Monthly Archives: August 2019

“Even GOD has Limitations” – The Unlearning- From Akbar Birbal Stories

The Preface: Akbar The Great was the Mogul Emperor who ruled India from 1560 to 1605. He himself was illiterate, but he invited several learned people in his court. Among these people, Birbal was his most favorite minister because of his wit and intellect. There are number of folklore on Birbal in India. As an Executive Search & Recruitment professional during last two decades, I Unlearned (learned new lessons) a lot from these stories and tried to use it in my profession for the benefit of my clients and talented individuals I met and interviewed. I am sharing few of those.

The Story:

One day, a poet from a faraway kingdom arrived at the Court. He delighted everyone with his songs and poems. The Emperor, who was always generous, rewarded him well. The poet had never seen so much gold before. He was overwhelmed. Then poet offered a poem of thanks. Emperor Akbar nodded and the poet began his recitation. He spoke of the Emperor’s bravery and kindness. He praised the Emperor’s learning and wisdom. He ended by saying that Emperor Akbar was the greatest king that had ever ruled this world or any other. He is greater than God Himself. With that, the poet bowed and left the hall.There was a moment of silence. Emperor Akbar looked around and his eyes began to twinkle mischievously. “So,” he said, “it appears that I am now even greater than God”. Emperor Akbar looked at his ministers and commanders, his nobles and his counselors. He wondered if any of them would have the courage to speak the truth. Nobody stirred.

“So,” said the Emperor, beginning to feel irritated, “everyone present agrees that your Emperor is greater than God.” Nobody dared to disagree. He turned to Birbal with a frown. “And you, Birbal. Do you agree too?” he asked. “Yes,” Birbal replied immediately. The Emperor’s frown grew. “Your Majesty, you can do something even God cannot! “Birbal said. “If any of your subjects displease you, your Majesty, you can banish him from your empire, never to return. But God can not because God rules over the entire earth, the sky and the heaven. This universe is God’s Kingdom. There is no place in this universe that does not belong to God. Hence GOD cannot banish any of his creatures from His Empire.” “Well said, Birbal!” Akbar cried delightedly!

The Unlearning

There is no body in this world capable of everything. Even GOD has limitations.

The Professional Observation

As an Executive Search or Head hunting Professional, it is my part of my role to read resumes, interview people and to evaluate to draw compatibility with mandate on hand. Many candidates in their resumes despite of limited success portray themselves as capable of doing anything, capable of managing any situation or company of anysize. Perhaps they don’t know that even GOD has limitations. During my interview and interactions with individuals, I make it a point to confront them and facilitate the understanding. Many reasonable ones are quick to correct and realize the folly and rewrite their resumes. This also helped me to build a long lasting and healthy relationship with such executives.

Interviewing, assessing and helping an individual to understand his true potential is relatively easier task when compared with making recommendations to the client. There exists a potential conflict of interest.Highlighting our own recommended candidate’s shortcomings can sometimes go against one’s own interest because for executive search professionals, a part of our income/success comes from selection. It challenges professional and intellectual integrity of even best Executive Search Professional. It has a potential to derail the assignment and most of Executive Search Professionals in such situations end up putting extra efforts. But still it has to dare it to be done.

I firmly believe, for an executive search professional, when forwarding one’s recommendations to a customer, highlighting limitations or shortcomings of the recommended candidate in an unbiased manner should be more important than highlighting strengths of the individual. it is better understanding of limitations of an individual that would be needed for success of an assignment and healthy & long lasting relationships. Such inputs in general are most appreciated by my most of my clients however one of my clients complained saying “Mr. Marwah, I have a problem in selecting a candidate due to area of concerns mentioned by you in the report. I would prefer if you could recommend someone who is fully compatible without the limitations. At that time I narrated my client above Akbar Birbal Story. In my view, once useful credentials of an individual is established then focus should be only on the limitations of individuals. One need to decide if team mate or organization can cope up with the limitations he/she has and how can it be supplemented either through a team augmentation or otherwise so that an incumbent could have smooth sailing.

