If you are going to attend a US B1/B2 interview (or, H1 for that matter), it is natural that you may worry as to what kind of questions you should expect. Below are some sample questions you can expect. Practice them well.
These are not exhaustive. If you have more, please add them to the comments section.
Today, Jul 27, marks my another work anniversary in the HR function, and the anniversary of my first day at Profoundis—later acquired by FullContact, Inc. I am trying to reflect on some great people matters our leadership and HR teams are proud to have envisaged and implemented over the last few years, besides the usual HR business stuff. Not in order of occurrence, though. The credit goes to our awesome leadership and HR teams across offices of FullContact 🙂
What led us to these decisions/benefits
FullContact takes decisions based on the Core Values it is built on. Our people decisions are mostly based on treating people as independent adults and believing in an accountability-driven organisation than a task-driven organisation. Leaders of our organisation have shown immaculate allegiance to these two principles while making people decisions. What if it goes wrong has always been part of the decision-making process, but has not been the deciding factor that prevented us from doing something right.
FullContact India got recognised as a Great Place to Work®
Within 2.5 years of beginning its operations, in 2019, the FullContact India office was recognised as Great Place to Work Certified®. This reflected how our members felt about the organisation as a great place to be at, how our processes aligned to benchmarks that the GPTW team set. We were one of the very few SME IT organisations, back then, to achieve GPTW certification back then in Kerala.
FullContact used to offer travel benefits (then called PAID Paid Vacation) that offers both two weeks of paid leave just for travel and a sum of Rs. 1,50,000/- per year to take an actual vacation. Later this was revamped to be called FULLBalance Vacation Benefit with UNLIMITED paid vacation time and a sum up to Rs. 2,15,000/- per year to take the vacation. At the latest, I recently took a trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan, thanks to this policy.
FullContact has an unparalleled holiday and leave policy in India among the IT SME organisations of our nature. As I write this, FullContact India employees enjoy double the national average per year as holidays—27 in total in a year. This includes 13 scheduled holidays as per norms in the Holidays Act, ½ Day Fridays during Jul-Sep, and year-end holidays from Dec 26-31. As part of our ½ Day Fridays policy, all the Fridays from Jul 1—Sep 2 are half-day Fridays, meaning we close our work by noon on Fridays and take an early weekend to spend more time with ourselves and our beloved ones.
An extended Leave Policy
FullContact has always tried to maintain a top-notch leave policy. Apart from the typical Sick/Casual/Earned/Maternity/Miscarriage/Abortion/Adoption/Sterilisation leaves, FullContact India also offers:
Unlimited Hospitalisation paid leave, for as long as the employees remain in a hospital; this is not to be availed from sick leave or any other bucket
Paternity paid leave for 21 days
Bereavement paid leave for 14 days
Family First paid leave for 3 days to spend time with family for any reason (e.g: celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, just spending time, etc.)
Effective Jan 1, 2022, FullContact India moved from Leave Approvals to Leave Acknowledgements. This means, our paid leave requests are auto-approved and only an acknowledgement will be sent to the reporting managers as FYI. There’s no approval process if Earned Leaves and Casual Leaves are applied for at least 5 calendar days in advance. All Sick, Covid, Hospitalisation leaves, and Bereavement and other sickness/illness-related leaves are auto-approved without any notice requirement.
FullContact, besides our leave policy and holidays, offers UNLIMITED Paid vacation time off for all our members. Our members are able to take any number of days as vacation, besides all the short-term statutory leaves and holidays! We have a formal policy to encourage members to take a MINIMUM of three weeks of vacation per year. The new Unlimited Vacation policy takes care of the other end of the benefit, making it practically and technically unlimited.
Health Insurance for family and parents fully paid for by FullContact
Accidental Insurance fully paid for by FullContact
Life Insurance fully paid for by FullContact
Employee Access Program fully paid for by FullContact
Equipment reimbursement for people of determination
FULLBalance Vacation Bonus
Monthly work-from-home reimbursement
Home office setup cost reimbursement
ThankFULL Rewards and Recognition Program
SkillFULL Employee Training Program
SuccessFULL Career Pathing Program
And we are default work remote 🙂
First among the few to close down physical offices when the pandemic hit
I included this in the list since I am proud of the leadership team that unanimously decided to shut down our physical office space until things get back to normal (phew, it took two years for it to be normal) when Covid 19 hit. We were one of the first few offices to go remote—and we went fully remote, permanently so later—when the pandemic hit. Our flexible work policy dueing pre-Covid era that empowered our members to work from home did help us in making this transition with ease.
The guiding light for decision-making was of course the safety and wellbeing of our members. We were also one among the first very few SME IT orgs in the state who incorporated a home office setup cost reimbursement upto Rs. 7500/- which was later increased to Rs. 10,000/-. We also offered (and continue to offer an increased amount of) Rs. 1000/- per month toward home expenses such as the internet charges.
