“We Always Hit the Mark” – HR and Home Office in an International Environment – Interview With Krisztina Strázsi

As part of the pandemic curfews in place for over a year we have met many opinions according to which the lack of personal contact and social activities alienates and dehumanizes society. Is it so? And if so, what effect does this situation, the changing work methods have on a field which is almost unimaginable without meeting people day to day? We are talking with Krisztina Strázsi, recruiter at United Call Centers about the challenges of online recruitment, the most important cornerstones of building an international team. In addition we will find out, can you act during an interview?

Will the lack of personal meetings, and overall home office work affect corporate communities?

We cannot really determine yet whether these processes will have negative effects, and if so, what these are going to be. It’s difficult to say how changing work environments will affect human relationships, but as the time goes this will also change with the world. From a HR perspective I think either home office, or the increasing automated processes will decrease the human element. In many ways we miss what we had earlier during classic job interviews. The fact that someone comes into the office, smile, sign the contract, or that we can have instant questions and feedback.

On the other hand, we need to follow the lead, we have to be up to date in HR too. It is an important question, how we can better nurture and treat human relationships on a higher level during the current situation. As the recruitment and selection leader I am the first contact point for future workmates. In this position it’s paramount to emphasize that people should get to know us, our procedures, and it should not be surprise for anyone that they might meet an automated system, not another person during induction and onboarding. Whether after the normalization of the situation personal connections can gain more footing is yet to be seen.

In HR personal impressions are very important, since during an interview body language and gestures might say more than words. What tools do you have in an online conversation without these?

It was difficult to get used to, since I’m a typical people person. I like to watch mimics, body language, how people sit, where they put their hands, you can determine a lot from this during the first couple of minutes, not necessarily from what the candidate has to say about themselves, where they went to school, what achievements they had. I think those who start in this system will have a more difficult time because they do not have experience with traditional interviews.

I’m working here for five years now, and we have been doing online job interviews for a year and a half, since many people were working in an at-home model prior to the pandemic as well. In the current situation this face to face experience is very important to decide during an online interview what is true, and what is just an act to get the job. This was never easy. If someone lacks personal experience, they will have a more difficult time deciding this, since they have less real-life experiences about these situation, interactions. It is more difficult to tell the differences, how a person behaves in real life, and how behind the camera, since then our conversation is framed by a screen.

Can you act like you were appropriate for a job?

You can. Or we should say some people try to. But there are certain professional tools to screen this, like unobvious questions and so on. Not to mention that the 10-15 minutes what these kind of people prepare for, pass quickly and after another few minutes their real personality shows. During a job interview situation not even the strongest, most skilled candidate can concentrate for more than 15-20 minutes to 100% communicate according to the image they want to project. If somebody wants to speak very nicely during the interview, they can forget themselves after some time, and can say things which do not fit the picture. You can give feedback then. You need experience for this. It’s important to know the mechanics of human behaviour.

The international UCC team consists of colleagues from all over the world. Considering recruitment this poses quite a challenge, since even though someone might be ideal for a position, based on the Hungarian attitude maybe in Japan, where the corporate culture is completely different, they are not the right choice. How can you avoid these pitfalls?

I mostly work with the domestic team and this is the area which I mostly oversee, but certainly recruitment is quite complex on an international level. There are some local differences which surprised me in the beginning.

Such as?

For example, in many of the countries we operate in, there is mandatory siesta or prayer time, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The first time I came across this, I thought it would be great to move to the Philippines, because they have 30 minutes mandatory siesta with a separate siesta room. This is absolutely unlikely in most European countries, but there it is a common practice to take a nap during work. We all had to conform to this, which is good because we could meet many interesting people, I really like this diversity. United Call Centers is a really open-minded and accepting community, so this does not pose a problem. However it is very important to know the different operational areas.

What does this mean in practice?

We always hit the mark. During implementation we always have to explore the intricacies of the given area, and based on that start recruitment, create schedules, etc. We have to know the given countries’ everyday life to be there in a local market. If we do not explore local specifications, we could easily find ourselves not being able to find employees because we do not even know what we are doing wrong.

Can you search in the wrong way?

