HR managers should conduct job interviews with a certain degree of respect ‘Be honest in interviews, but don’t make negative comments about your former boss’ --DISCUSSES THE FACTORS LEADING TO THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF AN M&A AND THE CRUCIAL ROLE THAT HR PLAYS IN THIS EXERCISE--how to deal with colleagues who interrupt while someone else is speaking?


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Mind your manners

HR managers should conduct job interviews with a certain degree of respect

‘Be honest in interviews, but don’t make negative comments about your former boss’

Have you ever appeared for a walk in interview? Have you been the victim of a serial interview where you are shunted from table to table, spending just a few minutes at each? Or, for that matter, have you kicked your heels outside the HR managers office, while he processes half-a-dozen candidates who are in the queue before you?

    You may think it is all very natural and acceptable; after all, you are looking for a job. But it is not. It is necessary that the company or organization planning to hire treat you with a certain degree of respect.

    The problem in India is that it is regarded as an interaction between unequal,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. “The company thinks it is doing you a favor by giving you a job. This is particularly so if it is for a junior position”.

    Yet, if you look at it more closely, the interview is probably your first exposure to the company. In the normal course of things, you will approach others. If everything else were equal, would you not join the company that has shown you the maximum respect?

    Every next HR manager carries a chip on his shoulder,” continues Singh. “The profession is only now graduating from keeping musters and adding up the number of days leave taken. When they get a chance to boss around, they do it. They little realize that the person they are treating so cavalierly today may well become their boss a decade down the line”.

    In India and other former colonies, this could be somewhat expected. Every person in authority sees himself as a Napoleon ordering the rank and file to march on the double. Such people feel they have inherited the mantle of the British conquerors. Even today, some 60 years after Independence, they have to keep the wags in line.

    But, strangely, jobseekers seem to get short shrift in other countries also. A recent survey (see box) by Syrian, an independent US recruitment process outsourcing company, says of its findings: “The theme that rose to the top was the issue of respect. It appears that in many cases, potential employers are failing to show common courtesy to candidates”. 

    The survey was essentially about job interviews. And very few respondents had nice things to say. It matters. “Because job candidates are often in a relatively vulnerable position, the impact of discourteous treatment is magnified, creating negative impressions of a company that may carry over to future job searches,” says the survey analysis. “Hiring managers have a major opportunity to create goodwill and positive impressions of a potential employer by providing timely updates and/or closure to all candidates, and being better prepared for interviews”.  

    In India, even the top companies are facing another recruitment risk today. In the made scramble for talent during the past few years, they hired like crazy. In the current slowdown, they are showing people the door. This is ostensibly on grounds of poor performance. But when attrition rates were much higher, these poor performers were also valued. In the IT sector, people are being benched (put on standby until new projects come the companys way). They earn much less. On campuses, people who have been given offer letters are being asked to hold on.

    All this hits a company where it hurts most – its reputation. Unfortunately, it takes a few years for the damage to manifest itself. By that time, it may be too late.

    A companys reputation in the outside world depends on the respect it commands from its own public, and that includes potential hires,” says Singh. “It has cleared them to the interview stage. It must treat them not as CVs without a face but as future stars in the organization”. Does it cost so much to offer a cup of tea and politeness? 


What applicants dislike most about job interviews (per cent)  

I never hear back from prospective employers                                              45

The time the process takes                    35

The time it takes to get an offer            30

Discourteous delays in the interview    19

Hiring managers are not prepared        10

The number of interviews is excessive 10




India Inc. has been grabbing headlines for quite sometime now because of the highly talked about mergers and acquisitions taking place in the market. From the ever famous Mittal-Arcellor deal to the Jet-Sahara, Tata-Jaguar, Kingfisher-Deccan and Vodafone-Hutch mergers and acquisitions, Indian companies are destined to take brand India to newer heights. Companies look for various strategies to maximize the potential of their performance and in turn, increase profitability. They undertake restru-cturing measures to come out of stagnation and improve performance. One amongst these steps has been the M&A route. But any M&A isnt an easy task for the companies and the employee involved. But if addressed with utmost planning and care, it can also be a smooth ride.

