Businesses are now wanting to look at Talent Acquisition as a consulting function

Aarti Jalpota is a Talent Acquisition professional with over 14 years of experience & expertise in Building/Re-Engineering processes, Designing Customized Solutions to solve business problems and Driving Outcome-Based Interventions, with cost and profit centers (KPO & BPO). Healthcare, CPMG, Travel, Hospitality, LPO, Insurance, Industrial, and Telecom are few of the industries that she has been associated with while understanding and delivering their manpower requirement (Support, Ops, IT, Analytics, Investment Banking, and more). With a progressive bend of mind, Aarti has not only introduced various Industry best practices, but also established new trends across assignments that she has been associated with. Video JD’s, Engagement and Experience framework are some of her recent additions to those initiatives. Intrigued with how Candidates and Employee's experience affects the overall "Happy Score" and "Productivity" of the organization, Aarti took up an expanded role of building the "Experience" for all New Hires and Joiners within the organization across levels.

"Execution Excellence" and Challenging Status Quo, is what Aarti believes in.

A Post Graduate HR from University of Westminster, Aarti is currently associated with [24]7 as Director HR. Her prior exposures include Northern Trust Corporation as Senior Consultant TL - 2nd Vice President; Blueocean Market Intelligence as AVP HR; HSBC as AVP – Recruitment; Genpact as Senior Manager- Hiring; Exl Service Pvt Ltd as AM; Progeon as Executive; and AOL as Executive Hiring.

Thank you, Aarti Jalpota, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.

Let’s start.

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 didn’t coincide with your expectations?

My Interview experience was quite different from my onboarding experience. My buddy was my “Survival Kit” for the first 3 months. My experience pertaining to organizations culture, value, and Inclusiveness made my transition from the college environment to corporate smooth and seamless.

Before I was assigned my first real project, I was asked to shadow my senior for a couple of weeks and learn multiple things hands-on. The first 3 months were mostly about learning and understanding the culture, environment, work, systems, processes, and more.

The first time I was mapped to a real-time project, I was overjoyed and gradually I grew a sense of fulfilment and responsibility that made me realize how happy I was in my chosen career path. 

I was fortunate enough to have a manager who was transparent, supportive, had a strong sense of Inclusiveness and values apart from being my guiding star. Having the right intent to develop people while they make mistakes was something I learned from my manager. I walked away with some great knowledge and awareness – be bold and make mistakes, learn to look at situations holistically, have the courage to take risks and create!

Often the Fresh HR Graduates tell me that they would like to work in the core-HR and show less interest in the recruitment domain. What do you think could be the reason to disfavour recruitments? Why did you choose recruitment as a career?

Historically, Recruitment as a function is perceived to deal with numbers and delivery, which tends more towards “Marketing” function and hence is slightly different from core HR values and principles. With changing times, the scope of Recruitment as a function has progressed, which now is a culmination of Experience Design, Brand equity, Market Intelligence and Delivery

Recruitment moved to be called “Hiring” and then “Talent Acquisition” over the last 4 decades. Usage of different terminologies over a period of time indicate that this function has moved from being perceived just a number delivery function to a Business Consulting Function, which is seeking business clarity when new roles are being designed, which is continuously building business relation with prospective candidates and employees who are new additions to the family to bridge their expectations and provide a seamless transition into the new role.

Talent acquisition now is being looked at as the custodian to building Employer Brand, Empowering Internal and External stakeholder experience, a Market Intel Function who is hunting for business information to stay ahead of competition and leverage Technology not only to predict the hunting market but also to predict the success of a candidate in a role they are being hired for.

This function has eventually moved to integrate with core people practices.

One needs to help fresh graduates/postgraduates in understanding the scope of this function.

From profile sourcing to the issuance of the final offer letter, organizations put candidates through multiple filtration processes. What is your take on using “relevant industry experience” and “excellent academic record (first-class and above)” as filtration tools?

Gaining Insight and having a complete view of any prospective applicants Character, Value system, Thought process orientation, Behaviours, and the probability of fitment for a role is a tough job. Their Academic Scores are only Indicators and Experience in years is only a number. In most cases, multiple discussions with candidates benefit in understanding their thought process, approach to different situations, appetite to lead, and deliver in a challenging and volatile environment. Technology has enhanced TA functions capability and ability in addressing these. Technology has the opportunity to give a 360-degree view of a candidate and also predict their success in a given role. Assessments become a critical part of the entire process (psychometric, behavioral, etc.) and help in identifying an individual’s drivers, motivators, and destructors.

Typically, experience is defined as knowledge gained, retained, and used during one’s entire work years. The supplementary number of years of experience doesn’t qualify for a role in itself.

It is worth mentioning that education will unquestionably help you develop a specific way of thinking, Post that, it is your experience that adds to continuous learning and growing.

What aspects of recruitment do you find most challenging? What is the role of education (being an MBA) in becoming a successful recruiter or a headhunter?

“Intent” is what drives excellence.  Finding candidates as per the supposed requirement is relatively easy but getting a contender to fit in with the “unstated” expectation is the difficult part of the game.

