Uyen Hua

AvantStay VP Talent Uyen Hua

Uyen HuaVP of Talent Acquisition

Joining me today is the VP of talent acquisition at AvantStay, Uyen Hua. In today’s conversation, you will hear about Uyen’s unconventional professional journey which led to her current role at AvantStay, and the important lessons she learned along the way. We also discuss the limitations and benefits of working remotely, and why companies should be careful to force their employees back to the traditional office workspace. We learn about Uyen’s pragmatic approach to developing her team to ensure the long-term needs of the organization. You will also learn about the difference between a specialist and generalist recruiter, the importance of personal relationships, how to have a constructive conversation with management, insider tips, and much more.

Episode Transcript

[INTRODUCTION]

[0:00:06.1] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me. A podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontline’s modern recruitment.

[0:00:12.8] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions. Where are they willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

[0:00:22.7] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment, VPs of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between.

[0:00:31.1] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

[0:00:39.7] MALE: Talent acquisition, it’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization, you get to work with the C-Suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

[0:00:53.0] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me.

[INTERVIEW]

[0:00:59.9] RS: Here with me today on Talk Talent to Me is the VP of talent over at AvantStay, Uyen Hua. Uyen, welcome to the show, how are you?

[0:01:08.3] UH: Thank you, doing well, thanks for having me, Rob.

[0:01:10.6] RS: So pleased that you’re here, you are in the midst of a move, there’s boxes all around you so thank you for taking the time, I know it’s a hectic time for you.

[0:01:19.1] UH: It’s always a hectic time in the world of talent so this week is no different than any other.

[0:01:24.4] RS: I’m glad you specified world of talent because I thought you were just going to say, “It’s always a hectic time, period.” But I feel that too generally, the time of my life, it’s just like look, it’s just a never-ending revolving door of responsibilities I’m supposed to accomplish.

[0:01:38.5] UH: Yeah, 100%. Pandemic, working in a hyper-growth environment, a move, everything is just being tacked on right now so I’m used to it, ready to.

[0:01:49.6] RS: What takes you away from the bay area to Los Angeles?

[0:01:52.1] UH: Yeah, I was thinking about moving right before the pandemic actually. I proposed nothing outside of the fact that I more or less lived and worked in the bay my entire life. You know, working in tech, the bay area for a long time and probably still is the case, for the foreseeable future was a place to be. I’m still working in tech but the silver lining in the pandemic is this remote first environment that a lot of employers are taking, there’s no reason for me to be in the Bay outside of the fact that I do have roots here.

I was just looking for a change. I thought why not LA, it just happens to be that the company that I work for right now, AvantStay is based in LA but we are remaining remote first. It will be nice to be able to go into office if and when I want to, that’s not a prerequisite.

[0:02:36.3] RS: Well, I definitely get that because I did the exact same thing.

[0:02:38.6] UH: Yeah.

[0:02:40.2] RS: I moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles just kind of wanting a change. Congrats on the upcoming move and you know, you’ll be able to make it back easily, that’s a short $50 Southwest flight if you need to get back in the office. What do you think is the expectation of how much time you have to kind of be back in HQ if any at all?

[0:02:59.2] UH: Well, so our HQ is actually in LA. What we’ve been telling people and I know that every company is different, this is obviously a huge topic, return to work and what that looks like for each employer. For us, you know, we’re hospitality so the people who are boots on ground, they need to be there in person.

For everybody else, it’s remote first, even if you’re based in LA and so the one privilege of those based in where headquarters is that if you want to utilize the office, either for kind of quiet time, you need to get away from home or if you want to utilize it for collaboration, it’s there. But there’s no expectation regardless of your level for you to be in the office.

For me personally, I would love to go in and meet with folks as much as possible but probably not anymore than a couple of times a week max.

[0:03:44.6] RS: It’s interesting that office space is moving from an expectation to more of a perk and when I think back to my early career, it was a huge perk, right? I had five roommates, there’s no way I could do work from home, I was so broke, it was like giving me like two to three meals a day, having the space to go to work and get coffee and be fed and whatnot.

Now, it’s like – it was always kind of a perk, right? Now, it’s like explicitly, it’s like “Okay, look, this is here for you, employees, we want you to use it because we’re paying for it but also, no hard feelings if you don’t”, right?

