Planning the talent pool is a key for the business continuity.

Today, we bring you some pages from Smitha’s life, a Senior Human Resources Professional with diverse sectoral experience in MNCs & Indian Organizations covering Engineering, IT,ITES, Trading, Manufacturing services and sales. Smitha is currently working for Festo India Private Limited as Head – HR and IR.

Driven by her fundamental belief that passionate people are the primary drivers of business results, Smitha has worked towards turning organizations into passion hubs for people in order to maximize individuals and thereby the collective potential of an organization to deliver distinctive and significant impact. In a rapidly evolving business context, which is a result of changing demographics, rise of digital technology and socially driven employer-employee relationships is what keeps her awake at night as being an HR leader. Smitha believes in building disruptive yet viable solutions to the talent challenges that organizations face today.

Smitha is adorned with an extensive change management experience which includes setting up of a green field HR operations, building capabilities and talent acquisition during high growth phases of business, Implementing appropriate HR interventions, Employee Transition Management , Industrail Relations.“ Etc.

Thank you, Smitha, 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 first job was with Dell international services. I was fresh out of college, my friends told me about walk-in at Dell and I decided to give it a try. This was my very first formal interview. I was a bit nervous to face the panel. As I entered the room, I saw three men, who were in their early 40s, sitting across the table. They greeted me with a smile as I entered and asked me to have the seat. Then there came their first question - ’tell us about yourself’ and I went on and on for 15 minutes when they asked me to stop and said, ‘you love talking right!’ …and I just smiled and they smiled at me. That one smile from the panel made me feel comfortable and confident. After this I was more comfortable talking to the panel and was able to answer the questions with full confidence and more than an interview, it was like a conversation. There were three rounds of interview and I cleared them all. After a month I was working with Dell.

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

When I joined Dell, I was placed in the Customer Services department and I should say, there was lot to learn. Coming from a non-technical background to support the technical queries on the desktop support and speaking to the customers across the globe gave me a different perspective. I learned a lot on the technical aspects related to computers as well as dealing with different cultures made me aware of different values, beliefs and approaches .

Then, one day, I came across an opening in the HR department, and I wanted to apply for that position. But I was just three months old in the company and was not qualified to apply. Thus, I requested my manager to intervene. The interview process for this position was difficult, and I was told by the HR department to work on a project with them; if I achieved the required result, they would consider me for the role. So, along with my customer service role, I had to do the project, where I was spending almost 12-13 hours a day, Sometimes, I felt I should give up but then I wanted to be in HR and went through those testing times. Today, I feel that all the efforts were worth it. 

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself and move ahead

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

I can say I was blessed to have a good mentor during the beginning of my career. After Dell, I joined John Crane, where I took up the roles as the HR and Admin Executive. I should say...this was the job that really trained and groomed me as a true HR professional. At the beginning of your career, it’s very important to receive proper guidance and a comfort that it’s OKAY to make mistakes when you are learning. Mr. Ashok Vasudevan, my mentor then and now, has helped me through all the phases and stood by me, believed me, placed trust in me in our several years of association. He is a true people person and a true leader.

Mentoring is about being selfless where you will have to wear different hats. Understanding your mentee, not just professionally but personally is very important. Trust, respect and open feedback is very important in this relationship building between a Mentor and Mentee.  So, as a new bee in the professional life, it’s important to have mentors and also, it’s important to believe in self and walk that extra mile – aim for the stars.

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself and move ahead”

If you get the right people at the right time, you can get the desired results for the organisation.

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?

Yes, I see that youngsters are sceptical about recruitment, as it throws new challenge on a daily basis. You need to understand the role very well, even before you can convince someone to take the job. Sometimes, you are working on critical deadlines and dealing with different personalities. I feel recruitment is the backbone for HR, if you get the right people at the right time, you can get the desired results for the organisation. So, it is important for the HR person to enjoy these processes and be passionate about it, as it can get monotonous sometimes.  

 “Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. Hiring was, will and still is the most important thing we do in HR”.

