Reccelerate Interviews Joanna Tsang, Director of Recruitment at one of Hong Kong’s fastest growing start-ups. In this Q&A Joanna, shares insights on her own transition from Agency to In-house, what her new role entails, and how she works with agency partners.
Q: Tell me about your organization and your current role
The business that I work for is one of the largest and fastest-growing start-ups in Hong Kong. Our pioneer product, handy, is an innovative mobile travel solution that combines the functionality of a personal smartphone and hotel services into one fully integrated device. Having joined the business during a stage of rapid ramp-up period, and that's where we were able to build a talent function from ground up. The journey has been pretty amazing: working closely with different teams and building a global business has been rewarding. We still have a lot to do in terms of global development and streamlining recruitment. I think almost every company out there is searching for similar candidates and with the talent pool being finite, it's essential to build strong employer brand awareness. So far we have been fortunate enough to attract a great deal of talented individuals based on awareness. My role here is to define the talent strategy and work with all business heads on where we have a shortfall of a particular talent and how we will go about in defining and developing pipeline . Once we have a full view of what's needed, I can then think about where we can focus on the exposure of the role.
Q: You were previously an agency recruiter prior to moving to talent acquisition – can you share your experience for the benefit of others looking to make a similar transition?
Having been on both sides of the fence has enabled me to experience the dynamics of each type of business models as well as effective stakeholder management processes. Essentially I have become more effective at having different types of conversations with different people. What were the main differences between agency and in-house from your personal experience? The difference between agency and in-house recruitment is you get the full view of the whole business rather than just having the silo relationship with the hiring manager as you would with agency.
Q: What ‘must have’ qualities do you feel a Talent Acquisition professional should possess ?
He or she must be a natural networker, with strong communication skills, mentally agile, and possess meticulous attention to detail. Any recruiter has the potential to move into an in-house role, but the key to being successful in this type of role is having good stakeholder management, approaching matters in a pragmatic way, and building long-term credibility. Outside of the work environment, people spend their lives developing personal networks and partnerships, and a TA role is no different and along side the sales teams, you should aim to be known as the most connected person in the company.
Q: How do you deal with any conflict with recruitment agencies and get them to work better with you?
Agency recruiters are trained specialists at pushing boundaries, so it's always in the interest of both parties to have a good working relationship. It's essential to keep conversations open and ideas flowing. Building a knowledge base of the industry, the business and people sets you apart from generalist but also be prepared to put in 110% commitment to that particular space and pass off roles that you don't specialize in.
Q: How do you build your talent pipeline? And what are your go-to sourcing techniques?
Having a global role and supporting multiple business units centrally opens up a lot of new challenges but also tons of opportunities. The right strategy to building an end-to-end process needs constant improvement and re-calibration, as there's no one-size-fits-all as every business model is different, so you have to find one that fits your business. But remember to always have a Plan B and C. Regarding sourcing techniques it's not so much the techniques that I use, but more to do with the engagement I have with a potential candidate because what I do isn't about numbers, but about networking and understanding what people do every day in their work lives that could potentially impact the company. For me, the right attitude is what I am looking for, and the passion for what they do is a close second. Technical skills are important, too, on many levels.
Q: What KPIs do you embrace in your business?
I tend to find that KPI's are great at building pipelines in larger team environments with little or low management supervision. When you're a small and lean business, you'll find out pretty quickly each individual's strengths and weaknesses, but the key to bringing out the best isn't to focus on their shortfalls, but rather build on their strengths and offer them every opportunity to be successful. Finding intuitive ways to ensure the team is successful is my KPI.
Q: What advice would you give to an agency recruiter looking to make the switch to in-house Talent Acquisition?
Choose a reputable company that offers a decent talent platform with lots of departmental support as you'll need as much help to navigate around as possible. Keep an open mind always especially if coming at Talent Acquisition for the first time having worked as an agency recruiter. You have to come prepared to really re-wire the way you think about recruitment in order to be successful as your role will definitely rely on you becoming less transactional and replacing that with a more strategic, bigger picture, long term approach. Recruitment is only one element of what you will need to deliver in your role as a TA and investing the time to understand the business and how to influence stakeholders will prove key to your success.