[0:04:20.1] UH: That’s the thing is like. I think that that’s what should be the case and probably what should have always been the case, frankly, even before the pandemic. I think one thing we’ve learned or one of many things that we’ve learned is that people can work just as effectively in a remote environment. But you do miss that camaraderie, you do miss that connection of that synergy of just meeting somebody and by happenstance, running into them on the way to refill your coffee and having an amazing conversation both from personal perspective and also from across a functional perspective at work.

But I will say, not every company necessarily thinks of it as a perk go forward. I’ve seen a lot of really aggressive campaigns to – and the best-case scenario, aggressive campaigns to lure people back to the office like, “We have Cronuts today” and people are like, “I will buy my own Cronut, I would like to stay home in my pajamas please.” Two people just explicitly saying like, “Look, Cronuts or not, I need you back in the office five days a week.”

[0:05:13.4] RS: Why do you think some companies are dropping the hammer like that?

[0:05:15.7] UH: I think that honestly, it comes down to trust unfortunately. Some leadership, you know, I won’t name any names but I remember…

[0:05:24.3] RS: Name names, put them on notice.

[0:05:27.2] UH: There was a particular company who made big splashes about a year ago from today. A year passed and they essentially said, “You know, despite the fact that we’ve been working effectively and have grown more than ever during the pandemic and are beating our expectations and the goals we set for ourselves, we do need everyone to go back into office five days a week.”

There was a huge round of just people opting out to leave the company thereafter and they went back and kind of back pedaled and said, “Actually, never mind.” And the thing about that is this is an ongoing trend I have across the board in terms of what makes a top-employer and what makes a strong recruiter. Trust is so critical and they went back and took it back but you can’t, it’s like toothpaste in a tube.

You already gave us that sentiment and despite them saying that, there were some people who were like, “Look, it’s purely a logistical thing for me. I have children, I need to stay home so I’ll take the check and just stay here for now” and other people were just like, “You know what? This is not the culture I signed up for and something got broken for me and there are opportunities elsewhere.”

[0:06:36.2] RS: Yeah, I can understand the flex-play where it’s, “Look, we want you in the office sometimes” but to just kind of say, “Look, full stop, you have to be back in” I think companies in that case, they’re kind of shooting themselves in the foot because there’s too many other options, right?

Where, it’s like, “Look, there’s every other job out there is telling me I don’t have to go into work and if you tell me you do, then that’s a differentiator” it’s like a reason to leave the company. I think probably, more companies will face that if they just draw a firm line in the sand and say, “Hey, as of this date, you’re back in the office” there will be resignations, surely.

[0:07:10.8] UH: Absolutely and it’s insane also because you know, like you and me, there are people who have moved through the pandemic and kind of used that as an opportunity to be like, “Oh, I don’t really actually have to be here, I can move to a place that maybe is better suited for my lifestyle outside of work or has a lower cost of living.” I’ve spoken with so many candidates at all levels, like VP, SVP level where they’re still just like, “The reason I’m looking right now to speak very transparently is I’m expected back into an office and that will not be happening.”

[0:07:41.3] RS: Yeah, it’s going to be a long-term thing. I think probably, companies will succeed in getting people back in the office long-term and I have to say that whatever justification a company gives, I think it’s going to come down to people themselves. Realizing that there’s a bias towards an office employees and you will be more likely to get promoted, out of sight, out of mind, you are just going to be a more valued employee if you’re there every day even if your work is not better than someone who has never been into the office.

You either have to accept that tough pill to swallow and go back to work or you have to find a company who you genuinely believe has figured out a way to make in-person and remote workers equitable and that’s going to be a tricky one. I don’t know how companies are going to manage that.

[0:08:25.0] UH: 100% yeah, and like you know, most large companies have their headquarters and then little hubs and so it’s kind of just that same dynamic that’s existed before the pandemic, just further exacerbated.

[0:08:35.0] RS: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, that’s another weird thing. It’s like look, if you have more than two locations, if you have a headquarters and somewhere else, guess what, you have a remote work policy, you always have.

[0:08:44.8] UH: Yeah, exactly.

