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Lessons from HR Pro Jose Benitez Cong

Lessons from HR Pro Jose Benitez Cong
From Recruiter - July 11, 2016

Recently,I had the distinct pleasure of sipping coffee with Jose Benitez Cong, former head of talent at Nest and chief recruiter for Apples first iPod and iPhone engineering teams. Note that I didnt say that I had coffee with Jose Benitez Cong, a Warriors fan who loves Maseratis and Silver Oak wine, even though that would all be true. While our interests help describe us, for many avid professionals, it is our career trajectories that define us.

Congspast professional pursuits prove invaluable these days as he prepares to launch his own company, currently in stealth mode. Startups in Silicon Valley are a dime a dozen, but a startup led by an ex-Google and -Apple talent lead? My ears perk up.

And Im not the only one: Jose was able to raise his first round of funding and hire a team of 10 within weeks because of his career credibility and contacts.

Where I am today is largely because of my network, Congsays.

When youwork for a prestigious company, youwear your tenure like a badge of honor. However varied they may be, our career paths give us depth and validation. Each team we work with expands our ecosystems and opens up new doors. Where weve been helps us get where were going.

Congshares my belief in the power of alumni networks in particular.

From getting them to represent the brand to possibly boomeranging back to the company, alumni should be considered part of the culture, Cong says.

And yet, companies consistently miss the boat on leveraging this unparalleled branding opportunity.According to one study from 2015, 80 percent of employees say their former employers have no strategies encouraging them to return, and just about half of managers say their organizations make no effort to communicate with company alumni. By burning bridges or letting relationships with former employees fizzle, companies lose their most authentic ambassadors. Forward-thinking organizations, on the other hand, trade resentment for pride, admonishment for congratulations, and closed doors for revolving ones.

Congtakes a sip of his decaf Americano and talks about his nonconformist approach to recruiting. His No. 1criteria at Nest was no a**holes, and he was open to hiring supportive, motivating personalities and developing talent on site. People often ask Congfor the trick to scaling a great teamas though it were some sort of secret family recipe. His response is straightforward and understated: Leverage the talent you already have.

At Apple, Congwould sit down with his team to review each of their alumni networks and determine who theyd want to work with again. The result? Unlimited access to pre-vetted candidates with just one degree of separation. Why hire someone based off of a piece of paper and a half-hour interview when you can get a firsthand recommendation from a personyou trust? In this age of social networking and online applications, its still who you know that counts most.

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