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Kamal Karanth

Hiring – A Cloning Faux Pas!

800 371 Kamal Karanth

Our repeated hiring patterns are just like the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results?

One of the Employers once said, “We hire 50% through employee referrals, about 10% of niche talent we directly source through our TA team, maybe 15% through recruitment companies, 10% through campuses, and the rest we have contract resources through service providers”. Depending on the context and evolution, this mix keeps changing for each enterprise. However, with all the good intentions and strategic thinking, we keep on following some paths, which, when compounded, creates hiring Faux Pas.

Hiring Followers

“Please don’t bring any of your friends from your ex-employer said my HR Head," as though he read my mind. It was day one of my new employer’s orientation, and I could only smile about his mind-reading ability. Is this something you practice here? I asked, “We are proud of our culture and want to ensure that we don’t recruit people from the same organisation he explained. I have to admit that I almost felt insulted about my previous employer during that conversation. Then, he moved on, and I got two of my ex-team members, they got a few of their followers, and the chain continued, and in no time, we had created our own coterie. On the other hand, many talented people kept resigning as they saw a series of tailgating.

Pedigree Cloning

This consulting company hires a minimum of 5-6 people every year from us. In a good year, it crosses even double digits,” beamed the dean of a premium Institute. “Over the last few years, their entire HR department has mostly our alumni," he proudly declared. Another Engineering college placement head said this year this IT company did not even bother to come; they asked us to send the students above CGPA 4.6 and sent letters to the top 15 (no kidding).

Now, let’s reflect on this,

Do we keep going to the same universities because they are of a certain pedigree or some of their past alumni were highly productive employees?

Or is it a kind of insurance to avoid any flak you need to take for wrong hires from elsewhere? After all, it’s risky to recruit from new universities; what if you end up with a few bad hires? When you hire from a pre-approved campus, and it turns sour, you can always point out at the university and say, “their quality is going down.”

Have you heard hiring recruiters saying, please get me, people, after IIM 2010 as all the bosses are a batch senior from that? We hire from the same institution and maintain a hierarchy based on the pass out year forever. It’s a permanent queue system. Whatever happened to the meritocracy at work?

Repeat & Loop

What works once must work again? Once we saw a couple of salespeople from the Yellow Pages industry being successful in sales roles, buoyed by this, we recommended and hired half a dozen more sales guys from the same industry; Before we knew most of the second lot was fired. Then, a guy from Pharma sales was doing well, so more were hired, and this time it was 50% successful. We also have a similar bias about companies,

“GE guys are great in the process, Eureka Forbes guys are best for retails sales, there cannot be better than Xerox folks on institutional sales, let’s get someone from Google or Apple for this project.”

I am sure you have heard of these cliches before. We can’t help but try repeating what has worked before.

But, in the hiring world, the context of what worked before doesn’t repeat easily as you are dealing with

1. People who are always unique.

2. The personal circumstances under which they operated

3. The team/boss and culture where they performed before

4. The role/title/money that acts as personal motivators


I had a boss who hired me once just after interviewing for 15 minutes; he did not ask anything about my past work-related skills ( I presumed he had read my CV well). After joining, I realized that he had a template for hiring people from a small town. From what I saw, it worked for him. One hiring manager asked for hiring women for a customer service role saying women are better at multi-tasking. Another formula I was told was to hire people from SMEs, startups. They come from high-pressure settings and can handle long work hours as they are used to it. Sounds familiar again? We miss all these people’s individual contexts and easily bracket them into templates to confirm and reuse.

I am sure you can add plenty to this list, add in the comments list if you have seen unique patterns we keep repeating, which in turn is a kind of cloning?

In biomedical research, cloning is broadly defined to mean the duplication of any biological material. Over a period of time, we seem to have turned our hiring process into cloning knowingly or unknowingly.

But we keep saying hire for potential! 

Everybody can/not write!

Everybody can/not write!

800 371 Kamal Karanth
Do you admire people’s way of writing or their ability to connect to you or inspired by their writing discipline?