[0:08:46.8] RS: I don’t know, it’s tricky. I’ve made a lot of hate on the show about how, “Oh, we’re never going back to work, remote’s here to stay.” The non-sexy but most likely scenario is it depends, right? It’s going to be both, right? It’s going to be a little bit of each and then the other part of it – I don’t know what is your take on just the economic reality? Because I have a feeling that right now, if a company told you to go back to work and you’re like, “Eh no, I’ll just get another job” What if there is a belt tightening and it was a little harder to get a job?

Would people just suck it up and do it? I wonder right now because it’s like, it’s a candidate’s market, the war for talent, blah-blah-blah. Everyone’s hiring, you can be choosy. That’s just sort of a reality right now for folks but if the shoes on the other foot, I wonder how firm people would be on their remote needs.

[0:09:32.5] UH: Yeah, I think that it’s such a weird time, right? Because everything’s in flux in every one’s situation is different and I think we kind of again, have this really unique opportunity where we’re in people’s homes literally, when you’re on meetings. Suddenly, people are feeling kind of that lack of fabricated separation between work and your personal life. I think that we as a society will evolve over the next few years in terms of what that looks like.

For some people, absolutely, I think they’ll say, “Look, I need to support myself and my family so I’ll go back into the office.” But I think the larger thing that we need to think about is one, the psychological ramifications of both the pros and cons of being in the office and having that separation and the pros and cons of being able to work from wherever.

But then also, just you know – we can talk about this for hours essentially. But just, the carbon impact and footprint of allowing people to work from home is something that we as people really need to think about. The real estate ramifications and the fact that many places “where there are headquarters” there’s already a saturation of inclusion and lack of real estate and then down to things like single-serve snacks and beverages that you need to have in an office and the excessive waste that that produces.

[0:10:57.3] RS: That is a great point that I had not heard of before. You know, if you’re a company who prioritizes your ESG, right? And you’re like, “Oh, we’re having a positive impact on the world, carbon offset” you know, donations. How do you justify that with making people travel through space and time and homunculi steel boxes that spew filth into the atmosphere every single day?

[0:11:19.6] UH: I mean, honestly, you don’t and you can’t. Just call it what it is, we don’t care and we need you back at the office.

[0:11:28.3] RS: Oh exactly. Well, Uyen, we kind of jumped in here at the deep need, which is fine, I do love it but I feel like we owe the folks at home a little bit of context. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your current role and kind of how you got there?

[0:11:39.4] UH: Yes, I’m at AvanStay right now, VP of talent, I joined at the very beginning of this year. For those of you who aren’t familiar, AvantStay is in the short-term rental space, luxury, hospitality. And prior to that, I actually started my career, surprise-surprise, I don’t know if other people have this as the case but I did not go to school for recruiting. I actually went for english and critical theory, thought I was going to be a teacher. Went to grad school, started teaching classes, realized that’s absolutely not what I want to do.

But what I really loved about teaching was the human component of it. Connecting with people and when I left grad school, I actually happened upon a kind of chief of staff operations role for a small family fund. What I did there was a bit of everything. I was the only operational person so I was doing all things HR, hiring people, managing benefits, performance managing people, building out the operational strategy whilst also working with the portfolio company which were in stealth mode in series-A. They generally didn’t have their dedicated operations, HR person and so what I would do, both as part of the diligence process and then as portfolio management going forward was to help them review their hiring practices, you know?

How do you hire, when do you hire, what systems should we use. I did that for about five years but I was very cognizant of the fact that one, I was doing a bit of everything and two, that I essentially just learned on my own. I thought, let me do a 180, “Let me go to an incredibly bureaucratic environment” which is generally the antithesis of everything I loved that I thought that that’s what I need to do. So I went to agency, as expected, hated it.

But you know, I got to see – honestly, I’ll be clear like the agency that I went to wasn’t executive search firm, it was focusing a lot of tech and creative recruitment but it wasn’t on kind of like the VP, SVP front. What was sold to me was strategic partnerships with companies and they were small as kind of early stage startups to as large as Google but what I thought would eventually – what I thought would be partnering with those companies to find in the best hirers.

I found a lot of my day was spent, you know, this again, let me clarify, this was around let’s see, 2013 and so we were out of the weeds of that kind of 2009 recession but not completely. You found a lot of people who had 20 years’ experience, amazing education and what I was being tasked to do was essentially try to sell them on this entry level roles. It was soul crushing if I’m going to be completely honest, not at all what excites me as a recruiter. Definitely not what gets me going as a human being.

