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Navi’s Ashwin S Prasad on the role of the virtual realm in recruitment

Ashwin shares his journey of finding talent through the pandemic and offers a window into virtual hiring.

Like every aspect of our lives, the pandemic has changed the way companies find talent too. While this change has introduced new challenges for HR professionals, it has also opened the boundaries by widening the talent pool.

Get a first-hand experience of hiring through the pandemic with the first guest on our podcast, Ashwin S Prasad.

Episode Highlights

Adapting to virtual ways of hiring
How recruiters are gauging candidate profiles and personalities remotely
The long-term relevance of virtual interviews and remote work

Kishore 

Welcome to Backstage with Zuddl, i’m Kishore from Zuddl’s very own marketing team, and this is a podcast where we share 'event'ful stories from thought leaders across industries to give you epic insights into all things events and beyond!. For today's episode, we have a very special guest, Mr. Ashwin Presad who heads acquisition at Navi. Now, if you want to know more about Ashwin and Navi, I think the best person to answer is Ashwin. So, Hey Ashwin

Ashwin

Hey. Hi man. Hi. Hi. Hi.

Kishore 

So I'm sure all our listeners are curious to know what you do and how your career journey has been so far. So Ashwin the stage is yours.

Ashwin 

Thanks, man. Thanks. All right. So, um, I started my career, uh, with a company which was a financial services company earlier, and then it became a bank called Ujjivan. Um, but before that I did my MBA, then I was wondering where to get into financial space, HR marketing, and all that. So I chose this, uh, space, uh, actually more than me choosing the space. I think the company gave me that option, thankfully. Right. So it was one of my preferences when I joined Ujivan they were like, um, you might, you better do whatever we tell you to do. And I was kind of prepared in terms of my mindset, but then, um, the training went well, I scored, well, they were, then they gave me an option. What you want really to do. My heart said HR, my brain said marketing and I went with my heart.

Ashwin 

So I think that's from then onwards. It's always been, uh, the HR fee. Right. So, uh, from there, um, kind of did a lot of, uh, setting up activities where Jivan HR department was in a very new since stage back then and, uh, set it up from the scratch all the way from, you know, basic document managements, basic, um, uh, panel assessment forms, basic processes in terms of the overall recruitment, um, setting up the team from the scratch, not just my own team, the whole HR team, the corporate HR team as right. So, so a lot of setting up activities. Uh, this was back in thousand 14 and from there grew in the organization, grew from handling, uh, one state to all the states and then the entire region. And, um, from there I moved onto a corporate role in Jivan, um, set up a lot of, of, um, HR set up the HRMS activities for the recruitment front, the talent acquisition front. Um, and then, you know, that's when I thought I wanted to go back into doing the pure hardcore talent acquisition activity again. And that's when I started looking out and I started looking out, uh, during the pandemic.

Ashwin

Yeah. I mean, like, um, I started, I was wondering whether there would be opportunities or not, but, uh, thankfully a couple of opportunities came my way and that's how Navi happened. And, um, in terms of Navi, also again, it was, it's been a rollercoaster, right. In terms of how we do things. Right. Um, we do a lot of, um, things from the scratch here, right? It's a very new organization compared to Ji, at least I had a stint of about seven years prior to me joining the organization. But nav has been around for only two years. Um, and that two year that two, two years of different companies merging and, you know, we are acquiring those companies and making it one company and function as one company. Right. So a lot of exciting things happened in the last one year in terms of how we have set up how we have expanded the team, how we are learning, to expand into multiple businesses as well. So, um, quite an exciting time for sure.