As an Executive Search Professional, we also have our own set of limitations which many times our clients are notable to clearly understand or appreciate. There are usual limitations that each Executive Search Professional has in his/ her individual capacity of subject matter expertise to search a specific sector at a specific level or searching in a specific geographic location/s that any one should look at before retaining an Executive Search Professional. But our biggest limitation is that we can only search and cannot manufacture or develop an individual to perfectly match our client’s requirements. Under the light of this fact, if some of Executive Search Professionals still show courage to list the limitations of their own recommended candidates ignoring their own self-interest then it is matter of appreciation and to be proud of.

By |August 30th, 2019|Blog|Comments Off|

Mind Your ‘Profession Tongue’–The Unlearning from Akbar Birbal Stories

The Unlearning- A person writes and speaks the language of his profession or vocation in his resumes and in conversation. We named it “Profession Tongue “

Preface: Akbar The Great was the Mogul Emperor who ruled India from 1560 to 1605. He himself was illiterate, but he invited several learned people in his court. Among these people was Birbal, his most favorite minister because of his wit and intellect. There are number of folklore on Birbal in India. As an Executive Search & Recruitment professional during last two decades of my professional, I have tried to Unlearn (learn new lessons) from these stories and tried to use it in my profession to the benefit of my client and talented individuals I have met and interviewed.

Story -One day a multilingual Brahmin (a learned person) happened to visit Akbar’s court. The Brahmin had heard a lot about the wise men who advised Akbar and so, addressing the Court, he said, “I challenge you to find out my mother tongue. If you fail to do so, you will have to accept defeat.”

The courtiers asked the Brahmin several questions in different languages and the Brahmin replied to them in the language that he was spoken to. He spoke all languages very fluently as if they were his mother tongue. The courtiers could not guess his mother tongue. And in the last Birbal was asked to try it. Birbal casually walked to the Brahmin and kept on staring him in his eyes but said nothing. Few moments went by and there was pin drop silence in the court. Suddenly Birbal lifted his hand and slapped the Brahmin with lightning speed. Brahmin yelled ‘What nonsense is this? What kind of behavior is this? How can you do this to me in Akbar’s court” and Brahmin yelled in Tamil. Then Birbal very humbly and with folded hand bowed to Akbar and said “My Lord, before I tell you the mother tongue of the Brahmin, I want to apologize to the Respected Brahmin for slapping him. It was only a trick to find his Mother Tongue. And if Brahmin wishes he can also slap me. “Have you found out what is the mother tongue of Brahmin” asked the emperor. “Yes Sire I have just found that the Brahmin’s Mother Tongue is Tamil” replied Birbal. “Tell us Birbal, how did you guess the Brahmin’s mother tongue?” asked Akbar “Very simple, Sire! A man will speak his mother tongue when he is in distress or shocked or awkward situation. When I suddenly slapped Brahmin he cried in Tamil hence his Mother tongue is Tamil”. Brahmin accepted his defeat and also forgave Birbal.

The Unlearning

A person writes and speaks the language of his profession or vocation in his resumes and in conversation. We named it “Profession Tongue “

Professional Observation:

As an Executive Search / Recruitment Professional when I read resumes I read it not in English or Hindi or in the language resume is written but in “Profession Tongue”. I would like to see if the person has used the right professional expression; appropriate terminology for his level, function and the industry. “Profession tongue” is different than mother tongue. When one speaks one’s mother tongue incorrectly it does not make much difference. However professionally, you can’t be forgiven if you chose wrong terms / words or make false or highly exaggerated and irrelevant claims. While speaking Profession Tongue you need to appreciate the difference between Jealous & envy or Hate & dislike, book Keeping & Accounting or Brand Management & Product Management. Such errors get very prominently highlighted when expressed in Profession Tongue in the resume.

Most of the resumes are normally found to be longer than desired. Some are just short of an auto biography full of micro details that one finds difficult to finish. Sometimes one also gets resumes with little or no details that make no sense. Length of resume is inversely proportionate to seniority in management level of the person whose resume it is. . Ideal length is between one to maximum three A4 size pages. But most important is that a resume must express true level of understanding and speak an appropriate ‘Profession Tongue’. Can you accept a general practitioner claiming to have done number of neurosurgeries successfully? One can understand bandaging or putting stitches on the skull for a deep cut but not conducting neurosurgeries.

