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.

“LinkedIn and social media are a distraction, we want you to focus on the business and customers,” said one of my bosses once; “We don’t want you to be arguing with an idiot on social media and put our marketing team on tenterhooks all along” he concluded.

I quickly realised that being ‘liked’ internally for your performance is far important than the likes and traffic you generate outside. Moreover, To stop feeling the guilt that I was using organization time for my pleasure, I started my day an hour early for writing and made sure I blogged as soon as my flight took off during travel. Additionally, As much as organizations like their leaders to get the branding mileage for contributing to social media, they aren’t prepared for any criticism that can come out of that. I am sure you wouldn’t have missed the all sweet, only positive, diabetic posts of leaders from large enterprises and avoided sensitive topics even if they write! On the other hand, you must have observed CXOs being more open and articulate about issues once they have turned entrepreneurs!🙋‍♂️

Narcissist Avatar

One mindset we need to have for serious writing is to wear a narcissist hat. Yes😊, I would like to believe that we all have sufficient doses of it, and only some of us can comfortably bring it on externally. The day we can shift that in our mind, the ghosts in our head will disappear, and it will give us relative freedom to express. This is easier said than done unless you are born with that gene! You will be afraid of criticism, and in the absence of even minor doses of narcissism, the publish button will never get clicked.

Another fear psychosis that a semi-narcissist will avoid is that of failure. In the world of likes, comments, and traffic what if nobody reads what you write?

In the first 6 months, I started publishing, hardly 200 people read my posts, and I wanted to stop publishing. That’s why you need a good circle of friends, relatives, your reportees whom you can nudge to give you that initial encouragement. 🤦‍♂️ I know it feels odd. If you are in a leadership role, your team becomes obliged to click the ‘like’ button on your post. Can you imagine how awkward it would be for your team members to be active on social media and not like/comment/share your posts? If they exist, they are brave people, and if you allow them to be, you are the most magnanimous. 😎

Creativity or Discipline?

The famously described writer’s block is overrated. I would like to believe that once we choose our space (industry, domain, jokes, movie reviews, experiences, quotes, copy & paste), it is about discipline and routine. I think it is like going to the gym or dieting. Unless it’s not part of your daily routine, you can’t expect any change to your body. Similarly, for writing to become part of you, one needs to turn up almost daily. If you can write for an hour daily on your chosen space, it will become your muscle memory. In a few months/years, you can even sit at your work desk and write whatever you like, believe me, just like that. Yes, it needs you to maintain journals, do research, and everything you get or expect when you read insightful articles written by your favorite authors.

Discipline and routines are your enemies or friends if you want to take writing seriously. Or it would be best if you were so famous that people are waiting to read your opinions which all of us have in plenty.

I read somewhere “Writing is 10% skill, 40% hard work, and 50% crippling self-doubt.”

As always, I hope you read this post with a pinch of salt!

Employer vs Employee

Employer Vs Employee during the Pandemic

800 371 Kamal Karanth

They say timing is everything and so is the context, Is it time to examine the employer vs. employee equation once again?

If you are an employee is this a good time to be unhappy with your employer for

1. Pressurizing you to do more?

2. Asking you to do a different role? Even if you did not like doing it or can’t do it?

3. Cutting your salary?

4. Laying off some of your colleagues

5. Not increasing your salary though you had a great year?

Let’s say you are the employer, You think it is justified now to

1. Blame your poor performers and put them on PIP

2. Ask your team to do a different role & expect them to be equally productive

3. Ask your employees to stretch even though they are in a new work atmosphere.

4. Do some layoffs as you built some flab during good times

5. Pressurize employees to come to the office even if they don’t feel safe about the exposure?

You think the above is silently being played out or rather openly? The unfortunate part is both are not sitting in front of each other and second-guessing via phone, zoom, WhatsApp!

Transparency and regular communication they say can eliminate some of these clouds in our Employee-Employer relationship.

However where you stand in this equation makes all the difference to how you think. In these challenging times, every act of the employer or manager while dealing with their employee or reportee needs to be thought through. Needless to say, both of them are in new territory and under scrutiny for different reasons.

It is an imperfect situation where the employer feels they are facing headwinds, and the employee feels undone by the new face of their employer!

Its once again Employer vs Employee, this time triggered by an invisible virus!

Spilling the Beans before Quitting!

