Recruiters helps in creating a brand identity for the Organisation that they represent

Adorned with 15 years of experience in Talent Acquisition both on Agency & Corporate side, Himanshu Singh is currently associated with Forrester Research Inc as Manager -Talent Acquisition APAC/EMEA.

Embarking his professional stint with Easy Search - The Placement People as HR Executive, Himanshu kept climbing the ladder of success and moved to i-Solutions Providers (India) Private Ltd - Sister concern of ICICI Bank as Executive Recruitments; Flexiworks India Pvt Ltd – Singapore based staffing company as Team Leader – Recruitments. Thereafter, he bagged a role of Manager International Search with Quadrangle - A division of Info-Edge India Ltd (leading search firms in India) and finally reached his status.

Himanshu is an MBA (HRM) from Pondicherry University. He then went on to complete Certificate Program - Executive Development Program in Talent Management from XLRI.

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

Let’s start!!!

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

I started my Journey 15 years ago with a recruitment agency. My interview was conducted by the Co-owners of the company. They asked me very candid & upfront questions, like – “Tell me something about yourself, why do you want to make a career in recruitments and if I recall correctly, where do I see myself 2 years down the line?”

They look straightforward to me now, but not then if I can be brutally honest with you. I think the thing that went in my favor as I landed up with the job, was that I reached the venue 20 minutes before time. Allowed me to settle down, have some water and stay calm. The other thing I worked on was to practice listening intently and catching the question at one go, coz if I missed, my answers would go haywire. Saying pardon or can you repeat your question was not an option that I was aware of at that time. Answering confidently did help. One advice for new HR folks – Go with the flow and not with some rehearsed answers. You just want to sound human and not like a robot.

That was rather my shortest stint as I landed up in my first corporate job (through networking) with i-solutions, the sister concern of ICICI Bank. When I was doing my summer internship during MBA, the HR lead who I reported to, was impressed with my dedication and hard work, and pulled me when she had an opportunity to work with the bank. Networking is an enormously powerful tool and helps massively in job hunting.

I started my foray with domestic hiring for sales/quota-carrying roles. Did that for a few years and then took up an opportunity again with an agency – Quadrangle ( This is when against my choice/wish I started my journey into international recruitments. Over the years, I learned the tricks of the trade to recruit for different roles/domains across geographies and at all levels (Middle to Sr to Executive)– Middle East, APAC, and Europe. For the last 9 years, I am associated with Forrester Research and the journey has been so smooth and rewarding that it does not seem like I have already spent this long time over here.

Why did you choose HR as a profession? What was the motive and what was the motivation?

I got glued to HR when I did my first job during my Graduation days. I had some downtime and landed up with a job in International BPO. At that time the way my recruitment process was managed by the recruiter till the time I came on-board and went through the training, everything about HR made me realised that when I start my full-time career it has to be in HR. Then came the classic question which every fresh graduate goes through. What role/domain within HR. Being a good communicator, someone who has been an extrovert (at least that’s what my friends tell me), getting into recruitments was a natural fit. I enjoyed the prospect of creating an immediate impact on the kind of talent that I hired for the company and the value addition they provided in return to company be it in terms of doing great sales or delivering value by doing research and writing reports. The opportunity to brand your organisation in front of the job seekers is another aspect that I really enjoy being a recruiter. Sometimes answering straightforward questions and at other times answering some tough questions helps me overcome the monotony that one can get into any job that they are responsible for.

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?

I think it is just the way recruitments within the HR gamut is perceived. Less challenging and less critical role in comparison to other core HR functions. Fresh graduates mostly get inclined to get into Compensation & benefits, L&D or HR generalist kind of roles. Recruitments takes a back seat, as it is more salesy. One needs to be assertive, and always conscious of numbers like TTF, TTH, cost of filled seat vs empty seat, and how it affects the business.

I chose recruitments as I like the client-facing scope of it. It allows me to sell potential candidate to business/hiring team and vice versa. The aspect of pushing, convincing the business to consider a candidate that they may not perceive suitable in the first go, gets me going. The mere thought of the impact that recruitments has on a company’s revenue and growth spurs me on. Not to mention the dynamism and the fast paced nature of the role is a bonus. One needs to constantly keep a tab of time as you do not want a role-taking 3 months or 6 months to get filled. One would like to work towards TAT like 45 days or less for Sales role and 60 days or less for more technical roles. There can be exceptions to this but having a timeline to follow always helps.