Unparalleled Covid 19 Benefits
Our organisation, like many others, took the decision to stand by our members during the tough times of Covid 19. We released a stream of Covid Benefits for our members and their families. It included sponsoring covid vaccinations for members, spouse, kids, parents and parents-in-law and our members appreciated this benefit.
Other Covid 19 benefits included 14 days of paid time off if a member is Covid positive, Covid insurance for all employees if not already covered by the organisation’s group health insurance, employee access program to provide mental support and counselling sessions free of cost—for members and their families, 7 days of paid time off as Caregiver PTO to take care of a family member in case of being Covid positive, two days of additional paid leave for vaccination, salary advance for members affected by Covid, reimbursement of Covid tests, and continuation of salary for six more months in case of an unfortunate Covid death. We also ran the #HealthyFullContact initiative and also put together some Mental Health and Wellness Ideas that our members found useful.
An Inclusive workplace
Developing an inclusive, equitable and diverse workplace has always been one of our prime agendas—though this is a work-in-progress. Our DEI teams across both offices set SMART Goals and work toward making them a reality. This is a picture that our team treasures and gender inclusivity of this magnitude is something that we enjoy having at FullContact. We also offer reimbursement of the cost of equipment used by our members who are people of determination, up to 7500/- in a year.
Compensation Structure with Flexi Benefit Plans
FullContact introduced Flexi Benefit plans to make sure that our employees get to decide, to an extent, how their compensation should be structured. We made sure that we do not inflate CTC for the sake of making it bigger by including components like medical insurance premiums, gratuity, variable bonus, ESOPs, etc. in the CTC—the philosophy was to keep it simple for the employees and prospective employees to give an idea about a fixed compensation.
Anish asked me to write about why and how I prepared for the SHRM-CP examination so a few HRs who might not know about this certification yet could benefit. I spent some time reflecting on whether I should actually write it or not, and finally, here I’m. If it helps someone, I am happy. If not, that’s still okay 😉
I am an engineer by education and early-career profession. I did my masters in Computer Science and joined Oracle in Bangalore where I spent more than 3 years doing things that I was not contented with, and that I do not consider myself good at. FullContact happened as a you-got-what-you-wished-for opportunity, and I happily accepted the offer to join there as an HR. I always loved the HR job, unlike many other engineers out there!
Well, it goes without saying that I am without an MBA. Did it matter? I will be blunt: it did matter to me, though it didn’t to my employer. I was a beginner in the HR profession, but I was invited to lead the India people division of the organisation, owing to the trust and hope the then leaders had in me. I had to make it up to it, and I did not have an MBA. Did it really matter? Does it, now?
Hey dude, do you really care about the degrees (and not the skills)?
We as humans tend to see and believe things as binaries—YES or NO! Do degrees really matter? Some say that it doesn’t, and some it does. Certain degrees do really matter, but what matters more is the kind of environment you studied in and the exposure you have attained. I have seen the case studies MBA colleges use to teach the graduate students in the tier-2 colleges and the top B-schools in the country and abroad. I was well aware of the differences in engineering education, but the kind of exposure those top-tier B-schools provide to their MBA students is something unparalleled from my observation. One can’t simply say that degrees do not really matter. What matters is exposure and potential—be it with a degree or not.
One may argue that college degrees cannot provide the quantum of exposure that on-the-job training provides. While this generally true in our country, the quick(kick)start the tier-1 educated graduates get is, still, something. There’s no denying that.
Back to our story: well, I did not have a degree. My ego and self-esteem played, and I thought of doing a distance MBA, joined, fully paid for and found it to be worthless an affair, left it at that. But as time progressed, thanks to the openness and unusually solid support that I got from this organisation (and the HR communities that I am associated with such as NIPM Kerala Chapter), I could learn A LOT while being on the job. I wanted to, however, benchmark myself to see where I stood (read this as self-appraisal. Unless you benchmark yourself, you are not giving yourself feedback. If you do not give feedback often, you are buying the same fish, again).
I heard about the SHRM certification and I was not eligible to write SCP then, hence chose CP; out of the blue, after reading some online reviews. I knew that it would take some effort, but my organisation supported me by spending considerably good amount of money on this learning effort by sponsoring the digital training kit for the examination. That’s one reason why I was fast ready to write the exam.
Tell me more about the exam
There is more than enough articles on what and how the SHRM Certification examinations are, hence I will skip that part except for an excerpt:
You can write SHRM-CP if you have 2 (or, 1 for those with PG) years of professional HR experience. If you are senior in terms of service, you could try SHRM-SCP.
The test is computer-based. Continuous 4 hours (trust me, my eyes pained). 160 questions. I wrote it at Prometric centre in Trivandrum, Kerala, India.
