Jane Lee likes to refer to herself as a third culture kid having originated in Korea but spent most of her childhood in the Philippines. She went to university in Hong Kong and now lives and works in Munich. Although her major was in Marketing she soon found out that it was building relationships and working with people that she loved most and took her first HR position at a software startup for smart audio products called Bragi. After 2 years, she moved to her current company, e-bot7, a growing conversational AI startup as the one and only HR and Talent Acquisition manager. Jane managed to grow the company from 30 people to almost 100 in a year and has since acquired a more senior role and recruited for her own team of people.
Jane talks to us about being part of a growing team with a great mission in this new interview article!
What are the two things you love the most about your job? What is exciting, rewarding?
I love being able to build relationships with candidates and internal employees because as a recruiter you build more short term relationships with candidates that a lot of the time will not continue further and join the company. I love that I am able to build long term relationships with everyone in my company. Of course, it’s especially rewarding when someone signs the contract that you’ve been recruiting for, however, it’s also rewarding when internal employees thank me for starting a new HR initiative or for giving them the best onboarding experience they’ve ever had. I guess because I started out as a one-woman show at e-bot7, I also like that I have the opportunity to build my own team and further develop our HR processes and projects, plus it’s great to see my team grow with me.
Is there any question you particularly like asking candidates?
I don’t just have one that I ask candidates because everyone is different and I adapt my questions based on the candidates’ profiles or the previous answers they give me. But one thing I really like asking candidates is about their expectations, what they think they’ll be doing in the first few weeks and then the next months in their jobs. No matter the job description we put up, everyone has different views and interprets the job description differently. It’s important for the hiring manager and myself to make sure that we are all aligned on each other’s expectations on the role in the short term and the long term. Furthermore, since we are a software company, I also like asking candidates to describe our product as if they were describing it to their grandparents. This simplifies their answer as they have to make it shorter and I am able to tell if they understand our product and what it is we’re trying to do.
What was your remote/in-the-office policy? Is it going to change? Do you think that’s good/ bad?
Before COVID, we had just introduced a new perk where we offered one home office day per week to everyone, but then two weeks later lockdown started. In the beginning, we followed the bandwagon and went fully remote, for around 2 months everyone was asked to work from home. During this time we kicked off virtual donuts, which randomly pairs employees up with each other for a catch-up. I even started organising company quizzes and All Hands on Fridays to get everyone together virtually. This worked well but we’re all very young in the company, and so some people were still missing to be physically in the office and meeting their colleagues.
After the 2 months, we set a maximum number for each of the office rooms so people could sign up and come into the office when they wanted to. Currently, Germany has a rise in COVID cases, so we have gone back to working fully from home again. We delivered any equipment people needed for their home office set up such as monitors, keyboards, chairs etc…
I hope that we are able to return to the office in the next few months, although I think that we will continue to respect flexible work and give employees the freedom to choose where they work most productively. In general, this has been a good experiment which helped us work out what works and what doesn’t with remote working!
What is your process to define the culture of the company?
I am proud to say that we have a strong culture at e-bot7. We focus our culture on inclusion, staying connected and supporting each other. Furthermore, as we are all currently working remotely and have people working from all over the world, it’s become really important to stay connected and make sure that our culture is reflected in all of our offices. In one of our company feedback surveys, I asked our employees to provide us with three words to describe what our company culture is. The words that kept getting repeated were: dynamic, international, friendly, open and supportive. Therefore, these are some good indicators and it’s nice to hear that our culture is lived by rather than just being words that people describe. We also love recognising each other’s successes and wins; I introduced a slack channel for this called #cheers. My team and I collaborate constantly to look for more initiatives and build on our culture.
What do you do to keep up with innovation in HR?
We have an open feedback culture. So whether it’s about our employees’ onboarding experience, a company event or a knowledge sharing session, we always ask for feedback on how it was and how we can improve and implement them right away. Furthermore, we’re always looking to try new platforms and processes to make us more efficient.
Nowadays my team and I really like to attend webinars or virtual HR conferences focused around topics on recruitment strategies, hiring during COVID or how to improve employer branding. Additionally, I follow a lot of accounts on LinkedIn related to our industry and similar start-up companies in order to keep myself updated with what these companies are doing and how!
Do you have any advice for someone starting in this career?
Startups are a great start because you will get so much hands-on experience and learn from your manager, team and also yourself! For anyone starting in recruitment, it’s important to be yourself, find your tone, structure and style of interviewing. Additionally, this might be cliche but practice really does make perfect and after a few calls and interviews, you will find it! Furthermore, even though a candidate may not have given you a good impression or you know that you won’t be continuing the process with them, I always like to tell myself to put myself in their shoes in terms of candidate experience and build a relationship with these candidates. Lastly, it’s crucial to stay open, it’s very easy to form biases when looking at CV’s, so if the profile fits what you’re looking for, ignore the bias and you may be pleasantly surprised!
Thank you for your insights Jane! This interview was originally published on Sainoo.