Kishore

Awesome. Yeah. I mean, that sounds quite action packed for them, especially the recent two years. And what's interesting or caught my year about what you said was you've, uh, pretty much done recruitment pandemic and during, and now, I mean, hopefully we can say post pandemic and uh,

Ashwin

Hopefully, hopefully,

Kishore 

So yeah, we're all, uh, wishing for that. I mean, there's a lot that has changed in the way we do everyday things, even with daily task meetings, etc. Right. Or you, I mean, Hmm,

Ashwin 

Please, please. Yeah,

Kishore

Yeah. For you. I mean, if you had to really, uh, like pinpoint a few things that really were challenging initially when this whole pandemic forced us to sort of go digital, you know, embrace virtual ways of hiring, et cetera, how was, how was it for you? I mean, overall the experience,

Ashwin

I think the first and I mean, we never imagined for ourselves to do talent acquisition online at all because, uh, the earlier organization Ujjivan one had a very traditional approach to talent. Acquisi where, uh, we needed to have folks interviewed in person. We might do one round, uh, on call or, or on, uh, on a video call or something like that. Or WhatsApp calls also used to happen back then. Um, and that used to be very limited because we wanted to meet folks in person. And we, I used to hire for across 150 hundred and 60 odd locations, uh, across south India to span across Kaka.

Ashwin 

And, uh, yeah, even with that, we had HR folks kind of travelling to each of these locations, uh, and all of that. Right. Uh, so when the first pandemic hit us, um, that's when we realized they do everything online, but having said that it has its own limitations. I wouldn't, uh, I mean, I wouldn't say that it's always the best, but there are advantages of doing online interviews in terms of the logistics, in terms of saving time, in terms of recording and possibly going back and looking at things as well. Right. So a lot of, and then just a few examples, which I quoted, but there are a lot of other advantages as well in terms of doing it online. But, um, there were cons that we were trying to figure out how to go about it out, how to circum the, uh, problem that we have in our hand example, if had to put a lot of folks, uh, when scheduled online, we have to follow up with them to kind of go there and sit in the interview.

Ashwin 

And, uh, another kind of population which we used to hire for were a lot of ground, uh, field folks. Right. And they might be technologically challenged in certain places, uh, from the rural parts of India or from Thai three kinds of cities as well. Right. Um, so there were a couple of challenges, but the whole world adapted, right. I, I don't think it was just us. It was the whole world adapting. So even the candidates, I could see that there was a gradual adaptation towards doing it and candidates started preferring that. Right. They wanted to just do it online and it was much, much easier for them to kind of attend interviews as well. And they didn't feel like they've invested a lot of time and effort to do the interview and that kind of made it, um, happier for the candidates if I have to put it right.

Ashwin 

Um, right. And also in terms of onboarding also, uh, we completely moved to doing this still onboarding, um, which was the right time when I was doing the HRMS implementation, the platform itself made everything much more easier for folks. Right. So that was a, I mean, I was, I was at the right place at the right time in terms of the, the software implementations that we were doing and we kind of reach that completely for our advantage. So yeah, I mean, that was good. That was just in the transition post that, uh, if I have to put it now, um, we still see, uh, I move to Navi in Navi. Also I've done, um, pre uh, pre the second pandemic, if I have to put it, uh, we were having interviews face to face. We are insured, even if we were making candidates travel from Delhi or Mumbai or Calta or whichever location they were from, we were making candidates travel.

Ashwin 

Right. So this was, I mean, if not for the, not for the first run per se, but it would be for at least the second or third round, we would make candidates travel. We would, we used to kind of have a face to face discussion with these guys, ensure that all aspects are covered in those discussions. And, um, you know, we used to do that then again, the third wave hitters. And then, um, there was a, I mean, there, there was a bit of a challenge there, um, where we kind of moved back into, uh, doing the online interviews. Of course, online interviews are very easy for us to schedule and it's just a click of a button. Right. Um, but there, the output of it is something which I'm seeing right now. Uh, if I have to analyze, there are a couple of ratios if I have to hit, uh, the offer to any ratios slightly vary, uh, from online interviews to offline interviews. Okay. Um, it's slightly better on the offline interviews or face to face interviews. Sure. Online interviews, dropout are quite something which we observed.

Kishore 

Yeah. I mean, that's very interesting because even, uh, I mean, there are some things which you can pick up better. Uh, if you meet face to face, I'm talking about humans in general, there are some nonverbal cues or, uh, how the new

Ashwin 

Exactly.