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When you last decided to quit your job, who did you think of informing first at your organisation?  The obvious answer should be your supervisor. But is it anymore?

In some instances, would you have told your reportees and peers first? Isn’t that the new trend when we quit nowadays ?.

We can argue that it may not be the right thing to do. Yes, The reporting boss technically should be the first to know on such sensitive matters. Off late, haven’t we all been spending more time with our reportees, peers?

We also are socially bonding with many of them and we have even met up with their families, visited their homes, and now a special relationship has got built. Would it be awkward to look into their eye if you tell the boss first? Or even worse would be to wait for the formal announcement on quitting to come! Yes, it also depends on your relationship with your boss. It goes without saying that if the equation with the supervisor is much deeper, then the dilemma is lesser.

In the last decade or so whenever my boss used to inform us about our peers quitting, we used to be shell-shocked. Indeed, there must have been times where you have gone chided your peers that you felt let down! Present-day, we either already know about the news as many of our peers are closer to us, or the shock is non-existent due to the frequency of exits! I have resigned four times before. Thrice it was boss who got to know first & once I had to inform my trusted team before I picked up the phone to call my boss 🙂

In recent times whenever the boss calls for a Monday morning breaking news in the first week of the month, it’s difficult to contain the expression and say “oh really, she quit? what a shame”!

Sometimes when I feel sadistic. I want to say, “tell me something that I don’t know.”

Fight with your Founder?

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If you have a ‘fight with your founder’ or a major difference of opinion with the CoFounders’ you work for, what could be the likely consequence? Most often, its an invitation to quit, isn’t it? The first time I saw my colleague fight with our CoFounder/CEO, I was terrified by the consequences. My colleague was fired on the spot and sent home with his cheque. At least the money part was addressed. But, when I look back now, I can imagine the shock and the mental scar that must have left on our ex-colleague.

The first time I had a major argument with my founder at another firm, I felt I might also need to quit the next day. This time I survived, because the context and the person were different. Founders are unique personalities, their passion; vision attracts us to them while they interview us. But, they can also instill a sense of insecurity when we work with them. If you are ‘opinionated’ types, should that make you an unlikely fit in an entrepreneurial setting? Does it depend on the founder or you? Both to an extent! However, it’s up to the Founder to make the first move. Now, as I reflect as an entrepreneur, I feel its a one-sided battle. If you are an employee and pick a fight with your Founder, you better know your Founder well. If s/he are people who like to hear their voice (like me😎), then god bless you! However, it’s impossible to work in any setting, let alone entrepreneurial firms without having a difference of opinion with your boss.

The question is how to deal with founders with whom you may land up in precipitating situations? I always felt the best approach is to negotiate with them as it allows things to go forward with them. The founders I worked with allowed dissent; they mostly held their ground but also allowed the ideas they did not like when pursued relentlessly. When I look back now, I can see a few reasons why those difficult situations passed without me or some of my peers having to leave.

  1. The fighting employee was taking responsibility for his/her decision.
  2. We negotiated than complaining or threating to quit Founders always have a bias for accountability and action.
  3. We knew how the founder thinks and works 
  4. We had a reasonable track record as performers.

I know a fight is a rarity, and maybe too strong a word and difference of opinion are more likely when you work with entrepreneurs. 

I always felt Founders liked people who had strong personalities and stood their ground than the yes men. However, one can’t keep fighting with your founders and then not meet their performance benchmarks. That would be a recipe for disaster. Am I flattering myself here?

Appraisal Discussions!

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Appraisal discussions are about our progress or about our peers? I think it’s a platform to convey on how ‘others are doing vs us’. Flashback… Boss: Why do you think we aren’t able to do our goal in your Biz Unit. Me: Our next 6 months pipeline is great. However, my peers are also not able to achieve. So, it’s not just me, other too” Boss: Why aren’t you able to scale up the team? Me: It’s difficult to hire, we need better branding to hire. Moreover, unlike me, my peers don’t refer good candidates to me, but, they don’t. Boss: Why do you think they don’t help you? Me: I don’t know, I always reach out to them, It takes two to tango. But so far only I have taken initiatives to reach out. Boss: But, I see others spending time with each other, lunches, dinner and coffees outside of the office. Me: They all stay close by, they can have time for all these. Boss: What about your development. Have your skills, technical prowess improved in the last one year? Me: I think so, But, the Project management course you sent me wasn’t good. Ajay went to that Blockchain course and I hear it was way better. Boss: Anything else? Me: I have completed 2 years in this department. Robert’s boss promoted him within 2 years in there. I don’t want to be stagnant!

