Hello Folks!

This is our fourth episode in the #FutureofWork series. If you have gone through the first and the second episodes, you already what #FutureofWork is all about.

The entire recruitment and the HR industry is going through a paradigm shift, with the evolution of the gig economy, the candidate-driven market and of course, the breakthrough in artificial intelligence.

Under such changes circumstances, its imperative that recruiters change their strategy to hire the best candidates in a competitive market.

Therefore we started this initiative, wherein we interview leading industry thought leaders with years of experience in the recruitment domain.

In today’s interview, we have with us, Mr. Atif Khatri, former Head of Recruitment Haptik and the founder of Talentstack, one of India’s fastest growing recruitment firm. Here, we talk about how to hire in a candidate-driven market, how to adapt to AI tools in recruitment and explore the trends that will define recruitment in 2018.

Given your wide experience in the recruitment domain, how would you describe your view of the future of work?

If I were to talk about recruitment in specific, its similar to the way that we had the evolution of the internet, then came computers, now we have laptops and smartphones; in the same way, recruitment has seen a lot of phases.

Earlier, people used to have paper resumes, then we moved to emails and now LinkedIn & similar platforms; even in terms of interviews, they were very straightforward and skill-based. And now, the entire recruitment vertical has moved to a very different stage.

future of work in 2018

Now the focus is more on culture vs anything else.

If you go to any company these days, more than any skills, people focus more on the cultural fitness, and as we know, every company has a different culture. Some want people who are very flexible, agile, hard-working, out of the box thinkers; whereas some want people who can take up ownership & responsibility of the given task.

The entire future of work is going in that direction where culture is given more importance than anything else.

You were the head of recruitment for Haptik and then you started on your own. What was your main inspiration for starting TalentStack? How has been the journey so far?

I have been into international recruitment for almost about eight years now. The way recruitment happens In West vs in India is completely different.

Of course because of the demand and supply ratio; in the West, there is high demand of techies but comparatively lesser no of them, in India, already a lot of techies are there but jobs are limited.

In developed nations the focus is a lot more on culture, the quality of people, where they are coming from, what they are doing etc; the scenario is very much different here in India.

Prior to Haptik as well, I had been doing consulting with a lot of companies in Malaysia, UK etc and that’s when my focus to build something came into the picture. I wanted to start something on my own in India specifically.

That’s when I met Dixit, he is the co-founder & the CEO at TalentStack. We two started our company from a small coffee shop in Andheri, 7 months down the road we are a team of about 25 people. Like every other startup, we have seen a lot of up and downs, are now working with 150+ client, with more than 2000 positions open at the moment.

It surely has been a great ride. We have set ourselves some aggressive targets till 2020 as the plan is to expand our operations in the Middle East this year and few other countries by early next year.

For me, the main reason to move out of Haptik was that I felt that there is a lot of things that is broken in recruitment in India.

Every company has a perspective, you cannot just generalize it. For example, Amazon hires people based on a lot of coding assessments, whereas some company hires based on one or two interviews. The way they look at a resume and the way Amazon looks at a resume is very different and that’s where we come into the picture.

Future of work in 2018

From a sourcing perspective, I have met 70-80 recruiters to hire the 25 people that I have on my team. One thing that I felt was lagging in the recruitment industry was that people here do a lot of keyword sourcing, for example, if you want to hire a Java developer, the would just go for keywords like Java, Hibernate, Spring etc, factors like where they are working, what they doing, what kind of projects they have worked on doesn’t really matter to them.

We are trying to bridge this gap, we look at skills but we focus heavily on the cultural fitment.

It is said that the recruitment scenario is changing rapidly from being an employer-centric market to a candidate-centric one.

According to me, it’s a good change, now both candidates and companies are focusing on the quality of work. A lot of companies in India are spending a lot of money on employer branding.

The recruitment process, in general, is broken in India. There is no standard format to hire people, it's very psychological in nature, as every human is different. There are many recruitment platforms available, some help in sourcing candidates, some help in screening candidates, some in the background check, some in interviews, etc.

If you see, there are no platforms available in the world that can tell you where you should work, why you should work at a specific company, etc.

Even for an employer, no platform can tell you whom to hire, how long they would stay in the company, Why you should hire him/her, etc.

So, we have been working on The Hiring Story an employer branding platform. Before the interview, every candidate research online to find out more information about the company.

