Leadership is about investing in the growth of others

I have been working in the IT services industry for over 30 years now and I am greatly indebted to many of the leaders I came across in my career, influenced my thinking and shaped the organizations I have worked with. I have always believed that learning is eternal and if one has the desire they can continue to learn till their last breath.

Today, I would like to talk about one of the most important aspects of the IT services Industry – “Talent Acquisition”. It’s not difficult to hire talent however it’s tough to get the right blend of talent needed for success. I have done hundreds on interviews in various different organizations I have worked in and hired some of the best team members with my assessment process . Attrition rates in India has always been higher in relation to other parts of the world and hiring the best blend of talent is crucial for the success and growth of the business. 

It’s always a great challenge to find the right balance for the requirements of an IT client services role which almost always requires excellent communication skills, confidence in managing the client and of course the technical knowledge & expertise. There is a quote in my native language and the close translation of the quote is “ one who is excellent in communication never gets into trouble”.  When the job description says excellent communication skills needed which is usually needed for pretty much all the roles in IT services,  it actually boils down to :  can the candidate speak confidently ? and clearly articulate in a concise manner what he/ she wants to communicate to the intended audience ?

One the things I ask my candidates to do is to introduce themselves and talk for about 4-5 minutes which can be anything about themselves, where they grew up, their take on life and explicitly tell them not to talk about their work experience during those 4-5 minutes. 8 out of 10 candidates struggle get beyond a minute or two and promptly start talking about the work experience. The ones who were able to talk beyond 5 minutes were usually found be confident in their communication, clear and concise in their ability to articulate their thoughts and had done their education in some of the better schools. These candidates are usually capable of standing on their own in any conversation and building the much needed rapport with your clients. This is the time one gets to assess their fluency, grammar, confidence, their ability to articulate their thoughts and present their best selves. Ability to speak fluently in western accent cannot be construed as an ability to communicate well. Many of the candidates we hire are most likely going to be on frequent conference calls with technical architects, senior executives and the Client leadership teams. Clients are not always looking for answers on the call, however they want some one to be taking charge of the situation and take ownership with confidence for resolution of the issue or situation at hand.

Another important aspect of the hiring process:  how do you assess what the candidate knows about what the role needs and more importantly what he doesn’t know? And does the candidate know what he doesn’t know ?  Let me elaborate what I mean by this. In the interviews I conduct, I usually ask questions that may have not be explicitly called out in the job description…however it’s still relevant as asking these questions to one assess personality and let you decide if the candidate has desirable traits.

Let me narrate a couple of real life examples from the many interviews I have done:

Interview # 1

Me : If you didn’t need to work for money and had all the time to do whatever you are passionate about, what would you be doing?

Candidate: I love photography and would pursue photography

Me: what kind of photography would you be doing ? fashion, wildlife, sports photography?

Candidate: I haven’t thought about it 

Me : Ok – what are the parameters that are essential to understand how to take great photos ?

Candidate : Draws a complete blank

Me: Do you know what an Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed is ? ( Trying to nudge him to get some answers)

Candidate: Again, struggling to explain what those are and didn’t get anywhere with the answers

Interview # 2

Me : If you didn’t need to work for money and had all the time to do whatever you are passionate about, what would you be doing?

Candidate: I am passionate about motorcycles and would be riding across India

Me: Do you own a motorcycle ?

Candidate: Yes, I do own a 350 cc Royal Enfield

Me: Can you tell me the engine type? Torque and maximum power?

Candidate: Draws a blank look ( he didn’t have a clue what I was looking for)

Frankly I would have no problem if the candidates had said I would just be enjoying life as it happened instead of claiming to be passionate about something that they have no clue of.  While it’s important to know what you know, it’s essential to know what you don’t know. Candidates who don’t know what they don’t know can be quite detrimental to the business and have proven to cause irreparable damage to the relationships with Clients. It would augur well for any organization to hire candidates who know what they know and know what they don’t know !

Hiring the right blend of talent for your organization is essential for the business.  Not everyone in the team has to be a star. If you know your business well, you will have a good idea of the right blend of talent you need to hire in your team and that is the mantra for success.  

Thank you and wishing you all “happy hiring”.

About Mahesh Murthy 1 Article
Mahesh Murthy is an Electronics Engineer from Bangalore University with over 30 years of experience in the IT Services industry. He is an accomplished professional who’s work experience includes Global IT Services Delivery for Large Enterprises, Managed IT, Operational Exellence, System Integration & Consulting and building high value - high performace teams. Some of the reputed organizations he has worked with, include EDS@ General Motors (Detroit), Lucent Technologies (Dallas), Microland, Sapient, Accentures, JP MorganChase and CGI in India. He has the required expertise and experience to manage concurrent projects involving diverse cultural teams, geographies and across different industry verticals. His favorite quote is “Leadership is not about you; it's about investing in the growth of others.” -Ken Blanchard

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