In work relations, TRUST is the most IMPORTANT yet HARDEST to gain component.
Ebru Barin, who was born in Istanbul, Turkey, graduated from Uskudar American Academy and then studied Economics at Sabanci University. Followed by her Bachelor’s Degree, she worked in Beymen Magazacilik, first as Assistant Specialist, then as Assistant Merchandiser for 2.5 years. Later she studied International Management in Esade Business School, Barcelona, and came back to Turkey in 2010. As she took HR courses during her master's study and was very intrigued, Ebru chose the HR industry for her next career stop.
She has been a part of BKE Consulting for 10 years as a Search & Selection Consultant, established Barin Consultancy, a strategic human resources services company, with her mother, Aysun Barin, in 2019, and has been carrying the Global Coordinator role in Avvartes since June 2019. She has completed ORSC (organization and relationships system coaching) program by CRR Global and is passionate about future-fit organizational and personal development for a fairer, more ethical, humanistic and affluent world.
Thank you, Ebru, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.
We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview.
My first job interview was in 2002, while I was a senior at my university. The interview was at the company I had my internship on merchandising imported women goods the summer before. After I completed with my internship, the company called to inform me about an imported men goods merchandising position opening in another unit. Since I had already met the first-line Manager, I had my interview with his Manager, Merchandising and Buying Director. I remember being quite excited and nervous, the Director always seemed intimidating, but I focused on my success as an intern there and my strong educational background. As the Director already knew about me, he asked questions about my social life, such as how I liked spending my free time, places I enjoyed going and have lunch/dinner, and what I cared about the most in interpersonal relationships. It turned out to be an entertaining interview, especially when we found out things in common. It was a very valuable experience for my professional life as I then
understood the importance of creating a safe and relaxing ground for people to open up themselves.
As the first job holds a special memory, let’s discuss your first year at your first job. How was your experience? What were your expectations of your employer and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What did not coincide with your expectations?
During almost 3 years in my first job, I was always an over-achiever, starting from my first year. I was energetic,
able to communicate with every employee with different statuses and backgrounds (from Managers to people in the warehouse), and aware of my responsibilities. I could say my tenacity worked very well for me. My Manager was responsible for both Merchandising and Buying, and as the sole Buyer, he would travel most of the time. However, during the short periods he was at the office, he would train me about fabrics, processes, styles, and trends. Even when he was away, I could call him any hour if I got stuck with a work problem, so I did, especially regarding the pricing of the goods. Thus, even though he was not there with me all the time, he actually was. Your first Manager shapes your professional life and I was incredibly lucky in that sense.
It was not easy all the time though. I had a peer more senior than I was who had issues with our first line Manager. I have to admit I faced difficult times as my peer would reflect her frustration towards our Manager to me, even if she did not mean to. I am
not a person who likes to talk about and focus on problems if I cannot do anything about the solution, so I was trying to keep things inside. However, again thanks to my luck, a senior employee from another department who reported to my Manager and was also very hard-working and had good relations with him, would check in with me from time to time. It was very comforting to know there were people who cared about me.
I also witnessed mismanagement in the company in other departments. It was painful to see my friends struggle with their Managers. I would listen to them and help them with their work when our responsibilities overlapped. I could see these would ease them into their daily responsibilities but without open communication, their problems never went away.
So, overall, I would say I had a very enriching first job experience in that I would change nothing.
Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience?
I was never appointed a mentor or coach in my first job. However, as I mentioned earlier, my Manager and senior employee from a different department were actually my mentors. The training my Manager gave me was not a company policy; he did them for my personal growth. After my first year, my peer who had issues with the Manager, left the company so there I was, a 23-year-old, responsible for millions of Euros of goods’ payments, dispatching, transportation, pricing, relationships over 10 stores, alone. At this point, I would like to remind
the power of good management and the importance of helping peers for empowerment, motivation, and success. I could not have succeeded in what I have without my Manager and the senior employee who were there for me.
What motivated you to choose HR as a profession?
After my Master’s, I came back to Turkey and directly started to work with my mother, Aysun Bar?n, who had a 31-year experience in different departments in IBM. She had joined the company as a technical engineer and left as the Human Resources Manager, after carrying this role for 10 years. As she established her company with 2 others former IBMers, General Manager and Sales Director, I joined them. It happened very quickly, without me having time to think about it, but
I believe HR is the purpose of my life as I am a strong believer of integrity, ethics, humanity, and fairness, where I can pursue my passion of helping others for personal and welfare growth.
What are the primary challenges you face while assisting your clients in recruiting or hiring employees for leadership and technology roles?
One of the areas I struggled with was the difficulty to make my voice heard by clients due to my age. As an over-achiever in my first job, it really hit me hard when people would listen to and agree with my mother, even if she said the same thing I did just a couple of minutes before and was questioned negatively. It hurt my ego and self-confidence. After some time, I realized that there was nothing I could do about my age and focused on what was important,
the success of our projects, and the growth of the clients. At that point, I talked to my mother and we decided to reflect my ideas over her. This resulted in me regaining my self-confidence as client satisfaction grew.
Another thing I struggled with was learning to work with my mother. She is a baby boomer with extremely strict work-life policies, where I am a member of Y-Generation. From dress codes to working hours, we had many problems for 3 years. However, since we had set our minds on working together, both of us converged from our standing points and met in the middle. She learned the new generation with me, and I cherished her long experience of professional life. It is a beneficial partnership for both of us. Now we have two local companies in HR and a partnership with a global HR organization, Avvartes.
