#HRHeroes: An Interview With Helpchat’s Head of HR, Anil Chandra

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Ub Iwerks was stuck. Along with two friends, he’d quit Universal Studios, hoping to produce and create their own animated TV show. It wasn’t going great. He had tried several sketches, cows, horses, frogs - he just couldn’t sketch a good enough lead character for their first pilot. The story then goes that a tame mouse laid a spark in his head and the foundation of a world-dominating entertainment company: Disney. 

Inspiration is a curious thing. We’d all love to be inspired but we can’t always rely on rodents. What we can do is look around and find inspiration in people. Towards that end, we’d like to debut our #HRHeroes, a series that features leaders on the forefront of transforming the HR world. Join us as we dig into their work philosophy, learn what gets them going and hear their views on the future of hiring, culture and everything HR.

Allow us to kick this off with Anil Chandra, Vice President of HR at Helpchat -- or more popularly @thehrstore.

What does a typical day in Anil’s life look like?

Lots of meetings, honestly! My day kicks off with 15-20 minute stand-ups with my team, bringing everyone in-sync. Then I have a series of 1:1 meetings with the leaders of various teams, including product, tech, etc., It is vital that I stayed connected with every aspect of the business to ensure every team stays engaged and also to solve for any roadblocks. These meetings have always been a part of my routine in my previous roles, and continues at Helpchat too.

A bulk of my time goes into candidate interactions. I make it a point to talk to each and every candidate who was offered. 

A bulk of my time goes into interactions. I make it a point to talk to each and every candidate who was offered. Listening to leaders across the company is important to understand the pulse of the organization. I take out at least 30-40 mins a day to talk to business leaders, industry experts and my peers. The rest of the day goes into planning for events, communication and such.

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As the head of HR, what metrics do you care most about?

Each team under HR works towards its own set of metrics. For instance, the operations team tracks all internal queries. So, they keep tabs on how many queries come in, how many tickets are closed in a day, how long does each ticket take to close and so on. This helps them manage employee experience better. If the overall ticker is green, everything is smooth. If it is yellow, something requires attention, and if it is red, the issue needs to be solved before the stand-up meeting the next morning.

But as a leader, I concern myself more with the analysis and interpretation of metrics. I help my team identify bottlenecks, like the TA team needing more inputs or time from Hiring Managers, or the HR Ops team has been stuck on a yellow ticker for too long. My role as a leader is to resolve bottlenecks and ensure all teams are moving towards their goals.

I keep a tab on the engagement metrics as well - how was candidate experience by the TA team, did they enable candidates make an informed decisions, how many one-on-one’s has the HR Business Partner team had this month, etc., I always have a pulse on how our employees and prospects feel about Helpchat.

What’s Helpchat’s secret to keeping its hiring teams excited and motivated? 

I’ve noticed that the most engaged and successful recruiters are the ones who picked the field out of passion. And I think it is very important to keep things exciting for them, keep them engaged.

I’ve noticed that the most engaged and successful recruiters are the ones who picked the field out of passion.

One way we do that is by maintaining an internal recruitment leaderboard. We award points on tasks, tailored to the branch, rather than absolutely. For example, if a TA closes one position difficult to fill, like an Architect role, he/she would get more points compared to closing 3-4 positions that are easier to fill. Based on total points earned, they become our “Recruiter of the Month”

Repeat top performers set benchmarks and inspire people to push themselves further. Of course, they also share their best practices and learnings so everyone can do better. I’ve seen that nothing motivates people as much as peer recognition. After all, it is a great feeling to get a pat on the back from the people you respect the most. Celebrating individual or team success is important for the team’s overall motivation levels.

Beyond passion, what more do you look for in your star recruiters?

I am quite taken with potential recruiters who do their research. When they can demonstrate knowledge about your company that isn’t available in the first two links of the Google search result page, it shows more than an interest in the job. It shows they are good at looking up information that isn’t blaringly obvious. For a TA, this is a very useful skill.

For a TA, it is a very useful skill to see that they look up information that isn’t blaringly obvious.

While interviewing TA specialist, I have a go-to question which I ask of all the candidates I interviewed. I’d ask “Assume I am someone who is interviewing with your current company and I am have an offer from your competitor as well. Give me three reasons to choose your company over your competitor?”

Their answers to this question is a giveaway of certain things - do they understand the business, how are they pitching the job and do they care enough about the candidates they are about to interview if they joined us?