There was a time when I used to read an article from somebody I knew. I would react like, “This is something I was thinking too, I could write better, What’s so great about it. Looks like I have read it somewhere,” or I would compare it with writers whom I admire and dismiss it out of jealousy. My own opinion was everyone could blog if they choose to, and it’s just that they choose not to write. I have told many people I know that they should start writing articles/columns. They were inspiring leaders with great communication skills, brilliant insights, and subject matter experts in their own rights, not to forget that most people paid attention to them in organisation/industry settings. However, they never ventured into writing anything, and I always wondered why. Today, I reflect on my own writing journey, excuse the narcissism, and ‘Gyan’ if you detect them. Please read all the “we” as “I.”🤓

Devil in the Mind

Once I started to write for my own catharsis, I realised the challenges of writing and publishing. Much of it is in our imagination of who we are and a fear of rejection from people we ‘mostly’ don’t know.

People whom we know are expected to like and share🤫 .

This battle is with the unknown critic becomes the devil in mind and keeps us in the inertia mode. If you want your writing to be accepted/praised by every person who is close to you, like your spouse, friends, relatives, siblings, bosses, peers, or reportees, you may never be able to get out of your shell.

Many of us also struggle with the people whom we know and what they say about us. One of the first pieces I wrote I emailed to my sister, an English Lecturer at Bangalore University. She frowned at my language and refused to edit such a poorly written post. So, out of low self-esteem, I halted my intent to publish for 6 more months, but I kept writing to please myself.

Self-Perception & Expression

Our own perception of who we are in our eyes and the professional role also gives us the leverage to express. I wonder why I never chose to write till I reached a particular stage of my career. Yes, forums like Linkedin made it easy and also brought the necessary competitive juices to write. But, I wonder if we will initiate our expressions until we feel we have the power of expression. Much of it is not our experience but how we perceive our career progression and positioning in our professional setting (call it the role/title). Our self-image is also frozen in time or fixed to the extent that it won’t free us to write what we think. And there will be people imposing on you what to write if you confide in them about your desire to blog, and what they advise may not be something you want to express at all. What if you want to review movies, aren’t there so many already? The only suggestion I initially got was to write about leadership, and it did not inspire me to write for the next 3 months. I felt leadership as a theme did not connect with me.


It goes without saying that we all want to write about things that possibly hasn’t been written about before. We desire our theme/content/style to be unique, and in that hunt, I have experienced it to be a non-starter. Until I wrote for the first 12 months, I did not know where I was headed. It took a long time for me to realize what I liked writing and what was truly me. I also think one can pick a space and go deep into it. When I picked workplace dynamics or water cooler discussions as my dominant theme, I wasn’t sure if I could explore so many areas for so long. But, every day, a new trigger, a unique experience at the workplace, kept feeding me.

Your Employer Setting

Not everyone can blog with freedom. Most of us work in enterprise settings, and there is a need to balance the image and organization identity. Employers also won’t like you to take a stance or be critical of things they can’t explain to their PR team.

Leadership and Lies

800 371 Kamal Karanth
The art of strategic deception has been perfected by most top management

The Q3 results of companies are out and the performance of most look below par.

Yet you find CEOs assuring investors that they are on the right path. You can’t expect them to say anything else, can you?

Did you follow the recent American presidential debate?

The most interesting part of both debates was the fact-checking session by channels that immediately followed. There was glaring misrepresentation on data, be it Covid cases, or claims and counter claims on how many people would benefit from the old and new health care plans.

Back in India, even before a vaccine is developed, we saw politicians promising free inoculation.

How do you interpret the claims made by leaders? Should we call it strategic deception or motivated reasoning? Motivated reasoning is described in social psychology as using emotionally-biased reasoning to produce justifications or make decisions that are most desired rather than those that accurately reflect the evidence while still reducing cognitive dissonance. Too complicated? Simply put, leaders lie knowingly because they want us to believe in what they are telling us rather than the glaring facts?

Blurred lines

Due to Covid, many organisations announced a freeze on a pay raise for the year. However, when top talent got offers from competitors, to retain them, increments were given. When the word got out, people who did not negotiate for hikes felt cheated. The leaders who publicly announced the pay freeze did not clarify later that a few were selectively given a raise. Was it too complicated to manage the new situation in public glare?

