Job Applicants Must Have Clear Understanding of The Role They Are Applying for and Prepare Accordingly

Louis Jesuraja V is associated with VA TECH WABAG as Deputy General Manager – HR, where he manages Talent Acquisition Actions for India Cluster (India, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand & Philippines). Prior to his joining at Wabag, he had founded his own company ‘You Inspired Me’ where he was engaging himself in entire gamut of HR Consulting Services Actions related to Salary Benchmarking, Head Hunting, Training & Coaching Leadership OD & Change Management Initiatives. He is an International Certified Trainer, trained by World’s Best Sales Trainer – Blair Singer. He is also a certified OD Professional from IOD, USA & IIOD, India. He had also worked with KONE – India Technology & Engineering Centre (Global R&D) as HR Manager where he successfully reduced attrition for 3 successive years and Achieved War for Talent Award. Under his leadership, his team won the Best Employee Engagement Contribution Award in 2016. Being a certified 360 degree assessment coach, he had coached leadership team and paved way for succession planning at organizational level. He had developed young and high potential talents and was instrumental in building performance culture across the organizations.

Louis embarked his career with Hanil Lear India as Management Trainee (Recruitment, Training and Development, HR Administration) and gradually moved to his current position. During the journey, he bagged several awards such as Best Asia HR Award for Chennai, India Team; Double Promotion for Excellent Performance in supporting Business; Best Employee Engagement Actions – Topping EE Score at Global Level, etc.

Thank you, Louis, for giving your valuable time to this interview. 

We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview. 

My Department Head, Dr. Udayamahadevan (late) had an exceptional and an amazing habit of helping anybody and everybody in need. Once she got a call from the company asking for freshers and she made me attend, just to experience an interview. To my surprise, I got the offer. The interview process was simple. They filtered the candidates based on academic marks at the first level. Then at the second level, I was asked questions related to Labour Laws, since the company was an Automobile company. And, I was selected. Since I was intending to attend the interview just to learn, I had no fear and had good confidence. The only question that I prepared to answer was the famous question, “Tell me about yourself?”. The overall experience of my first job interview was exciting and at the same time, had butterflies in my stomach.

Which, according to you was the most intriguing interview? Can you share your experience in detail? 

I believe, in all the interviews, the only question that is really difficult to answer is “why are you looking for a change”? It is difficult to answer, because, in the first half of the interview, I proudly start narrating my achievements, recognitions, awards that I got from the current company and then comes “why do you look for change?”. I find it difficult because one can’t predict how the answer will be perceived by the interviewer. However, I feel that my honest and candid reply to some of the questions made me successful.

To be successful in the interview, these are the simple steps that I followed which I want to share:

First of all, get clarity with regard to the job description. If that is not challenging do not compromise. You will only add years to your life, rather than adding life to your years.

Secondly, please focus on the job specification. If your experience is 15 years, do not apply for a job ad which looks for 5 -15 years’ experience candidate. This means that the company does not value your experience.

Third, if you are HR Professional with Masters’ Degree in HR and if the company is OK for any degree, then do not apply. The company may not value you and your job.

Fourthly, if the position has an XX salary budget, do not apply for a lesser salary than your current salary. Unless it is for family or health reasons or if it is for your dream job/company that you are willing to compromise for the greater interest.

Except for the four points mentioned above, be Flexible for anything and everything. Flexibility, adaptability is a skill of the future.

Interview Calls -

When you get a call from the recruiter, be polite and humble even if the recruiter is a less experienced person. His feedback is critical to take your profile to the next level. Even if you are not called for the interview, the way you interacted with him will strengthen your HR network.

Even when you are not selected, professionally get connected with the person. It will boost your professional network.

For all interviews, do the research about the company, connect to the employees working in the company via social networks, review about the company and prepare well and present on what you can bring to the table qualitatively and quantitatively.

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 about your job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectation? 

My experience at my first job was fantastic! I enjoyed my role to the core along with an inspiring leader and a well-knit team. I was given great exposure to all areas of HR. Even after 15 years, we are still connected, although we have moved to different organizations. As a fresher, my only job was to work. I spent long hours at work and learned a lot. Even though my salary was very low, my job & my team was very motivating. There is always a myth that seniors will not teach juniors. When you have a passion to learn, when the seniors see your passion, they will support you. We always carry a myth that office work is tough and hard to grow. The truth is when you have an excellent team, emotionally connected with clear roles, the workplace becomes a family, a heaven.

Another important lesson that I learned as a fresher is “take whatever comes your way. Don’t be choosy in the early part of career”. I was given recruitment initially, then coordinating Training & development, Logistics, Canteen, Welfare related roles, etc. “Learn everything and anything.

My Manager knew how to motivate a trainee and he also knew how to motivate an experienced person. He knew how to take the team together with him. We were like family friends. Going to the office was just fun. We learned a lot and had a great time.

Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience? 

The need for a workplace mentor and coach is pivotal for a fresh graduate. I am blessed in that way to have my manager who played an excellent role in developing me professionally. I am connected with him and get guidance from him even today. So much so, I send special wishes to him every year and to all my managers on ‘Teachers Day’, thanking them for all the learnings they provided.

What kind of soft skills does a fresh graduate need to get a career break and to be successful at the beginning of their career?

As a fresh graduate, the topmost skill s/he should possess is the skill of positive attitude, self-confidence and the ability to communicate. When I say communication, it is not English or any language skill. If the receiver is able to understand what is being told, then the communication is good. Another important factor in communication skills is Body Language. If you are able to master the body language, ‘sky is the limit’ to grow.

In the corporate world, people have been using “Coaching” and “Mentoring” interchangeably. It is creating confusion. Please help us understand the similarities and differences between Coaching and Mentoring. When do we coach an individual and when do we mentor an individual?