A happy union: Ashish Taneja, CEO, Vertex (India) shares, “Vertex was acquired by a consortium of three leading US investment firms – Oak Hill Capital Partners, GenNx360 Capital Partners and Knox Lawrence International in January 2007. The process by which a company is bought or sold can sometime prove to be time consuming and expensive. Typically a transaction takes six to nine months and involves many steps. This transition period is very crucial and the HR team in tandem with the communication department needs to have the communications flowing so that the most important question – how does it affect me?’ is answered. The most difficult challenges are the retention of key people (which are not necessarily people at the top), communicating that the move would increase value of the organization and also addressing the cultural issues. Companies that dont address these issues may suffer a loss of profitability, top talent, and confidence in leadership decisions”.

    HTMT Global Solutions Ltd. Is on the other side of the fence and has acquired a number of compa-nies since the company was formed. Essentially, our acquisition strategy is around creation of value for our stakeholders. In assessment of a merger or acquisition, we consider a number of factors around long term strategic value,” expresses Patrick David, Executive Vice President – Global Human Res-ources Strategy, HTMT Global Solutions. For him, integration is the biggest challenge in any M&A. The importance of a change management programme with robust communication is essential to the success of integration. A new name, a new logo or a new brand matter very little at the grassroots lev-el. The employee wants to understand the extent of change and its impact on them,” he says. Since 2000, our approach in the Earth Water Group has been to act as an incubator. We bring resou-rces and freedom of working to organizations with great ideas,” informs Sunil Ghorawat, Managing Partner, Earth Water Group.

A successful union: It has been observed that many a times, M&As fail to become a success. Though the reasons can be varied, there are too many intricacies involved and not every organization can tack-le it efficiently. So, what are, the factors that would determine whether a certain M&A is a success or failure? “While acquiring Deolalikar Consultants, we decided to retain their name as the man himself commanded immense respect in the industry. Look at the positions: are they strengthening the busine-ss and the people holding them? But are they, at the same time acknowledging long-term employees, also, is a vital question,” suggests Ghorawat. He adds, “While taking over, we had clearly made up our mind of allowing the acquired business to be run independently, within the framework of our groups ideology. Key people were taken into confidence and allocated roles that suited their interests without compromising on growth and values. The idea is to have a core set of shared values amongst the group. Beyond that, each team has the working freedom to operate and grow as they please. We wanted to ensure that we treated all employees with respect and provided them a challenging work environment. Fortunately, being a young band of people with an average age of just 27 years, we have managed to mould employee mindsets and evolve a composite culture”.

    According to David, “ The true success of a merger or acquisition is the extent to which two organ-izations align themselves effectively to ensure business continuity, at the same time ensuring that business efficiencies are identified i.e. there is no replication of functions across two organizations, that resources are deployed optimally and that policies are standardized and institutionalized, across the new entity. I believe we have been quite successful in addressing all issues that come up during a merger and acquisition. Our entities in the Philippines and the US were acquisitions. Today, I believe, we operate effectively as a single entity offering differentiated solutions to our customers across these two geographies as well as India. Our policies, management structure, and career opportunities are aligned, and most importantly, our employees view us as one organization”.

    For Taneja, many factors can contribute to a failed merger or acquisition; however success depends ultimately on the effective use of the human capital. “An important and almost neglected issue of M&A is assessing the culture of their merging organizations before the deal. Such issues are essential to the process and must not be treated as an afterthought,” he elaborates, adding, “Vertex India had made extensive communication and HR centric plans to address issues that could possibly crop up due to acquisition. Speedy, timely and clear communication was the reason for us handling the phase well. The integration first started with announcements. Often, communication efforts are fragmented with different messages and information flowing to investors, employees, managers and customers. Messages to our stakeholders were well planned”.

