The hardest part of recruitment is identifying the right candidates from a large applicant pool.

Reetika Sood is an alumnus of IIPM, Delhi and completed her Bachelors in English Honors from Delhi University with more than 16 years of core experience in Global Recruitment. In her current assignment, she is managing the Talent Acquisition function of an IT Product company, Cvent India Pvt Ltd in the capacity of Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition (India, APAC & ME). She has a strong human resource & recruitment experience in the IT/SAAS industry and has an exceptional ability to understand the business needs and build rapport with the stakeholders - Hiring Managers/Delivery team etc.

Reetika possess great networking skills and she has a passion for connect with people and know them personally and professionally. Prior to joining Cvent, she had worked for some of the very respectable firms like Agilent, Aricent, ELI Research, Mancer Consulting Services, and CampusEAI Consortium etc.

She is actively involved in CSR activities with ELI, CampusEAI and Cvent. On a personal side, she loves animals (has a dog and 6 strays) and also supports NGOs for Animal Rights.

Thank you, Reetika, for giving your valuable time to this interview. Your kindness is much appreciated. 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. 

In our days getting a job in the HR department was an achievement as I did not pass out from a premier B-school! But it is a fact that we did not have many start-ups or eCommerce companies that could have given us the platform to start our career in the corporate world. Even for campus placements, only one company came for HR and that too again was a recruiting agency. So, I officially started my career with Mancer Consulting Services in 2004. We were in that era where job vacancies were published in newspapers and I had seen an advertisement for a walk-in interview schedule at their office.

I tried my luck and appeared for the interview with confidence. Mancer was located near to IIT Delhi (Jia Sarai) and still has that office there. I was greeted by an office boy and post that met with a Lead recruiter who took my first round. It was 30 minutes conversation where she gave me a brief about the role and understood my experience and skills that I bring on to the table. Post that I was given a break for 15 minutes prior to being interviewed with one of the Co-founders of the company (Satya D. Sinha) and a final interaction other two co-founders Gyanendra Singh & Manish Singh.

I had worked as an intern with Planman Consulting (a subsidiary of IIPM) for 3 months and had managed frontline hiring, managing clients like GECIS, Wipro, IBM Daksh, American Express and Kean Worldzen and carried expertise in cold-calling, my interview was based on headhunting skills, candidate referrals data, and candidate pipeline target and conversion ratio.

I was given an offer on the same day and started my employment within the next 2 days.

My overall experience with Mancer was amazing and never felt that I was getting interviewed as the leaders gave very swift responses to my queries and questions and I felt the positive vibes from the interviewers. Also, they were very considerate on my request when I had asked them to allow me to leave within 1st week of my joining as I had a pre-planned personal function to attend.

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 first job was a recruiting agency and the fear of any new person while joining a recruiting agency is meeting targets, headhunting, cold-calling, and generating revenue.

It’s a desk job on phone for straight 8- 9 hours and working with multiple clients.

The best exposure that one can get is working with a Headhunting Agency, which kids/millennials try to avoid or prefer not taking such jobs which do not have any luxurious environment. But the experience that you get while working as a recruitment partner is enormous as you tend to work on versatile job roles, multiple clients and handle multiple roles at one time (this is how you start multi-tasking).

I gained rich experience working with 10-15 global clients managing frontline to Senior Leadership roles with Mancer and this gave me an immense learning platform, which has been helping me till date especially when it comes to market, talent mapping, and best practices.

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

This is absolutely true, and I firmly believe that we learn from everyone regardless of age and experience. My weakness could be someone’s strength that I can overcome by working and learning with them. I truly acknowledge that the leadership skills that I have possessed so far are because of the Leaders who were my mentors and have coached throughout my journey.

And to cite a real example which happened with me at CVENT. I had joined Cvent 7.5 years ago as an Individual Contributor and post 2 years of successful delivery and basis my performance was moved to a People Manager position. So, the real challenge was for colleagues who were my peers earlier and had started reporting to me. There was a bit of tension due to difference of opinions and resistance to change as all of them was even more tenured than me.