Which phase of the Talent Acquisition do you find most challenging – Sourcing, Stakeholder Management, or Negotiation? Why?

It’s hard to pick one, but if you put a gun on my head and say pick one, then it must be Sourcing. It is the premise on which whole TA survives upon. Without finding the right set of candidates to speak with no other step in TA will go down smoothly. However, to source well, one needs to understand the role, go through the JD and ask relevant and probing questions to the hiring manager. The job description may/may not have everything that he/she needs. Once you have all that you need and candidates come in the mix, one needs to manage the stakeholders well. Let us dwell a little further on this item.

Today is a candidate-driven and not an employer-driven market. Keeping this in mind one needs to constantly keep the communication channels going with the candidates and setting up the expectations of the hiring team to be agile, precise, and proactive when it comes to driving the recruitment process along with the recruiter. It’s a teamwork at the end of the day, that decides what kind of Candidate Experience you provide to them.

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

Recruiter is very much like the first person that a candidate interacts with within any organization. As we say, “First impression is the last impression.” It becomes especially important then to have recruiters understand that and not just see themselves as CV pushers, but someone who helps create a brand identity for the company that they represent whilst they are screening candidates. They also need to be trusted knowledge advisors for the hiring team/business. For me, the foremost trait to be successful as a recruiter will be “Attitude”. With the right attitude one can overcome any challenge that comes across and be successful in delivering the outcome expected.

The other Traits needed to succeed will be –

  • Good Communication Skills Both spoken (Required when talking over the phone/In-person interviews) and written (e-mail communications).
  • Target Driven Recruiters can make good salespeople, as the saying goes. It’s true as recruiters are always number-driven, TTF (Time to File), TTH (Time to Hire), cost of hire, etc.
  • Good Listener Keep an eye on the unsaid words. Read between the lines for clues that can make you believe the candidate will be driven to accept the offer or is just window shopping. One can do that if you speak less and listen more intently.
  • Stakeholder Management Be it internal (Hiring teams/eco-system) or external (candidates/vendors), one needs to be excellent in connecting and building relationships with the people that you interact with day in and day out.
  • Perseverance Any seasoned recruiter can vouch for it. One needs to have a lot of patience, perseverance to be a solid recruiter. There will be times when everything falls in place from the first call to candidate onboarding and at times you have everything under controlled (At least that’s what you think), only to find the candidate does not show up on the first day (the start day). Hang in there, as there will be some good days and some bad days in the offing.

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 glad we are discussing this in this forum. I will first answer this question as to what a potential job seeker should be doing.

Job Seekers –

  • Make CV’s which can easily fit into widely used ATS (Application Tracking systems). You do not want to create CV formats that are rejected by these tools. Stick to .docx, .pdf to be on the safe side.
  • Customize your CV’s for the role/company that you are applying for. Classic mistake – sending one CV to all the companies for different roles.
  • Try and match-up as much as possible the keywords in your CV as for the role you are applying for. Look at the JD and make the necessary changes in your CV.
  • Cover Letter is not a hype. Do make a good cover letter as well, highlighting your achievements, key strengths and why you can be a great fit for the role.

Now that I covered for the job seekers, let me share with you what the recruiters look for in the CVs in the 8.8 seconds –

  • Format of the CV. This will include spacing, spelling errors, capturing of the relevant and must-have information (Contact details, Duration of stay in each company, academics) etc.
  • Keywords Technical roles like RPA Analyst, we need to see keywords like Robotics, Automation, Strategy, etc.
  • KPI’s We look for how well you have outlined the KPI’s that you are responsible for. Meaning your day to day work responsibility.
  • Focus on highlighting your success - If hiring for Sales/Quota carriers I tend to look at numbers – Sales Achievements, % of quotas achieved, Bookings, or revenue targets. If you have published a blog, or written an article or a book, please highlight that.
  • Put Your Latest Experience First The other way round is a big No.

What is your take on “Career Gaps”? We come across many people who are forced to hide certain aspects of their employment history because organizations do not shortlist their profiles because of career gaps. How do you address such cases?

