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"The company doesn't need everyone to want to work for it." Interview with Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert at HeadHunter
"The company doesn't need everyone to want to work for it." Interview with Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert at HeadHunter

What to ask in an interview, how to recognize fraud in a job, and what to do so that companies need you.

"The company doesn't need everyone to want to work for it." Interview with Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert at HeadHunter
"The company doesn't need everyone to want to work for it." Interview with Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert at HeadHunter

Nina Osovitskaya has been working for HeadHunter for 18 years. During this time, she changed three positions, organized the HR Brand Award, became an expert on positioning in the labor market, and wrote three books about it. We talked with Nina and found out why the organization cannot be good for everyone, what applicants value the most and in what areas there is a critical shortage of employees.

Companies that voice shortcomings win

What were you doing before joining HeadHunter?

- This question is difficult to answer, because my entire conscious career took place at HeadHunter: I joined the company when it was less than a year old. It was a recently created startup with a still incomprehensible fate, in which I took a starting position. Before that, I experimented on a professional path, so I held various positions - from backing vocalist in a reggae band to head of a scientific laboratory. Then I went on maternity leave, and when I gave birth to my first child, I began to look for a more serious job than before. That's how I got into HeadHunter.

How did the company develop - and you together with it?

- It was a very interesting period of the formation of Runet as a professional environment. When I joined the company, job posting and access to the database were free. The main problem was that specialists had just started using the Internet, so for many it was not a very understandable tool. I helped people who want to post vacancies - they were literally dictated by phone or sent by fax. Then I made a beautiful description, added a company logo, structured the text and put it on the site. Thus, a small miracle happened: a beautifully designed vacancy appeared on the Web with a description of the employing organization.

A year later, we announced that our services were being monetized, and I moved to the next position - in sales. It was also a very interesting experience, because at that time absolutely everything on the Internet was free. The sites for finding employees and posting resumes looked like open boards on which anyone could post their ad, so many were skeptical about our proposal.

People did not understand how they could pay for something on the Internet.

I worked in sales for a long time, and then moved on to marketing and started promoting the company. After that, she went on maternity leave, gave birth to her second daughter and was not ready to return to the office full time. We discussed various options with the director, and a great idea for a new project came up from the company - “HR Brand Award”, which rewards the best cases in this area. It was a good opportunity for me to continue to work remotely in an office-free mode.

At first, there were not many participants, but it was this project that helped me dive into the area of interaction with brands of various companies. Over time, we also launched the "Rating of Russian Employers", which, unlike the award, assesses not HR projects, but companies as a whole: how attractive they are to candidates and why employees value their work.

For more than a year now, I have been heading the HeadHunter Brand Center - this is a separate area within the company that helps employers create and promote their HR brands and become even more attractive in the eyes of their target audience.

It seems that working on HR branding is like working on a shell, behind which anything can be hidden

- I bet. If we are working exclusively on the shell, this only works at the first stage of the funnel, when we need to attract people for an interview. If we have included in our proposal something that does not exist in reality, a person will immediately feel it - for sure during the probationary period. By the way, it is passed not only by the employee, but also by the company itself, so if the candidate is disappointed, he can leave.

I will cite as an example one regional organization that had problems in the labor market. She carried out very bright recruiting ads and made loud promises, so she attracted a large flow of people, but could not keep it. The internet has been filled with negative reviews that the company is a "juicer" that does not consider that there must be some line between work and personal life. At one point, people stopped coming even for interviews.

Then the company began to work on positioning and emphasized that the working conditions are really difficult, but this is an excellent school of life for real heroes who strive for more and are ready to devote time to their careers. So we managed to focus on the right target audience, which is not embarrassed by overtime and the lack of weekends, and at the same time keep the promise: people really grew up inside the company very quickly. Six months later, the negative has become much less.

Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert HeadHunter
Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert HeadHunter

What signals indicate that the company should be viewed with caution?

- You need to formulate your requirements for the employer and understand what is important to you: the location of the office, the personality of the manager or the environment in the workplace. Based on this, you need to evaluate the options.

Most of the time, the person has the opportunity to talk to their line manager, but many candidates spend this time trying to make a good impression. They underestimate the chance to ask clarifying questions and learn a little more about the company.

Ask how the potential reward depends on performance: if you perform more efficiently, is it possible to increase your income? People are not always ready to discuss this issue freely, but it is in this formulation that most employers will perceive it positively. We are not talking about specific numbers, but about the transparency of the compensation system. If you are interested in such things, then immediately show yourself as a result-oriented person.

