Building our Family of GoTroops

Hiring lessons from the key players who scaled Indonesia's First Decacorn Company.

Building our Family of GoTroops

By Pamela Chan

It’s hard to imagine that merely six years ago, Gojek was still finding its footing. Our various streams were grappling with massive growth spurts, building solid foundations to scale their businesses, and assembling teams to get the job done — all with no recruiting process in place.

“Everyone was the Talent Acquisition team,” Raditya Wibowo, Head of Transport, recalls, “The HR team would prepare offers and onboard new hires, but finding candidates was everyone else’s job.”

Puneet Goyal, Senior VP of Engineering, describes how Gojek’s mad phase of growth resulted in a large appetite for talent. “But, back then, we were never very clear on what we want these people to do, how we want to structure them, and how we would make them successful,” he explains. His team’s approach was simple: hire now, figure out the organisational stuff later — a strategy that proved increasingly difficult to execute as the team grew to the thousands.

Similarly, Dian Rosanti, Head of Product Management — Consumer Platform, remembers walking into interviews unclear as to what she was evaluating or what the role entailed. She details, “The decisions were quite hard to make because we didn’t have any basis to make thoughtful decisions on.” Her team partner Vikrama Dhiman, Head of Product Management - Mobility Products, recounts growing the Transport Customer App team from 19 to 88 members in under 18 months: “I was the one reaching out to people on Linkedin and figuring out how we can convince them to join us.”

Gojek used to rely heavily on personal referrals to grow our teams, which assembled a close-knit family of local talent. “One of the biggest changes in the past six years is that now we have GoTroops from all over the world,” Raditya says. As of 2021, there are over 9,000 GoTroops stationed in Indonesia, India, Singapore, and Vietnam. How exactly did we get here? Our four principal leaders from the Product, Engineering, and Transport streams share their experiences in growing their teams at Gojek.

First up, understand the significance of a hiring process

It is said that an organisation is only as great as its employees; after all, these are the people driving business plans, embodying company values, and bringing ideas to life. While People & Culture teams nurture our employees — affectionately self-dubbed as GoTroops — our hiring processes bring in the exact individuals we need.

From a business perspective, Dian specifies that an effective hiring process facilitates smart hiring decisions that bring in quality talent, ultimately driving better business results. From an employee and candidate perspective, Vikrama points out that an effective hiring process elicits feelings of self-assurance in a candidate that they have truly earned their spot. He adds, “If people talk highly of your interviewing process, candidates will prioritise your interviews over others in the market.”

A comprehensive understanding of the power of a well-defined hiring process is imperative as you build your teams.

Next, figure out your hiring approach

With the “why” checked off, it’s time to tackle the “how”.

Dian took the route she knows best by product managing the Product Management organisation. “You have to talk to your customers and understand how you’re going to measure the success of your programs and what you’re going to do for the function,” she explains.

Puneet took a similar approach of treating the Engineering hiring process as a product funnel where the “user” is the candidate. His team dove deep into evaluating the length and resources utilised at every step of their hiring process, pinpointing problem areas with greater ease.

Whichever approach is enacted, it should help you gain a firmer grasp of your particular hiring gaps, set appropriate recruitment goals, and lay out the next steps of your hiring process.

Don’t skimp on bolstering your brand presence

Another aspect of the “how” that’s often overlooked is a company’s brand presence and its impact on hiring efforts. For example, when Gojek was but a drop in the vast Indian tech landscape five years ago, Puneet exhausted up to thirty minutes per interview explaining what Gojek does to candidates.

To grow our brand awareness in the region, Puneet’s team began actively participating in conferences, giving tech talks, and writing blogs about the issues they’ve overcome as a team. Combined with the efforts of the Global Employer Branding team, this hurdle eventually became a non-issue.

Amplifying the message of what your company does, stands for, and the culture that makes you unique will pay dividends to both the efficiency and effectiveness of your hiring efforts.

Common denominators of an effective hiring process

Each of our department heads has unique hiring objectives, systems, and practices. Nonetheless, these factors remain consistent throughout them all:

An effective hiring process…

… Is predicated on your company goals

At its core, a company’s hiring process should fulfil organisational, staffing, and business needs. To hone this process even further, Vikrama suggests incorporating the softer, cultural nuances of your company's mission and how you’ll go about achieving it. “This is what sets each company apart and is where the hiring process is so critical,” he says, “Someone who may be a fit for company A may not be a fit for company B, even if both have similar business outlooks.”

Puneet adds, “If your organisation wants to grow, for instance, you have to hire people with a growth mindset. Your hiring process has to be designed to deliver on this promise.”

… Incorporates specific hiring guidelines

Understand your particular hiring problems at hand to craft a roadmap forward. For Dian & Vikrama, it was their assessment of PM candidates. Unlike the clear-cut requirements for technical roles, the multidisciplinary nature of Product Management makes PM hiring a nebulous task.

Together with teammate Ali Brandt, they devised a 16 Competencies Calibration Packet. This packet gives hiring stakeholders a step-by-step guide to formulate their interview points, assess candidates on PM competencies, and make thoughtful and unbiased hiring decisions. Dian explains: “It was very important for us to ensure this was in lockstep with how we assess the competencies and growth of our PMs internally.” Similar frameworks have since been rolled out to hire talent for other departments.