They are for real and as a recruiter I do bump into many CVs that have career gaps. The premise should be, to not have any bias or pre-judgmental mindset. Without understanding the real reason why, a career gap has happened with a particular candidate, all we can do is make a big mistake and let go of a potential unicorn or a Rockstar. Being an EEO company we always keep aside these criteria and hire for the relevant skills and culture fit. We can assess the culture fit piece by using the Behavioural Interviewing.

Career gaps can happen due to variety of reasons like –

  • Involuntary reasons like – layoffs, retrenchment, termination, or downsizing
  • Personal or health reasons.
  • Took a break to start a family.
  • Further Education
  • Caring for sick family members, like old parents.

As a thumb rule if the career gap is less than 3 months, then that does not really bother me, however anything more than that, I would like to probe more on it.

What can a potential candidate do when they have career gaps in their CVs?

  • List years instead of months for previous positions. (2018-2020).
  • If the gaps are longer or more frequent, do provide a brief note or reason for the same on the CV.

Once you have been presented with an opportunity to interview with recruiter/hiring team –

  • Mention the situation upfront but in a precise manner. Do not overdo it.
  • Do suggest that the situation is under control or has ended and you are fully ready to take up a full-time role.
  • Reinforce your interest in the open role and bring the focus back on the job role that you are interviewing for.

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

The biggest issue with the recruiters is they tend to focus on short term benefits. The candidate getting positive feedback from the hiring team is always communicated with on a real-time basis, however, if the candidate has been rejected the recruiters tend to ignore an important step in the whole cycle – CLOSING. One should always remember that all the candidates in the mix whether they are shortlisted/offered or rejected invested an equal amount of time, effort, and energy in the whole process. The least that one can do is give them proper feedback and close the loop. Always remember they may have not been selected this time but could be a potentially great fit for the company in the near future for the same or a slightly different role. The way we manage this also reflects on the brand image of the company. A company that closes the loop with every candidate, will be perceived as transparent, forthcoming, and courageous. It just helps the candidates to apply again with the same company again.

I like to pick up the phone and give the news (positive/negative) rather than sending emails.

Challenges can be –

  • Not having detailed feedback from the hiring team.
  • Candidates backlash. Not everyone takes the feedback in the right manner.
  • Lack of empathy recruiters may have. This is coachable and can be overcome.

How do you approach an assignment in “Global Talent Acquisition”? How this approach differs from “Local Talent Acquisition”?

The basis for recruiting remains the same whether one hires locally or internationally. One needs to understand the job specifications and the hiring manager requirements. Then comes the tool or methodology that one would like to use to build the pipeline.

There can be many ways to do it –

  1. External Job Postings – So that it allows you to get incoming talent.
  2. Internal Job Postings – So that you encourage your employees to refer their friends/peers in their network. Remember – “Good people know good people”
  3. External outreach – Local country-specific job boards or sending InMail’s via LinkedIn Recruiter.
  4. Networking – Doing it on your own social media network(LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Zing, WeChat) and also asking your Hiring Manager/Team to leverage their own timelines/network to spread the word that we hiring for a specific role.
  5. External Agencies – Leveraging them if the budget allows. It can be done both in the Contingent and Retained way.

The only recommendation that I will give is - have “Over Communication” with your hiring manager. That way you can do course correction if needed in the initial search that you have put across. It also helps to find answers to nuances like budget constraints or specific skills not being available in a specific geography basis on the data points that you are seeing.

I was asked to put a search for a Sr Analyst who has digital transformation background working for BFSI or Fintech companies. The issue that I was able to flag to the business was that this kind of talent was available in abundance in Shanghai (being the Financial capital) but not in Beijing (where we were trying to hire this person). Having open communication with business helps.

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

HR is one of the fastest and will be everlasting career paths in India. Companies will always need human talent to achieve their goals and apart from just giving an opportunity to earn well, a career in HR can be personally rewarding and offer longevity. It can even lead to an executive-level position within an organization. Like being the CPO or heading the HR function for a company.

One can get into HR via different routes – with the most common approach being to get a post-graduate degree in HRM.

HR can open different avenues like L&D, C&B, HR Generalist, Recruitments, HR BP, etc. One clearly needs to do a self-introspection on what drives them. Some like numbers vs others like creating an impact by hiring talent vs others getting immense satisfaction to help with employee grievances and so on and so forth.

To get into HR one must have the following qualities (not limited to) to succeed –

  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Communication Skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Business and growth mindset.

Thank you, Himanshu, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.  

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