A lucrative union: HR is an intrinsic part of the integration team in an M&A because of its ability to evaluate the compatibility of corporate cultures and different options for combining enterprises. HR must also be the trusted source of information for employees about what the M&A means for them. The key HR initiative of Vertex during the M&A was a carefully designed and implemented integrat–ion plan, with the HR element at the heart of it. “We wanted to be completely transparent and honest with all our employees. All of our change-management expertise was called upon to address employe-es anxieties about the acquisition and the employees were update in real time on all the development,” states Taneja. 

    According to David, HR plays two roles – one is at the due diligence stage i.e. before an M&A is formalized, assessing cultural fit and synergies, as well as understanding how effective the integration might be based on leadership ability of the target, policies, processes, etc. “The HR team also looks at alignment of compensation and benefit plans, organizational structure, decision making etc, all critical to post M&A finalization. Post M&A, HR plays the critical role of bringing the organization together – ensuring that two entities mesh as one, through the championing of the entire change management intervention,” he avers. Though M&As is extremely hyped these days, not all of them become successes. And those who do reach that point are true manifestations of a lot of thought, effort and planning put together by the two organizations and their employees as well.      


Talking out of turn

Lily Garcia tells you how to deal with colleagues who interrupt while someone else is speaking

A reader writes: “What do you do about a constant interrupter? Ive run into this situation in meetings and conference call. I cant really say if the interrupter is being rude or just antsy. I find it to be extre–mely irritating, and it throws off my concentration, especially if Im giving a presentation. Likewise, what do I do if someone whispering out of turn when I’m talking? Do I call her out on it? Ignore it”? 

    The response: Let me put aside for a moment the problem of deliberately disruptive people, who, in my experience, are rare. People usually interject when they have legitimate question or comment that, for some reason, they feel cannot wait. You, the speaker, might question the need for the interruption, and the manner in which the person speaks up might seem inopportune. However, if you can look beyond the irritation of having your train of thought disrupted, you might find that the person raises important points or that their commentary provides you with a helpful reminder of, or transition to, something that you wanted to say. 

    Likewise, when someone is carrying on a hushed conversation during a meeting, he or she is often discussing the very topic of the meeting. Such people feel a need to vocalize something they are thin–king, but they either do not believe that the rest of the group would be interested, or they are timid about speaking up. And even though side conversations can be just as distracting as outright interrupt-ions, persons who whisper while you are talking might actually believe that they are being polite by not addressing themselves directly to you.

    So, how should you deal with these behaviors? When someone interrupts, let him or her finish. Then, do your best to synthesize the question or comment, respond concisely, and return to what you were saying. If you do not know the answer, say so. If discussion of the subject would not add value to your meeting or if you are on a tight schedule, offer to address the question or comment one-on-one when the meeting is over.

    When someone whisper during your meeting or presentation, make eye contact and ask the person whether he or she has a question for you. The answer might be yes; in which case the person wills contribute to the discussion. Or the answer could be no, in which case he or she will probably become self-conscious and stop whispering.

    But what if you believe that the person interrupting is just being rude? Most people cannot stand to witness deliberately boorish behavior, so someone in the group will usually reprimand the heckler for you. If nobody comes to your rescue, you can also control hecklers by using humor (OK, Karen, that right there was your last question) or using the time card (Sorry, but were short on time, so Im going to have to ask that you reserve your questions for the end of the presentation). I once gave a legal compliance presentation in which one of the attendees – well call him Steve – started arguing with me regarding nearly every legal principle. I made it through the materials despite Steve forceful interruptions by essentially making him the butt of all jokes. It was a risky move, but it worked becau-se it satisfied Steves desire to be the center of attention while at the same time taking the sting out of his comments. 

    If someone is whispering while you are talking and you are quite sure that the person is discussing lunch plans rather than the third bullet on your Power Point slide, stop talking. It will not be long be–fore the person realizes that his or hers is the only audible voice in the room, and then he or she will stop out of sheer embarrassment.  

    Who hasnt been guilty of interrupting what someone else is saying, or of whispering to a friend during a meeting? It can be unnerving to be on the receiving end of these behaviors. However, they are usually a sign of engagement in the subject matter and, properly handled, can add depth and dimension to the conversation.  