Kishore 

Why

Ashwin 

Exactly. So, so, so the, so we, um, in Ujjivan, when we have to follow something called, uh, behavioral, uh, test, right. When I said behavioral test, um, there is something called a star question that we follow, which is basically we give a situation. Then we ask, what was the task, uh, that you had to do for that particular situation. Then we see, uh, what is the action that the person finally did and what was the result? And if you want to relook at the result, how do you kind of go about it? So it was more standardized in terms of the process there. Hmm. Um, with Navi, we do a slightly different approach. Uh, here, everyone does an individual interview, uh, which is even more of a challenge because we have to do three, four interview schedules together. Right. Um, unlike before we start two, three people sitting in the same interview around and kind of analyze the candidate and, you know, talk to 'em in about half hour to 45 minutes and finish it off.

Ashwin 

Right. Um, but here it's gonna be like half an hour of every person and individually doing that. And then, you know, coming to one particular, uh, common consensus, the right. And that's a, that's a very, uh, a very eCommerce or, uh, internet organizations, or even the top, uh, organizations like Google kind of at the same process where it's unbiased that way, because we are doing it unbiased. We're gonna have three, four rounds. Um, the FaceTime of a person for three, four rounds. It's easier when we do it online and the can is really happy, but, uh, picking up as you, right. Pointed out earlier, picking up on those, uh, physical and non-verbal cues. Hmm. Uh, is something of a challenge. And we do it online because I, I can't like right now, I'm mowing my hands a lot, but I really can't see, uh, when the candidate's doing it over a call.

Ashwin 

Right. I wouldn't be able to pick up on that. And, um, I wouldn't be able to pick up on a lot of things in terms of an expression. When I ask a question or the kind of physical reaction he would give, uh, for me when I'm putting him in a things miss out. So yeah. I mean, we have to live with it. There are ways we find, uh, we are trying to find, uh, a workaround, which is behavioral tests or, uh, something called, uh, personality tests. That's something which we are also exploring, which might kind of give those aspects, um, as a backend feedback and be analyze on the technical aspects of,

Kishore 

Yeah, I think that's, uh, one fair way to try it out because I have seen these, uh, tests in, uh, uh, a lot of LinkedIn job posts, et cetera, when I was, uh, looking up for a job, et cetera, that they did have these personality tests. So I think that's a new way of them trying to, uh, include the, not so, but

Ashwin 

There's been a crazy boom. There's been a crazy boom, especially for the assessment platforms, right there, there's so many assessment platforms doing a great amount of work. In terms of video interviews itself, the style view, there is LinkedIn, which is doing it himself. There is SL there is, um, there are many, um, many more, uh, to code that way, uh, who are doing all of their, uh, focus right now to kind of do video interviews, pick up on those, uh, queues, do intelligence kind of analysis on the facial expressions cues. And, uh, according to a question that is, that, that is being asked, right? Um, so a lot of this happens and a lot of the whole world is trying to move towards it, knowing the fact that they want to kind of go online completely. But having said that that would be your correlation between how the working also is if a company is gonna be a complete work from home, then online is the best way to go because there's, I mean, there's no point of meeting a candidate face to face, but if the company is going be wanting you to come to office, then I think it's always good to have one or two rounds probably, um, in person, because you want to know the person, uh, the per the particular candidate and person that way, right.

Ashwin 

Because you're gonna be physically working with that particular candidate.

Kishore 

Absolutely. And I think the trend that we are seeing at least, uh, from that perspective for events is that a lot of companies are going hybrid with the way they do things. So they want, they, the awesome classic advantage of the in person thing. But I think whenever the need arises, they they'll be able to fall back on digital for things

Ashwin

That's absolutely true. That's absolutely true. So for example, we used to wonder, how will I do a drive, uh, online, right? Our first thought would be, if I'm doing a recruitment drive, I'm trying to coordinate with 1520 people online, how crazy is gonna be. Uh, we also adapted, we found out there are breakout rooms in different platforms that we use might be zoom or Google or whichever it is. Right. We give one link to the candidate, break them out to the different panels, quickly, check up, check, finish it off. Right. That's I mean, that's how we adapt to technology. We find ways to kind of, um, you know, get, make it, make things happen at the end of the day, we have to make things happen. Right. So, yeah, I think those kinds of small adaptations that we do through kind of help improve our logistics that way.

