In the latest episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Max interviews Aarthi Rajasekaran, director of procurement and strategic sourcing at VDart Inc. It’s an interview packed with industry secrets! Aarthi talks about globalizing hiring efforts and bringing young talent into the industry, teaching them about recruiting, different places, and markets.
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Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇
Welcome to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. A show about innovation, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush the leading recruitment automation platform.
Max: Good morning. Good afternoon. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster. And today I'd like to welcome the show Aarthi Rajasekaran from VDart Inc. Aarthi, did I pronounce that right?
Aarthi: You did Max!
Max: Okay, cool. Awesome. So Aarthi, please introduce yourself to our audience. I believe VDart is in the recruitment space, helping companies who are, doing contingent hiring, in the technology space. Does that sum things up correctly?
Aarthi: Absolutely. Yes. Now VDart is an information technology, staffing and solutions company. And we incorporated back in 2007 and from then our growth has been exponential. We are a global firm and our customers are the ones that have taken us to spaces. I served them as their director of procurement and strategic sourcing. So record that recruitment is very near and dear to me as well.
Max: The procurement in your case is sourcing talents, right? And sourcing talent through third-party vendors.
Aarthi: I base, I manage the contracts, the compliance, all those mandatory components that keep us going.
Max: Okay. 2020 was disruptive for everybody and perhaps, for some of the traditional staffing firms that were more reliant on their Rolodex and maybe more reliant on events and doing things in person, you know, which is maybe like the old way of doing recruitment. Those, those probably suffered the most because when you could not meet in person, then what do you have left? And I believe you do... you're a global company with offices everywhere, but you have a good portion of your hiring that takes place in India, right?
Aarthi: We do. Yes. Our hire operations are from India. We have close to about 600 people based out of India who are our engine. They are the ones that are pumping in resumes for us day in and day out. About 500 of them are just recruiters who are the backbone for our company.
Max: Those recruiters, a lot of them are physically based in India, but are they organized by geography, focused on different markets?
Aarthi: Right. That's how we operate. All of them are based in India and there is sometimes a need for our customers to have local presence as well. So we have recruited all over, but the majority of our recommendations are based on India, and they are based on geography. The time zone is for that particular geography. That's how they will operate.
Max: Well, I guess you look at the micro dynamics of 2020, and now this, this kind of business model works great. You know, it was harder to do business beforehand because you were competing with people who had the boots on the ground, but now everything is remote. So you can work from anywhere, that gives you a competitive edge, I guess. Right?
Aarthi: It does. It's always been a competitive edge for us specifically because we had the vision of bringing in fresh talent, fresh out of college and groomed them, and trained them in recruiting. Those are fresh blood that always have the thirst to learn and achieve. So that model always worked for us really well. That operation is based on talent from Richie, which is a small college town in India, in the Southern part of India. And our recruiters are either from the town or from a neighboring town, nothing beyond that. It is very unconventional for a staffing firm to have its base in such...
Max: I'm sorry, I interrupted you. It's very conventional for our staffing firms to be close to the uni? So you say?
Aarthi: No, it's very unconventional for a company of our size to be operating out of a small town.
Max: Yes. And I think that, probably that unconventional choice served you well, because for the big metropolis, the top, the big cities have become impossible to live in. Right? And it's, you know, I was there in one of the last trips I took before we were all locked down. I was in Delhi and Pune, it's a little bit cloudy and foggy down there sometimes.
Aarthi: You are talking about the north, I'm talking about the Southern tip of India.
Max: The North was very polluted. Anyway, it was hard to travel on. I know some employers were using the fact that you can live in a second or third tier or a smaller city that would improve their quality of life. And that was one of the selling points. Less traffic, less smog. Yeah.
But going back to those 500 recruiters, so you like them hungry, young, curious, energetic. And then, you were talking to me before we started the show on the importance of knowing your local markets. So is that part of the training that goes into these young young minds? I'm kind of imagining in my head, you have a team dedicated for Latin America and one for Europe and one for the US. Is that how it works?
Aarthi: Yes. That's how it works.
Max: Okay, cool. So, then you teach them the cultural differences.
Aarthi: We do. We teach them the cultural differences, how to talk, how to address people. Everything goes up, it plays a major role when you're talking to potential candidates. You need to understand their culture. You need to respect what they believe, and you have to keep them engaged. That's how you build a bond that you are gonna deliver a candidate to a client. That way the intern may choose to work for you.
And it is so important to create those candidate experiences. I mean, that is the industry buzzword these days, unless there is a good candidate experience, people these days have so many opportunities. So they always value who treated me better, and that is the opportunity they lean towards. So it is so important for us to impart that knowledge in each and every recruiter of ours on how to understand the cut-up candidate.
A candidate is no less than a customer to us. So treat them with respect, give them what they are asking for, answer their questions, be respectful. Those are the basics, we want to keep talking about them. That way it does not get lost over a period of time.
Max: It sounds, from listening to you, I feel like there's going to be employment for many decades for recruiters. The kind of work that you're describing is not one that will be automated and replaced by robots anytime soon. Is that your feeling?