The Asia Pacific HR Congress, presented by Times Ascent which was recently held at The Oberoi Hotel, Delhi on August 22 and 23, 2008 turned out to be a mega event attended by the whos who of the corporate circle, from some of the top-notch organizations. Noted speakers and gurus from the world graced the occasion with their presence, the theme of which concentrated upon Employer Branding/Talent Management – perspectives and challenges’. The gala event was inaugurated by distinguished guests and the core team of the Asia Pacific HR Congress. The main highlights of this two-days event were an inspirational workshop by noted executive coach and renowned author, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and an informative session on Employer branding by Brett Minchington, MD, and Collective Learning Australia & Co-founding Partner, Employer Brand Institute.

   The first day of the seminar was kicked off by the release of the book, Find the Guru Within – The Essar Book of Coaching and Mentoring Stories by Dr. Sujaya Banerjee, Chief Learning Officer, Essar Group. The main attraction of the event, ‘The Employer Brand Global Master class by Brett Minchington received a lot of accolades. He said, “Employer branding is the image of your organizat-ion as a great place to work in the minds of current employees and key stakeholders in the external market (active and passive candidates, clients, customers and other key stakeholders)”. According to him, the strongest brands in the world are those, which are highly emotional. You have to care about how you manage your employees. Employer brands are built over a long time,” he articulated, adding, To be a good employer brand, an organization must deliver value to existing staff while being com–pelling to potential recruits. It should be firmly aligned to its vision and values”. The later part of the day had case study presentations by Essar Group, Dr. Reddys Laboratories Ltd., and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

   After the highly interactive and informative sessions, it was time for the much-awaited HR Excel–lence Awards and Indira Super Achievers ceremony. The Chief Guest for this ceremony was Nick Hutton, CEO, Universities 21 Global and the guest of honor was Lavleen Raheja, Chairman & CEO, Franklin Covey and Ashish Dehade – MD (West Asia) First Advantage Pvt. The function commenced with the launch of the book, ‘HR Power list of 40 dynamic HR Professionals compiled and written by Dr. Raju Bhatia. Another book, ‘18 Management Competencies – Business Professionals can not ignore authored by Saugata Mitra, Chief People Officer & Group HR, Mother Dairy, was also releas-ed during this ceremony. And then finally, was the time to give away the much-awaited and renowned HR Excellency Awards to 25 HR leaders from India and 8 from abroad.

   Day two of the Congress was an overwhelming experience for all the participants who attended it, with Dr. Goldsmiths inspirational and interesting workshop helping people unlearn a lot of what they have learned and bring out a new side to their personalities. In his two-hour session, Goldsmith made sure that he made each and every participant go into immense introspection and asks one-self, Am I a good leader and am I a good person’? Goldsmith started by quoting the world-renowned father of modern management,’ Peter Ducker, “We spend a lot of time helping leaders learn what to do; we dont spend enough time helping leaders learn what to stop”. He said, “Most often, we ask people at work to give us feedback on how we are or what we should do to get better. But what I ask is, do you ever go back home and ask your partner or children the same question? The only reason we dont ask is because we are scared of the answers. You cannot be a better leader unless you become a better partner or parent in life”. During the session, Goldsmith also discussed annoying habits that can hold us human beings back which included habits like wining too much or adding too much value to one–self, pronouncing you smartness to the world and also passing judgment and thinking that you know it all. Goldsmith pointed out, “Most behavioral issues that we discussed and gave advises for are some trait that probably all of us have. So if you can help the other person change, why cant you help your-self get rid of that habit”? The entire session held by Goldsmith was awe-inspiring with a lot of inter–active activities. 

   The second day also had case studies and presentations by SAP Labs, Microsoft Corporation (India) Pvt. Ltd., LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd., HDFC Bank Ltd., Mind Tree Ltd., and Habib Bank Ltd.

   Each day in life is a learning experience. It is always a good idea to exchange views and experiences from people coming from varied backgrounds. All in all, the Asia Pacific HR Congress was an excel-lent platform for top organizations and people to come together and delve upon relevant issues related to their businesses and most importantly, their people.  


