The Recruitment Hackers Podcast

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    Could sugarcoated job descriptions be impacting your recruitment efforts?

    In this podcast episode, Max and James Ellis of Employer Brand Labs debate the impact of application volumes on recruitment efforts. Listen as they tackle how factors like job descriptions a...
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    Max Armbruster
    Max Armbruster
    CEO Talkpush

    Building your own in-house ATS with Fahad Subzwari

    Episode 74 full cover

    Fahad Subzwari, Director of Shared Services for ibex. Pakistan and the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Global BPO TA Awards, tackles how their is a disconnect with the current ATS market in terms of integrating and monitoring candidate communications; and how that has led ibex. to build their own in-house ATS to help them properly map the candidate journey - whether it starts from an inquiry and to when it converts into a hire

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    Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇


    Max: Hello, welcome to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. And I'm your host, Max Armbruster. And today, I'm delighted to welcome to the show, Fahad Subzwari, who is Director of Shared Services for ibex. in Pakistan. If you don't know ibex., you're not in the BPO industry, because it's a global player with operations, and I think in Africa and Europe, in Latin America, in the Philippines, and Pakistan, all over the world, and they've got thousands of people, and they hire about 8000 people a year in Pakistan. And the reason Fahad is on today's show is because he was recently awarded an award at the Global BPO TA Awards for the Most Inspiring TA Leader. It was the popular vote on LinkedIn, with hundreds of people voting from all over the world and some fierce competition pegging Fahad against, I think, some people, some stiff competition coming from the Philippines. But yeah, I guess Pakistan can be proud, they pushed you over the edge and got you the award. And well, good to meet you again, Fahad. Welcome to the podcast.


    Fahad: Thank you, Max, thank you for the introduction. It was a great event, by the way, I enjoyed a lot. And yeah, hopefully not blushing right now.


    Max: Oh, wow. That was a few weeks ago already. So, I'm sure the blush has gone by now. But it was great to see. My marketing team, you know, this could be a tip that could be applied for recruiters, my marketing team talked to me about doing a competition on LinkedIn. And I thought, oh, it's gonna make too much noise. I don't want all this attention. And then we saw in a matter of two weeks, the number of followers on our LinkedIn page, which is really hard to get, it went up by 50% in like two weeks, considering we’re a 7-year-old or 8-year-old company is quite a rise. So, yeah, basically, marketing was right and I was wrong on this one. 


    Fahad: That was a great idea. Brilliant idea. What I've noticed is that these kinds of events now even on digital medium, you have now ATL and BTL activities at the market here. So, this is kind of a big deal activity you do and it does pay off and it's great. Whoever came up with the idea, kudos.


    Max: Yeah, and then it got to the award, too. So, double bonus and an opportunity to talk a little bit about ibex. And before we go there, perhaps tell us how did you end up in the beautiful world of talent acquisition?


    Fahad: Okay, so I've been associated with the BPO industry for almost 20 years now, 19 plus. I started with the operations side of it. And before that, I was in hospitality industry. So, in about nine years ago, I was given an opportunity to run the Shared Services, which started with different control functions, then the recruitment and training was also added to it. So, it was a turning point in 2014. And that's when we decided that with the global BPO focus increasing towards Pakistan, we need to have changes in our different support functions. One of them was recruitment and marketing side of it. So, we started from there. And it's been an innovative year, year after year. The changes are definitely, I mean, division was right, for [unintelligible] a year that changes are happening very fast. And we actually still are learning and, you know, change is a constant factor every year for us. So, that's how I got into TA.


    Max: How big was recruiting volume in 2014 when you got started in Pakistan?


    Fahad: So, if I just speak about international, it was probably around a couple of hundred people in a quarter, you know. Now we're taking about 4000 a year in just international demand. 8000 overall in BK, you know, so it's a big chunk.


    Max: You kind of came into recruitments not the traditional way. You came from operations and kind of running a good shop and making sure you have a high productivity organization. And you didn't have to sit through thousands of job interviews, recruiting and interviewing candidates. You were able to skip that step and kind of go straight into the orchestrator role. 