Earlier my leadership style was being disciplined, strict, and even micro-managing them sometimes which created tiffs amongst each of my team members and they started fearing me. But I am grateful to my ex-HR Head, Mr. Sanjay Mitra who guided me throughout his journey with Cvent and worked upon my development plan and to become a successful people leader. Under his guidance and support I was able to manage the toughest situations, complexed stakeholders, more importantly, team efficiency which not only helped me gain the trust from the team but also, we became the most productive team amongst my peers. It’s very important to empower your Leaders to be successful and he is one leader who believes and practices it.

Also, an important aspect to be a great leader is that you should be balanced on Emotional Quotient. Understand each team member as they will not have the same traits, work with them on their weaknesses and, reward and recognize to limelight their strengths.

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

I chose HR because of my great networking skills, conducting engagement activities, and connecting with new people of all ages. Also, during my college days, I had worked for summer jobs and always liked the idea of knowing an individual’s behavior and traits with 1:1 interaction through an interview. Additionally, this profession also helps in identifying employment needs, conducting interviews, educating employees about compensation, benefits, workplace practices, and more. At my current workplace, I mostly handle recruitment, campus, and policies. But my previous job included creating induction/training plans and managing self-improvement activities for our employees.

We must understand people and the vision of the company while working as organizers, mediators, and planners. It’s a fascinating, tricky, and very rewarding field. Human Resource is a field of continuous learning and of watching people develop each year. It’s incredibly fulfilling, like planting seeds and watching a garden grow. As our employees’ flourish, so do our company.

Another one of the most enjoyable parts of working in HR is the variety of tasks you handle and learn from them. With HR, it is easy to weave your hobby into a job—if you like writing, you can create original descriptions for open positions. If you like parties, you can handle organizing team-building events and so on. You can gravitate toward what you like—or even specialize as your career develops.

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?

It is important for Fresh Graduates to understand that neither is a better or worse position, however, you ask specifically about career growth. Having worked on both the domains, I have a good understanding of both functions.

First, recognize the obvious:

  1. HR Generalist is inherently a broader and unspecialized function
  2. HR Recruitments is inherently a specialized function

(Neither better nor worse compared to one another - both are important)

Next, recognize that:

  1. An HR Generalist, while potentially touching some basic recruiting does not have the ability to be a specialized recruiter within that broad role.
  2. A Recruiter, while specializing and building expertise in that specific domain can simultaneously acquire and possess Generalist knowledge on-the-side by studying up HR laws, compliance, etc. and incorporating that into their consultancy as a Recruiter - making them better at both.

Now, the reasons Recruiter have better career growth prospects than Generalist includes:

  1. Being a Recruiter keeps both the doors open while being a Generalist does not keep the Recruiter door open.
  2. The Generalist function is expected to decrease, while Recruiting is rising in visibility and prioritization.
  3. Large organizations tend to be specialized (i.e. Recruiter) while small business tends to be broader (i.e. Generalist), so being a Recruiter keeps doors open in siloed, specialized companies.
  4. Recruiters’ “customers” are hiring managers - the entire leadership of the organization. There is no better platform from which one can network, impress others, build a personal brand, etc. than from the Recruiter seat.

Generalist role is a backend desk job wherein, Recruiter is like Sales. Fresh graduates like to have a relaxed job which does not involve running around on their toes, and which involves working on weekends only sometimes.

As mentioned earlier, Millennials hesitate to work on targets-based roles which require working 365 days, headhunting, calling, and scheduling candidates for interview.

However, they don’t understand, even the market benchmarking is created by the recruiter’s database on skill and talent mapping.

Recruiting is like Sales, and if anyone loves to sell, they will enjoy recruiting. Additionally, if someone likes to connect and networking with people, this is the best job for them.