Toughed that out for a year, learned what I could and then shifted over to Soft Bank, another investment firm. For those who aren’t familiar with the vision fund some of our portfolio companies were places like Uber, Door Dash, We Work. I was in a very similar role as I was at the family fund. Started as the first people in talent hire, was tasked with building out our internal team which essentially just investors but then everything that would be required for a business to be functional, so all GNA roles on a global scale.

By the time I left, I had hired about 650 people across the company internally, also worked with all those portfolio companies that I mentioned to help them build out executive recruitment, talent-strategy systems, all that good stuff. Then I went over to goPuff right before AvantStay. Similarly, was in the head of talent role. Built out the team that I inherited which was actually quite junior.

We were Series-C at the time but I inherited a team of about six junior recruiters. By the time I left a year later that team had scaled to about 87. We were told or I was told when I first joined at the very end of 2020 that they would need to hire 407 people on the HQ side, call it about 8,000 people on the field side. By the time I’d left at the very end of this past year, we had hired around, gosh, 1,800 on the HQ side and about 17,000 on the field side.

You know, listen, I knew – I’d seen this movie 20 million times before so I knew that 407 was not going to be the case but of course, two weeks into the job, met with every single executive and that number, within two weeks time, two weeks from my starting, one week into the fiscal year. Jumped from 407 on the HQ side to 677.

[0:16:31.4] RS: Amazing. You knew right away, you heard that number and you’re like LOL, good one. No, but seriously and so, you did kind of like a VP tour, right? Meet with all the heads of department and figure out. So then, did you kind of take that number back to a CEO or whomever and be like, “Look, here is the real number.”

[0:16:49.1] UH: I did, yeah. I took it back to leadership and I took it back to finance and what I suggested is, “We’re a hyper growth company” and this is what I suggest to any company, hyper growth or not, always validate those numbers because things changed, the business evolves, life happens. We don’t need to be beholden to something that is essentially just moot or no longer relevant for our needs but let’s make sure we’re doing that sense check on a regular basis if nothing else, to be physically and from a business perspective, be scrupulous.

[0:17:18.8] RS: Yeah, it’s like the famous John Lennon quote, “Head count is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” So then, do they give you more resources or how did you kind of deal with the discrepancy there?

[0:17:29.9] UH: They did but you know, there is always – it’s interesting because I often find companies will say, “Hey, we need a double head count but you don’t need more recruiters, right?” There’s always that push and go where it’s like, “Oh, why don’t you just make do with what you have?” and then kind of that next day where it’s like, “20 million recruiters now, where are they yesterday?”

So yeah, I was definitely kind of just drinking from the fire hose but yes, about – I want to say a quarter into the year, the company understood finally that we weren’t slowing down any time soon. So I was able to build up my team but always difficult to kind of build out your own team. I don’t like although I understand it, the whole analogy of building the plane while you’re flying it but that is definitely the case and I think particularly the case for the recruiting team or any recruiting department.

[0:18:20.2] RS: Got it. So, what do those conversations like when you were trying to understand actual needs? How did you sort of hold people to task to figure out what had been reported that they needed versus what was actually the case?

[0:18:33.8] UH: Honestly, like I want the conversations to be productive. I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to defend anything and so for me rather than kind of saying, “Okay, you said you wanted 15 and now you want 25. Why is that? What has changed?” It is more, “Let’s first kind of put hiring aside, what are you as a leader and then you in terms of like understanding the business in general and kind of how you fit into it, walk me through what you are trying to accomplish three, six, 12, 18 months out.”

Before again, before we talk about hiring let’s take a look at your current team. Who is someone that you want to champion and you want to make sure as the company scales and as your organization scales, you want to ensure that you are prioritizing their development. Who is strong and this is the usual that can stay in their role? Who is great but maybe not in the right role? And we can be thinking about them in tandem with these new roles. Then, who is maybe not work a long with the company for a number of different reasons?

Like the company outgrew them, they are not just performing. And then finally let’s circle back to kind of your hiring plan and with that context in mind that we are both sharing right now, how does that inform your hiring decisions? I find that the conversations from there move away from, “Look, it’s not 15. It’s 25 for X, Y and Z reasons” and more so, “Okay, maybe I don’t need to hire this role. Maybe I need to level this one up.”