Talent Acquisition personnel has to view a role not from a “recruiter’s” perspective, who is focussed on closing the role but as a “Consultant” who guides the hiring manager to get appropriate candidates for the role.   

Talent Acquisition personnel should essentially have extensive knowledge of –

  • External Market – TA personnel’s prerequisite is to be well connected in the market to have a view on where the targeted audience sits and develop a connect with them to have a pool to reach out to any given point of time  
  • Stakeholders: One must know the pulse to understand the actual requirement of stakeholders. Bridging the gap between themselves and stakeholders is key in achieving great results in this case.
  • Technology:  Essential for any Talent Acquisition professional not only to function, but also to empower the function with ammunition like social listening and crawling (enabling to source and identify appropriate applicants with much lesser time), automated scheduling and logistics ( seamless flow of the process), AI-enabled insight’s (quality reporting and root cause identification for process efficiency) and more….
  • Engagement framework: “HUMANS” are the biggest “ASSETS” and understanding them opens up a window of long-lasting professional experiences. With people at the center of any strategy, experience and engagement design becomes obvious and important. Bi product of the design and strategy is then seen in core metrics like offer drop, early attrition, and happiness quotient of the candidate/employee.

An efficient and impactful TA personnel must understand Business, Client (Internal & external), Resource Pool (Internal & external), Delivery Capacity to guide the business through different requirements that may come along.

According to you, what are the FIVE critical traits of a successful Recruiter/Headhunter?

  • Business Orientation: Working and Design of a business, Impact of delivery and Execution Excellence (process and operations efficiency)
  • Developing a hunting mindset: Proactively hunt and engage candidates to build a strong connect with them.
  • Stakeholder management: A strong connect with stakeholders to understand the ask helps in showcasing a palate of relevant candidates and reduces time to hire.
  • Evolving mindset: Challenging the status quo, and keeping pace with the latest technology trends such as AI-enabled platforms designed for predicting target audience & success rate of a particular profile for the role it is being evaluated for, getting a 360 view of any candidate and more.
  • Adaptability: Only a progressive mindset will be agile enough to adapt to the environmental changes and envision the shape of a function in the next century.

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

Absolutely! I strongly believe mentors and coaches have a significant role to play in integrating new hires into the dynamics of an organization. Mentors and coaches play a crucial role in strengthening the morale, skills, and portfolios of employees. They have a unique gift of understanding you and finding the best appropriate way to communicate with you and influence you.

My Mentor has played various roles not only in my professional but in my personal life as well by changing my outlook and helping me see through situations and people.

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.

Not sure where we got those numbers from. But each profile is different, and one needs to dedicate equal time to all profiles they review. However, with experience Trained Eyes can identify the worth a profile carries.

  • Good summarised Experience Journey
  • A clear view of accomplishments
  • Overview of various assignments managed
  • Usage of Language to communicate and indicate thought flow

Don’t fake it till you make it. Wait till you actually make it. There are no shortcuts. 

What are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback to candidates?

Providing feedback is one of the fundamental pillars of the function.

However, more often recruiters SHY away from this, as they might have been taught to do so or may not have understood the importance of closing the loop.

In both the scenarios the organization's brand and candidate experience takes a hit. Giving feedback is essential, but more important than that is how one delivers it. One needs to look at delivering constructive feedback which will help the candidate build on and have a better opportunity at her/his next discussion.

“Candidates not reaching the interview venue” (making numerous stories) and “Candidate not showing up on the day of joining” are two most painful experiences for a recruitment team. What is your take on this? How do recruiters differentiate between a “real reason” and “a fake story”?

One needs to understand the requirement of the candidate, their motivators, and the need for exploring the market, which will empower the recruiter to have a better understanding of the fitment.

 Force fitting candidates to meet numbers is probably not the best strategy, as this will lead to Drop in Offer Acceptance and Interview Drops. Candidates who are not convincing and don’t exhibit the important fillers indicating that they are interested either in the organization, or the role should not be moved ahead in the process. Force fitting candidates will consume time not only of the recruiter but also of the business leaving a sour taste at both ends.

Setting the right expectations with the candidates in the first call will ensure that there is no gap in understanding and the mutual contract gets agreed upon between the recruiter and the candidate.

Recruiter is viewed as a bridge between the organization and their dream job.

What is your take on the importance of “employment stability” in hiring decisions? Why is it necessary to assess the stability of candidates in previous jobs?

Employment stability is important and needs to be kept in mind while taking any Hiring Decision. However, one cannot look at it in a standalone space. There are multiple external and internal factors that contribute to shorter stints in employment, which every recruiter must investigate at length and not take at face value

Potential job-hoppers who move around every often without having any strong logical reasons must be identified by the recruitment personnel. An extremely unstable career pattern is an indicator of poor commitment and lack of clear goals, which does not work in any organization's favor.  

Recruiters must put in their energy to understand career shifts, identify patterns and trends, basis which they should take a call on further course of action. Typecasting and branding candidates with a closed mindset might cost loss of a good resource for the organization.  

