Learn from Facebook: How to create irresistible candidate experiences


As arrogant as it might sound – I had never been in a job-hunting position in Indonesia. I interviewed people, I made the hiring decisions, I was almost never on the other side. Then I left everything and moved to the UK to pursue my master’s degree. When I was about to graduate, I had to compete with thousands of brilliant people, most of them had better English and, more importantly, working permit. My struggle began.

I applied to more than 100 companies and I experienced what I had never experience before: rejection, frustration, and defeat. I learned tremendously during my job-hunting journey about how to treat candidates decently — sometimes I learned from what the company did, but sometimes I also learned from what the company didn’t do. The best experience I had was with Facebook, and that’s where I ended up at the moment.

Indonesian startups can learn a thing or two from Facebook on creating an irresistible candidate experience:

Spot-on interviews

In Indonesia, it’s common to make candidates wait for the interviewer. Fifteen minutes late is fairly expected. We tend to think that we are the important one, and the candidates must have less important things to do.

One of my many interviewers at Facebook was two minutes late, and he apologized profusely.

Moreover, all of the interviewers have clearly perused my CV before the interview. No one asked me the question of “tell me about yourself” anymore. And, of course, no one asked me if I was married and how many children I had, since it’s illegal here to ask those kind of questions. The interviewers probed on what really mattered: my competence. The questions were tailored towards the position I was applying to, such as, “If you have to create an automation to do xxxxx, what criteria will you use?”

Clear, guided steps

I used to neglect my candidates. A month could easily go by without any update from me. I didn’t realize that they were waiting anxiously on the other side, as some part of their lives were depending on my call.

At Facebook, I went through 1 test + 5 interviews. After my first interview with the recruiter, she explained to me what the next steps were and what to expect in each step. She emailed me materials to help me prepare for the interviews. The result of each stage was informed to me in 2-3 days. It felt like upgrading from dating a wishy-washy boy to dating a reliable man: no more sleepless night looking at my ringless phone!

A warm welcome

Two days after I signed my offer letter, I got a Facebook t-shirt and a handwritten card sent to my door: “Welcome to the family!” My manager added me on Facebook (obviously) and he wrote about how he couldn’t wait to have me in his team. He introduced me to a guy who would be my buddy and encouraged me to have a coffee with him before my first day. The whole team greeted me on the entrance door when I came to the office. Seriously — I couldn’t ask for a warmer welcome.

Why creating irresistible candidate experiences is important?

Because when a company put a lot of thought and effort to create an awesome candidate experience, you can know for sure that they already have awesome customer and employee experience. Customers and employees are clearly more essential to a company than mere candidates.

Thoughtfully improving your company’s candidate experience will send this message loud and clear to the best talents out there: “We take care of our customers and our employees — and we will take care of you, too.”


Macabre metrics: Quarrels between departments

It was a one ordinary day at my startup. Around 10 am, my sales team would come to me to complain: “The operations dept is so annoying! This client – whom we have chased for months – wants us to deliver on Thursday. But the operations dept insisted they would deliver according to SLA, which was Friday.”

At 10.15 am, the Head of Operations would come to me and complained: “Your sales team thinks the whole company revolved around them! I have set rules and SLA to make the operations process regulated. Why can’t they follow the schedule?”

That kind of quarrel happens almost every week, with little improvement after each case. Now that I’m observing from outside the company, I can see more clearly what’s going on. I think the main problem lies in the KPI/metrics.

What gets measured gets managed. And the more frequently you got feedback about something, the more likely you are going to work on it. 

Now, if the target for sales dept was the $$$ value of sales, they would do whatever it takes to sell, including offering ridiculous discount or giving empty promises to the clients. And if the target for operations dept was merely cost efficiency, they would not care if the clients’ hairs turned grey waiting for the delivery.

In the ideal world, of course, the metrics should ensure sustainable growth and long-term value creation as opposed to short-term wins. There are two widely-used sets of metrics: HEART & Pirate metrics.

HEART is the acronym of Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success. While Pirate, well, what sound does a pirate make? “AARRR!” and it stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue.

If, for example, customer happiness was the KPI for all departments, everyone would thrive to deliver the most delightful customer experience. The quarrel between departments were minimised because they were all fighting for the same target. And as we’ve agreed that there’s no such thing as multitasking, focusing on one KPI in one period of time is the wiser choice, rather than try to accomplish everything and achieve nothing. That one single KPI has to be emphasised again and again to the whole team, and also has to be tied with reward and recognition.