    Fahad: Yeah, well, so I did have some experience on this in terms of when has been decided to always involved in the recruitment process. So, the interview and mechanics of interview and the profiling aspect was already there as a requirement aspect, right. But yes, from the TO workshop itself, it was not there, right. So, the business experience did help me, the operational experience still help me run an efficient workshop, develop the processes. I'm a process guy. So, it helped me build the processes that were missing. The framework, required overhaul, the past experience helped me build that. So, it is not a typical [unintelligible] that's for sure. I mean, that's the disconnect that, I guess, comes when we look at the BPO industry recruitment process, and the ATSes available in the market, right. And that's where I think the normal recruitment process doesn't hang up the BPO industry recruitment process, in my opinion, just because of the sheer volume that is there.


    Max: I agree. And I think, for having met a number of professionals who came to talent acquisition, for the BPO industry in a high-volume world that did not come from HR, I have found that they can be very effective. And because they're not tied to certain practices, and they don't have preconceived notion on how the information will flow. I know that ibex is one of those companies and there's, actually you're in the minority, but one of the few big companies that have decided to build their own ATS, applicant tracking software, as opposed to purchasing a solution from one of the big vendors like Workday, or SuccessFactors or iCIMS. That's a decision that as a technologist myself, I've often challenged and said, No, that's, that's crazy. Why don't you use what the leaders have already built? I'm sure that that's been a consideration for you guys. So, I really like to dig into that topic a little bit. Because I think we're gonna find some common ground on why the ATS is not great for what you're doing, and why you felt the need to build something in house.


    Fahad: Okay, so two major reasons. One, was the disconnect that I feel is there in terms of support for the industry, I'll explain that aspect more in detail. The other is obviously the cost factor. And that was there. We had the leverage of having in house development team and utilizing them. So, it was an initially into [unintelligible], it was a no brainer that we should build our own. The main aspect that I spoke to you about earlier, the disconnect, was that the solutions that were available, they were only evaluating one aspect of the whole framework, right, which was the when the candidate is either assessed at any of the point of the process, right?


    Max: And that’s the stage of the process where they're already at the assessment stage.


    Fahad: Exactly, right. There's a communication aspect of it too. Whether people are talking to them, or engaging them or, you know, monitoring the… in the digital age, it's more on the social media now than anywhere else. Right. So, that communication aspect and it's monitoring is missing in most of the ATS and, for me, it is hand in hand, you can escape a lot of processes of physical on all the assessments by having more of a communication side improved or integrated, whether it's, you know, WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom, Skype, chat bots, etc. But all this combined can meet to show the flow of the candidate, right, the lifecycle of the candidate, whether it starts from the inquiry and converts into an employee, that whole journey needs to be monitored and mapped. And I think there's a break, that happens, right, so even right now, the top of the line ATS have the assessment, but the communication is happening separately on the Zoom, or somewhere. So, from the efficiency perspective, being an operation guy, yeah, I think that that is a critical factor, because I need to make sure that there's efficiency in the processing too, right. So, that because that all, just like in customer service, is linked to the experience, candidate experience, customer experience, right? It's like sales, you have to take our guy and convert it into a sale.


    Max: In ibex., you obviously know a lot about customer care. And you said you're coming from operations. So, it's the same kind of approach of managing the customer through its entire lifecycle. And you said you had some technology resources in house. So, were you able to pull some of the technology practices and know-how that applies to Customer Care, and reapply it to talent acquisition? I imagine that you said also that ibex. had some internal resources to build its own tech. So, did you use the same kind of software technology and methodology and best practices from Customer Care, building CRMs to handle Customer Care, and reapplied to recruitments? Is that how this project came about?


    Fahad: In a nutshell, yes, that's correct. So, the main idea was to move from all manual work, or ad hoc automated system to a system that could track all the customer journey, right. And I call them customer [unintelligible], we need to make them our customers, internal customers. So, that's what the idea came from, we will know where they're coming from, which channels they're coming from, what they were talking about, what was said during each phase of the interview, how to do them the assessment, etc. All that has to be recorded, right, including the conversation that happens with our talent acquisition people. So, just like a call center, right?


