philosophy that we believe in.

A compensation philosophy says, if your fit is at this level, I will offer you the salary, irrespective of your pedigree, experience, current compensation, all of that. That's one way to look at it. And also, add to that, in every organization, or in every team, there are four kinds of people, right? Your person who's leading the vision, okay?

That's your leader. And then there are purple squills. Those are, these are the ideal pronouns. They come with different ways of doing things. They propel the team forward. And then you have catalysts. Or I call them glue. They keep the team together. In isolation, they may not be much. If they're in a team, the team is successful and then they're doers.

Okay, you tell them what to do. They just do it. No thinking. You need all of them depending on what maturity stage the organization is or your team is. The composition of this very high-performing team will have these three categories in more. In more numbers, and the more process-driven, already settled, high-end of the scale, those companies will have all four I mean, maybe the last one in a higher combination, first three in a few numbers, right?

So we'll see. Cool. It doesn't, what it means is if you're shortlisting somebody for these three categories, if the negotiation didn't go well in the initial phase, and if they come back asking for more later stage, if you've seen this, these strides in them, pay them more. It's good for you. 

Amit Singh: But what about the candidate?

Like, for example, if I'm a job seeker, I'm going to an interview, should I be shameless and ask for more? Like, should I negotiate more or should I not? I'm telling you. 

Harsha Kumar: If you have done your analysis, right? If you know what you're worth, even if it means sometimes what happens is somebody is at a very low end of the salary asking for a hundred percent feels like can I?

They'll think thrice. In fact, not twice, think thrice should I? The ask is 20 lakh, they end up asking 15 lakh and only to figure out they landed other offers. Based on the offer that they have in hand, which is much better. If in the first place you had asked for 20, What would have happened? Worst case, the recruiter would have asked, why 100 percent hike?

Hey, I've stayed with this company for 5 years. These are my accomplishments. This is what I've added. Show the promise. Then the prize will come. Okay. 

Amit Singh: Hire or pass, the gap year traveler. So, like a highly qualified candidate, who can take a year off either for a mental break or travel the world or anything else. But it leaves a gap in their resume, which is like one year, which is not insignificant.

One year is a lot of time. So the world moves faster. So that the skills, while like skill, let's say the skills have not diminished, it's still the same, but they have a gap in the resume, which is for like a non-medical or those legitimate reasons as I can say, which is like luxury that they have taken a year for travel.

Is that hire or pass? 

Harsha Kumar: In my personal opinion, it is always a hire. Okay, a gap year adds so much more value to your personality, your career also, because people come rejuvenated after a one-week break. Imagine a one-year break. What people fail to do is explain that gap effectively, right? Tell me how you used this one year?

What did you do in this one year? How did it help you as an individual? Okay. And what is your pursuit, right? If in your life, there is a pursuit and everything is contributing towards that pursuit. How did it help in your pursuit, right? That's all that you need to do, right? There are people who took a break, tried their own product, weren't successful, and decided to come back to corporate.

There are people who wanted to travel the world, hectic corporate schedule, could never travel. Traveled extensively. Learned so much about different cultures. I explained to you the scenario. A lot of global GCCs are coming to India. Like that of Falabella. Yeah. The culture is so different. Spanish-speaking people.

If you've traveled to South America, if you've learned how that culture operates, so much more value add. If you've traveled to Japan, if you're working in a Japanese GCC in India, so much more value add. Why not? Explain it to the advantage of the company, and of course, then you're successful.

Otherwise, like I said, More often, your inability to explain that gap effectively is the concern. 

Amit Singh: So that's a strong hire. Yeah. All right. Hire or pass unrealistic rockstar. So a candidate with exceptional talent demands a significantly higher salary. And like Dan, what was in your sort of mind or if it was the hiring manager's mind or that sort of allows for a flexible schedule along with this. So basically a rockstar, which wants higher salary, flexible schedule that doesn't align with company norms. Would you go as far as bending the rules for such a talent?

Harsha Kumar: See, it depends on what kind of company you are. Okay. So, there again, there's no yes or no answer, right? If you are more of an outcome-driven company. Okay. First of all, as a philosophy, every company should adopt a policy of disproportionate rewards.

Reward. What exactly is that? Disproportionate reward basically means somebody adding exceptionally more value than the rest of them. And. If there is no disproportionate pay or benefits to him, what is the motivation? So in corporate, they call performance punishment, right? Those who are doing well get a lot more work to their table, but not much growth, not much money.

I always believe this. Okay. In this essence, there is no equality. Okay. You should make sure that people who are adding more value, substantially more value, are paid better. That's from a money standpoint. Okay. And today anyways, the word is changing as far as flexibility and those things are concerned, but again, some companies are rigid.

Okay. We can't make it a policy. This basically means we are not treating everybody equally. You don't have to treat everybody equally. Because if that person can bring 10x more value to that role and can attract 10 more customers to you, who cares where he works from, right? So, but at the same time, so at the cost of what, right?

If you are explaining this to everybody, hey, these are the behaviors we want to promote in the company. If you want to enjoy all this, become this level, create this level of value, right? Then everybody can enjoy that right, bending some rules once in a while for somebody who can. 

Amit Singh: But what if their role doesn't allow for that?

Harsha Kumar: It always happens. It always happens. Like I said but again, It's always in the hands of leadership, right? How much of an exception you make and how well you explain that exception. What people fail to do is they make an exception they don't explain, right? Then what happens over a period of time is people think that they are biased.

This decision was biased just because she had some pedigree in the profile. They ended up giving a lot of benefits and this is not right. And then there is no support for that person over a period of time. That person starts to get isolated, right? But if you are able to explain, Hey. This is why we have hired.

This is the kind of people that we want in our team. There is so much to learn for you all from this person, and I'm able to explain the exception. I can make this exception for you as well, provided you make a strong case. Every company has rules, but makes exceptions. Trust me, 1%, 2%, whatever is the perception percentage, they all make exceptions.

Amit Singh: So it's higher, but trust me. Extreme. Yeah. More articulate communication. 

Harsha Kumar: Yeah. 

Amit Singh: Yeah. All right. So this was great. Thank you so much, Harsha. We'll end with a one like parting note, which is like one advice you would like to give to job applicants. Which people would not expect coming from like an HR professional or a talent acquisition professional.

Harsha Kumar: I think we discussed a little bit of this earlier as well, right? So, no HR manager is happy when people ask for more money because you have to bust your grades, hire compensation, you have to take so many approvals, nobody hates it. Nobody likes it. No HR manager likes it. But I would still say, ask for more money, okay?

But, show the promise. When you show promise, the prize is not a challenge. What happens more often is you are failing to explain why you deserve that kind of money. One is afferent and also you have to prove it over a period of time. Because one failure would mean the next time, HR manager not making any exception for the rest of the candidates.

Amit Singh: Oh, so you have responsibility to society as well.

Harsha Kumar: So yeah. 

Amit Singh: All right. Okay. So you heard it. Ask for more money. Be shameless, develop your proof of work, and then feel like, don't hesitate to show it as well in your resume. Don't expect that it would come up during the further interviews. And only when asked, I'll actually show that I've actually done something similar.

Thank you so much, Harsha. It was a pleasure having you. Thank you so much for sharing all your insights and being so free with it. Thank you. Thank you. Are you looking for a job? You can 8x your chances of getting one by using Weekday. How 8x? By doubling the chances on three fronts. Referrals. Customizing your resume and applying to double the jobs.

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