In 2011, Ivelina was hired by a fast-growing Czech company that provides recruitment services to major names in the healthcare and IT sectors. In two years, our heroine went from being a trainee to a team leader, opened a new office in only 6 months and mastered a few fundamental rules for being a successful careerist, which she agreed to share with Youth Time.
Ivelina Georgieva / Photo: Fro the archive of Ivelina Georgieva
To be honest, we can’t wait to find out, what is the most important secret of a successful interview?
In our company, interviews tend to be like a test on how well you can do your job. In fact, it is a combination of role play, presenting yourself, and quickly learning the information about the company presented to you during the day. I would say that being very engaged and attentive is the number one factor in success at an interview. In addition, you need to make sure you “sell” yourself as a good fit for the role while being careful not to alienate other candidates or act arrogant, since you are also being judged for your capacity to work in a group. At my assessment day, for example, there was a girl who performed very well in the tasks presented but had an overbearing personality, always insisting on taking the floor, which didn’t make a good impression.
If you were asked to give advice to a person attending an interview today, what would it be?
Research the company well, make sure you have relevant answers on what you can offer to your potential employer, be nice to everyone you meet during the day since normally companies gather feedback on how you behaved in the presumably informal parts of the meeting such as the coffee break or lunch break. Apart from that, be yourself: employers want to see your personality so don’t over-engineer your responses.
What is it usually that you’re looking for in candidates?
We are an agency working in the niche of scientific management, in general at the level of director profiles, therefore in our case we are targeting very specific specialists. However, when I worked in more junior roles, communication skills were of the most importance. The way people present themselves, the ability to provide relevant and well-stated answers is crucial. The degree of friendliness and agreeability demonstrated during a phone or personal interview is also very important. You would be surprised at how many well-qualified candidates get rejected due to acting unfriendly or arrogant at an interview, or simply not knowing how to present their positive qualities well. So as recruiters, we also make sure that we share sincere feedback with people about their performance, areas in which they can improve, and tips for strengthening their presentation skills.
Why do you think you became a successful team leader and what are the most important qualities team leaders should have?
Companies tend to use different models for promoting people into team leading/management roles. In some cases they are looking for people who excel at performing the tasks of their team, in others they are looking for the management potential. In the ideal case, a good leader will combine the two but of course this is not always possible depending on the size and the constraints of the organization.
Within our company, you only progress to a management role if you have proven that you can perform the tasks required of your team flawlessly, and also meet a certain level of income generation for the company. After that, you receive additional training on management methods and challenges as well as keeping your team motivated.
I would say the number one quality of a successful team leader is being very strict on what is required and demonstrating through your daily work that you are working under the same plan and within the same rules as your team members. In other words, if you expect them to work a certain way and achieve good results, you need to lead by example.
How hard is it being a team leader?
Mainly for me there have been 2 challenges: first, simply managing the workload. Second, and more importantly, actually starting to understand the different personalities and what motivates them while also acknowledging that sometimes people either don’t tell the truth or don’t know their weak areas well. Thus, you can’t fully “trust” your team; sometimes you need additional mechanisms of performance monitoring to make sure they are making progress.
What do you think is important for understanding corporate goals?
For me, transitioning from a consultant to a team leader role meant also a change in understanding corporate goals. As a consultant, you are primarily concerned with managing projects successfully and thus securing both monetary gain for the company and repeat business from clients. Once you move to a leadership role, you are actually responsible for creating value and autonomy for the business, in my case helping others become successful consultants and helping the business become less dependent on its senior leadership. I think the change is tremendous, as in order to be successful as a consultant, you need to be good at a limited number of tasks, whereas team leadership requires a much more in-depth understanding of the challenges of the business and how they can be addressed before becoming serious problems.