Of the 160, there are 95 knowledge-based questions, 65 judgement questions. They are all multiple choices, but alternatives can be confusing and similar-looking. This page gives you a sample set of questions.
How I prepared: There are four books that came along with the digital learning kit that was sponsored by the organisation. I read them. They are quite helpful and one may get tons of revelations of as to how many bad concepts/understanding of HR that one has had (I did). In fact, this was the best outcome of preparing for this certification.
You will get to know your provisional results immediately after the test. They will send you the official intimation later.
The examination costs you $400 ($300 if you are an SHRM member). The certificate is valid for 3 years (and can be renewed by acquiring certain recertification points by doing online courses, attending seminars, etc.). It is not mandatory that you purchase the digital learning system. This page may be helpful.
(Image courtesy: blog.shrm.org)
Should I do it?
Yes, if you want to benchmark yourself, and maybe, study something that you already didn’t know. Or, if you are doing it as a self-confidence booster.
No, if you are just doing it for a pay hike. Mostly no organisation—I understand some may still be doing—in India provides with a pay hike for HRs just because they have a certification (but that’s not the case abroad, and some job descriptions specify these certifications as minimum requirements, which is a benchmarking/filtering tactic). However, it can be a distinguishing factor. After all these, I know in person a ton of HR professionals doing much better than me, without an MBA and/or an SHRM Certification. So, it’s just all about what you want.
If you’re not so concerned about the certification, why have you written “SHRM-CP” in your LinkedIn profile name?
I am just being ostentatious.
So, you’re saying that you’re after fancy degrees (or candidates with such degrees)?
Wait there, never did I say that I have high respect for candidates just with fancy degrees. Moreover, I believe in interviews that are based on Behavioral Competencies (from a People standpoint)—BEI as it is called—rather than education texts that fill in white spaces on a resume.
TL;DR: Take an SHRM certification exam (or its competitor HRCI) if you want to benchmark yourself against what is considerably-okay in the industry. You may gain some confidence, too.
Wait, did I write a TL;DR at the bottom? 😉
P.S: Julian has written about how he passed the examination already, my job is reduced by 90% in writing this article and hence not explaining what he has already done.
P.P.S: I would strongly recommend being part of the SHRM community by spending money on their membership. It is really worth it (an online membership would suffice) in terms of strategic/operational documentation that is available on their member-only portal and the community of HRs they have built.
If you have more questions, I am happy to help. Please drop me a message or write in comments (beware: you are going to talk to someone who is known to be incommunicado for longer durations; so please expect the delay).
It was on a not-so-fine day that Arjun, CEO of Profoundis and my collegemate met me at Lulu Mall in Kochi. I was going back to Bangalore, where I worked at Oracle as a Software Engineer for around 3 years then, and I had no clue what Arjun had to offer. He asked me if I would like to join as the Head of HR of Profoundis, which was about to be acquired by FullContact, Inc.
I personally believed that I had the traits of an HR (though when I look back now, most of those thoughts were out of place ;-)). I had a dilemma during the final year of study of my graduation whether I should pursue MBA or MTech. After a lot of articulation and inner discourse I decided to pursue MTech, which I do NOT regret now. I ended up in IT, as I assumed, but I never felt Software Engineering was my realm. Having these excruciating thoughts to jump out of my engineer role coupled with Arjun’s offer, I didn’t have a second thought. I had my personal reasons to move to Kochi, too.
If I do not say that I was apprehensive, rather confused, about my capacity to be a Head of HR at the very beginning of my HR career itself, I wouldn’t be doing justice to me. I did a lot of reading afterwards, which in fact Arjun asked me not to. He said they wanted an unconventional HR, who doesn’t go by the books, and recommended that I be not distracted and misinformed by the literature. However, I did my fair share of reading before I joined Profoundis.
What followed was a roller-coaster ride. As I write this, I can feel the cold feet I’d when I first entered the Profoundis office. But I’d something in store – an amazing team who believed that people operations is fundamental and pivotal to any business. There started this small journey of my HR career, which is now at the fourth year! The three years have been of immense learning, understanding, mistakes, corrections, unlearning and what not! I would like to scribble down for the budding HR fellows, who might have as bad a cold feet as I’d on my first day, as to what to expect, what to ignore, what to render on an HR job. Here we go:
Prepare to Unlearn and Re-learn
One might have learnt many things about HR and processes in their text book; or they might have been told that this is how the ideal HR function looks like. Be ready to face the fact that HR is different across organisations depending on the nature of business, nature of the workforce, locale and the priorities of the leadership. What you learnt in books could be obsolete by when you join the HR job – so be ready to remember/forget what you learnt and start afresh on many things—let’s preserve and remember what’s still required. Be ready to read and re-read the latest books, trends, researches, blogs, etc. so that you stay up-to-date.