What’s your basis for asking hikes?

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“I need a 30% hike, ” said 2 of my colleagues who belonged to two different teams. They had contrasting performances. One was at 100% sales achievement and the other at about 60%. Interestingly they both had one commonality, They were the topmost performers in their team 🙂 The demand for their hike was stimulated by an external source. It seems both had recently received job offers from different employers with a 30% raise. The 100% achiever knew the dependency her supervisor had on her and maybe wanted a payback for her performance. The 60% person had nothing to lose as his benchmark was his prospective employer’s offer. I met both of them to understand their context. The first one implied that every year its difficult to achieve 100% and hence it’s important to feel recognized. The second person gave me an impression that “you can’t have a bad increment for one average performance and life needs to go forward with the immediate opportunities.” I am sure every year we get higher offers from other innocent, desperate employers who decide our value based on the 30 minutes interview time. And we decide their value based on the 30% they offer us. Mutually convenient? What’s your basis for asking hikes? Peers, EMIs, Marriage, Kids?

When you get a promotion do you thank your manager?

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When you get your salary increment or promotion do you thank your supervisor for it? Or by the time you have asked/threatened/negotiated the feel-good has already disappeared?  It’s rare to get a good raise or a dream promotion without having to fight for it. Yes, in our long career there are those unique moments of when we get recognized unexpectedly. I reckon its also difficult to be a consistent performer that you can expect magical raises and promotions frequently. But, when you do get that ‘raise’ even if its single-digit do you ‘offer’ that thank you? I never did, I felt everybody is doing their job including our boss who would have signed on that growth. I felt entitled every time I got a raise or a promotion. Maybe, also felt awkward thanking for something that I worked hard for and felt deserved. Yes, some of them were negotiated so I did not have the ‘face’ to thank them when they eventually came.  Come to think of it, every increment or promotion has the ‘discretion’ of the bosses, sometimes super boss and HR? Maybe, it’s worthwhile to note that discretion and thank them for taking that extra step?  I am sure you were and are better than I used to be 🙂

Does it matter if you are the first or the backup?

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Have you ever accepted a promotion or a new role in spite of knowing that one of your colleagues has already refused it? How does it feel to be the second option? Personally, I never liked the idea of being a backup choice especially for a career growth role within my own organisation. I felt it was an ‘insult’ to fill a role for which ‘they’ originally had somebody else in mind. It felt even worse to know that that first choice had refused that role. If you are in a similar situation would you grab the growth that has come your way? Or, you are the “Curious George” types and ask why did the other person refuse the role or ‘why’ you weren’t the first choice? The first time I got an overseas opportunity I knew I wasn’t the first choice. But, I was excited and accepted it immediately and within 15 days was in a new country. A few months later I asked my peer who had originally declined the role for the reason. He smiled and said, “the salary was lower than my expectations, but HR said you had accepted the same offer”. That was the only day I felt bad about being the second choice 🙂 John Travolta refused to do Forest Gump and Hrithik was the first choice for Amir Khan’s role in Dil Chahta Hai. Does it matter if you are the first or the backup?

First Day at Work? What do you expect?

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at work? What do you get to see and hear?  If you are working with a large corporation you would be in midst of Powerpoints/videos on their corporate history. I am sure you would also be shown profiles of their senior leaders. There would be stories told about how their current leaders have grown through the ranks. This is intended to inspire newcomers on the career prospects. But, in today’s world, this loyalty/tenure driven growth story is a double-edged sword. Who thinks of long-term careers now? Every year is a new journey and the narrations from corporations to new joiners also needs to change. I am sure it has. How about presenting on Day1 what/how some of the talented new joiners have contributed to the organization? Why can’t they be the new poster boys and girls? Instead of trying to seduce new employees on the long-term growth story of their leaders (some could just be fossilized versions) a short-term milestone of recent joiners maybe more motivating? I just can’t erase the comment of a new joiner when we showed the growth story of one of our poster boys Director in an Induction presentation. In the tea break, he asked “15 years to become a Director? Can you tell me what I can do/achieve in the next 3 years”?