In a job induction meeting, I have seen a leader parade a couple of new managers, praising them as fast-trackers, to showcase growth opportunities to newcomers. In any company, the number of people who don’t get a promotion is significantly higher than those who get promoted. Despite such statistics, we still tell everyone that they can get promoted and create an atmosphere of competition than collaboration.

Maybe it’s a blurred line for leaders, where they are told to focus on the positive side of things, and hence some of the convenient statistics get exaggerated. Ask any leader who has high attrition in their team. They will start talking about involuntary separation and average tenure to paint a different picture and rarely admit that attrition is a problem. It’s always belief first, reason second!

The positive impact of colleagues’ presence and crowd pressure

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WFH lacks the co-action effect — improved showing in the midst of colleagues

Dhoni would have won us two of the three matches we lost so far in IPL had there been a typical full house crowd, lamented a CSK fan. No other person can handle the close finish pressures like Mahi, he argued. Similarly, many of my friends have felt that Kohli would perform differently in front of a packed stadium with cheering fans. I am trying to make sense of this argument and relate it to the world of work, where the talk is more about engagement and less about the pressures that bring out the best in people. But, let us admit the fact that anxiety and audience bring out the best in some of us at work too.

Sales pressure

Most sales organisations thrive on pressure. Some create the atmosphere through systems and processes; many others through their leaders’ behaviours. We used to dread meetings with our sales head when he had the mike. He used to call out in front of 50 other people the mediocre performances. However, many of us came back with stronger performances the next quarter. Of course, many of us were performing in anticipation of incentives, increments, and promotions too. But my sense of those days was that more people were worried about keeping their jobs and losing their face in front of a crowd than motivated by rewards and recognition.

The price of pressure

Wall Street assesses IPO-bound CEOs on their ability to handle pressure. Stanford professor Elizabeth Blankespoor’s study of 224 pre-IPO roadshows assessed how CEOs were perceived in terms of competence and attractiveness and the impact it had on the final IPO pricing. At these roadshows, the leaders don’t really share more than what is in the prospectus. Yet, fund managers and analysts jostle for seats at these events. They don’t come there for breakfast, but to assess the CEO’s competence, mainly how they handle the audience. These seem to make a difference in the initially proposed price and the revised final offer price. The study said a 5 per cent increase in perception scores of the CEO yields an additional 11 per cent boost in the final market price. Oh! That’s some crowd pressure on the CEO!

Templates of pressure

Everyone responds to pressure in varying degrees. Customers, competitors, bosses, colleagues, all of us. Is there a systematic way of creating it? Daily dashboards, unachievable targets, unreasonable deadlines, intimidating townhalls, team reviews, customer NPS scores, annual awards, competitor market share, are some enterprise tools used to create pressures of different kinds on multiple people.

Even simple group emails can create stress on people. Picture this: our boss used to send a monthly performance note to all his team members. If we did not find a mention in his message, we knew we were in trouble. So till his next monthly note, we used to work our back off to get the right side of his attention. His template was a public secret, and he used that pretty well.

The Side Effects of Hiring from Competition

The Side Effects of Hiring from Competition

800 371 Kamal Karanth

Ever budgeted for your competitors' reaction when you pinch their talent? 

The reasons to hire talent from rivals are obvious, right? You get a trained talent with some trade secrets who can hit the road running. It’s a great bargain for the talent too as they get a premium salary while they switch over to their rival. Win, Win? Not without its share of headaches though! Ever thought of the reaction of some competitors who might be sour with you for ripping off their prized possession? What do you expect them to do?

Does your opposite number buy you coffee or sent a legal notice? I got variants of both.

Let us start with coffee ️. I was pleasantly surprised that I would be called to Starbucks for a meet just after hiring a couple of talent from them. In hindsight, it was far 'two' many. Five minutes into the meeting, I was told that skeletons were found after they left, and he was glad that I cleaned up their dirty closet. Then came the threat; if any of their clients were contacted, their lawyers were ready. It ended on a hostile note, and we paid only for our coffees and drove away!