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

  • Relationship Building & Good networking
  • Passion
  • Persistent
  • Adaptability
  • Mindfulness

As the saying goes,” You have 8.8 seconds to impress with your CV”. You might have come across over 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.

The headline of the candidate’s resume and relevant years of experience he/she has spent in line with the job requirement with stability in jobs. Also, I personally look for the family background also, it somewhere indicates the hunger and need for job and growing in the organisation

What do you think are the FIVE most crucial factors that determine a successful candidate? Please elaborate.

  • Communication Skills
  • Clarity in thoughts
  • Situation handling
  • Job Motivation
  • Personal hobbies and work life balance

How do you develop and strengthen relationships with job candidates?

Clear communication, being transparent, setting clear expectation from day one, these are some of the aspects that builds the trust with a candidate from the beginning of the recruitment process. It’s always good for the recruiter to put themselves in the candidate’s shoes and give that experience.

Giving and receiving feedback effectively is an important part of the process.

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

Giving and receiving feedback effectively is an important part of the process. Every candidate whom we are not shortlisting is a brand ambassador of your company. So, it’s important that proper feedback is given to the candidate where it should clearly communicate, he is not suitable for the position and also highlight about the strengths which he or she showcased during the interview. But most of the times, we fail to complete this process ?

What do you do if a candidate unexpectedly rejects your job offer?

Always, have a plan B. In a dynamic market we can expect such cases very often. Also, it is important to understand from the selected candidate, why he or she declined the offer and correct the process, if required.

Do you find any change in the recruitment process since you first started? What is the latest recruitment trend you have adopted?

Recruitment has evolved and still evolving with each passing day. In the digital era, everything has taken steps ahead with how candidates see the company and how companies see candidates…this is era of LinkedIn, Glassdoor, job portals, etc. The recent trend that companies are hiring technical experts rather than experts with management degree is a shift from the earlier ways. Also, psychometric tools for accessing the personalities of the candidates for the suitability of the job, and emotional intelligence play a key competency for the leadership positions.

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

Planning the talent pool is a key for the organisation. Today we are in an era where the knowledge which we acquire during the college days will not come to practical use and every company needs to ensure they train the employees on the specific skills. So, bringing in the talents who value this process is important.

Also, how we brand ourselves as an employer to attract the talents is also important. While interviewing the candidates, it is important that we reason out the importance on why they want to join your organisation. Also, we need to make use of the social media to attract talent. Rather than recruiting talents for short term, better to have the long-term strategy and hire the right talents.

In my current organisation Festo – we have the Vocational Training Academy, where we select the students who are 10th and 12th grade. We train them in the field of Mechatronics through earn while you learn. This is one of the HR strategy to  build the “Talent Pool”  at Festo.

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? 

Artificial Intelligence and Robots are the future and we are talking about industry 4.0. AI and Robots may take away few jobs but those will be jobs where Human beings can be replaced. I feel HR job is more with being “Human” , connecting with people and this cannot be replaced with Robots.

I would see AI and Robots as an opportunity where we can build efficiency in the certain HR process. It’s also important the recruiters are aware of the technological changes and talk to the potential candidates in that language.

Social media is very good tool to boost the recruitment visibility and to attract the large talent pool. These days, good talents are more comfortable to route the process through social media to understand the vacancies better. Only threat, I see that some of the candidates who are interested in the vacancies may be sceptical to make their profile visible online.  

There is a Quote said by Mr. Terry Winograd, “The techniques Artificial Intelligence are to the mind what bureaucracy is to the human social interaction”   and this sums it all.

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

The HR graduates should have the hunger to learn and be open for feedback. In the initial period, the job which they get could be quite monotonous, so being self-motivated with clear vision is important. Being creative, agile and grabbing the opportunity is the key for the Freshers to grow faster in the organisation. 

You should be passionate about your job. There are good days and there are bad days, when you think a bad day is a learning, it means you love what you do. It is important to be self-motivated, charged and keep investing in updating your knowledge to be competitive.

“You can have the best strategy and best building in the world, but if you don’t have the hearts and minds of the people who work with you, none of it comes to LIFE” 

Thank you.  

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