Some persons do have a genuine handicap of expressing themselves .So they take help and assistance of others to write their resumes. These days we get many resumes written by a professional resume writing services or sites. Such resumes look aesthetic but more often lack the substance. Sometimes you get a resume of an accountant based at a Plant Site that mentions Financial Planning, Investment Strategy, M&A as person’s achievement and key strengths. With little bit of probing and observation one can even make out which Resume writing service or site was used. It is not difficult because each writer has its own pet style and format. These writers have their favorite words & proverbs which they use liberally in the resumes they write. In pursuit of making resume look better, resume writing services end up using most of the adjectives in the dictionary and are habituated in mentioning skills, roles and result areas that are much higher than the actual working level of that individual. Such resumes may have been written in flawless English but use most wrong Profession Tongue. It becomes laughable when couple of friends or colleagues happen to use same Resume Writing Service or site and end up applying to the same job in unison. Then one finds the differences in their resumes are their names, address and contact details. If one must use a resume writing service, ensure that it speaks only what you know and should not highlight the follies of resume writer. It is my observation that self-written resume use more balanced Profession Tongue than written by Resume writing services or sites.

For Executive Search Professionals or talent Acquisition departments resume management is a daunting task. Resumes fly in from all directions. It requires data entry of resume which is very cumbersome process. Most of us use an applicant tracking system which has some resume parsing facility that automatically culls/extract data from a resume. One of my ventures SURPaaS Collaborative Technologies is developing a very unique Universal Recruitment Platform – SURPaaS. It also has a resume parser. Unlike other parsers that are Keyword and grammar based, the algorithm of this parser is Profession Tongue. Does it work? Yes! The parser is in position to analyse to a great extent to which industry, function or level the resume belongs to. Going forward it can be made more accurate. Can the parser detect the anomalies of resume writer? Not yet but in near future it would be a reality. I am sure SURPaaS is not the only one experimenting in this area.

There’s no crime In being ambitious and targeting opportunity beyond one‘s current expertise or competences. It is your birth right. Many of us are talented enough to learn beyond their practical experience or management level and learn from others’ knowledge. Such person, if writes few lines giving a balanced reasoning on why should he/she be considered for the position in question, will make better impact even on a most conservative hiring manager or Executive Search Professional. Use Profession Tongue in your resume that you are confident, capable & knowledgeable enough to discuss, explain and debate. Or be prepared to be slapped with rejection at the resume level itself or face humiliating situation during the interview. Humiliating because interrogating (yes Interrogating) technique of the Interviewer is more likely to be similar to Birbal’s technique in the story. First to make you feel relaxed then out of a sudden slap you with a most awkward question to catch you off-guard.

By |August 30th, 2019|Blog|Comments Off|

Exploit an Executive Search Professional to your benefit

Today corporate pay an Executive Search Professional anything up to USD 200K to search a right professional for their enterprise. Quite often people ask me why one would pay so much for finding an employee when there’s so much unemployment around. Answer is that unemployment is at lower level or at entry level due to skill mismatch or lack of information. At senior / top level there is an acute shortage of talent. Not only that, at senior level professionals do have their choices and apprehensions that makes match making very difficult. There’s saying “Executive Search Professional does not hunt those who hunt jobs”

Develop A Communication to Entice : One of the most important roles of an Executive Search Professional is to develop a communication without exaggeration to entice the person to take career decision in favor of the opportunity presented. We have heard how Steve job convinced John Sculley from Pepsi to join Apple by asking Sculley “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Above statement by Steve jobs depicts an art to entice an unwilling individual. Sculley proved to be most successful CEO later on. Believe me it is no easy to attract good talent when prospective employer is small and does not have the matching brand equity. In early 2001 , one of my clients, a most reputed Real Estate Conglomerate at Mumbai, wanted to diversify in IT/ ITEs and was willing to invest USD 20 million in cash capital apart from lending Real Estate but no established IT CEO was willing to join them, due to obvious apprehensions. We released a half page camouflaged Advert in India & , USA, spending close to USD 100K ,mentioning Mid/ senior level positions to announce seriousness of their intent and willingness to spend. Then we identified 14 successful CEOs from IT Industry whom I had known otherwise and sent them the advert cutting requesting them to refer someone from their network for CEO position for this company. Seven of them reverted asking golden question “Who are the promoters?” and search story begins. Five of them were eventually presented to our client and one out of them joined. Some time you need to show intent in action to shake their apprehensions.