Their CEO ensured that his meeting with me went viral with his staff so that they think twice before accepting another offer from competitors. I think it worked, and I did not recruit from them for another year.🤫 Thereafter every time I bumped into him in a coffee shop I looked over his shoulder to see who he was meeting. I knew many of his team members were joining the competition and he soon built a reputation as somebody who goes after his ex-staff and peer group. You can say he was a possessive & passionate CEO or somebody who had time for all these distractions!

Freelancers: The life of a poet with the pay of a banker

Freelancers: The life of a poet with the pay of a banker?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
That’s the freelancers dream – but how often does reality match the vision?

Two companies in the global talent world are enjoying their moment of sunshine despite the pandemic. No, they have not pivoted to manufacture PPEs. They are in the right place, right time as freelancer platforms. On NYSE, Fiverr, and Upwork both have seen their stock prices rise by 400% and 66 %, respectively. That’s not all – they returned the faith of their investors by reporting stellar results last quarter.

Back home, we know the gig train has left the station, propelled by the pandemic. However, multiple frictions in the ecosystem inhibit freelancing from becoming mainstream for talent and enterprises.

Enterprises Utopia

60% employees, 20% contingent workers, 10%t freelancers, 5% interns, and 5 % projects to IIT students – that would be my ideal workforce distribution of tomorrow,” declares a CHRO of a large IT MNC.

In a crisis like this pandemic, such a flexible talent map would have been ideal. But, it’s easier said than done. Organisations do not have the technology, process, or structural support to execute such a plan. Already, there is a struggle to hire full-time employees on time. Culturally integrating full time and contract workers is a continuing challenge for HR. Throw freelancers to that mix, and it becomes more complicated. Even if enterprises are keen to get freelancers, sourcing them in time is going to be their Achilles heel.

The Talent Dilemma

In a recent survey of freelancers, when asked why they opted for gig work, a respondent said, “To be the master of my own destiny.” However, does the reality match? Of 1,000 freelancers surveyed recently, 46% admitted that they had lost their work/clients during the current pandemic. A study by Dinghy, an insurance provider to freelancers and self-employed, says more than 50% freelancers felt they over-served their clients, and 30% said they don’t get paid by their customers at all.

38% of the freelancers said getting new work and customers were the most significant challenges. Unlike full-time employment, income continuity is not guaranteed as a freelancer. Moreover, as a single point of responsibility, 98% of freelancers admitted they were working even during time off as they are in charge of everything.

The ‘back to office’ rush — is it wise?

The ‘back to office’ rush — is it wise?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
Are corporates adequately geared up to be back at the office or making a hash of it?

Quick Base, the 1 billion $ SAAS company, hired Ed Jennings as their new CEO this May. However, he is yet to visit their Massachusetts headquarters. That shouldn’t be surprising anymore. But still, I need to ask you this!

How many of you are itching to go to the office, sit in the cafeteria, and have a cup of coffee with your favorite colleagues? I am sure many of us are raring to go depending on the roles we play and the trust levels we have with our employers and colleagues. But the tone of the majority of employees globally and in India is of caution. Almost half of the employees polled by PWC in the USA recently said safety measures like mandatory testing and temperature checks before going onsite still don’t inspire confidence. Back home the survey by FYI recently highlighted that more than 93% of workers were anxious to return to the office on fear of their health being compromised.

Safety or Normalcy

So, where do we draw the line between the safety of employees and the enterprise need to declare a return to normalcy? Employers who house a large number of office workers are thoroughly confused.

When I heard that one of my entrepreneur friends had terminated their office lease, I thought the business must have been affected severely. However, when I spoke to him, he said, “I don’t want to risk the lives of my employees and their dear ones just because I feel there are advantages of being at the office. After all, in the work we do, most of us are still productive, and our work can still be done out from anywhere.”

However, not every enterprise can carry out its work in the remote model. From Textiles to many manufacturing units where hands and legs do the job, physical presence is inevitable. However, for knowledge-based organisations and roles which can be worked from anywhere, what’s driving the rush back to the office? The recent outbreak of Covid, some even leading to death at a few large Indian enterprises, begs the question. Is India Inc making hash out of the return to the office? What’s playing out inside the enterprises which otherwise can continue WFH but still preferring to come back to the office?