However, obviously, don’t take this advice to the extreme side and spend the last millions of dollars in your bank account to make your customers happy – and then die tomorrow.


(Disclaimer: I’m not claiming to be the expert here. This is just my reflection. Any thoughts are welcome!)

Be comfortable in the ‘zone of uncomfortable debate’

How many hours do you spend in internal meetings every week? How many times do you leave the room without achieving anything productive?

In my startup, I used to spend lots of times discussing problems. Usually the trigger was a complaint from clients, caused by some errors by IT or operations team, and those errors were caused by unclear instructions from sales or product team, so on and so forth.

Usually some certain people would start to be defensive, and others would try to mediate and make jokes to lighten the situation. In the end, people left the meeting room feeling better about themselves (“Yay, so the complaint was not entirely my fault!”), until a similar error happened again.

From my favourite professor, Prof. Cliff Bowman, I learned something new: “Team” is not good in senior level. Fear of hurting team harmony is not something a manager should have.
In every meeting, usually there are two zones: zone of comfortable debate and zone of uncomfortable debate.


In the first zone, we are discussing light topics and fun options. “We know we are not gonna do this, but it’s fun to talk about.” It’s dangerous if your meeting is still in that zone. 
Instead, we have to learn to discuss in the zone of uncomfortable debate (ZOUD). How?
  • Dig the root cause of the problem (ask 7 why’s if necessary), then move on to solutions. Stop dangling on whose fault it was.
  • Stop being personal – this is not about you. We are all here because we care about the same company, and we share the same vision.
  • Critique the works or the actions, not the people.
And more importantly, leave the ZOUD before leaving the room. If you are not mature enough to do it, then maybe you are not supposed to be in that room in the first place.

Your customer needs a hole, not a drill

Guess, who is the biggest threat for an airline whose customers are businessmen?

a. Another airline
b. Budget airline
c. Skype

Yes, the answer is C: Skype. Businessmen who used to fly once a week from London to Paris, for example, now only fly once a month. Three other face-to-face meetings are replaced by Skype meetings.

The business landscape are changing rapidly. Your competitors will come from places you never expected. It becomes more important than ever to ask this question to yourself:

What problems am I solving?

The legendary Harvard marketing professor, Theodore Levitt, phrased it this way: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!

If I needed a hole for some reason, I wouldn’t buy a drill, actually. I would go to TaskRabbit to find other people who can do it for me. Or I would borrow my neighbour’s drill via Streetbank. What’s the point of buying something that I would use once a month, or even less?

This paradigm shift brings us to “Product-Service System” era. Companies no longer provide mere product or mere service; they combine both to serve customers in better ways. Here are three possible ways to implement it:

  • Focus on optimising product usage – the products are still owned by customers, but you provide extra service to give them better experiences. Eg: Xerox PagePack presents a contract that includes ink, paper, regular service and maintenance by Xerox engineers.
  • Focus on usage, not ownership – your customers don’t have to own everything. Just give them access to the product they want, when they need it. Eg: average cars are only moving 5% of the time (the other 95% are sitting in your garage or in parking lots) – it makes perfect sense to do car sharing via Uber, Zipcar, or BlaBlaCar.
  • Focus on result – your customers only pay for the result, and product involvement is optional. TaskRabbit I previously mentioned was one of the examples.

By constantly focusing on the problems instead of the products, you would have a better chance to compete in this ever-changing world.


Adapted from: Tukker, A. (2004) ‘Eight types of product–service system: Eight ways to sustainability? Experiences from SusProNet’, Business Strategy and the Environment, 13(4), pp. 246–260. doi: 10.1002/bse.414.


Scrum for grandmas

So I recently got certified as a Professional Scrum Master I and some friends asked what that was. The word sounds funny to them and somehow they associated it with ‘scrotum’.

This article aims to explain what scrum is to your grandma. The analogy I use is not perfect, but it can cover the basic principles of scrum for non-technical people.

Say, you were having a dinner date at your place! And you wanted to show that in addition to being good looking and smart and funny, you could cook too. You decided that you were going to cook a 3-course dish: mushroom cream soup, grilled chicken, and tiramisu.

You shopped for ingredients and you started to cook. While you cooked, you didn’t taste your cooking at all. You were confident that if you follow step-by-step recipes flawlessly, everything must be perfect. After 3 hours, you finished cooking, and your date came. You had set the table – you were ready to impress her with your amazing dishes.