HR is not just about compliance
The general notion that many have is that HR is all about recruitment and compliance – this is a myth. HR has over the last two decades evolved as a business function. While compliance plays an important role in the success of an HR team, treating them as the core function of HR is erroneous. Compliance is an assumed-to-be-required function of HR. It’s very basic. HR’s more to it. But remember—compliance is a culture. Nurture it, but that’s not only what you’re defined by.
Culture is your dad, business is your mom
It’s the business leadership and the HR leadership together that decide the fate of an organisation. If one of this duo fails, either you will end up with a zero or negative business growth or a bunch of unsatisfactory people. The two are complementary to each other—or, rather, co-existent. HRs (should get a chance to) decide the culture of an organisation, while they participate in deciding the business destiny. Gone are those days when HRs come into play when someone needs to be hired, reprimanded or fired. Starting from talent acquisition to talent development to talent retention to talent nurturing to making the workplace a great experience for your members depend on how the HR team is envisaged and functions. Your job exists because the business exists
Find your path to heaven
One may define the success of their career by multi-factors. For some, it could be the happiness of their members, achieving KRIs, promotions and merit increases, and what not! But ultimately, if you ask me, the end result of one’s actions should be such that it makes him/her happy.
Learning is the Key
You need to invest some time to learn. To learn from others, your peers, leaders, fellow HRs, blogs, and what not! Make sure you are part of the communities of your liking. I have learnt a lot from the fellow HRs through NIPM, WhatsApp groups, meetups at Infopark, conferences, etc. Whenever you’re part of such a gathering, make sure you find (rather than it giving you; thanks to Anish for the usage) some takeaway as learning. You may also follow some really good HR blogs like PeopleMatters, RBL, etc.
Learn from marketers
It’s high time HR team learnt from the Marketing teams on various fronts. Starting from employer branding, HR should look at how the marketing team hustles in getting the product into the market and reach the right targets. In my opinion, Marketing teams are the ones who first use all the theories and tools of human interactions, technology, and result-oriented-action-plans in any organisation. They are leaders in many respect – for example, take the case of Conjoint analysis which helps the product organisations decide how their product should be. HRs can very well adopt this (and many organisations have already done so) technique to define the happiness factors of their members—the benefits, the facilities, the factors by which they will leave the organisation, etc. One must look at how the marketing team performs in their organisation and imbibe what can be imbibed into their HR team—be it theories of human interaction or defining success of one’s function.
Not every grey hair deserves your ears
Keep the thought that every grey-haired man is a mentor out of your minds; it’s the grey matter that matters. You might need a mentor who can lead you through your HR career—since you’re just taking your baby steps—but that doesn’t mean that you should lend ears and years to those who pretend to be mentors. Try a few, leave them it doesn’t work. But trust me, having a good mentor is always worth the effort—but the call is yours.
Do not forget to live
When you strive to have a great work-life balance for your members, do not forget to have a life for yourself. Chill, keep calm and just be yourself. Have an introspection of whether you hate Mondays, or super happy on Fridays—if the answer is a yes, you should consider switching the job. At the end of your life, what matters is whether you have been happy throughout and that happiness is defined by you and you alone.
This write-up is inspired from what my friend Ranjith posted on his Facebook timeline a few months ago. I thought I should sum up and add my own two cents to it. Things a fresher should ponder while writing his résumé/CV (from the point of view of an HR, who will be viewing it amongst tens of other résumés a day):
Avoid short forms (SMS language). Sad to see fresh graduates stick to that.
No spelling mistakes and obvious structural mistakes which in turn give the opposite meaning. In the era of services like grammarly.com, this should be simpler.
Please send CVs or résumés in PDF formats unless otherwise specified.
Under the heading strengths, graduates tend to give a list of random adjectives, which is an immediate turn-off. Such words without substantiating evidence is substandard.
It is always suggested that one give an overview about him/her, at the start of the document. This will give a quick intro to the reader (who might be flipping through tens of resumes a day) without going into details.
No multi-color résumés unless it is required for the post you are applying for. Maximum of two colors.
If the employer has asked for a covering letter, do add. That’s something people would like to read, rather than going through a résumé. A bad résumé along with a good covering letter might at least keep you on wait-list.
Appropriate fonts and sizes. No bolds and underlines in paragraph text unless really required (only those you want to ‘really’ emphasize)
No photographs on the résumés (update: May 2021: photographs on resumes have become a fashion in India recently, which means it is no longer a ‘must not do’ item)
We are not interested in knowing your parents’/spouse’s name and jobs.
Use proper email IDs. No cooldude and rockingjohnnies.
Keep a subject, if you are sending it as an email. Keep it meaningful