HR Professional Day in the Life Interview - Aziz Chowdhury

Baker Hughes is a Fortune 200 technology leader in the oil field services industry, operates in over 90 countries and consists of 36,000 employees.

In the past one hundred year history of Baker Hughes, the process of recruiting has become an increasingly vital tool for running the business behind their $12 billion revenue. The company is involved in oil field services, such as exploration and mining products, and also helps discover more effective drilling techniques in over 90 countries. This takes recruitment to a global scale, which requires many different strategies all with one goal in mind: find the best talent and fit for the company.

Aziz Chowdhury, Director of Global Talent Acquisition, has been very successful in his recruitment strategies during his short eight months at Baker Hughes despite the many challenges and time commitments a flourishing recruitment plan entails. Strategies are always evolving, but one factor he will always keep in mind that has contributed to the overall success of the company, is the value of bringing good people into the company.

Aziz Chowdhury firmly states “Like a lot of things in recruiting, it all comes down to the people that you have. You want to make sure that the folks you have involved in recruiting have a passion for it and also have the skills for it. You can train the skills, but you really can’t build the passion for it. And I think one of the things that we’ve done very effectively here at Baker Hughes is worked real hard to get the right people involved with recruiting. Not just go out and say here, you do recruiting.” This mentality has helped Aziz and his team both build and carry out extremely successful recruitment strategies and techniques. He continues, “We have a mix of people so we have folks that come out of operations and some folks that come out of human resources, but one of the things they all have in common is the spirit and drive to be successful.”

Nancy Holland, VP Marketing for Direct Employers recently interviewed Aziz Chowdhury, Director of Global Talent Acquisition for Baker Hughes.

How did you get started in the recruitment industry?

You know, that was an interesting one. I always knew that I was going to work in Human Resources, but was really much more focused on the organizational development side. Several recessions ago, I was looking for something to do, and a lot of my friends said “hey, you should try recruiting.” I started off in recruiting and much to my horror found out that I actually really enjoyed it. So, about two-thirds of my career has been in some way, shape or form, around talent acquisition and talent management.

What would you say “a day in the life” is like for you?

Well my role had a global perspective, so there’s an element that is around understanding the business strategy and identifying what the talent acquisition implications of that is, so there’s a portion of my day that’s spent on strategic issues. Frankly, never enough. It’s probably less time than I’d like. And then there’s a whole lot of work that had to do with managing the execution of the strategies, or the plans, or the projects that we have. So, you know, the early part of the day is usually being spent on Asia Pacific, or Middle East or European issues. The later part of the day is usually spent on North America and preparing for tomorrow’s issues… lots of meetings, lot of interactions, all to gather information and to push out communications. And then I try to set aside a certain portion of my day to just do people management issues. That’s either with my direct team or my indirect team, or their staff underneath them.

What kind of trends would you say that you’re seeing in the recruiting environment today?

I would say of late, there have been kind of two trends that I’ve seen. One is that kind of focus on cost-cutting and that’s in certain types of environments: proactive environments, or far-sighted environments. It’s focused more on efficiency. So, it’s around what do we really need to do to get it right and how do we do it effectively?

The other trend we know has been around building for the future and it’s around an organization that is saying, ‘well we know things are going to be a little bit different. How do we make sure we are positioned for that?’ And that trend has set out a lot of, I don’t know if I’d say sub-trends, but it’s a lot more complicated than just, ‘what are we going to need’ or ‘how many people are we going to need in recruiting in 6 months?’ It’s around ‘how do we make sure that when we recruit, we recruit effectively?’ You know, a lot of companies, after a couple of years of just hiring indiscriminately realize wow- we need to hire good folks. I’ve never really thought about, but from an instinctive level, I realize if you don’t bring good people into the organization, it doesn’t matter how good your talent management is. It doesn’t matter how good your total rewards are. You’re never going to really get that far. And so, that trend has manifested by making sure the talent acquisition is integrated into other areas of talent management and total rewards. So you’re not just disconnected. And the trend supporting that has been gathering data and making sure the data is turning into developmental plans, making sure that the applicant tracking system, or the HRIS (Human Resource Information System) is capable of talking and sharing information and also looking across just borders and or functions and understanding that the people we bring in may be filling, or should be filling other jobs in the future. How do we make sure we recruit for then, as well as recruiting for today?

What are some of the challenges you face that are still pending solutions?