    Max: I think it's right. It's a very obvious observation. I mean, it seems obvious once you make the observation. Maybe it's not obvious to people who are buying ATSes today, but how come it doesn't record the phone call? How come it doesn't know when I'm on Zoom with somebody? How come I don't get a transcript for every one of those calls? Yeah, I suppose those companies are going to build it if they listened to us, and I'm sure they thought about it themselves. But yeah, it is surprising that they're not built as communication platforms. That's one shortcoming of the ATS.


    Fahad: Agreed. And I think everything links to that, because your candidate experience is prime, right? And with the technology age, you need to make it easier for them to be accessible to you. Whether you're on or not, right, and that's how it should be. We're not there yet. I'm not saying as an organization, we're there yet. That is something we're working on. And it's a long journey, a constant evolving journey. You have to stay ahead of the technology and that's a tough task.


    Max: So, as you adapt to new behaviors from candidates, what were some surprising trends that you notice in 2021? Is the candidate in 2021 a little bit different than 2020 or 2019? Are you seeing that their behavior is changing, conversion rates are changing, some channels are picking up, any new trends you can point us to?


    Fahad: Yeah, well, I wouldn't say from 2020, but from 2019, definitely. The COVID era has given everyone a new horizon, where they're open to working from remote locations, they were open to having better internet, they're open to, you know, this becomes more of a necessity than a luxury, especially for developing countries, right? So, people are now not apprehensive of saying, Oh, they're not calling me an interview, and they want me on, you know, remotely on the Zoom, etc. It’s more preferred now. And over the last one or two years, they have now more focused towards WhatsApp, and other communication channels that are instant, right, they want instant gratification, they want instant update of what's happened to their applications. When they can come in, when they can have interview. So, that's a change that has come up during the last two years.


    Max: In fact, when I hear some BPO companies who say they've got a recruitment process that, you know, takes like, a month or six weeks, how can you can be competitive with these kinds of timelines?


    Fahad: Even beyond one day is someone you might lose. I mean, our process is not very efficient in that matter itself right now, that is something a work in progress, right? We want to make sure that candidate experience, the wait time is less, the interview time is less, the number of steps are less. So, that's what we're working on. That's our 2022 goal.


    Max: So, the joy of hiring 8000 people a year is a feeling of a job well done. The recognition of your peer is the feeling of a job well done. And your team apparently voted you as a somebody they like working with. Talking to Fahad the manager and the people manager, what are some of the philosophies or best practices that you abide to as a manager that helps you to manage a team of talent acquisition professionals, and keep them on their toes, engaged, excited? Can you point us to, you know, some of your philosophy on this topic? And maybe if you need to refer back to references, there's some books or, you know, literature that has guided your management philosophy?


    Fahad: Yeah, well, more than books, I think it's something you have to, one thing for sure, that you have to understand your own self, you have to understand what's your own shortcomings, right, first and foremost, before you can help anyone else, right. So, that's a constant activity, it never stops, regardless of the age. People say you cannot learn people's management. I say you can. It's up to you as long as you can decide to it that you want to, right. So, obviously, I don't remember the book that I read a long time ago. There are three types of you know, management style, there was autocratic, there was democratic, and there was networking type. So, I always want it to be a blend of situational one, right? It all depends what the situation is. And it's stressful, you have to back off, let them be a bit approachable at any time. And during the technology era that has helped a lot. Being available remotely, anywhere at any time of the day is the key. My phone is always available to them at any time, and to anyone, it's not just my team, you know. Since I worked in operations, people have my alumni that has gone out and develop themselves in different organizations, I’m approachable to them too. So, I think being approachable at any time is the key factor. And for that it's not just communication part, it's your reaction to the situations too, right, how you react? So is your response time. I'm sure seven habit is, I once have gone through that. So, one of the key factors, the response aspect. And the third is the how you come up. Because in a stressful situation with 8100 people, you know, odd hiring, there's multiple conflicts that come up, right. And talent acquisition is kind of a role that always has the gray area, and a lot of arguments happen. And it's the nature of the game, right?