As the saying goes,” You have 8.8 seconds to impress with your CV”. You might have come across tens of thousands of resumes in your career. What, in your view, does a recruiter evaluate in a resume in those 8.8 seconds and decides to accept or reject it? Please elaborate.
I am a very
spot-on Search and Selection consultant; I try to work very efficiently and take as little time as I can of the clients regarding candidate interviews, so I do not prepare long lists. Before doing searches and interviews, I always meet with clients and understand their needs about the position, where this position could go, expected skills, current relevant organizational charts and key people, where the organization wants to go, and the current culture. Then I look up for the key people and try to imagine the best fit. I come up with keywords and only after these, I do my research. The format is definitely important, but I am keen on the content. I cannot give a specific time, but this is the process I go through.
What are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback to candidates?
When the news is good, I could say, I have not faced any challenges. When the news is not that good, one has to acknowledge that
nobody wants to hear bad news, especially due to their shortcomings. Especially for candidates who are looking for a job and in need, they can easily display anger and frustration. One has to approach these kinds of candidates very smoothly and calmly, reminding their already-established successes and being very open for what has not worked for the client.
Please share an experience when your values and beliefs impacted your relationships with your colleagues.
My humanistic, caring, solution-oriented, win-win, fairness approach with my hard-working nature has been helping me a lot in my professional life. As an example, in my first job, I could ask anyone in the company to do something to move my processes further, from Accounting to Distribution and they would willingly do it. While I was open about myself and my struggles, they could see themselves the way I worked, and these brought me
respect and compassion from others.
Share your experience of working with the most challenging client. What was the most difficult thing about that relationship from your perspective, and how did you manage it?
One client has taught us
the importance of making the decision to quit if one sees no added value for the customer.
It was a company established by one person, who was still the CEO. Generally, we work with clients with whom we share
common values and beliefs, and we thought this was the case at the beginning. As we moved along, we realized that this was not the case at all. Still, we did not give up, we had to keep our promise and commitments to the client, having CFO, Sales Director and Human Resources Manager’s full support, while the CEO changed the organizational chart and laid-off employees without consulting and informing the leadership team, HR and us as the consultants. We would still adapt ourselves to the changes and start from scratch in some areas during this period. We had conversations with the CEO, tried to understand the reasons for the decisions he made, but never received a proper response more than ‘’I can do what I want’’. After we were done with what we had promised to do, we informed the client not to move forward with a new project with them. One cannot help every client. At that point, it is better to excuse yourself and spend energy on others who can benefit from you more.
How would you deal with frequent changes at work? For example, if stakeholders were indecisive about a project’s requirements or if he keeps changing expectations, or if new members joined your team.
As mentioned above, I believe there are deeper and sometimes different reasons for not taking or taking spontaneous actions. I believe
the first step of every project is to communicate openly about the expectations, understand what the top management really needs, meet with Managers, and listen to them, and explain where and how you can support them. If what they need is not something you can offer, say so and help them find a new partner. Most of the time, during stable times, changes made along the way are signals of the distress of the top management regarding the point they said they want to reach but not fully embraced. Listen to them, over and over, understand their hesitations and feelings. Show you understand and create a logical and effective action plan together. After that, keep them informed at every step of the project, ask for their approval. Trust is the most important yet hardest to gain in business life. If you establish trust, you will be an effective partner in every stage of the change process.
What kind of behavior makes you angry/annoyed?
I would say
dishonesty and focusing only on the problems. I am an open communicator and solution-oriented person and would expect others to be so in order to co-create something stronger and better for employees and the organization for the future. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to do with dishonesty but for the people who cannot move beyond the problem, you can let them vent for a while and ask their ideas for the solution.
Moreover, there are the inevitable four horsemen of the apocalypse of relationships (Attack, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling).
Not everyone is open to change, for different reasons, and these are typical behaviors you would see in those people. At that point, I always stop and try to understand the deeper reason for their behavior; is it incapability, disbelief, tiredness, fear of losing power/status…? According to the situation, I approach them in different ways to make them move from their status-quos.
Please share an experience when a person's cultural background affected your approach to a work situation?
While working in my first job, I was in touch with many international people, specifically with one country with a more laid-back professional style. As an energetic 22-year-old, I would call them often for good dispatching or documentation if they have not replied to my e-mails after one day. While gaining respect for my enthusiasm about my responsibilities and follow-up, in my second year, I heard from my Manager that two of the very big suppliers asked him to tell me not to call them as often J. From then on, I “eased” my eager communication to give them more time before making any calls. It is important to understand that your point of contact is not the sole solution for every request and might not be able to speed up the processes to meet your expectations.
Ways of doing business are different in every part of the world. Never forget about the cultural effect on professional life.
Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?
I advise the new graduates to see the significance of every position in a company, from top to bottom, treat everyone with respect and check-in with them even if you do not have to ask them anything, remembering they are human beings with professional and personal challenges. Human Resources have structures/policies/practices as every other business line does, but one should never forget
the core of HR is human.
Thank you, Ebru, for sharing wonderful insight. You are an inspiration for many HR aspirants.