The Real Estate angle

In the USA, Amazon and Apple have invested billions of dollars in sparkling new facilities that can house thousands of employees. Large Indian cities have also seen large enterprises and real estate companies making significant commitments to constructing huge sprawling offices. These investments will be weighing on the CFO’s mind when they are advising their CEOs. Some of the Enterprise facilities are so large that social distancing in the office might be possible by working in shifts or rostering of employees. Employers sure will take care of the hygiene and safety of employees in offices, but they might be ignoring a critical angle, the commute. Most employees have to use multiple modes of public transport to reach their place of work, and that increases the touchpoints. How will that safety be accounted for, and who shall be responsible for that?

Caught in the past

“Our CEO thinks all the leaders coming to the office give the right signal to our staff said a Technology company CXO. So, in the last few weeks, we are in the office and conducting our work from the confines of our cabins, he said. Even with my EA, I speak on skype, all my DRs are in their own offices, and we communicate on Zoom he continued.”Can these video interfaces not happen from home?” I asked; He smiled and alluded that “our CEO believes that working in the office increases collaboration and we have limited voice in this matter.  In our internal surveys, most employees still don’t want to come but are forced to sign declarations about their willingness to report due to the nudge.” The point here is not about who is calling the shots but how we are caught in the past about work processes.

What’s your managerial hack?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
In your team do people respond better to

1. Engagement?

2. Rewards and Recognition?

3. Competition?

4. Pressure?

5. Naming and Shaming?

We can argue 2 and 3 are the same as in a way we recognize only the winners and leave out the also-ran. In my view, we use all of them interchangeably, depending on how motivated or frustrated we are about our teams!


I wonder if it’s our individual make up that drives our managerial behavior…Meaning if we are wired to respond better to competition, that’s the tool we possibly use more? Many of us are used to the competition thanks to our education system, and maybe it has become part of our DNA.

What’s your interview wait time?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

“All the 3 rounds of #interviews, the average wait time was about 45 minutes” when she brought that stat out, I wondered, is Interview Wait Time (IWT) a metric worth measuring?

We already measure many things like time to hire, quality of hire (still fuzzy), cost per hire, and not to forget how many we hired.

Let us say #hr gave hiring managers a score on

1) The average time to respond to a CV

2) Time taken to allot an interview schedule

3) Number of reschedules per interview

4) Average waiting time per interview

5) Number of days taken to give feedback post-interview

Don’t forget the numerous follow-ups in between to nudge for each of the processes to take place.

We do take post-hiring feedback on a scale of 10 on different parameters. But, the ‘experience’ of getting hired is often ignored when we get the salary, title, role of our choice, and some of us might be generous or forget things like wait time.

Let’s do an average waiting time for an enterprise if they

a) Interviewed 4 people for every each hire

b) Recruited 200 people a month

b) Did 3 rounds of interview

c) Had an average wait time of 30 minutes

Thats 4 x 200 x 3 x 30 = 72,000 Minutes per month 🤐

Jugding colleagues

Recency Effect! How do you judge your colleagues?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

How do you judge colleagues? Would it be based on

1. Their recent performance/behaviors or

2. Their strengths based on which they got hired/stayed/promoted?

3. Your relationship with them?

It’s safe to say it’s a combination of all three. In fact, recent behaviors may have a significant impact on the relationship? I think so.

I once launched a new initiative (what else do you do when you get bored and want to distract your teams?

I realised that couple of them were not interested in it nor pulling their weight around it. Both would not have done the project work or would skip the update calls calling themselves busy. One of them was a top performer, and the other was struggling with his team’s productivity.

I am sure they must have had their reasons for not interested in the initiative and maybe also lacked the courage to flag off that they cannot participate. Either way, their lack of interest and application was conspicuous. These were people I had hired, were talented and experts in their space. But, as their supervisor, I felt they were not pulling their weight on what was a crucial project (so I think even today).

My subsequent interactions with them suffered, and I guess whenever our paths met, I judged them based on those recent behaviors I had of them.