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

Though Sourcing and Stakeholder management is something that can be handled with guidance and coaching, however, Negotiating with someone while buying clothes, vegetables or even holding a compensation discussion with a candidate is an art and I strongly believe it is the most challenging phase during the  interview and selection process. For e.g. in Leadership roles, senior executive candidates are very hesitant to share their compensation details and even share their expectations. It has been observed that 70% of the candidates that the right way to get the salary at par is to start with a 40-50% increase regardless of the role.

Additionally, few candidates are so adamant about taking hikes on their appraisal, and they still want a 30%-40% raise. Though there is nothing against it and we respect their thoughts, however, as a recruiter, we need to justify the cost and the increment for audits and peer parity which the candidate does not understand.

Candidates compare for negotiating their offer with companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook etc., however, they don’t realize every organization have different pay parity and competencies they are looking at.

I had attended a workshop conducted by an ISB Professor on Negotiation skills and we were asked to do a role play where I had partnered with a participant. The task was to come on mutual consent post negotiating for 45 minutes and close the deal. I learned from that workshop that it is not necessary to be adamant with your demands but come to a mutual platform which is a win-win for both parties.

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

  • Connectivity
  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Marketing Chops
  • Consultative Skills

“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”?

This has been a trend with the millions of candidates (all levels) and it only happens when they do not take their profession seriously. A genuine candidate is always responsive to your emails, text, and calls. They will even check before coming for an interview if the appointment stands confirmed.

Few candidates if even refuse that they have never received a confirmation and this impacts recruiter’s credibility in front of the hiring manager.

As a practice, few companies have started blacklisting candidates. Also, now we are tracking all interviews via the ATS tool (all evolved organizations). Thus, it has become tough for candidates to play around with interview scheduling. This is important as they need to learn the importance of valuing everyone’s time i.e. recruiter, hiring manager, and even for their’ s too and that’s how they are called professionals. However, for a genuine case, there can be an exception given and considered basis the facts.

It is tough for a recruiter to evaluate a real or fake story unless there is a deep conversation between them, and they talk about facts and scenarios where you are able to sense that the candidate is lying.

Most common excuses that are given by candidates are:

  1. I had an unplanned meeting
  2. I did not receive any confirmation
  3. May car broke down
  4. I was getting late for my office while coming for your interview
  5. I had na accident while coming for an interview
  6. My mom/day is not well, and I had to rush to the hospital

And the best one:

I am standing at the reception but when the recruiter goes to meet & greet, the number is switched -off :P

In Talent Acquisition, what was your most challenging assignment?

The most challenging assignment for me was to hire for APAC and Middle East at CVENT. We were looking at opening Sales offices in Singapore, Australia, and Dubai. I had worked with Global Stakeholders in the past but never hired for these locations or involved in establishing a new office.

I was given a target of 2 months to hire 9-10 roles with no help from job boards, etc.

I used my connects, head-hunted agencies in these locations, negotiated commercials, explained the roles, market-mapping of target companies, we wanted to hire from and get the information of benefits, taxes, and laws through my network for these locations.

This entire project was managed by different leaders globally and I was leading from India from TA individually. I could not only close all the positions, but we had 100% joining, regardless of the new offices in these locations.

Lastly, how is AI changing the world of HR practitioners, particularly Head-hunters and Talent Acquisition Leaders? 

As such, AI plays a big role today in transforming HR and the workforce, reducing human bias, increasing efficiency in candidate assessment, improving relationships with employees, improving compliance, increasing adoption of metrics, and improving workplace learning are some of the benefits organizations are adopting.

AI for recruiting is an emerging category of HR technology designed to reduce or remove time-consuming activities like manually screening resumes.

Screening resumes efficiently and time-effectively still remains the biggest challenge in talent acquisition: Basis my experience and with connects in TA fraternity, approximately 50% of talent acquisition leaders say the hardest part of recruitment is identifying the right candidates from a large applicant pool.

Thank you very much for sharing the wonderful insight. We appreciate it.  

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