They turned out to be a huge disaster. First, the soup tasted funny – the mushroom must have been rotten! The chicken was still raw in the inside you could feel the Salmonella crawling in your stomach. And the worst part was – she was allergic to almond flakes you put in the tiramisu.

Hours later after you were back from the emergency unit, you reflected the night in regret. If you could have one chance to do things differently…

  1. You would check your cooking often and didn’t wait until the final dish was done. Tasting it a couple of times would allow you to fix your mistakes before it’s too late.
  2. You would check if your oven had the same spec with the recipe maker’s oven. Turned out both oven had different definition of ‘done’.
  3. You would ask her what she wanted, or at least what she didn’t want. It would save you lots of troubles.

And those are scrum basic principles:

  1. Deliver incremental product often, test it to the market, and iterate. The whole development process is based on transparency, inspection, and adaption.
  2. Build a reliable, self-organised development team, with a shared understanding of what ‘done’ means.
  3. Only build features with optimum business value (features that will increase customer satisfaction, bring highest ROI with lowest effort).

As Papa Drucker phrased it:

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”

How To Let Him Go Gracefully

Firing employees is not a simple matter. Every discharge can make your other team members angry, worried, or even show their solidarities by resigning from your company too (Yes, Indonesian people put high value in solidarities. They call it tepa selira or tenggang rasa.)

To ensure that the firing will not disturb your company’s equilibrium, you need to consider these:

  1. Make sure you fire him for valid reasons.

Don’t ever fire based on feelings, moods, or personal dislike. Do you know that one’s performance is determined 40% by the company’s system, 40% by the leadership, and only 20% by his own competencies? If s/he’s not performing well, it’s 80% your fault. Think about the effort you’ve made to develop this person. Has he got the support he needs to perform at his job?

  1. Give heads up to other team members

Direct communication is not Indonesian’s virtue. You have to show in subtle ways how bad he’s performing. For instance, you can make a weekly meeting, where everyone has to present his achievement in the last week. That way, everyone knows who is performing and who is not. And when the underperforming guy is being fired, nobody will doubt your decision.

  1. Explain honestly about why he’s being fired

The discharge should be a learning experience for other team members. By explaining honestly the reason behind it, you will help them to understand more clearly what behaviours are not tolerable in your startup. Just make sure you don’t attack him personally.

Corporate Sustainability and How It Will Help You Winning The War for Talent

“The best professionals in the world want to work for companies that exhibit good corporate sustainability.” – Jim Copeland, former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

Corporate sustainability is defined literally as how you make your company sustainable.

A simple example: suppose you own a paper mill factory. The scarcity of forest in Indonesia will bring you problems. You cannot think only about short-term profit; you must consider the sustainability of your factory years from now. Hence, instead of cutting all the woods ignorantly, you will do a trees replanting plan so you can ensure your company’s sustainability.

Naturally, companies who have to think about corporate sustainability strategies are the companies who also consume the limited resources. But nowadays, many companies are proudly campaigning their corporate sustainability initiatives, such as:

  1. 99% of McDonald’s fish (fillet o’ fish, etc) are sourced from Marine Stewardship Council Certified Fisheries. (Mindblowing, right? We always thought that McD is using exotic Nemo-ish fish.)
  2. McGraw-Hill reduces their paper consumption by 2 million pounds.
  3. 7% of Crocs material comes from reused scrap material.

Yes, these companies use corporate sustainability actions as marketing campaign, because apparently customers choose to buy products that are perceived as “eco-friendly”.

Corporate sustainability is not always about environment, but also social acts. One of the most famous case studies is TOMS shoes with its “one for one” motto. This social mission makes the customers excited to share it with their friends. It’s every CMO’s dream: your customer becomes your marketer.

(Regardless of the wrong motives, any social and eco-friendly acts are better than criticize them and do nothing.)

So what’s the correlation between corporate sustainability and HR?

Like customers who prefer eco-friendly products, employees also prefer to work for companies who put high value in environmental and social responsibility. That’s why tobacco and alcohol drink companies in Indonesia find difficulties in recruiting—they have to offer more privilege to attract potential employees. On the contrary, many NGOs employ highly qualified individuals, although their compensation packages are not as attractive.

In fact, researches find that there’s a high correlation between corporate sustainability and employee engagement.

The message is clear: Think about how your startup can bring positive contributions to environment and society. Inspire your employees to do it together. See how impactful it is to your team cohesiveness. Do it consistently and you can even use it to win the war for talent.