    Max: And it is, it's time sensitive. So, it's gonna create, yeah, some territorial disputes.


    Fahad: Yeah, and a lot of stress, right. And that's where I say anyone who has done BPO industry hiring can fit into any of the organizations, talent acquisition, because the sheer volume makes you ready within a quarter for any kind of height, right. And that's where you have to have the conflict, you need to be able to provide that third solution, the [unintelligible] cannot just be on, you need to be neutral. And think about the business, think about how it, you know, impacts the overall ecosystem, right? Not just individual or one side, the solution needs to be a blended one. So, it's a tough thing and I'm not always right. But that's where the first part of it comes in, where you realize that what you did wrong, and not to repeat it, right?


    Max: That's a good toolkit. I actually wasn't familiar with it. But as you were speaking, I was Googling it. Maybe this is what you're referring to. Kurt Levin, the father of social psychology, with three types of leaders, laissez faire, authoritarian and democratic. And Laissez Faire is like, yeah, let the situation resolve itself, authoritarian, and democratic is more you get everybody's consensus. So, when faced with a management decision, decide which hat you're going to wear and have…


    Fahad: It’s a situational one, yeah, you cannot be on one. You cannot just be one side; it has to be situational. The people have changed them. Generations have changed, you have to adapt.


    Max: Alright, great. And one thing that our audience can learn from is hiring mistakes. It's a question I ask everybody who comes to the podcast, is to think back on a particular individual hire that was a mistake, and where did it go wrong and what can we learn from it so that we don't make that mistake again?


    Fahad: Now, regardless of your experience, you will make that mistake, let us be honest with that, right? 


    Max: Forget about it, you're screwed. Whatever happens, you’re gonna make that mistake.


    Fahad: You cannot judge what the person is going to do in the next one year or two year in a half an hour interview. And there's no assessment, regardless. You can find someone with a high EQ or IQ, they will still mess up on the real time, right? So, the idea is that whoever you hire are for the attitude, the energy they bring in, during that half an hour, right? And then you can, I mean, it's not rocket science, regardless of the job other than very technical ones, you have time to groom them, you need to give that time, right, you need to be ready to groom and develop them. You need to give your 100% before you decide, okay, now this was a bad decision. You cannot decide in that half an hour, you cannot decide three months after that, that's why the probation period is there, right? I think that's the right thing. Even after that, if you feel that you haven't given enough from your end to develop that resource, then you're equally at fault, not just in the decision, but also getting them ready for the floor. So, just own that decision and obviously, you'll have some biases when you go into the next hiring. But again, the key is that your objective and your approach and keep the basic that you're hiring this guy to develop a person, to develop into your backup for that matter or your, you know, main cheer or main resources, someone who can be in a future leadership role, right? And that doesn't happen…


    Max: That’s very Zen, very Zen philosophy, Fahad. Whatever happens, you're going to make some mistakes, accept it’s coming in, coming into the hiring profession, and do whatever you can to make their experience as positive as possible to give them something good to remember you by.


    Fahad: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.


    Max: Well, I can see why you're so popular online.


    Fahad: Appreciate that. Thank you.


    Max: It was great catching up and thanks for sharing some of your tips and thoughts. I think you've got a great website coming up, and so if you want, if our listeners want to go and check out the work of ibex. and on the career website and the candidate experience, where do they go and apply?


    Fahad: Okay, it says and it's a new launch. We are also going for an app development right now. So, they will have multiple channels available for them. You can also search us on our Facebook page, and we are there for you. Come join us.


    Max: There you go. And don't copy the website or if you do, send a thank you note to Fahad and his team. Alright, thanks again.


    Max: That was Fahad Subzwari head of shared services at IBEX, Pakistan, and winner of the 2021 BPO talent acquisition awards for most inspiring TA. And you can see how he is thoughtful about everything he does from the way he interacts with people on a daily basis, whether he wants to be less airfare or more authoritarian or more democratic and thoughtful about the systems that he used and the eventually choosing for IBEX Pakistan to build their own ATS hope that was good food for thoughts. And that you'll be back for more on the recruitment hackers podcast.


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