Kishore 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Uh, what you said also peaked my, I mean, this is a question to more of, uh, you as an HR professional and a general question, not just now we, et cetera. Do you think on the flip side of, while there have been some little to, like, as you said, not picking up on verbal cues, et cetera. Uh, do you think like, uh, for companies who are looking for talent, um, remotely, uh, the talent pool has like opened up a lot because they're not bound like limited by geography.

Ashwin 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, um, just to quote a couple of examples from whatever I've understood from, um, the people I have hired, uh, from other organizations, maybe commerce, maybe, uh, you know, something like a contact center, um, folks, right? So, uh, folks naturally pressing towards, I mean, folks, when I say candidates are naturally pressing towards wanting to work from home. Right. And having the option of working from home a couple of days, the hybrid model is something where candidates would love that option. Right. That is one, um, second, if you are trying to do night shift also, right. Then naturally, why would I travel to a location? I might as well do a night shift from my house. Right. Those kinds of options also, uh, attract a lot of talent. So the talent is like, uh, very happy to do, kind of do that. And if you have to give them something, uh, if they are asking them to come to office, then you have to give them something more than, uh, just the compensation.

Ashwin

We have to do much more than the compensation in terms of maybe cabs or maybe in terms of, um, the food and, you know, taking care of their food and everything, which, which is something which we do also. Right. So, um, that's the kind of approach we'll have to do if we are trying to attract talent because naturally the whole world is now wanting to do work from home, um, for a lot of roles, right. It's much, much more convenient for folks. So, um, we are, I mean, like, yeah, when, while we are going there, I think accountability and for, uh, you know, um, the ownership mindset is something which is still yet to be judged and, you know, the, uh, ability to quantify that is yet to be judged. And, um, yeah, I think that once that kind of streamlines and we can quantify it, I think a lot of folks are gonna move that way.

Kishore 

Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. I think that was a very good point you made, uh, and it's also, yeah, I mean, uh, humans are, this is a very new thing for humans, so I'm sure we will learn to perfect this part of life too, because that's how we are wired. So yeah, it's gonna be interesting to see where it goes, which brings me to my next. Um, so just imagining, and of course, wishing for a pandemic free world for the next few years, do you think, um, when things go back to whatever we used to know as normal, um, they will still be, uh, used for say HR leaders like you to stay update with virtual technology in case of, uh, whenever you need it.

Ashwin 

I think so. I think it's definitely gonna stay. It's not, uh, a thing which is gonna fade off. Um, it's not just because of the pandemic. People have learned that there are ways to work around, um, and not in person. Right. So I think it's a thing that will stay right. Um, it's a, it is just about as I, as I pointed out in my earlier, uh, thing, um, accountability and ownership mindsets, if that can be, uh, quantified, I think it is bound to stay.

Kishore

Hmm. Yeah. That's certainly seen to be the way ahead. Uh, so yeah, it'll be interesting to see how things pan out and, uh, I wanted to ask you another thing. So we were talking about, uh, um, how like recruiters are kind of relying on these, uh, evaluation portals, right. For personnel, the test, et cetera. Do you think because of that, um, because of the digital way of doing it, there is more, uh, analytics, or are you getting more insights compared to how you used to,

Ashwin

We are yet to go there. Yes, we are yet to go there. And there are a lot of data points that come across when we are doing this face to face. Also we do collect data points, but it's still very limited. Uh, I would say because it's, again, a human who is making notes of those things. Right, right. When it's a system, it captures, uh, possibly more, uh, than what a human could capture. Right. Because it's data which is stored, it's data which you can go back and access as a data, which is getting analyzed. So it's, it's weird basically. It's almost like big data, right? Yeah. So, um, when you have big data, you can do much more, uh, prescriptive and predictive analytics on folks, uh, rather than when we do it on, uh, in person where we might collect on data and transforming the data, transforming that objective, or, um, the whole discussion into an objective data that becomes a little bit of a challenge. So yeah, naturally I think analytics is much more on the platforms that way.