Aarthi: Absolutely not. I mean, at the end of the day, people buy from people, people don't buy from robots, so it is important to have human connections. Although sourcing can be automated. I mean, AI’s an RBA has been playing a large role in automating certain features, but taking the human element out, I don't see that happening. It is so important to have that touch point, human touch point for you to really feel connected. It is so important to have the connection between an employee and an employer before somebody comes on board.
Max: Since you focus on your, let's say, your external family, your extended family, the recruiters that are not directly working for you that are part of your suppliers. Give us an idea. Are we talking about, 5 suppliers, or 50, or 500? What's what's the range?
Aarthi: A little lower 500. So the way we work with our suppliers is, any contract that we signed with the supplier we do not want that to be a one-time gig. How is it that we can optimize a particular supplier? Understand what it is that they bring to the table? Are they unique? Do they have skills that we often sought out for? Are they good in training and deployment? Are they specializing in any niche technologies? Based on that, we evaluate our suppliers and try to partner with them on a larger scale. So we have suppliers, who signed up, during inception. And even today we worked with them. We know who to reach out to for what technology, and as we grew, our suppliers grew along with us.
They get first shot to fill out requirements. If they have candidates, they reach out to us. We cross sell skills, whatever they have on their bench to our clients as well. Sometimes even before we get a requirement from a client, they can foresee that there is going to be a job opening coming up and it is easier for us to save time and effort.
Max: Does that work under what's described as the MSP (managed service provider). Where you'll hold a master contract and then there are some sub contracts?
Aarthi: It's technically not MSP. It is more on a vendor... The terminology used is corporation to corporation engagement.
Max: Okay, great. You said you've worked with some of your suppliers, that you have hundreds and hundreds of suppliers, and some of them you've started working with them from inception. You've seen the ones that have grown. Which ones have suffered in 2020 after this pandemic and which ones did well?
Aarthi: I would say this is such an unforeseen situation we all are in and everybody has taken the plunge. It is not easy to say that some did not suffer and some suffer. Everybody had to come together as a staffing community to help each other out. When there were layoffs happening. We were trying to figure out if there is any other engagement that we could take the candidate from the supplier and put them on. We all partnered in it together. Everybody did well. Crisis called and everybody was ready to help, ready to work along with. The rates were reduced. Suppliers were okay working with us on that. They did not put their foot down. Everybody did their fair share and everybody came through with flying colors. We are so agil we can make things happen!
Max: Okay. It sounds like generally it's been rough for everybody, you're saying. that, but then which are the vendors that are best positioned for tomorrow. That we're able to come out, winning some market share. That have a bigger market, a bigger share of the business today than they didn't 10 months ago.
Aarthi: Quite a lot of suppliers. We are running a preferred supplier program now as well. We are in the third phase of the launch. So we are handpicking a few suppliers for one particular engagement based on how they performed on the previous engagements.
So based on the evaluation, certain metrics went into the evaluation and we are going to be handpicking about a hundred suppliers exclusively for this engagement to be working very closely with us.
Max: Yeah. So it's all performance-based, it's you know, I guess a fill rate, time to fill, cost per hire, that kind of stuff.
Aarthi: Everything plays a large role. Maybe their SLS is what is important. Whether they are delivering on time. Those are a few key areas that also go into a vendor evaluation.
Max: Aarthi, if you were in the seller's shoes now, you are no longer holding that wonderful position of power, director of global procurement, but now you're one of them. And you have to start your own firm today. You're just starting from scratch. It's just you and maybe your husband, and you are starting a business together. What kind of a recruiting business would you start today to give yourself the best chance of success?
Aarthi: It's my personal opinion. I wouldn't get into recruiting.
Max: Okay. Okay.
Aarthi: There are a number of companies that are in recruiting. Identify what is the niche that is missing in the market. A product, it could be software. It could be a RPA. So those are the kinds of damage that I would take. I am in the recruiting space, my husband is in the technology space. So probably a hybrid of something of that nature is what we would be doing.
Max: Okay. Yeah. Your earlier example of picking a hot area, hot technology like RPA. I guess, you know, you were saying earlier that sourcing is something that can be to a great degree, automated. There's a good amount of sourcing that can be done automated. So if you and your husband are starting a recruiting technology company tomorrow, you're saying, we're not going to be in staffing. We're going to be actually going into recruiting. I'm imagining that's the area in which it would go, but let's focus on the staffing world per se. And because we did say there is a role for humans, there is that human connection, and that will not be automated. So within that world, you know, which staffing firms are going to perform better. Are they going to be the ones that are focused on the right keywords? Or the ones that are focused on the right geography?
Aarthi: I would say it is more on the people, that is how a company can stand out compared to the other. It could be the large recruiting stacking companies, which have done well, but a smaller company could change the industry by giving the experience of which a candidate never had. Currently, the market is not the same, like what it was a decade back. It's not just apply, apply, apply. Now it is more on a candidate picking a company to work for. They want to see what the company does. Is there a purpose? Is it a purpose driven organization? The millennials and gen Z, they are all focusing on what is it that the company would do for me? If I go for them, is there a vision for me? Do we have any common ground? Those are key things that need the human element as I said. Unless a human connects and talks to a human about, Hey, this is the purpose of a company. This is our vision. This is what we do. It's not age and people are going to be selecting companies based on their experience. I would say companies would succeed if they are focusing on the right candidates, giving them the experience that they are looking for and connecting the right person with the right opportunity.