Being as explicit as possible when constructing your hiring guidelines will eliminate ambiguity and bring in the exact talent required.

… Involves extensive collaboration with all relevant stakeholders

A hiring process can only be fruitful if all stakeholders are well-versed with the guidelines and goals. Raditya credits his collaborative hiring approach to be key in growing his team: “All hiring stakeholders must have a line of communication to identify bottlenecks, ensure they’re on the same page, and collectively improve the process.” Personally training his team in conducting interviews and assessing candidates, he is now able to confidently delegate these tasks to his one-downs.

For Puneet, he and our recruiters are joined at the hip, “As an engineering leader, I can’t be successful if I don’t have a very high performing and tuned-in TA team. We invite them to all our business town halls and OKR discussions so they get a sense of what they’re hiring for.”

… Takes into account soft skills & culture

A candidate may have the required skill set for a role, but their ability to produce good work may be hindered if they’re unable to connect to a company’s culture.

Dian cautions that a single person’s judgment of a candidate, or simply going by “gut feel,” are the easiest ways to introduce bias into the hiring process. Instead, she utilises company values to both codify company culture and guide interview panelists in assessing whether a candidate is a good culture fit.

Puneet adds that certain values often materialise in his conversations with candidates, including a willingness to change one’s opinion when presented with new information, the ability to identify self-biases, a curiosity to learn, and a desire to make a change. “We constantly look for these values across all roles and found them to be very effective in driving success with our hires,” he notes.

… Prioritises a stellar candidate experience regardless of the outcome

The interview process is a candidate’s peephole into how a company operates. The final hiring decision should not determine a candidate’s perception of a company. Leaving a positive, lasting impression leads to a word-of-mouth ripple effect where candidates speak highly of a company in their social circles. “I truly believe this has been a key tenant to our success in growing our teams,” Puneet claims.

For more technical roles, Raditya suggests framing interviews around problems the team has or is currently facing rather than using pre-prepared case studies candidates have likely encountered before. “This gives them real insight into the kind of work they’ll be doing here,” he says.

Other best practices we employ to uphold a great candidate experience include:

  • Sharing a “What to Expect” interview preparation guide with candidates
  • Frequently reevaluating our candidate pipeline to ensure shorter wait times between rounds
  • Providing feedback to candidates further in the pipeline who aren’t selected
  • Thoroughly training all interviewers/panelists in terms of assessment skills and increased empathy

As Puneet aptly puts it: “Delivering an excellent candidate experience earns us a brand ambassador for life.”

The work doesn’t stop there

Continuously evolve your hiring process

The COVID-19 pandemic and Gojek’s recent merger with Tokopedia are two prime reminders of the fast-evolving nature of our company and the global landscape. Accordingly, a hiring process must continuously evolve with the times and shifting company priorities.

Every six months, Puneet hosts a retrospective with his Talent Acquisition counterparts to review their past hiring performance. “We go over what worked well, what didn’t, and any patterns of challenges we continue to face,” he explains. Their auditing process includes:

  • Reviewing candidate experience feedback
  • Brainstorming ways for quicker turnaround
  • Evaluating the quality of candidates they’ve hired

Don’t overlook the post-offer stage

A commonly overlooked aspect of the hiring process is the post-offer stage — the time after the candidate has accepted the offer and before their official start date. Puneet explains, “It’s important to keep the person engaged about the team they’ll be joining and the work they’ll be doing.”

Some of the ways we keep our new hires engaged include:

  • Inviting them to sit in on team meetings, virtual hangouts, or in-person luncheons (when it’s COVID-safe)
  • Setting up 1-on-1s with each member of their prospective team
  • Preparing a document which details the background of the business they’ll be working under

Moreover, Raditya recommends giving new joiners a list of actionable items to do in their first week to offer a greater sense of direction and context: “This ensures that the information that often sits in people’s heads is given to the person who needs it.”

Tying it all together

Pradeep Desu, our Global Head of Talent Acquisition (TA), orchestrates and centralises the many moving parts of Gojek’s hiring endeavours.

Alongside our career site and referral program that are open to all to apply, the TA team has developed a “Raise the Bar” program to scout talent who fit certain experience criteria, such as working at a fast-scaling startup. “These talents have already witnessed such scale and can provide solutions rather than go through a learning curve,” Pradeep explains, “This helps us avoid problems we’ve already faced before.”

While the TA team works closely with department heads to carve out catered hiring plans, they have also developed a standardised interview process that all departments follow. Pradeep posits this process has brought several efficiencies to the organisation, “For instance, people conducting interviews for Food can now interview for Transport or Payments since they follow a set interviewing guideline.” Moreover, said efficiencies have streamlined interview operations and fostered a more consistent candidate experience across the organisation, allowing GoTroops to grow their businesses efficiently.

Conclusion

The manner in which you scale your talents directly shapes your company’s culture, productivity, reputation, and overall success. Beyond an arid transactional occurrence, a successful hiring process takes into account the relationships being established, of the real humans behind the candidate identification numbers, resumes, and Zoom screens.

Our hiring process continues to evolve as we maneuver through the various changes and challenges that present themselves. Thank you to our four department heads and TA team who have laid the foundations of our hiring principles and practices. We hope their tried and tested knowledge offers you valuable insight into building your very own dream team.

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