Kishore 

Right. Awesome. Uh, I had one more question we, before I let you go for tonight, uh, this is, uh, just a curious rattler in me asking you, uh, so during the pandemic, I'm sure, uh, both with Jivan and Navi your company must have had some, uh, or pre pandemic, you know, how companies have like offsite or general town halls that, uh, so how was that experience like as a whole, I mean, how do, how did Navi do it during the pandemic? Did you do it completely digital or

Ashwin

During the pandemic? We did it completely. We always had all our hands, uh, right. We have all hands for certain, um, um, you know, department, all hands and the entire organization, all hands. Right. And these all hands completely moved online and we started collecting the questions there and we started, you know, responding and interacting over the chats and to kind of ask the relevant questions to our, uh, to the, to the head, to the leadership teams and all that. Right. So, um, from that perspective, yeah. I mean, we were completely online for quite a bit of time, uh, in terms of these kind of setups where, uh, where a company wants to have an engagement with the employees and give them the updates as to where we are progressing and all that. So yeah, that, that we did completely online and we are still doing it right now.

Ashwin 

Uh, when we have also moved back to office, right. We still have that platform right. There is gonna be a, so that's what I'm trying to say. So there is gonna be a population which is gonna be at home at, at a given point at the end of time. And you cannot eliminate it saying that I'm not gonna use, uh, online platform to kind of converse with other folks. It is always gonna be there. There's gonna be one or two people, uh, in every discussion who would probably be working from home or, you know, uh, has opted to kind of go back home and work for a couple of weeks from home and all that.

Kishore 

Sure.

Ashwin 

So that situation will always be there. And, uh, yeah, I mean, it's going, it's, it's, it's always gonna be still having a part of it being digital.

Kishore 

Yeah. I think, uh, it's gonna be a part of this new normal that we are calling and, uh, yeah, that's very interesting. And you, it was quite awesome to hear it from you because, uh, you've had firsthand experience of acquisition and all, all of recruitment over the past few years, and it really feels like, like a different lifetime before the pandemic, because we have a hard time recollecting how we to do daily things forget work. So awesome. Awesome, Mr. Thanks. Thanks so much for taking time off and, uh, sharing this with us.

Ashwin 

It's been, it's been my pleasure. It's been amazing having this conversation. Um, and so if you, if we, we are doing this online, so I'm sure the whole world will keep doing this online. Also continue to do it online and offline. That

Kishore 

Absolutely couldn't have said it better. Awesome. Ashwin thanks a lot for this. And we'll catch you sometime soon. I'm sure. Uh, we'll have another episode except

Ashwin 

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for this.

Kishore 

All right. Thanks Ashwin and thank you everyone for tuning in, and we'll catch you on the next session. See ya. this was Backstage by Zuddl. If you'd like to hear more episodes, don't forget to subscribe. You can listen to all episodes on Spotify, Apple podcasts or anywhere you stream podcasts. Don't forget to visit Zuddl.com to know more about how YOU can begin humanizing events

Meet the guest

Ashwin S Prasad

Leading Talent Acquisition (non-technical), Navi

Ashwin manages the entire Talent Acquisition activities across all levels of the Operations Vertical at Navi, a fintech company. Having been in the HR field since 2014, Ashwin is a seasoned expert when it comes to setting up processes for recruitment and streamlining the basics to run activities in a mutually agreeable business environment, to ensure smooth business continuity and building sourcing capability to tap into the right talent at the right time.

Meet the guest

hosted by

Kishore CS

Content Lead, Zuddl

Kishore is part of Zuddl’s very own Marketing team. A content creator and enthusiast since 2012, Kishore’s experience ranges from web content and internal communications to copywriting and brand identity.