Max: Is the candidate experience better this year than it was in previous years? You know, the fact that now people are not expected to physically come into an office. Has that improved the experience for candidates?
Aarthi: It has. I mean, the industry has shifted a little bit. Organizations, which said no remote work, or work from home, have adapted to remote work. There has been a shift, but has it changed the candidate experience? Well, to an extent, yes, because these are technologies, the space that we are in is primordially technology. So talking to them about what the company does, what the project is about. It inspires them to pick the opportunity. And a little bit of empathy in the conversation goes a long way. Trust me.
Max: Right. Yeah. I've heard a lot of recruiters say, empathy, care and you know, showing how they care about the employees around the coronavirus has become a key communication strategy for most employers. I've also heard that in India in particular, staffing firms have struggled to have lost market share compared to the overall size of the market. A bigger portion went to work, you know, without stepping from basically hired directly, because more hiring was happening through digital, less events and career fairs. Do you confirm these trends? That 2020 has shrunk the market a little bit in India for some of the staffing industry?
Aarthi: Not to my knowledge. I mean, There are certain organizations that have done well, in fact, V Dart, we did not have any layoffs. In fact, 2020 was the peak of our hiring. We've got talent that we always wanted to be a part of our company. It was easy for us to bring that talent on board. I would not say that has been common for every organization. It is the organization’s approach what makes the difference.
Max: For the kind of talent that you're hiring, high-tech talents. It's always going to be quiet in high demand? I understand that, but I imagined for... Maybe the reason I got this news from the industry is because it was a little bit more on the high volume side and entry level and for staffing firms that were working more in the high volume space where the margins are smaller and the margins got even smaller this year. It became even harder to do business. But you know, at the higher end of the market for more experienced staff, I guess things remain competitive.
Aarthi: Indeed there is talent available. Of course you have to pay the pretty penny for the right talent. The market did change and margins have shrunk, but for organizations who have the muscle power, it is more of an investment that they are doing for their 2021 plan. That's how I would put it.
Max: Yeah. Did you change the way you work in 2021? Did your company roll out some new process and new technology to respond to the changes in the market.?
Aarthi: Well, we have been doing everything that we planned for 2020. Of course there was a little disruption early in the year, but that hasn't slowed us down. We are in the midst of our product launch as well. We are developing softwares which we plan to do for 2020 so 2021 is going to be a launch for the new product as well. So yes, our growth has been consistent and our plans are going through, although there was a little slow down, we are still on the right track. 2021 looks fantastic for us.
Max: For listeners who are... Most of our listeners are in the talent aquisition space, and some of them may be considering a career in… You know, preparing the bang themselves for the future. What would be your advice to advise somebody who is a new recruiter or talent acquisition professional, in their twenties, what kind of training should they be seeking in order to stay on the cutting edge and be competitive in the next 10 years?
Aarthi: The first thing is, learn about the requirement that you're going to be working on. Do not just blindly dive into the market to find the talent, talent is available. All you have to do is understand what is the skill all about which the industry is using? Just to get a little insight about the project. So when you have a conversation with a candidate, it's going to be more of a meaningful conversation and you don't have to be spending hours on the dice and monsters to identify the right candidate. You just have to understand the requirements, go to the market, have a meaningful conversation. You'll be able to figure out. Always be hungry. No knowledge is unimportant. Everything is important. Talk to your peers. The requirement that you work in could be different from what the other person is working on. Have these conversations. It is important to have those conversations.
Max: Yeah. It gives you an edge, and it also prepares you for the future. And next time, you know, every requirement that comes in, there's the immediacy, it'll probably come again. And so the deeper your knowledge, the more you're prepared, so stay very curious about the areas. It's impossible to know everything. So specialization, I guess, is also good advice. Right? Okay, great.
Aarthi, It has been a pleasure. We're up on time and I'd like to ask you. How can our audience get in touch with you or with V darts? What's the best way?
Aarthi: They can go to our website and fill out the contact form. I would get an email and the consent person will be responding based on their area of interest.
Max: Okay. www.vdarts.com?
Aarthi: That is correct!
Max: Okay, great. Well, thanks. Pleasure meeting you. Thanks for joining us on the podcast.
Aarthi: Thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much, Max, for the opportunity. Happy recruiting.
Max: Yeah, recruiting never stops.
That was Aarthi from VDart, a director of procurement and strategic sourcing, telling us about some of the secrets of our business and reminding us that from here on out it doesn't matter where you're based. As long as you put in the time to adapt to the culture of the market you serve, you can serve all global markets from any location in the world.
And her business has done a great job. Of bringing young talent into the industry, teaching them about recruiting and teaching them about different places, different markets. Hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to hear more, I've got more interviews coming your way on recruitmenthackerspodcast.com
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