An important point is the opportunity for training, development and growth in the company. Many employers are annoyed when candidates say they have big career ambitions, but you need to reformulate again. Ask how transparent, comprehensible and structured the system of career growth is in the company? Most likely, you will receive a clear answer and will be able to make a choice based on this factor.

What should executives pay attention to when presenting a company so as not to cross the line between reality and embellishment?

- When working on brands of companies, we definitely think over the value proposition - these are not only positive reasons why a person should come to the company, but also negative factors. One of them is the development zone. If we understand that now the career growth system is not transparent enough, but the situation will change during the year, then we can talk directly to the candidates about this.

Another block is the location of the office, which, most likely, will remain the same for a long time. Some companies are moving to become more attractive to employees and candidates, but often the premises are owned, so it is difficult to change the location.

Another important point is the peculiarity of production, which, with all the attention to technological innovations, remains environmentally friendly. It is also worth mentioning processing, if the nature of the activity suggests them.

These are all things that need to be said openly even during the posting of the vacancy, and not during the interview. In this regard, I really liked the slogan of Troika Dialog: "It won't be easy, it will be interesting." The organization immediately says that it will be difficult, and this is a very strong move. Companies that are willing to openly voice their weaknesses win in the labor market.

Organizations from different spheres are fighting for talents

What techniques can companies apply right now to pump their HR brand?

- Build your value proposition based on research data. Many organizations take their own hypotheses as a basis and solve the issue within a narrow group of people, but the opinion of all employees must be taken into account.

The first step is to contact the top managers of the company and find out everything about their strategic priorities and plans for working with people. It is important to understand not only what kind of employees we need right now, but also how the requirements will change. Perhaps, new target audiences will appear, which we will attract, and some people, on the contrary, will cease to interest us in large numbers.

Next, you need to do a survey of the perceptions of current employees. For this, quantitative and qualitative methods are used: focus groups, interviews, polls. Ask people what they see as the benefits of the company as a place of work, and what is lacking. What factors might lead to thoughts about quitting?

The next step is to study what candidates are looking at when choosing an employer: what is important to them, how recognizable is your company, and most importantly - is it so attractive? Be sure to compare these characteristics with competitors, but not only from your field - organizations from different fields are competing for talent.

Another block of research is competitive analysis. You need to immediately study how your competitors are positioning themselves: what they include in their value proposition, with what words and visual techniques they describe it. Try to be special so that you are not confused with other players in the market.

When the data is collected and processed, an employer value proposition (EVP) is generated. At this stage, senior managers and executives should be involved in the process, who will confirm that they are ready to fulfill their promise to candidates and employees. This is the only way to avoid a dangerous story about disappointed expectations.

You have already mentioned that with a team of colleagues you have developed a methodology for the Rating of Russian Employers. Which companies are consistently at the top?

- There are no big surprises here - these are large players who work in the energy sector or in the extraction and production of raw materials. The five leaders consistently include such companies as Rosatom, Sibur, Gazpromneft, Norilsk Nickel. Increasingly, we see IT organizations, banks, retail chains in our rating.

The top lines are occupied by employers who have been working on their HR brand for a long time and systematically. They went all the way that I described: doing deep research and carefully thinking about the value proposition. Many of them belong to the state and have restrictions in communication, but nevertheless they carry out systematic activities and are constantly present in the channels that their target audience visits. In recent years, a positive trend has been noticeable: even state-owned companies are becoming more open and democratic in dealing with potential candidates. Five years ago, it was impossible to imagine.

Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert HeadHunter
Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert HeadHunter

What are the most popular vacancies now and what is the reason?

- The most competitive area is, of course, IT. Here demand is much higher than supply, so there is a fierce battle for candidates. It is not only specialized companies that are fighting, but also industrial organizations, which allocate entire subdivisions for IT and digital.

There is a keen demand now for blue-collar specialties. This is an interesting trend, because more and more companies are realizing that they need to make additional communication efforts and promote the image of blue-collar occupations in the labor market. The generations that chose these specialties under the Soviet Union are leaving, and it is more and more difficult to attract young people, so organizations open their own colleges or separate programs. It is important that the guys already at the start of choosing a professional path more actively look towards working specialties.

If there was an image of an ideal company in which everyone wants to work, what would it look like?

- No company needs everyone in the world to want to work in it - it is important to be a magnet for your audience. For some, the ideal conditions are a minimum of formalization and bureaucracy, free open relationships, quick decision-making and the right to make mistakes. Others will say that they are comfortable in a regulated environment where everything is clear and predictable. Can you say that one is better than the other? Unlikely.

You need to understand that a specialist in the same direction can be very successful in one company and achieve absolutely nothing in another.

The ideal situation is when the employer clearly understands what he is. Only then does communication take place with the right people who have the necessary professional competencies and at the same time work with pleasure in the proposed conditions.