They look at company review platforms to see the positives and negatives, but still there is a question mark about the final decision about whether they should join a particular company or not also companies are not sure most of the time whether they should onboard that particular candidate or not and that's the problem we want to solve.

No one in the world knows if they are heading in the right direction; therefore we are trying to build a psychological platform where the candidates would know which are the companies which are suited to them on a cultural perspective. Similarly, the companies would also get a better perspective on whom to hire.

How difficult is hiring for niche skills like IoT, Big data, Machine Learning etc?

It’s a little tough to find people with niche skills today.

Say ML which is a pretty hot skill today and it’s a die-hard need in the market right now for machine learning guys. Of course, most of these high in-demand guys won’t be available on job boards, you have to find them through passive sources like LinkedIn, Github, StackOverflow, etc.

Every candidate nowadays needs growth, money, good team to work with, etc. If you are an early stage company where your product is very good and you have that sort of passion where you want to take this product to the next level, people are there with entrepreneurial mindsets who want to work with smaller sized companies, grow the team, build a platform and take it from there.

There are a lot of people who are interested in that, but you have to find them; I call them the invisible candidates.

But for a smaller sized company, it’s a little difficult because if their product is not good and if the candidate is not confident about the product or finances, they might not join your company.

And trust me I keep hearing this from some amazing candidates.

So, everything at the end of the day boils down to the management and the product that they are building and if they are ambitious & visionary in how they want to take the company to the next step.

Now, coming to AI in recruitment, how and in which areas in recruitment and employee engagement do you think a bot can help in? Is it just a buzzword?

To be honest, I am not a very big fan of chatbots. But I do have a lot of clients who have built chatbots for managing some part of their HR operations.

Some of the chatbots are good, for example, there is a company in Hong Kong that builds their career bots on the facebook page basically replacing your career page on the website to a chatbot on FB. For example, a candidate comes to the page and asks for the open job positions, the chatbot would help him about the open job position, ask him related questions and also filter down their applications.

It’s a good way to filter candidates from the initial round of screening. But, probably not good best for any other level of interviews. I am waiting to see if LinkedIn allows building chatbots for jobs & employer branding.

Similarly, there are a lot of companies who are integrating HR chatbots on their slack channels, where an employee can chat with the bot on leaves, HR policies of the company, apply for leaves etc.

Chatbots indeed help in daily tasks saves a lot of time from an HRs standpoint. For employee engagement, it can surely help in broadcasting tasks; but in tricky situations, it doesn’t really work well. There are a lot of unexplored areas, someday I hope someone will work on some interesting use cases.

Speaking of the present scenario again, there is mostly phrase based responses that I see happening which cannot be considered as actual AI. People are not exploring tech to its full potential; there can be so many things can be done but that’s not happening at the moment.

Also, in today’s world, you are targeting a lot of passive candidates and every company wants the best so if you are wanting the best you have to target the passive pool accurately.

At some level, a human touch is also required. So I feel that the tech platforms need a lot of time to develop themselves, apart from one or two platforms, others are way behind.

So in this scenario, how would you make sure that the candidate joins your company?

Nowadays companies and recruiters focus a lot on the candidate experience for the ones who come in for the interview. Once, someone comes to meet you in person for an interview, they should feel respected and taken care of well, simple things like someone welcoming them, keeping them updated about the next steps, etc.

They should also have a very positive sort of experience in the organization and feel comfortable in an office environment.

Organizations are understanding the importance of having a good candidate experience. One thing that has also worked for me the best is I usually love to have casual conversations vs an actual interview.

I have known companies that are ready to pay half of the housing rent for an employee relocating from other parts of the country over & above their salaries or variables, that is the candidate experience that I am talking about.

There is so much above the salary, someone should feel that he belongs to this organization, s/he should know that s/he will be taken care of very well.

People are educated and smart enough nowadays, they are aware, they know where they want to go and where they want to work; so you as a company have to make sure to stand out from the rest.

How should the future HRs and Recruiters prepare themselves for this rapid change that we are seeing right now?

A recruiter has to be well-versed with the things that are happening in the moment, automate tasks etc. There are so many plugins and tools that are available. To be successful, you have to expand your network.The more the network, the more you reach out to people, the more are the chances of onboarding someone in the organization.

When it comes to Outbound recruitment, you have to be an evangelist of the company; also it’s very imperative to build communities and be a part of communities. Just doing keyword sourcing is not going to help you out in this world, A recruiter, thus, has to be an evangelist of your brand.

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