Oh, we have so many. I mean, one is always around the bar and how do you weigh the demands of filling a position with the demands of finding the right person and raising the bar? Senior management is always pushing you harder, get better, get more, get it faster and hiring managers are pushing you to get it done, get it done, get it done. So how do you do that in a way that you’re not angering your clients because they obviously need their jobs filled, but at the same time that you’re getting folks in and getting that talent in.

Another thing that keeps you awake is the perception that ‘oh, recruiting is easy right now’. All you need to do is open up the window and 15 candidates will fly in. When in fact, recruiting during a recession, or economic downturn is often quite harder, because you have fewer resources internally you get more candidates coming in, and the good ones often don’t have an incentive to make a change. You know, why should they take the risk? So in fact, recruiting tends to get a lot harder.

The other thing that keeps me awake is, while we have one set of problems in North America and Europe, we have a totally different set of problems in other countries that we are recruiting in. So we are trying to develop a strategy for how to recruit in Iraq. You can’t even imagine how difficult and challenging that’s going to be. There are parts of the world where we are focused on where recruiting is still red-hot right now, so how do you build the infrastructure to be able to support that, not knowing whether or not you’re going to need that same infrastructure in a year or two?

What advice would you give a job seeker on looking for opportunity within your organization?

Well, I mean above and beyond the obvious ones which are around, make sure that you’re clearly focused, that you maintain a positive impact, that you do some research on the organization that sort of stuff. You don’t want to forget the basics. The biggest mistake that I have seen a lot of candidates mke is that they focus too much on just what they’ve done. They don’t focus on helping the interviewers understand. For example, ‘I’ve done this and it will prepare me to be able to do that.’ Also, I don’t think a lot of candidates fully understand just how ill-prepared most hiring managers are to make a decision. A hiring manager is going into an interview thinking I’ve got to get this job filled; I’ve got to interview these people, what am I going to do?

Also who smiles, who do I kind of click with, who do I feel comfortable with, and who I’m sure we can all count on. What they fail to do is help that manager connect the dots by saying “You know what, I haven’t really done this exactly, but I’ve done this and I’ve done that and here’s what I’ve learned from it and here’s how I would apply that to you.” And I find that a lot of candidates don’t ask a lot of questions, they don’t gather a lot of feedback in data.

Do you have a system in place, or is there a way to provide candidate feedback?

The way that we have approached it is we’ve identified categories of activities that are involved in the recruiting life-cycle. And one of our categories is candidate management. We believe it’s very important to manage the candidate experience, for a couple of reasons. One is that, it makes sure that everyone who walks out of our door walks out with a smile whether they got a job, or not. They have very fond memories of Baker Hughes and their experience here. So what we do in terms of feedback is we build it into our process. But we also build expectations into our process. So, if we’re not going to get back to you, we build into our process that someone will get an email that clearly states that no one is going to get back to you. Once we start engaging directly with a candidate, be it a voice interview or phone interview, or an in-person interview, the stakes go up, and so obviously if we have phone-interview somebody, all of those people will get a verbal decline. If we have in-person interviewed, all of those people will get a live decline along with some feedback about how they did and some insight into why we decided to pursue another candidate, because it’s not always just about the individual. This is always tied back to the fact that we believe that you may end up as a customer, you may end up as a competitor, but we want to maintain a very good relationship with you. So I think it’s important to build it into the process, but I also think it’s equally important to make sure that people’s expectations are set. And then it becomes a matter of recruiter accountability and what I have found is that good recruiters viscerally believe that it’s important for me to make sure that all the loose ends are tied up.

Lastly, tell me about your favorite benefit or service that you receive from your membership with DirectEmployers?

Well I think that DirectEmployers is different from a lot of other association in the fact that you guys are not really there to make money. But as someone who is new to the organization, the best benefit I have had has been my interactions with my account manager, who has helped me to understand how DirectEmployers can help. I have found that there is a lot more access than I had realized, and that we have ways of leveraging that and building that into our process and our way of doing business. It’s been a great organization, in my opinion, to start off a relationship with. I’m really looking forward to seeing where it’s going to go and how we can get better integrated and better networked with some of our peers within the organization. What I have really appreciated about DirectEmployers has been the organization’s openness and receptiveness to entertaining our ideas, and I think as the organization continues to mature, you guys are going to really tap into that demand and say hey, this is where we can help you.

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