Yes. I fully agree. The meaning of coaching and mentoring is interchanged. Coaching focusses on task or performance. Mentoring focusses on building capability.

Coaching focusses on development/issues at work. Mentoring focuses on career and personal development.

Coaching focusses on specific/immediate goals. However, in Mentoring the agenda is set by Mentee with a mentor to support and guide on future roles.

Share an experience wherein in your training session you had to deal with a difficult person and how did you handle the situation?

I have not faced such a situation as a trainer. My unique and exceptional delivery methods keep all my participants fully engaged. When I had handled training for the Senior Leadership team for one of the automotive companies, all the participants were senior to me in the position, age, and experience. The MD of the company too was a participant. At the end of the session, when he was giving the vote of thanks, he was all in praise for such a wonderful session.

What are the critical traits of a successful L&D Expert?

  1. Expertise in Body Language,
  2. High Impact Presentation Skills,
  3. Powerful Communication skills,
  4. Strong Business Acumen,
  5. Result Driven, and
  6. Innovative.

We hear this statement, “Participants leave their training learning’s in the training room and return to their routine after resuming their work (particularly in cases of behavioural or soft-skill training). What is your take on this? How do you ensure that the training is effective for the employee?

Yes. It is true. People forget what was taught within a couple of days. If you want the training to be effective, all training should be goal specific and ask this question, “what is the expected result of this training?” If the organization is clear on this, it will invest in people wisely. Secondly, in order to bring effectiveness on training, especially in soft skills or behavioural training, we need to apply the Neuro Associative Conditioning Model to bring changes in the behaviour of people. When you bring changes in behaviour, it will last long. Any behaviour repeatedly done, becomes a habit. If high performance becomes a habit, the results are amazing with no effort. Habits die hard!

Please share an experience when you acted under pressure from your management or reporting manager even though you knew it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done? 

Experiencing the pressure from the management and reporting manager actually moulds you to become strong professionally. Although it is not as easy as I say.  Once, when I asked the Functional Heads about the training plan for their team, they, in turn, asked me for the list of training available. I was a bit surprised. There was pressure from the management to close the Training Calendar on time but, the Functional Heads said they didn’t get the list of training from HR. I was persistent to say that the training need has to come from the Functional Heads to deliver the business results of current projects and developmental need for upcoming/future projects. My reporting manager was also pressurizing me to close it by sharing the list of training. But I didn’t deter. Eventually, I had a discussion with the Functional Manager and started taking the Performance Data of his team and started preparing the training need. When we had completed the laundry list of training needs from various sources, the cost of training was drastically reduced from 2 Crores/year to 75 Lakhs. We started optimally utilizing internal trainers for some of the technical trainings.

Can you pick a training session which you consider is the most successful? Please share in detail the noticeable improvements in the person’s/team knowledge or skill post-training session.

I had taken training on “Creating a Positive Work Culture” to Team Leaders & Supervisors of a Manufacturing Company. The participants were given lots of activities experiential learning. Post-training, the participants ceremoniously started following some of the learnings in their workplace.  E.g. Appreciating team members every day on something they did, even though it was a routine activity. The behaviour and attitude and the entire environment in the company changed. The HR Manager called me and asked me, “what did you tell these participants?”, They started creating wonderful environment, wishing people and appreciating them. The impact of training was so good that they created a WhatsApp group and shared lots of information and knowledge on creating a positive workplace.

People often assume “Training = Conducting a Training Session or a Workshop”. Training is also considered as a career option for an “extrovert and outspoken people”. Please share with us various career options within the preamble of “Learning & Development”.

In most of the companies, with few exceptions, L& D person is looked at as a person to coordinate training with the internal and external stakeholders, getting the logistic arrangements on the venue, sending an invitation, filling the attendance sheet, collecting the training forms and reporting to the management on training for the month/quarter, etc. I think that there is more to training than just what is mentioned above. Lots of L& D professionals have started breaking their shells and have begun to have an impactful and meaningful career in Training apart from their corporate career. If you research trainers in the market, you will witness that people who have the innate habit of networking, building relationship with people and who are passionate in delivering speeches, who are good in communicating are all doing a great job in the market. Becoming a part of many professional forums has widened the scope and opportunities for L& D Experts. OD is another key vertical in L&D. If someone can learn on OD skills, it will not only be a boon to his/her career but to the business overall. Coaching Industry is another business opportunity for L& D experts to reach to the masses within a short span of time.

According to you, what are the key skills and competencies of successful and effective MANAGERS?

Readers are Leaders. To be successful and effective, the manager should have the exceptional skill to communicate, motivate, develop talents and be emotionally intelligent. I suggest that all managers should read the book “What got you here, won’t get you there” by Marshall Goldsmith.

HR is at the crossroads, yet again. According to you, what will be the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robots, etc. on the future of HR Function? Please also highlight how social media has changed the world of HR practitioners? 

AI, Robots, Big Data, Machine Learning, etc. has become the hot acronyms used in the corporate world. It has started creating an impact not only in HR but across the spectrum in Business. HR needs to embrace these changes to strengthen the HR Function in managing Zen XYZ employees. Although we are speaking more on social media impact in the HR world, the growth is still slow as there is no pressing need for certain industries. But there is a steady increase in its usage and impact.

Last question, what is your message for young and aspiring HR practitioners? What kind of growth opportunities should they look forward to? And, what key competencies one must possess to be successful in this profession?    

“What you think, you become; What you feel, you attract; What you imagine, you create”.

If you have the desire to become an HR professional, take whatever it takes to be the best. I suggest that all aspiring HR Practitioners to read the book “Human Resource Champions” by Dave Ulrich. In order to be successful, be happy and celebrate life and make learning a fun.

Thank you very much for sharing a wonderful insight. 

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