For a long time, recruitment was regarded as a mere “cost centre” that drained profits, but it now plays a central role in companies, especially when it comes to startups. Recruitment is moving further away from human resources to become a standalone service in its own right, but it still has an important goal: understanding what managers need and finding employees who are the best fit, both in terms of expectations and overall company culture. Thomas Nivol, who is global recruitment director at Algolia, gives Welcome to the Jungle a behind-the-scenes look into the world of a talent acquisition manager.
How did you become a talent acquisition manager?
I wasn’t interested in a lengthy course after secondary school, so I went to technical college to study marketing and worked as an apprentice at Orange. But after my experience selling mobile phones in a shopping centre, I realised I had different goals. So I enrolled in business school where I specialised in international human resources management. I did part of my apprenticeship at Criteo, where I was subsequently hired, first as a recruiter and then as the head of a recruitment team. I worked at Criteo for six years, two of which were spent in London and three in Barcelona. I wanted to move back to France and joined Algolia, where I’m currently the global recruitment director.
What does ‘talent acquisition manager’ mean?
The role of a talent acquisition manager is to attract talent to a company. The talent acquisition manager for a small but growing organisation is usually an experienced recruiter who handles all the company’s recruitment needs for every position, no matter the function, and at every level. In bigger companies, the role becomes more of a managerial position, which means overseeing a team of specialised recruiters.
The goal of a talent acquisition manager is to minimise the number of failed recruitments. To achieve this, we set up a process that accurately represents the company culture and makes it easier to identify unsuitable candidates quickly, while guaranteeing applicants the best possible experience. Every candidate who goes through the recruitment process is a potential ambassador for your business because they are the ones who are likely to recommend your company to someone in their network. Talent acquisition managers, therefore, are the ones who give these candidates the first impression of your company, so they must work hard to convey the best image they possibly can.
Talent acquisition managers, therefore, are the ones who give these candidates the first impression of your company, so they must work hard to convey the best image they possibly can.
What place does recruitment occupy in companies?
Recruitment used to be seen as a cost centre, which means it wasn’t valued by management. Recruiters were mostly there to collect and sort through CVs and post job ads, with very few tools at their disposal when it came to sourcing candidates. Today, recruitment is more likely to be perceived as a function that gets results and saves money because companies have learned the cost of “bad” recruitment first-hand. They’ve come to see an in-house recruitment team as a means to increase efficiency while reducing the time managers spend on recruiting their teams. For a growing number of businesses, a recruitment service has become a separate entity in its own right, which no longer needs to rely on HR. Recruiters are responsible for attracting talent and then it’s the role of HR to retain that talent for as long as possible.
Recruiters are responsible for attracting talent and then it’s the role of HR to retain that talent for as long as possible.
What are your day-to-day duties and responsibilities as a recruitment director?
My work basically revolves around three areas. My first priority is to support the growth of each member of my team. I have to think carefully about their development opportunities, help them advance their careers and build stronger relationships with colleagues. Second, I must reflect on the overall recruitment strategy. This involves formulating a philosophy that every department can understand, enhancing the visibility of recruitment within the business and training employees in recruitment. Finally, I have to focus on recruiting for senior positions.
What steps are involved in recruiting a candidate?
For recruiters, the first step involves understanding the needs of the manager who wants to hire. They must ensure the need is genuine and well-founded, identify who should be part of the recruitment process, what kind of profile is expected, which prerequisites are necessary and which ones are simply “nice to have” . Once recruiters have all this information, they can go ahead and launch the candidate search across a range of platforms such as posting the job on the company website’s career page, on job search sites aimed at the specific profile in question or on more general websites such as Welcome to the Jungle, in order to attract external applications.
Recruiters also communicate internally to target employee networks and contacts, because it’s been proven that people recruited in this way are often strong candidates who already share the company’s values. Finally, the search can be launched externally through social networks such as LinkedIn, which are aimed at attracting and recruiting those who are already employed or looking for work.
For recruiters, the first step involves understanding the needs of the manager who wants to hire.
The next step involves making an initial selection of applications based on prerequisites that the recruitment team feels confident they can assess. After that, recruiters can divide the recruitment process into steps that will be used to evaluate specific aspects of those applications. At Algolia, for example, we’ve set up a collaborative recruitment process that involves a large proportion of our employees, who have all received training in recruitment techniques. If applicants pass the first stage of the selection process, they are given tests, which they are often able to do at home. Lastly, we invite applicants into our offices for half a day so they can meet the teams. This gives them the clearest view possible of our company and their future working environment.
What criteria do talent acquisition managers use to evaluate candidates?
Candidates undergo three kinds of evaluation. The first focuses on soft skills so that we can assess their values and attitude towards work, which will help determine if they’d be a good fit with our own. In addition, we check hard skills, or technical competencies, using practical tests and exercises. To finish, we ask questions to assess candidates based on their motivations, their ability to explain what our company can offer them and what they think they can bring to us.
How do you, as a manager, decide which members of your team will be directly in charge of recruitment?
I’m not necessarily interested in finding the perfect person for the job. I’d much rather give people the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge. I think the most important thing is to have soft skills such as curiosity, for example, because that shows candidates you’re interested in their background. Communication skills are also essential because you want to sell the job to candidates, along with perseverance, since the job of a recruiter is often thankless. We sometimes spend a lot of time looking for the perfect profile to no avail, especially when it comes to people in highly sought-after professions such as web developers. In these situations, recruiters must be creative in the way they approach candidates who are often contacted by countless other companies.
In such situations, recruiters must be creative in the way they approach candidates who are often contacted by countless other companies.
What’s your favourite part of the job? And what do you find less interesting?
I find watching members of my team grow, thrive and get ahead the most rewarding part of the job. However, I’m less interested in the political aspects of the job such as negotiating the distribution of various recruitment needs between departments. My role, therefore, involves explaining our capacity and availability to the managers of other teams, anticipating their needs as best I can and planning the recruitment needs of the coming year as early as possible.
I’m less interested in the political aspects of the job such as negotiating the distribution of various recruitment between departments.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a talent acquisition manager?
I believe that being a recruiter is not something you can learn at school. That’s why you have to take every opportunity you can and find a work placement that will give you inside knowledge of the profession. I recommend getting experience that’s very general before specialising. That way, you’ll be able to recruit for a variety of professions such as sales, technical or administrative positions.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve been recruiting for eight years. I’m still passionate about it and I have no intention of giving it up. That said, I’m aiming to make my role even broader by integrating human resources responsibilities. The good news is that this career opens up a lot of doors, professionally speaking. We work alongside all the various teams and managers in our company, which means we have a broad understanding of how things work and are able to move more easily from one department to another.
The good news is that this career opens up a lot of doors, professionally speaking.
Translated by Andrea Schwam
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