In February, Wall Street Journal (India) blog conducted a Q&A with Ms. Joji Gill, director of human resources at Microsoft India, to learn what the company seeks in new hires as they expand their personnel over the next few months. Notably, at a time when jobs in technical industries are in great demand around the globe, Microsoft India is looking for employees with strong behavioral skills to fit the job and the culture, not just technical abilities. In fact, Ms. Gill points out the company, “depends on behavioral interviews.”
When discussing the interview and hiring process, Ms. Gill repeatedly stresses the importance for candidates to present themselves with authenticity above all else, using words like “genuine,” “not fake,” and “having integrity,” when describing the characteristics for an ideal candidate. At times, she says, identifying these characteristics can “take precedent over technical skills.” While this is certainly not a unique expectation of a hiring company to make of applicants, it is demonstrative of how talent acquisition is changing, particularly in emerging markets:
1. Hiring managers, regardless of geography, are relying more and more on a blend of technical and behavioral interviews. Traditionally, employers want to know how competent an applicant would be in a role e.g. what can the applicant do? Today, there is just as much importance placed on a candidate’s behavioral skills e.g. how would the applicant behave in this role and for how long? The approach of the Microsoft India hiring manager is largely consistent with the U.S. and other parts of the world as companies are emphasizing cultural fit and looking for long term predictors for success.
2. Applicants care about a company’s “behavior” just as much. While in the U.S. the talent pool is overly abundant compared to the number of job opportunities, global companies in emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are finding it harder to keep up with the pace of growth. According to “Winning the Race for Talent in Emerging Markets,” a feature piece in Harvard Business Review (2008): “Emerging markets are growing by compounded rates of as much as 40% and finding talent to keep up with growth is extraordinarily challenging.”
A midst this war for talent, global companies are fighting to establish themselves within a new geography and culture and in doing so, they are looking for the right people to sustain and build their business. Parallel to this, job applicants in these markets are similarly quite discerning, placing great value on a company’s ability to demonstrate authenticity, transparency and trustworthiness. As many global businesses are beginning to demonstrate, abiding by these principles can often make or break a global business in an emerging market. As the HBR authors write:
“Brand, opportunity and purpose can create compelling promises, but in such a competitive market the temptation is to overpromise just to get people in the door. Failure to deliver will sour current employees on the company and ultimately hurt its appeal for potential employees. That is why keeping promises—important in any market—takes on particular urgency in emerging markets, where employees can quickly move to global competitors or local companies that appear to offer greater overall rewards.”
The bottom line for candidates and corporations alike is that to achieve success in any market but particularly those in emerging economies, each need to be prepared to demonstrate long-term value within a small window of opportunity—e.g. the job interview (candidate) or a new hiring initiative (company). From the perspective of an employer, like Microsoft India for instance, understanding how a candidate fits within a job culture can often speak volumes more about their ultimate success than assessing their technical capabilities alone.