Everyday, we come across quotes on the Internet like, “Lead a different path”, “Follow your passion”, but not many of us have the real courage of executing them. In case of HR professions, there is a myth that an MBA from a great college will make you a true expert of this domain, else you have to settle down for mediocrity. Well, the exception is Akhil Girijan, a B.Tech in IT turned HR who truly is a trailblazer, for he believed in his passion and nailed it like a boss. In a freewheeling chat with Aircto, Akhil talks about his motivation, his passion for his work, and provides a lot of crisp recipes for making a perfect hire.
How and why HR?
It all started with a college campus drive, where Akhil, along with his nine other friends cleared the technical round successfully. But all their flickering hopes were crushed to the ground when only one out of the ten cleared the HR interview. Where most people would see disappointment and despair, Akhil saw opportunity and interest. He was curious about the criteria on which an HR selects a candidate, which led him to his first internship with Aditi Technologies as an HR.
His professional journey
At Aditi Technologies, Akhil was fortunate to get his first break in product hiring for Microsoft, where he got a chance to conduct some critical hiring for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Research divisions. After that, he joined Amazon, which was the turning point of his career. Amazon provides impeccable training opportunities to recruiters like ‘Recruiter Session’ and ‘Making great hiring Decisions’, the principles and learnings of which, Akhil still follows till date. Amazon was followed by a brief stint at Hike where he took care of the end-to-end HR processes. After that, he joined ClearTax.
At Amazon training, I learned a quote “I would love to interview 50 more candidates rather than hiring a bad one”. The Amazon leadership principle runs in my blood and I have always stuck to it.
Typical day at ClearTax
Being the solo HR in the game, Akhil has to maintain end-to-end responsibilities. From recruiting to on-boarding of the candidates. It’s true, the first day at a new company is really important as it paves the path for the forthcoming years. Assigning a buddy, induction of the new team member, forming the friendly bridge between the candidates and the hiring managers, making sure the business and company culture is imbibed in him are some of the responsibilities that Akhil has to play. Some other very crucial tasks include medical insurance of the employees, taxable savings, maintaining the large database of documents and adhering to the compliance and statutory norms.
Over engineering is a big NO
There are various metrics on which Akhil evaluates a candidate post the tech interview, the major one being, spike in the technical competence. Apart from this, the most important criterion is the value-addition that he can bring to the table. If the candidate has worked at a startup previously and if he is a senior person, the level of ownership he can take for his tasks really matters. Akhil believes it is the duty of the senior folks to guide and mentor the junior ones, and the mentorship capability matters as well. It all boils down to how well does an individual performs when the startup goes into the fire-fighting mode.
On-boarding the best candidate
Akhil believes one should never stop sourcing till the ideal one is seated in the office. Speaking of the ideal one, the most crucial part of the recruitment process, according to Akhil, is to convert a candidate from offer to joining. The recruitment process should be metric driven and Akhil shares his process of hiring. Understanding the source-mix of applications, the closure rate of emails, the average turnaround time are important parameters which can be analysed to keep the recruitment funnel clear. He makes sure that a candidate receives an update within 24 hours of his job application, either he is regretted or moved to the next level of interview.
Hiring is a Team-work
There are various interviews for a single position, so it is made sure that all feedback are documented and moved on to the next level. There is a debrief system, where all the interviewers come to the table, all the feedbacks are combined and a collaborative decision is taken whether it is a hire or no hire. There is also a concept of Compensation benchmarking on which he says,
You should pay the candidate for the skill sets and the leadership qualities he carries, not on the current salary that he is getting. Do what is right rather than doing what is easy.
Awesome Tools for recruitment
While conversing, Akhil expressed his love for technology on multiple accounts. He believes that as an HR, there should always be a lot of automation in the work that one does. He mentioned four important HR tools which he advises his fellow HRs to use. For example, Rapportive, a chrome extension helps in linking the LinkedIn profile through the email. Gmail streak is used for view tracking of the email. Google templates can largely reduce the time for sending automatic emails. Technology, he believes, eases the way of work and saves time.
Brace the technologies, don’t be afraid to experiment with different tools, make sure to grow along with the technology.
A Biker & Multilingual
Despite managing all the HR work of ClearTax single-handedly, Akhil takes a keen interest in traveling. This biker has been on solo trips from Bangalore to Jodhpur and has plans for covering the golden quadrilateral highway and Leh Ladakh trip on bike. Besides, he has a passion for learning new languages; having covered almost all the South Indian languages, the next on his list are Japanese and Punjabi. His mantra? Well, this is what Akhil has to say:
You can manage your time if you manage your calendar well. Keep your stakeholders engaged and your work ready. Respect time and time will respect you.
Can chatbots play the role of HR?
Being a tech-savvy, Akhil believes that an HR bot can be a good HR generalist and will optimize a lot of work. Though a Bot cannot completely replace an HR because tasks like performance analysis and appraisals involve a 360-degree review. He further suggests that tools like Officevibe can help in deriving the needs and demands of the employees. If a bot helps him in running operational tasks like doing background reference checks, scheduling calendars, etc, Akhil wouldn’t mind having a little HR buddy.
Message to the aspiring HRs
“Most people think that HRs just take care of salary negotiations, which is a very wrong understanding; we make sure that the candidate is at par with the salary structure, we make sure that we are offering him a long-term growth. If you want to be an HR, make sure you really love your work, that you are not forced to do the work. Love what you do and do what you love. Find happiness in working with each and every employee. We all remember the first job which we had got through an HR, try to create similar happy memories for other people. Make sure only the best are hired and be ready to become a part of something equally challenging and nice.”