Talent Management: Ask Me Anything with Rajiv Srinivas

As CEO of Rekrewt, Rajiv Srinivasan could bring a global perspective to the state of the talent market. In this AMA with Pulse, Srinivas talks of the ideal qualities that make a CIO and what distinguishes milennials from their older colleagues.

What does the ideal candidate for CIO have on their resumé?

First and foremost, there is no ideal candidate. What has worked for you in another context may not work in a new context. I want to find somebody who is very adaptable, flexible, who was able to put customer first. I think a lot of us have failed to understand that we are all trying to do something for a customer. As long as you keep the customer you’re able to be agile, nimble and trying to understand the changing needs of the customer. 

One of the large problems with some of the projects I’ve been associated with is that you are doing what you think the customer wants, but you’re forgetting what the customer actually wants. So you need a leader who’s able to bring all the elements of this together because there are going to be problems given your customer’s organization is constantly changing. Build with all the steps that you need. Somebody who iss able to manage all those things and get things done is what defines a successful leader for me.

Is it easy to spot these traits in an interview? The amount of time spent has nothing to do with the actual job that needs to get done. It’s all about our ability to be honest and real as to why we are hiring a specific person. Who has worked in that role in the past? 

Tell the person what the problem is and what you want to get done. You may have your own way of doing it because there is no one way of getting things done. People have their own ways of getting things done. I think you should empower them and then see how the job gets done.

To what extent can talent-finding be automated?

In my opinion, in general and especially as HR continues to be human, you can automate some parts of your process which are very mundane and which are very basic. But as you start interacting, talking and assessing candidates, the people element is extremely needed. For a lot of people in this business your body language, your eye contact and the way you’re going to react is all made note of. It tells me a lot about the person. It tells me a lot about their ability to look at things and get things done. and it has to be a Very, very simple human to human conversation and you also make judgments.

Another thing which I always tell my people is that while you are assessing a candidate, the candidate is assessing you too. When you see something as a two-way assessment then, while I may have my needs, he also has an equal need to know who he’s going to work with. What does the company want? What are they trying to do? So you need to give a very fair chance for him to know about you and your problems. 

Finding and assessing a candidate can involve a great deal of predictive ability. How do you train for that ability?

That’s a tough one. Some companies do behavioral assessments to try to understand the pattern of candidate’s thinking. But that may not be proof or a solid reflection. We have seen this a lot in TV series and movies that, though he committed a crime, he knows how to get through the lie detector test. In the same way, a lot of candidates over a period of time know how to respond, how to answer on how to appear very current in an interview.

I have known candidates who have been extremely successful when you hire them and they miserably failed after they join you. That happens for a lot of reasons. Could be the company, the culture, the people, the way they were operating. If you are bringing an outcome-focused person into a very process-driven environment it’s definitely gonna fail. Because he’s not able to express himself. They’re not able to function because the system is always telling them what to do and how to do it. The question in the end is whether it can work for you? And I think that is exactly what you’re trying to figure out.

You have a uniquely global perspective on talent shortages and surpluses. What is the market like in terms of shortages or surpluses?

Everybody talks about a demand/supply gap. At various points in time the equations keep changing. There’s the feeling that there are fewer jobs and a lot more candidates even globally. But if look at it over a 10-year window, you were having a lot of jobs but you were not able to get the right candidate. 

In my opinion, it’s very important for you to understand how a particular geography/country operates. I think what necessarily worked for somebody in Europe may not work for them in the US. Be it the sensibilities, the customer behavior, the way the market works: it is very unique and different in each place. So it is very prudent for you to match your candidate with the operating style of a particular region where you’re trying to hire. Traditionally, it’s always good to have a local because they understand the customer more. The ability to connect and relate becomes important. 

The Indian companies traditionally did not really adopt this because they always thought that there would be somebody who’s from the homeland. Today everybody understands the significance of India and why outsourcing has become so critical. I vividly remember, about 15 years back, we tried to hire somebody in India from the US. After about a week’s time he said that this was not the kind of place I want to work for. Because he didn’t understand the culture and felt very disconnected when he didn’t see what was in it for him. 

What do you make of the generation divide between millenial and non-millennial IT workers?

Millennials believe that they’re very good at what they do. They are specialists and they are much more flexible or adaptable. At the same time, they look for instant gratification and they don’t come to you for everything. So it all depends on how they’re managed. Millennials will only come to a manager if they’ve tried something and it doesn’t work. Then they come to you for advice, and they expect you to solve the problem. 

If you can’t deal with millennials or gain their respect, then you’re in trouble as a manager. You need to be very adaptable. If you really look at it as a market, a lot of people have become people managers because of tenure and experience and not necessarily because of their competence. Now they are inheriting a set of people who might be coming straight out of college. The onus though is mostly on the manager. So he needs to really make sure that he understands the workforce.  Millennials are not the problem. People who manage the millennials seem to be the issue and I think they have to adapt to how to manage and work with this workforce.

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