Research to Know undercurrents : Foundation of Executive Search is research & knowledge on the DNAs of the Companies & Professionals operating in the sector of one’s specialization. It is all about reading the undercurrents of the industry and understanding professional whims and fancies of the individuals. Many confuse Executive Search Consultancy with low end recruitment Agency. Lower level recruiting is more mechanical process & number game coupled with filtering skills. One should not expect from a contingent recruiter to develop such communications strategies.

Boon For Less Visible Corporates : Executive Search is used by all but it is boon for SMEs who need good talent to grow their business but does not have requisite size and brand equity. At the time when Steve Job proposed John Sculley, Pepsi was global giant and Apple a pygmy. How does one convince a professional to join a small upcoming company with low paying capability is both science & art that Executive Search Professional need to exercise.

Share Inner Woes & get indepth analytics : Recently I was introduced to one Mid-size industrialist whose company was not doing well and wanted a Professional to turn around. But industrialist reacted sharply & negatively to my poking questions to understand the reasons for his company’s sickness. Guess what, meeting lasted just five minutes and I have to decline the mandate. If you are a Promoter / Businessman wanting to hire the services of an Executive Search Professional, my advice to you is to find a good Executive Search Professional through validated references and be transparent with that Professional to get the best out of him/her. Do not hesitate to share with them inner woes. Because an Executive Search Professional needs to understand clearly the type of person needed to do your assignment successfully. He / she needs to be clear on “must have” strengths and ill-affordable Limitations of the prospective individual if he has to do a good job. As such all of us are under the oath of secrecy & Non Disclosures. Many of the seasoned industrialists spend few minutes extra with their trusted Head Hunter because Executive Search Professionals are supposed to be very authentic source to find or validate the undercurrents of Industry or to know new good practices. Executive Search Professionals interacts with many successful Executives in the industry and are privy to many happenings & analytics in the industry

Network before you need them : And if you are a talented individual, then best is to network with an Executive Search Professional much before you need them. Best time is when you are just getting out of middle management getting into general management roles. And if you are already at senior level looking for a change, then do connect with ones you had networked in past but don’t solely depend upon them. The reason is that an Executive Search Professional is driven solely by the needs of its clients and has very limited wherewithal to push someone through unless his/her mandate warrant it. It would be only a coincidence if Executive Search Professional happened to place you when you connected for a change. Of course one specializing in your sector will have better access and better chance to place you. But do keep in mind that an Executive Search is a very low volume business; they place not more than 1% of people they meet or know.

Exploit to make Better Career Decisions : You can use your relations to take their inputs to make better career decisions or to get deep insight on a company of your interest. A knowledgeable Executive Search Professional can prove to be a good sounding board. Executive Search Professional will invest his time in you if he/ she see a potential in you and you had maintained relationships. But don’t expect them to share beyond a limit as most of us are bound by our ethics and Non-Disclosure commitments.

Long Term relationship pays : Executive Search is all about relationship. Most of us have relationships with our customers & candidates that go back more than a decade. Two years ago, I placed a person, for the position of Managing Director with one of my old European clients, whom I had known for over a decade but never placed him before. During this period, this gentleman conferred with me for 3 to 4 times regarding his career moves. Thanks to this I understood that he thrives in chaos. All his successful innings were in troubled companies and he turned out to be virtual status quo manager in a stable company. So this time I have to really impress upon my client to push hard his candidature because the said company was in all sorts of troubles including the treason by local JV partner. In Last two years, this gentleman had sorted out all problems and put the company on comeback trail. You must have guessed it already; soon it is going to be the time to hand over company to someone else.

Don’t Be Silly : It would make a sense to keep in touch with Head Hunter just the way you connect with your doctor even when healthy. But refrain from asking oft asked question “How’s the job market these days? “ as there exists no such market. And if you consider your talent a commodity then you are not worth a search by Executive Search Professional.

Article was also published on the blog of MAGNA GLOBAL HR Services Pvt Ltd (www.magnaglobalhr.com)

By |August 30th, 2019|Blog|Comments Off|