What’s common to teaching Greco-Roman literature to a bunch of Ph.D. students and heading HR at a global corporation? The answer: a sustained interest in the individual. While HRs are known for protecting the interest of the companies they work for, Christian Blood, who heads People Ops at Zoho’s offices in North America, believes that it is also an effective mechanism for advocacy for individual employees. He was kind enough to sit down with our CEO Sachin Gupta to talk more about Zoho’s hiring philosophies and recruiting strategies, offering ‘stability and sanity’ to new hires, and the company’s mantra of trans-national localism.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Sachin: So, let’s start with the first question Christian. How does Zoho go about its early talent hiring? What’s the philosophy and what are the thoughts and processes you have put up in place?
Christian: Let’s back up a little and start with an introduction to Zoho for those who are not already familiar with the company. Zoho is a privately held SaaS provider. We offer close to 50 individual apps or computer programs, that allow small, medium, and large businesses to run smoothly. Our flagship product is a CRM but name a business function and we have a solution for it.
Zoho has been around in some form or the other since 1996; which surprises many people since we are a modest company with a low profile. We have developed a robust company culture in these years, that allows us to develop our own best practices and our own way of doing things. And because we don’t have to answer to investors or analysts, we have the freedom to pursue projects or experiments in a way that we think is best.
What this has come to mean is that we have tremendous latitude and freedom when it comes to our recruiting. In some ways, Zoho is a self-selective employer and what that means is we wait for people to come to us, or we find people who are interested in what Zoho has to offer. This of course applies mostly to our US function, which I head.
So, in practice, we hire a lot of people who do not have a background in what we are hiring them for. We look for hunger and passion when we bring people on-board, but we also look for people who understand what we do. Young people in the bay area keep hearing stories of enormous signing bonuses and the huge amount of money they can make (on paper) if they are lucky enough to be in the first 50 or first 100 of a company. Part of my job is to tell these young hires that if you want to buy a Tesla and if you want VC money, then I respect that, but that’s not what Zoho is about.
Zoho offers a lot of stability and sanity and very little pressure in terms of meeting analysts or shareholder targets. For someone at the right point in their career, this is an easy sell. But for a young person, it can be a tough call and I’m often the one bringing the bad news. That’s where the self-selecting comes in. We’re a lot less hype and a lot less of a rollercoaster, but I do find people who value that as well.
This is Recruiting: Zoho’s out-of-the-box recruiting strategies
Sachin: That’s a good insight, especially because each company is so different from the other. One of the other things you brought up is that you don’t necessarily hire people who have the academic background or experience for the role. Does that involve a lot of upskilling?
Christian: When we started our company in Chennai, India, we would hire a lot based on degree. What we realized very soon was that a lot of these hires knew the business and management theories really well, but they didn’t necessarily know the things we needed them to know very well. We still had to train them, quite extensively, in order for them to be ready to contribute to the organization. And we thought that’s kind of a crying shame. In India, it’s slightly different but here in the United States many people go into enormous amounts of debt in order to get a degree. And a degree makes sense if that’s what you want but we did not find that an expensive degree made an employee any more or less successful. So, what we do is we pay very little attention to degrees when we read resumes and when we try to recruit people. If someone has a fancy expensive degree we certainly don’t hold that against them, but we recognize that the secret sauce is not in the credentials.
Like what you read? Then you can listen to Christian dish out more such insights and recruiting strategies in the podcast above. Until next time!