We are glad you spoke about how important it’s for recruiters to understand business. How do you help make that happen?

First off, whenever someone new joins, we get them to shadow interviewers who have been with us for a while. This onboards them much faster. New recruiters also sit in on the interviews conducted by the tech team, so they understand how they work, what are the frequently-used terms or questions and what do they mean. After two or three such meetings, the recruiters have a better clarity of the process.

At Helpchat, every member of the HR team is encouraged to give product related feedback just as much as the technical/product teams. This ensures that they understand the very product for which they are hiring.

We also ask the TA person to take a position all the way to closure - the HM sits in while they explain the offer, roles and responsibilities to the candidate.

To get a pulse of the candidate experience, we send out an interview experience survey to each candidate after their interviews. We encourage candidates to give us honest and candid feedback. Their feedback helps us understand consider what’s working and what’s not working in the hiring process. We share these insights with the interviewers, leaders and help people improve wherever required.


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Recruiting teams in a company like Helpchat must see a lot of high-pressure situations. How do you manage emotional flare-ups that arise in the team?

Empathy is really important. I also believe that people get emotional about things they really care about. So, in a way it means that they are giving it their 100% on the job and thinking deeply about solving problems at work. I find it best to relate to high-pressure situations from my past experiences. I try and explain how I’ve been in a situation similar to this and how I’d handled it. I encourage honest feedback amongst team members. Also, any issues that people face are openly discussed during my one on one meetings.

Empathy is really important, I find it best to relate from my experiences.

How does the HR team enable and engage hiring managers at Helpchat? Are HM trainings part of this engagement?

At a Hiring Manager (HM) level, you are expected to make many decisions that would impact the careers, team and the company heavily. HM’s alignment with our vision and values therefore becomes critical. So yes, they do undergo certain training sessions that would empower them.

Since this would positively impact them, their teams and the organization as a whole, their participation is critical.

Also, a Hiring Manager could be someone who has been with us for a while and has grown into that role. We organize leadership training programs for them to help them succeed in their new roles. As for someone who directly joins us in a leadership role, the biggest challenge could be unlearning -- they should be able to balance their old practices with new learnings to figure out what would work for us. One of the values at Helpchat is to think from ‘First Principle’. For this, the HR teams spend an extensive amount of time with them to help them get a feel of how things work here. And in both cases, I usually sit in with them as they conduct their first interviews for us. More importantly, there is a continuous feedback loop that pushes learning for everyone involved.

What would be your one golden rule on hiring? 

Never hire someone out of desperation.

When your company is growing aggressively, there will be pressure from all directions - after all, you can’t move forward without bringing people in. But always remember the golden rule: never hire someone out of desperation. Push back if it is necessary, it is better to take some time and hire the right person rather just hire brashly, based only on their skillset. And at the initial stages, you are the best person to judge someone for fitment - it is a good practice to conduct those interviews yourself.

Also, remember there is no mathematical formula for this - you are bound to get it wrong at some point. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Rather, learn from it. But do your research before you start hiring people -talk to people who are experienced so you can incorporate some best practices right away and avoid obvious pitfalls.

On the topic of younger or fast-growing companies, a question many founders ask is when do I bring on board a VP, HR? Is there a right answer?

Well, I’ve been on both ends - I’ve joined a startup where I was one of the first employees and I have been in fairly established companies. I learned that the decision to bring someone like me in completely depends on what your priorities are and the type of company you are trying to build. HR professionals have different areas of expertise - some specialise in growth, some can set up solid processes and so on. Ideally, it should be a match between what your need is and the expertise of the HR person.

I’d suggest bringing a recruiter onboard as early as possible. Someone who is really hands on and helps you grow, who understands your vision and values. They could make all the difference and could really help you hire the right people right away.

I’d suggest bringing a recruiter onboard as early as possible. Someone who is really hands on and helps you grow, who understands your vision and values.

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Finally, Anil, what’s the one big change in Talent Acquisition you’re looking forward to in 2016?

I think considering how everyone is connected through social media these days and how much information is available online, finding people isn’t going to be a huge challenge going forward. The real challenge would be to process the information available and understand what truly are the candidate’s aspirations and interests and engage them with the opportunity you have. The demand for talented people is intense today, and the only way you can have a meaningful conversation with them is if you understand what motivates them. So talent acquisition as a function will have to focus on engaging with the talent community more.

The demand for talented people is intense today, and the only way you can have a meaningful conversation with them is if you understand what motivates them.

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