It is never in my intention to say, “Make do with what you have or have less” sometimes I come out of those conversations and I’m like, “Based off what you’re telling me, you need to hire more” and so it’s important to me to kind of build that partnership and that trust and rapport to be able to kind of be a true partner to those leaders.

[0:20:17.7] RS: Yeah, so how does that translate then into individual roles? Once you kind of understand their long-term goals and the makeup of their team then where do you like the job descriptions and the actual headcount numbers come from?

[0:20:29.8] UH: Once me and that leader are aligned, I generally take it back to finance and leadership to kind of reconcile to the extent of which one, I present it in an unbiased fashion but then will also get like here is just as is what the person is asking for. And then will also give my advice in terms of these are my opinions off the record or off color comments around whether this is feasible, whether it makes sense. Then we discuss it in a holistic environment, open format between finance and leadership. Is that helpful?

[0:21:02.8] RS: Yeah, of course and so then hopefully, they allow you to hire for your team, right? The response is not – so you can just work a little harder, right? Where do you start when building your team?

[0:21:14.0] UH: You know for me, it’s kind of twofold. I think that a lot of people take the approach of, “Okay, it’s a 100 roles say, you expect a recruiter work on 15 roles just divide a 100 by 15 and that’s the number of recruiters you need.” It is a little more complicated than that to do it effectively because frankly, 15 roles across five different departments and eight different hiring managers is a very different game than 15 roles across one department and two hiring managers.

For me, it’s important to think around the experience of all involved, right? It is all cyclical. First off, the experience of the hiring manager themselves. I want them who end up partnering with talent to feel like, “This is someone who understands the business and understands me” like subject matter expertise isn’t just, “Okay, I’m recruiting for finance, I’ve recruited for finance my whole life, you’re in good hands.”

It’s also, “I understand that your idiosyncrasies of the current team, the personalities and kind of the soft skills that this leader is looking for, what’s needed for the business, who is going to be a good fit, what industries are applicable to kind of our needs here” and taking a holistic approach to like that is my partnership and that is what I am offering you as your talent adviser. So that is the hiring manager’s experience.

Then there’s also just the experience of the candidates themselves. You know, if I am working across 20 million different people, even if the number of candidates that I am supporting and working with are the same, when they are all running different processes, inevitably things are going to fall by the wayside and I can’t kind of give them that same tailored approach and then finally, it is just the recruiter themselves, right?

Their sanity, their work-life balance but also their development like it’s amazing to be a general athlete and I love being able to see people cut their teeth in a role where they have to do a bit of everything but that is not something that I think that we should optimize as employers. I think that people should be given the chance. If nothing else, for their own development but also frankly, if you don’t care about their development, think about the impact and performance that is going to come with them being hyper-focused on something.

[0:23:18.5] RS: So you prefer a specialized recruiter versus a generalist?

[0:23:22.1] UH: I do, yes but obviously there are so many different factors, right? Like if I have 20 million roles I need to fill and I can only hire through recruiters, someone who just does legal recruiting, it is just not going to fly but I think once you get past series B, it’s something you need to think about.

It is amazing in series A to have people who are pinch hitters and kind of can lead in anywhere and have the attitude and the ability to do that but you’re really not doing yourself the company or them any favors by continuing to push for that mindset. You know, like I wouldn’t have someone in finance running FPNA in accounting, so why would I run that same philosophy by recruiting?

[0:24:01.6] RS: Yeah. Do you think being in generalist puts a ceiling on one’s development?

[0:24:06.0] UH: It’s so tough, right? Because I think that the – I don’t agree with generally the career trajectory of talent as it’s been understood up until very recently and by that I mean, you start as an RC and you cut your teeth there and then if you prove yourself, you move into sourcing and then from there, you’re doing junior recruitment kind of a general athlete and then from there, potentially you’re given the opportunity to kind of move into a focus area.

Whether that’s GNA recruitment, technical recruitment, early careers, executive recruitment and then once you kind of put yourself there, you move into management. None of those things that I’ve listed have anything to do with each other. Listen, there are amazing people that I have met who kind of are able to tick all of those boxes and there are amazing, amazing people, super talented people that I’ve met that can only do one effectively and they should maybe expected to do more than one effectively frankly.