Going for a mid-career change

TEAMLEASE EMPLOYABILITY PRIMER: “Do we live to work or work to live”? By posing this question, sociologist Max Weber, succinctly expressed the dilemma that all of us face in to-day’s rat race.

       The answer to this depends on what your definition of success is and how you perceive work as part of this definition. Your perception of a perfect job determines the course of your career.

1.        Is it a responsible, power-laden position in a small organization?

2.        Is it a fat salary and unchanging job profile in a staid, old company?

3.        Is it a combination of several factors such as salary, responsibilities, work atmosphere, reputed organization and growth prospects? A job that is seemingly perfect to one may not be seem to be so to another.

A job is not merely a job – it’s an important part of who we are

A career transition of any sort is one of the most unsetting experiences you can face in your life. How about making it a pleasant transition so that there is no regret and you get what you want out of work?

      This is when career planning comes in handy. Job search experts vouch that planning your career path with prudence is essential for success. The term planning acquires a deeper meaning at this stage, as you have already garnered work experience and exposure. By analyzing your strengths and accomplishments so far, you can identify your goals and the means to achieve them.

Ask yourself these questions:

1.        Favorite activities: What activities give you the most satisfaction? Your career should allow you to do these activities daily or at least thrice a week.

2.        Career goals: What are the goals that you want to accomplish? For instance it could be money, contribution to the organization, position or name and fame.

3.        Skills: What skills and talents have you used in the past to achieve goals? Talent is inborn but skills can be acquired. Evaluate yourself and look at what additional training or qualification you need to attain success.

4.        Recognition: Were you ever acknowledged or praised for some thing you did?

5.        Motivation: What motivates you every morning?

6.        Your dreams: Finally, what is your dream? List everything youd like to do in your lifetime. The career that you want to pursue should allow the accomplishment of these.

Why does one look for a change:

1.        For better prospects.

2.        Anticipating trouble.

3.        Lack of recognition by employer.

4.        Organizational culture and hierarchies.

5.        Meaningful career.

6.        Organizational restructuring.

SWOT analysis:

Do a realistic analysis from an employers perspective and use the results to improve where necessary. That way you will have a road map that shows you how to capitalize on your strengths and minimize or eliminate your weaknesses. You should then use this map to take advantage of opportunities and decrease threats. The secret of a successful career depends on a number of factors – the opportunities in the market place, your ability to learn, network, update your skills, your positive and persistent attitude and so on.


Its not what you know, its who you know”. Networking (the process of using contacts for profess–ional purposes) plays a crucial role in determining ones success.

      Networking means developing a broad list of contacts of people youve met through various social and business functions and using them to your advantage when you look for a job.

      According to experts, nearly 40% of all the jobs available are not advertised at all. Then how are candidates identified?

      People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you information about a particular company and introduce you to others.

      It is a misconception to think that you cannot seek help from your contacts. Taking undue advant-age of people is a definite no-no but asking for assistance in job search is absolutely harmless as long as your approach is straightforward, honest and appreciative.

Checklist of networking:

1.        Ask people for help without being rude or overbearing. But for them to help you, it is import-ant that you stay in touch with your contacts, by phone, mail or e-mail.

2.        Dont go anywhere without copies of your resume and business cards. This would help is case you chance upon someone who is willing to pass on your resume to the HR manager they know. If you arent able to carry resumes with you all the time, learn to send one promptly.

3.        Professional associations (industry specific associations) are great places to network. If you can, join one related to your field.

4.        If you can, find a mentor to guide you in your career quest.

5.        After you have got a job, do thank people who have been helpful to you. Keep your contacts alive. You never know when you might need them again.

Go back to school:

Literally. Take short-term courses or join a vocational institute to update your skills. Scour the newspapers and search the Net for skills enhancement training programme to enliven your job search. Armed with new skills or additional qualifications, you will be in a better position to pursuer your dream job.

      It’s never too late to learn”. “Find something you enjoy and learn what it take to become good at it”.                



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