Maxim Behar for DIR.BG: Do Things From The Heart and They Will Always Work OutFebruary, 2022
Maxim Behar was a guest of Biser Kunchev in the HR Guest section of the online media outlet DIR.BG and shared what the ideal job candidate looks like in his eyes, what are his most valuable professional qualities and what are the changes in standards and the way of working after the pandemic.
- Are there any awkward and mandatory questions during a job interview and what are the criteria for showing interest in the candidate?
There are no awkward or mandatory questions. In fact, each candidate is very different, it takes me about ten minutes to decide whom I'm talking to and exactly what question to ask them. I often ask things that at first glance have nothing to do with the specific position, but they reveal quite well what kind of character I am talking to, and if they are not exactly qualified for the position, I start thinking about where I can direct them. We are a company that is constantly interviewing, sometimes because of a sudden influx in customers, which needs to be served in the best way, other times because I want to have a few people in reserve - hired, paid, trained, and ready to work with potential new customers.
- What are the most valuable tips you would give to a person preparing for an interview? Do you think it is a good approach to send interview and job advice/hints to the candidates in advance, to examine how they prepared during the interview?
It may seem strange, but I am also the one who is interviewed, not just the interviewer. I manage several large world organizations, I constantly report to boards or boards of directors, to new and permanent members of these organizations. These are interviews, how else. I think that a job interview does not depend on the candidate, but on the one who interviews him - he sets the tone of the conversation, his gestures, facial expressions, even missing words, and exact question depending on the outcome of the interview. I do not think that providing online advice in advance can play any role, the interview is psychological and informative, not a professional meeting. Especially the first interview. But I look very positively at candidates who are radiant, have overcome anxiety and speak freely and confidently, know the company, have taken time to read up about the place where they are applying are familiar with it. This is a very good sign; in fact, it is 50 percent of a successful interview.
- How important is the first impression of a candidate, before you ask questions, and which candidates do you prefer: more aggressive or laid back in approach? Do you take into account your and the candidate's mood and how is this reflected in the process of conducting an interview and its conclusion?
The most important thing is ... Let me tell you directly. For many years I have had only one requirement for candidates, and it is very clear and simple. The sparkle in the eyes. Nothing more. In other words- the desire for development, for a career, for knowledge, for interesting encounters, for success ... I always look the candidate in the eye and try to understand what is there. I have dozens of cases where I have offered a job to a candidate only after the first fifteen minutes of the interview. I remember a few years ago I entered one of the conference rooms in the office, I had forgotten my phone or something else there. There I found an unfamiliar face, looked at her for just a few seconds, greeted her, and went back to ask my colleagues who she was. I was told that she was a candidate for an internship, not to waste my time with it at all. "Appoint her now," I told my colleagues. In less than a year, she was already a director of one of the company's most important departments.
- What has prevailed so far in your experience in choosing a candidate - the salary demands or the desire to develop in the company? Would you hire a candidate if he does not meet many of your conditions, but you see the serious potential to catch up and develop what is missing?
There is no way to judge what a candidate will look like in a year or two. A manager must take reasonable risks. I would immediately appoint a candidate, for whom I have great hesitations, this is one of the main rules in our company - to give a chance to everyone, literally to everyone. Well, with a few exceptions, of course. Just last week I had an interview with a Zoom candidate who was walking down the street with her phone and chewing a pie ... the interview lasted only three seconds. But, of course, these are exceptions. Remuneration is an important element of a conversation and here we have very clear principles. We never discuss money during the first interview, it usually happens on the third or fourth meeting when we are making a job offer. And secondly - we never "throw away" high salaries, usually our proposal contains a reasonable for the position, responsibilities and market starting salary with very clear commitments to performance-based financial incentives. We have to talk to a highly experienced candidate in order to accept conditions for a higher salary than offered, but even then, we don’t do it, because it is very demoralizing for the rest of the team.
- What does the ideal job candidate look like in your eyes and understanding? What are the three most valuable qualities that would impress you? What corporate values do you educate your employees in?
The business I run is one of the most dynamic in the world. That is why we all need to make quick decisions, and the more experienced we become, the more accurate these decisions are. As I already told you - the sparkle in the eyes is the most important feature. But then comes the desire to learn something new every day, to read a lot, and the ability to use all these sources in the best way. If the candidate or my new colleagues have these qualities, then the success of the company is more than certain. However, corporate values are also an important condition for this success, I would say that their relationship with character traits is somewhere in the middle. Honesty, accuracy, loyalty, curiosity, constant experimentation, good relationships with the team - these values may seem too banal, but you have no idea how important they are in everyday tasks and how crucial they are for success. And here we come to the equally important question - what is success? In my opinion, in business, it's about being happy with what you do. Everything else just comes into place, all it takes is work.