I guess for me, do I feel like a ceiling is? No, because I think that all of those things can be learned. I think that if you are a strong recruiter and you are intellectually curious and you seek out the truth and you seek out to learn things, you can pick up any discipline. I think in terms of from a career move perspective, there are certain areas of recruitment that pay more, executive recruitment, tech recruitment.

But I haven’t found interviewing folks and working alongside folks like that that often – there’s anything special about them frankly that that generalist recruiters don’t have outside of the fact that they have kind of continued that career path.

[0:25:42.6] RS: Yeah, it’s well pointed out that that sort of very standard career path you kind of outlined, working in the mail room as an RC, right?

[0:25:52.8] UH: Yes, exactly.

[0:25:53.6] RS: All the way up into management, those different jobs are somewhat unrelated and also like that prescribed path, I don’t think that’s been the path of any VP I’ve spoken to on here. It is certainly not your path.

[0:26:06.9] UH: No. Yeah, no.

[0:26:09.7] RS: What is then the expectation? When we are thinking about developing and growing recruiters, if this sort of just like this back of the napkin version of the career it’s at best a bunch of unrelated stops leading to what and at worst, it’s just completely not even a reality. How do you think about development both for yourself and the people on your team?

[0:26:34.4] UH: I mean any new company that I come into and I am inheriting new folks and frankly when I am interviewing folks to join my team, the first question I ask because you know, there’s plenty to discuss in terms of just business as usual work that you need to do. When I join a new place and I am meeting with people it’s, “What do you want to do? What do you want to focus on?”

Don’t tell me what you are already working on, we’re going to talk about that forever indefinitely. Let’s just focus on what interests you and that need not be staying within this company, staying within this organization or even staying within this industry and then let’s build from there.

As I’m scaling a team as I’ve done so many different times before, starting with a team of a couple of people who have kind of just put their blood, sweat and tears, it is really important to me as I build further on that organization, that one thing I am keeping in mind apart from the needs of the business itself is the passions of those respective recruiters.

[0:27:26.5] RS: It sounds like what you are getting at is like a lot of people accidentally find themselves in this field. Is it about like gut checking like, “Hey, you still want to do this, right?”

[0:27:32.8] UH: Yeah, so a lot of people happen upon recruiting but I think that a lot of people happen upon whatever discipline they tend to find. You know, like say I am someone who is a generalist at a new company and I hate the CMO but I love the CFO and then suddenly, “There’s my career path. I would like to focus on GNA recruitment if nothing else because that’s what’s giving me joy and sanity in my role.”

Then it’s really just like a – it is less prescriptive when it comes to recruitment, which I encourage folks to explore further because recruiting skills once you have them down path are fungible across different departments and industries. I have recruited across consumer companies, FinTech companies, enterprise, transportation, hospitality, healthcare, all of the different sectors. Yes, they are all different and I encourage you to learn more about your employer and the business that you are hiring for but the skills themselves are translatable.

[0:28:35.6] RS: That example you gave is a good one and sometimes I think it doesn’t even need to be more long term thinking than that of like, “I hate the CMO but I love the CFO” and presumably it is not just because the CFO and you are drinking buddies, it is probably because like, “Oh, they are easier to work with. They are a little more strategic, they take an interest in you and your development.”

Those are all career-based reasons to pursue working for that person and you might forge a better career that way than having some sort of specific goal in mind for three to five years from now as oppose to, “How can I make the absolute most of this thing right in front of me?”

[0:29:13.4] UH: Yes, I think that that’s huge. It’s a relationship driven industry and role and so go where you feel that synergy and that connection and you won’t be steered wrong. There is no shortage of recruiting jobs out there. Don’t be so militant, I have spoken to so many people who are like, “In three years time I want to where you are, how do I get there?” and I’m like, “We’re cutting through a lot of steps right now.”

But you know, there are other things to consider. It’s not just like you said, like a prescriptive three to five year plan. So many different things can happen and change. Trust relationships that you’ve built. I haven’t directly applied for a job in the entirety of my career. It’s all been through the relationships and opportunities continue to open for me and I like to give back with recruiters that I meet and folks across the business.

The relationships you’ve built with me are also just – I’ve met with folks say in executive recruitment. I’ve met with folks where at one place we had an exploratory conversation, there wasn’t a fit at the time. At my next company, there was a need and I circled back in that conversation, which is essentially just a coffee chat that was just us talking barely about work, we are just connecting as people. Those connections cannot be understated.