What are your thoughts about Talent Shortage? What are a few practical tips you want to give to CEOs and Hiring Managers to manage the challenge of Talent Shortage?

Talent shortage is nothing new - it has been there in the past, it is experienced in today’s set up and will remain so in the future as well.

Organizations' clarity of vision and roadmap can help in developing a detailed bouquet of skills required in due course of time. Once the required skills are identified, aligning Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, and Talent Retention strategy can be bought into play. This is a planned, structured way of ensuring the organization has the best talent at any given point of time to create their competitive edge.

Any reactive action on Talent demand will be met with Talent Shortage, Expensive Resource Pool, and Poor Quality of the available resource pool.

Alignment with the Organisation’s objective and vision along with Leadership’s agreement of investing in developing and retaining resources is long term solution of approaching Talent Shortage.

What are your thoughts about Psychometric Assessment? According to you, what role do psychometric assessments play in hiring the right talent?

Assessments are indicators towards a prospective candidate’s personality, thought process, or approaches that she/he might take in critical scenarios.

As mentioned, they are indicators that help in building a line of discussion to understand the person better.

Using them to base decisions upon, where candidates can still hide their true characteristics/personalities or on the other hand, take it too casually might not be the best approach.

Assessments will empower interviewers to take final decisions, however, these should not be the only tools for making effective hiring decisions.

What disruptions are you foreseeing in the Talent Acquisition area?

Technology is the disruption which is already in play. AI/NLP/Blockchain and more will change the way Talent Acquisition has functioned and will function going forward.  

These platforms are proactively providing critical information through social listening giving a 360-degree view of how a candidate behaves in certain situations, how they approach specific situations, and more.

Technology is reducing the manual intervention in coordinating; feedback process and engaging candidates post offer.  

It is widely changing the scope of talent acqusition and businesses are now wanting to look at TA as a consulting function sitting across the table with them and guiding them with what they need to do as far as people practices are concerned, rather than just looking at numbers to close.

COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics in many ways. What has been your learnings during this phase? What permanent changes do you foresee at the workplace post-COVID-19?  

Despite the size, scope, and intensity of the coronavirus pandemic, some work activities will go back to the way they were—at least for a while. But there will be permanent changes, which will forever alter the way we think and behave at work

  • Corporate flexibility. People quickly figured out how to work from home. When the pandemic subsides, WFH will remain popular with professionals, and that will force companies, even those that were not the biggest proponents of having a virtual workforce, to become more flexible. Now that more people have had a taste of it and proven their productivity, it will be hard for companies to take it away from their talent. 
  • New Normal. Your corporate office will look and operate differently. Like most workplace changes, it’s not a complete replacement, just as the resume didn’t go way when LinkedIn made having a profile a necessary personal branding tool and career asset.  when workers go back to work, temperature checks and social distancing will likely be implemented and that will persist for a while. But once there are medical breakthroughs like treatments and vaccines, offices will be more about interaction and community than about heads-down focus on individual productivity.
  • Home Offices. Many professionals found WFH a challenge not because of isolation, but because they didn’t have the ideal space or a dedicated home office. They didn’t have a Zoom-ready spot for video meetings. A study reports that the majority of survey respondents cited a lack of proper technology for remote work that hindered their success and productivity. Internet in homes will improve, drastically and quickly. Home offices will become a priority. As new homes are built or existing ones are remodelled, WFH considerations will be the top priority for many.
  • Digital Learning for everyone. We all know that learning is now front and center, and many organizations realize that upskilling and right-skilling are essential for innovation and strategic advantage. Many corporate learning programs involved in-person workshops and seminars. But post COVID-19, e-learning will become a bigger part of ongoing learning. In-person learning programs won’t go away, but they’ll be reserved for certain functions and certain populations within the company. Face-to-face learning will likely be just a small element of a learning curriculum. Ramping up their e-learning platforms, companies moved quickly to ensure that their people were still building important skills and developing professionally.

[Inspired By: 6 Ways COVID-19 Will Change the Workplace Forever”, Forbes, 7th May’20]

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?

This is the question of the hour; however, I still don’t see it as a concern. Undoubtedly, Artificial Intelligence is making our lives easier than ever before. But let’s not forget that AI is an “enabler” and must be viewed from that perspective. With the application and intervention of AI, the role of HR will witness a massive positive disruption benefitting talent acquisition and people practices as a whole.  

Talent Acquisition, as a function, will also evolve into a science instead of a trial and error process. 

Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?

HR as a role and career has undergone a sea change and here are my tips for people aiming to make it big in this field -

  • One must be confident and understand that each individual comes with their own potential and skills. There is no one right job for an individual.
  • One must know their subject well and in-depth.
  • One needs to be open to learning from ground zero - agility and humility are the key traits that any organisation will look for.  
  • All the above can be possible only if one has a passion for what they do.

You must pick a profession in a space that you are Passionate and then your job turns into your passion eventually.

That is when you are successful, and excellence follows you!

Thank you, Aarti, for sharing such wonderful insights and takeaways. We appreciate it!

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