- What are your impressions of the internship programs in your company? Do you manage to find enough talent to take their first career steps in the business? What do you think about the new wave of young people coming from universities?
Internship programs are becoming increasingly important for companies, and we have relied heavily on students for years, who then remain with the company. We are living in such times that in practice a student, even in their first year, can be a well-prepared expert. Knowledge is everywhere - on social media, in forums, in newsletters, in global PR and marketing sites, you just have to look in the right places. That is why the interns who apply at our company already have a very clear awareness of where they are going to work and how they want to succeed in this business. The young people who come to us, those under the age of 25 have an awful lot of advantages - intelligent, ambitious, knowledgeable - and one, in my opinion, big drawback - this is the first generation in our recent history, which has never faced crises and difficulties. Of course, this fact has its good sides, but it seems that the reflex to fight is a bit dull and must be compensated by strict corporate rules, which on the one hand motivate, but on the other - set clear and precise boundaries on how to complete the tasks. Anyway, we all live with this, and I am glad that generations are finally coming who do not know what a crisis, hyperinflation, poverty, and uncompetitive markets are.
- Tell us in a few words the most important highlights of your first career steps. If you went back in time, would you change anything? What is the most important moment that determined your career?
I have no exact idea what "career" means to me, and I never have. I have always seen my work as a duty to be done, in the best and most innovative and non-standard way. Nothing more. But let's say, my "career" began on a summer day in 1969, when at the age of 14 I started working as a carpenter in the capital's Serdika plant and after graduating from high school I continued for another five years as a locksmith in a machine-building plant. These were glorious years, I found my job for the most logical thing in the world, and when I became a student in Prague I worked every weekday in an editorial office, and on the weekends, I swept the streets to earn some money to buy my first used "Trabant". In fact, a little off-topic, now, 40 years later, I'm driving a small plastic car again, an electric Smart, which I also call a Trabant. Then I got into serious journalism and just said "stop" one day, remembering the catchphrase attributed to Winston Churchill that you can accomplish a lot with journalism as long as you know exactly when to give it up ... So, I got into private business, I started from a small one-room apartment in the center of Sofia, alone, with a second-hand computer and with lots of ambition, motivation and a very accurate view of the future. Even if I want to change something in the past, I will not be able to do it, so I never answer this question ... Things have become as they are now – I control a respected in many places in the world, not only in Bulgaria, great professional company, announced last year as one of the best PR agencies in Europe by the influential PRWeek, I have an amazing team of honest professionals and people with whom I have common goals, what more can I dream of than to continue just like that... In fact, things are very simple: if you do things from the heart, they always turn out exactly the way they should.
- Has COVID changed your criteria for evaluating the performance of current and future employees? What policies do you have for joining the team and a positive working atmosphere?
For at least two years I have been repeating that remote work has its advantages, however, I still do not have a clear concept of how to create an even better team in these conditions. I am sure that by the end of 2022, if not earlier, I will invent it. But the main difference with the "previous life" before the pandemic was that I introduced the horizontal model of management very quickly - i.e., each of my colleagues becomes a leader in their position, in their projects, and in their clients ... This is quite a drastic difference with everything seen before and I describe it in detail in my latest book The Morning After. And yet - creating a positive atmosphere online is extremely difficult, so you need extraordinary ingenuity, which I think about literally every day and I'm not always successful. But I am very close to the goal ...
- Which work model does your company prefer - work in the office, at home or depending on the commitments of each one? Do you expect the standard workplace to look different in 2-3 years?
The future is in hybrid models. This is more than certain, there is no going back. Not in 2-3 years, our workplace already looks completely different and will be so in the future. Therefore, there must be new models of team relationships, new ways of management and leadership, new goals, and a completely different way of communication. The business has not seen such a drastic change in its history - it cannot be compared to any financial or economic crisis or any other difficult situation. Change is now psychological, mental, intellectual, communicative, and creative. All this together requires a very innovative approach for the business to become more successful. I am working very hard in this direction, and I am convinced that I will soon invent it in the best possible way. This will probably be one of the most complex business projects of my life.
Original source: https://business.dir.bg/karieri/pravete-neshtata-sas-sartse-i-te-vinagi-shte-se-poluchat