[0:30:30.3] RS: Really interesting until you pointed out that it is such a people focused business, right? You know, I am similar. I’ve gotten every single one of my jobs through my network and through relationships I have made. I did press the “apply now” button to work at Jamba Juice but 2005 was a different time, okay? But the point I wanted to make was like, look, if you like this job because of the people aspect then you cannot dislike the people you work with, right?

That is just a fundamental, you have to do some mental gymnastics to be like, “I love working with people but my boss is a jerk” like what? No, life is too short. In this skillset perhaps more than any other, I think you need to run towards where those relationships are fruitful to you. Whether they are people you just enjoy being around or if they are taking an interest in investment in you and your development.

[0:31:23.3] UH: One hundred percent. Interestingly I heard today and I absolutely loved it from a candidate was, she was saying, “I am looking for the opportunity to learn and I am going to prioritize that over the opportunity to earn.” One, listen, everyone out there, I encourage you to seek out both. It is a candidate’s market right now particularly for recruiters to absolutely prioritize both.

But I’ll be honest with you, I have never worked in a place where I was highly paid and I was unhappy with the work that I was actually doing and the people I was working with where the money was worth it to me. There is more money to be found, I promise you like run to learn and earn will come.

[0:32:06.5] RS: Yeah, it’s never worth it unless you go into it thinking like, “Okay, I am just going to crank out this terrible job for six months so I can pay off my debt.” I think unless you know going in it’s not going to work out and that you really, really need the paycheck, maybe. But learn versus earn that is a good way to put it because guess what? The other one will follow if you invest in yourself and develop.

You will be able to command a higher salary but yeah, you are totally right. No one who has taken a job for purely money reasons like that sheen wears off, right? Eventually, you’re like, “Look, I am making more money but I am not any happier.”

[0:32:42.0] UH: No, it wears off fast. It wears off really fast. let me just say that. But yes, I think that when it comes to and we can talk more about kind of what learn looks like and how you kind of figure out what a good opportunity for you is, but for me personally and everyone thinks about recruiting differently. For me, it’s at the epicenter of the business’s success outside of just like the actual mechanics and the product itself.

It is hugest investment that a business is making and it is the hugest kind of indicator of whether a business is going to succeed or not, the people component and so for recruiting for me, I get it that it is sales. Like you have to close these people, you have to advocate for them, always be closing but what excites me about my job and recruitment in general is kind of solving for the human capital component.

So for me when I am looking for new opportunities, it is important for me that I am not just going to be an order taker. It is not, “Here is 50 roles, hit me up if you have questions around role 48 otherwise I am going to assume it is going to be done and this is the last you hear from me” it is very much a partnership with the business, with leaders and with hiring managers to make sure that we are making the right decisions.

So in my role at AvantStay right now, something that I absolutely love and am always seeking is just true partnership. I am able to advice not just on, “Okay, we have 400 roles open. How do we do this in the most effective way?” and it’s not even, “There is 400 roles, who are the target profiles? Trust me on this.” It’s, “We have these kind of core goals and problems that we need to solve for as a business, how do we allow human capital to be a driver for that success?”

That could mean 400 roles is actually 500, it can mean 300 roles that are completely different and it can also mean we need to structure this differently. The way that we have set up the business in terms of what department sit where and what roles and kind of needs and where, it doesn’t make sense for scale. So let’s consider that in tandem with the hiring needs that we are making or the hiring needs that are addressed.

[0:34:56.3] RS: Uyen, that is fantastic advice for just how to make sure that recruiting is positioned as a strategic lever for the business. I could keep going, this is such a blast chatting with you but we are at optimal podcast length. So unfortunately, we have to wind down but at this point I would just point I would just say, thank you so much for being here and sharing by your experience. I love chatting with you today.

[0:35:15.4] UH: Of course, thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

[0:35:20.5] RS: Talk Talent to Me is brought to you by Hired. Hired empowers connections by matching the world’s most innovative companies with ambitious tech and sales candidates. With Hired, candidates and the companies have visibility into salary offers, competing opportunities and job details. Hired’s unique offering includes customized assessments and salary bias alerts to help remove unconscious bias when hiring. By combining technology and human touch, our goal is to provide transparency in the recruiting process and empower each of our partners to employ their potential and keep their talent pipeline full.

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