#TalentQA | 6 min read

#TalentQA: Yasar Ahmad, Head of Strategic Talent @ Wipro

Francesca Greane
Written by Francesca Greane

Hearing from yet another leader the talent acquisition industry, we recently spoke with Yasar Ahmad – Head of Strategic Recruitment at leading global information technology and consultancy firm Wipro. 

Yasar discussed how the evolution of the talent acquisition industry has led to an increased need for recruiters to focus on the human element of their acquisition processes, and how technology is becoming key to enabling this… 


Third Republic (TR): How have you seen technical talent acquisition change in your time in the industry?

Yasar Ahmad (YA): the last decade we’ve seen the recruitment industry becoming agnostic to change, and then we saw a huge shift into everyone becoming an evangelist for change as the likes of Linkedin picked up. Now, the industry is almost symbiotic, and you could almost divide it into multiple schools of thought. From the automation and artificial intelligence evangelists, to those who see the candidate experience as key and who focus on human interaction, there is a lot of divide in what is seen to be a good recruitment process. But one thing that’s for sure, amongst all of these changes, it’s becoming increasingly easier for candidates to find jobs.


TR: You speak about there being a division of multiple schools of thought; where would you place yourself on this spectrum?

YA: I think I’m divided between the two; there’s so many schools of thought about what is happening – from artificial intelligence taking over, to the need to talk to each other, but I think there is a subset and that’s human shaped experienced.

Recruitment needs to be human shaped in the sense that it needs to service the candidate rather than the organisation, because there is so much choice nowadays. I think the future is moving towards recruitment focusing more on the back-end of the process; because candidates are able to find jobs more easily because of this explosion of technology, so there is less need for recruiters to be doing that aspect of the role. Instead, they need to focus on speaking to candidates, building relationships, and generally providing that red-carpet service. In line with this, the branding of an organisation is becoming increasingly key, as the competition increases. 


TR: In this age of human shaped experiences, do you think that recruitment is becoming more of a network-based industry?

YA: Yes, however that should be taken with a caveat. There are about 67 million people in the UK, so it’s not about how big your network is, but how effective it is. For instance, I have a strong network in tech outsourcing and management consultancy and they are giving in the sense that if I reach out, that individual will reach out to more people and it creates a ripple effect. It’s about creating meaningful networks and not just the largest.


TR: Do you think the rise in digital and technology will continue to alter and influence the industry? 

YA: Technology will always influence the recruitment process, and I believe that it will do so in a positive way. That’s because recruiters want to spend the majority of their time actually speaking, selling and negotiating to talent, and in order to achieve this the idle admin related tasks will have to become more automated. What’s also becoming more apparent is the attitude towards technology and productivity, and recruitment managers are using more project management-based methodologies in order to drive outcomes and productivity. Recruiters are being taught to stop focusing on tasks with deadline, and instead on tasks that are actually meaningful and rewarding. I think that technology will evolve to help us better understand this distinction between what is important and what is urgent, and where time should be focused in order to drive efficiency.


TR: What emerging trends are you seeing in the talent acquisition industry?

YA: Apart from the obvious changes in LGBTQ, Diversity & Inclusion hiring Policies etc, there is a significant new trend in our approach to interviewing candidates. Indeed, we are seeing organisations and recruitment agencies understand that assessing individuals against one another on their soft skills in interviews can actually provide inaccurate results, and that doing so is actually quite crazy because the benchmark will constantly change and will be completely bias. That’s why I think we’re seeing a rise in online soft skills assessments.

Job auditions – which is allowing companies to pay people to come in and trial out few tasks – is another trend I am seeing become increasingly popular, as well as video interviewing. These actually all sound like old trends, but they are becoming more popular again; almost like how you see certain clothing styles come back in fashion. Finally, I think that whilst Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Interview Simulation environments are exciting trends, I still believe we are few years away before they get fully adopted.


TR: How are candidates changing their behaviours as a result of digital and technological changes?  

YA: Everything around us is typically designed to be ergonomic, and we are becoming increasingly conscious as human beings of our time and productivity because technology has freed up so much of our time. However, when you look at the recruitment process it is typically very self-serving to the organisation, and it is not entirely human-shaped. Candidate behaviour has started to transition against this, and they are becoming early adopters of technologies in a bid to make the recruitment process easier and more efficient for themselves. As a result, organisations like Snap.HR, WorkShape are attracting more talent because they are simple, quick and transparent, and candidates now want to see everything before they get involved.


TR: Do you believe candidates are harder to source and engage as a result of this? 

YA: Yes, it’s is definitely much harder to source and engage simply because of the amount of noise out there. Decision making has becoming increasingly hard for everyone, and candidates are no different. The simplest example I can give is something I face daily, which is that it can take me 10 minutes just to choose what to watch on Netflix sometimes because there is so much choice. So, I am constantly checking the likes of IMDB and Rotten tomatoes to determine what I should watch. This is similar to job seekers who are not looking at Glassdoor to determine where they should choose to work. Obviously, this has to be taken with a pinch of salt, because larger organisations can pay to inflate their ratings, but it demonstrates how candidates are becoming a lot pickier over who they will engage with because there is so much choice out there.


TR: Are there any particular tools or technologies you use to overcome these challenges?

YA: I want to highlight that attracting talent is just as important as retaining talent, so I think it’s important that organisations begin to create internal headhunting teams first and focus on headhunting talent internally first. Whilst this may cause a rift it is absolutely the best way to retain your top talent because it creates a lasting impression and builds an inclusion culture that will resonate with employees.

Aside from that, for a lot of recruiters engaging with talent will constantly shift with the simplest popular communication tool at the time, and we’ve seen recruiters adopt certain technologies in order to engage with talent regularly. For instance, we moved from email, to text messages to blackberry messages and now even to WhatsApp messages. So, I would recommend keeping on top of these trends and using the latest technologies when you engage your talent.

Instinctively, I always rely on my network when I am faced with a roadblock and believe that building a solid and giving network is the best tool a recruiter can have.


TR: Finally, what advice do you have to other recruiters navigating this changing industry?

YA: Foremost, every recruiter, recruitment manager and head of recruitment should read Eric Ries, “The Lean Startup”. I won’t make any hyperbole statements that it is a magic book, however it does have some golden nuggets of wisdom that can help recruiters address today’s iterative and changing environment. Alongside this, I recommend that recruiters adopt a validated learning approach to recruitment and be open to trialling new ideas to manage candidates and requirements. You should very much adopt the try fast and fail fast mentality. For instance, in my team we use a Kanban methodology to manage our candidates, and although it took some time to get used to that approach it works really well for where we are now because we can quickly adapt. We are always aware that it might change in a few months to something else and so the team is ready to embrace and make that change when it happens because we have employed an early adopter mindset.