Of course you can! People who are not in HR might think we have an easy job to do but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes we need to work on different plans and strategies, rework them, rethink them. We have to collect a lot of information, we need to research. Sometimes a single word can make all the difference in important matters. It is important to nurture a good relationship with different organisations and service providers to receive valuable feedback.

We have to know if in certain areas we should avoid English words, because the local portals might not support English keywords in their search engine. A job portal might not disclose this because they want to have as many ads as possible. But a good relationship can motivate experience sharing a mutual assistance in this area as well. It is important to know people who can help because we do not know everything. Market trends can only be seen if we are in it, only specialized companies see the procedures in advance to certain extent, who conduct surveys in this area and have relevant data.

How can we get to know a country from several thousand miles in certain cases?

It is all about the research. For example, on the international level we do not simply look for languages, but for specific dialects as well. In China there is no such things as „speaking Chinese”, because there are several dozens of dialects from North-East Mandarin to Xiang dialect. Local knowledge is very important. We need to determine how people live there, what they do, how can you reach them, how they work, what job portals are there. There are many global, international job portals, but if they are not available in the given area, for any reason, then we are launching a recruitment campaign in vain.

This is the first step. We need to determine where we can appear, who we can reach in the given area, how we can allure them, what is important for them right now? There are different market trends which you have to know. A few years ago different team building events were more important, today they are not. Home office became more important, just like whether the employer provides tools, and even these things are constantly changing. 2019 was more the year of in-house work: everybody was looking to find out what future colleagues are like, what the team is like. Now they more frequently ask whether we provide a company notebook or mobile, is the place of work flexible, can you literally work from anywhere, and whether thanks to this you can have more family time.

Just like with every profession, HR has many stereotypes about them. What makes this job great, how can you be good in this position?

I always thought I am never going to work closed up in an office. But I was always open and if there was an opportunity I always tried that maybe this is the way, let fate do its job. This came to be true, this is how I ended up in this environment.

Maybe a lot of people do not think about it, but the HR profession and the recruiter position is dependable in many ways, since they are responsible towards many other areas. But we are always going to be first step, if we didn’t work perhaps nothing else would. In addition not even the HR area is homogenous. At United Call Centers for example we are responsible for labor, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receiveable, and recruitment & selection as well. Each of the tasks requires different personalities. I had the privilege to know the whole team, I took part in building it, supervising the procedures, and I loved all of it. If somebody does not see the beauty in it, they will hardly become good at HR. Flexibility is important. In this area you can find yourself between a rock and a hard place if you plan for the long term, strictly think in terms of processes, and find it difficult to adapt to occasional changes.

The corporate environment influences this position as well. In a multinational environment executing type personalities are more prevalent, in small companies creativity has more footing. You need to be able to make decisions on your own, to form your own work as an independent personality. I am really happy about this, because I was never really put between too strict boundaries, and we always got support for our ideas. This is the same today – I don’t have to think too much about what management thinks because they are a really open, supportive environment. But we have to learn this as well: to know what we want, how we want it, and still remain open for others’ ideas.

And I think the best feedback is when you can see that a colleague you selected is successful in their own area.

This always makes me happy. But to be honest the best experiences are the personal feedbacks. A few days ago I went to the office to talk a little with my teammates because we haven’t met for months, and I bumped into one of our colleagues who I recruited back then, and got to us in a very complicated time of their life. This colleague expressed gratitude because I have seen the opportunity and never thought it would feel great to be here. This is the best part of my job. The fact that I can help those who in a certain case lost their hope for good, the hope to have a stable life for themselves. It is a very important responsibility for anyone dealing with recruitment. In certain cases we need to be able to see who we can help – but we have to draw the line if they do not fit the job they have applied for.

Can it happen someone shows hidden talent?

We strive to handle everyone openly. It might happen that somebody applies for a back office job which needs you to be able to deal with monotonity, but then I feel they are a different personality who need more varied tasks. In this case I need to tell them what might suit them better, what is the area where they can shine. Regardless there are cases when it turns out such a personality is very good at analytics too. The corporate ladder is not one-directional: many people at our company started  as operators, then they showed their talent and now are an important part of UCC’s life in a different area.

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