BY: SHREYA SHAW
Job-seekers who come to an interview with specific ideas of what they want to do rather than listening to what the employer wants from them, are among the most annoying, says Sonali Roychowdhury, India head of human resources at consumer giant Procter and Gamble Co.PG +0.13%
Someone who is “is not open to new experiences or to expanding their outlook…would be a no-no,” says Ms. Roychowdhury.
In a free-wheeling interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Roychowdhury spoke about common interview mistakes by job-seekers and about P&G’s hiring plans.
The Wall Street Journal: What are some of the most annoying habits of job-seekers that put you off during an interview?
Sonali Roychowdhury: One is when a candidate comes across as being very narrowly focused on the work they want to do and defining it; either in terms of a designation or what they would like to do in their first month.
We look for people who will learn and who’ll be adaptable, so that in the long term they can make good leaders. But someone who is focused on just one very narrow part of a business and is not open to new experiences or to expand their outlook, they would be a no-no. Behaviorally, it would be people who are not able to listen.
In an interview, while you want to learn about the candidate, it’s also a chance for the candidate to listen and know more about the company from the interviewer. Sometimes there are candidates who only share what they are looking for and don’t do a very good job in terms of seeking to learn more about the company. That behavior can be a deal breaker.
WSJ: P&G has a policy of not hiring people from outside for senior positions. Doesn’t that prevent you from getting access to different perspectives at senior levels?
Ms. Roychowdhury: The fact that our business has grown so much is a testament that we’ve managed to keep ahead of what’s happening in the market and industry.
As a build-from-within organization, you have to deliberately create different ways of getting perspectives, and make sure that at every level people are clued in to what’s happening out there and are able to integrate that. We do it by making sure we are part of industry forums and networks.
Also, we plan people’s careers such that we give them diverse experiences throughout their career. For example, I have worked in our P&G business in India, Singapore and other emerging markets like Vietnam. We deliberately plan these different kinds of assignments and experiences so that people always get a fresh perspective, fresh sets of skills.
Over the years P&G has also done a number of acquisitions – Gillette, Wella, and a few others. So today, about 35% to 40% of our organization comprises people who came from acquired organizations. That in itself brings that diversity of thoughts.
I would say we are pretty balanced.
WSJ: What are P&G’s hiring plans over the next year?
Ms. Roychowdhury: Our hiring is linked directly to our business plans. Most of our hiring happens once a year straight from college campuses.
We’ve been growing double digits [in sales] for almost eight to 10 years now. And I think we will continue to grow strongly in India. So yes, we do have plans for hiring. The hiring season is about four or five months away. I can’t comment on numbers.
Typical areas where P&G is growing is supply chain, sales, marketing. Usually we hire at the entry level, so typical positions would be for handling a brand…so that’s an assistant brand manager, or handling a key sales channel for us…what we call a key account manager. Or, in finance it would be someone who does analysis.
WSJ: Has the slowing economy affected your hiring plans?
Ms. Roychowdhury: For us, it’s not per se the economy. It’s always about the P&G strategy and where we are on that.
In the past five to seven years, P&G India has been on a growth curve. Our business needs have been increasing and our hiring numbers reflect that. The second thing is we are a global company. We hire for careers not only in India but all across the world. Therefore it is less affected by the economic changes in India itself, because we move people around in 10 different countries over the course of their careers.
WSJ: Share one tip for achieving work-life balance.
Ms. Roychowdhury: Identify your top two or three choices early on, drive those ruthlessly and then don’t sweat the small stuff.
I look at the year ahead for the business and the human resources department, and communicate those [goals] clearly to the organization. That ensures people are really focused on that. And then I’m very clear that if something needs to be dropped, that is much lower on priority which I call the small stuff, I tell them it’s fine.
I’ve been working 15-odd years and that’s always helped me from a work-life balance standpoint.