The quality of the chairs directly influenced the layoff rates

Where can you learn HR branding?

- Basically, these are additional educational formats. There are two well-known international online courses in English in our area: Employer Branding Academy Universum and Employer Branding College. They are very similar in methodology and structure, but in the first there is the possibility of personal defense of projects in one of the European capitals.

I recommend keeping track of our events: HeadHunter often holds open educational conferences and webinars. Recently there was a big HR Digital Summit, and a separate stream was devoted to the topic of HR Marketing. In two days, people in a concentrated form received an analogue of a good online course.

How promising is the field of HR marketing?

- Against the background of proposals in IT, this is a drop in the ocean, but if we evaluate the field of HR and communications separately, it becomes clear that demand is also ahead of supply. Every day I am asked if I can recommend someone because companies are constantly looking for someone to be an employer brand manager. Our team is also expanding, so we are trying to find a good candidate right now. An HR specialist who has received additional marketing education will definitely be in great demand in the market. In the next five years, the trend will only grow.

How much can you earn in this area?

- Salaries differ depending on where you work: in a separate company or in an agency. In the latter, there are heavy loads and overwork, but there is an opportunity to receive more than 100,000 rubles a month if you are a good specialist. In individual companies, everything depends on the scale - in small Moscow organizations the salary is about 60,000 rubles at the start, and in large ones it can exceed 150,000 rubles.

What should HR pay attention to first of all: the results of the team or the feelings of each person in it?

- It seems to me that these are very related things. In some cases, the result depends on how clearly the processes are built and the regulations are spelled out. An employee is only required to correctly follow instructions, so his sense of self is unimportant - such work will be performed by robots in the future.

When it comes to intellectual activity with elements of creativity, it is the involvement and acceptance of the company's values that matter. In this case, a direct relationship is visible between how the employee relates to his work and what results we get as a result.

One of the biggest problems remains employee burnout. How to deal with this?

- Many companies are faced with burnout, because the intensity of work increases and the load, accordingly, also. Some organizations deal with this issue systematically: they use surveys and track when a critical level of stress occurs. Preventive measures, such as extra comfort to take a break during the day, are important. We have a sleep capsule in which you can rest a little, as soon as you feel that the productivity of actions tends to zero.

Additional activities that help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle are greatly appreciated. Some companies are regularly visited by doctors or coaches who run sports programs. It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate work and personal life, so employers have to get involved in this process and help employees become healthier and more aware. This reduces the risk that a person will simply drop out of the work process at some point.

Workplace of Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert HeadHunter
Workplace of Nina Osovitskaya, HR branding expert HeadHunter

Do you think the organization of the workplace of employees strongly affects the efficiency?

- It's hard to say when it doesn't matter. This is an important aspect for any employee, no matter what position he occupies. I will give a classic example with cashiers in one retail network. The quality of the chairs directly influenced the layoff rates. It turned out that it is much more profitable to buy normal seats than to constantly hire new workers due to the fact that they are simply uncomfortable at the checkout.

When it comes to highly competitive IT professionals, working conditions are critical. It's not enough to just put a cool chair and table - you need to use modern equipment, because every little thing can be decisive.

What does your workplace look like?

- The brand center is located in a small office, because there are few employees in Moscow: we have a distributed team, so that some colleagues are in the regions and work from home. The working area is very beautiful: two of the four walls are occupied by panoramic glazing, which offers a good view from the sixth floor. We also have a glass board on which we record the main project insights, plans and expectations. I regret that there is no such tool for online communication with a distributed team - it would be convenient to bring your thoughts into a single space.

There is a laptop on my desk, which I connect to a large monitor to reduce eye strain. I also use a separate keyboard and mouse, because the work is not so productive with the touchpad. A landline phone has long been gone, but a mobile is always nearby. In addition, we use Skype for Business, which is very convenient, because all the means for communication are in the laptop.

How do you organize yourself during the day?

- I always try to form a schedule in advance and make sure to allocate time for unplanned tasks. One way or another, they always arrive, and the windows left under them in the calendar allow you to better structure the work and have time to do everything on time. At the company, we use Outlook calendars, Jira and actively use document sharing. Trello also helps as a tracking tool for projects.

What do you do in your free time?

- I have already mentioned that I have two daughters. The eldest already lives separately, but we still love to travel as a four: me, my husband and children. I am very pleased not only with the vacation period itself, but also with the preparation for the trip. I love to plan the route so that, despite different interests and ages, everyone is thrilled to take part in the adventure.

We have a fairly active cultural life: we choose ballet with our youngest daughter, and opera with our older daughter. The whole family periodically watch movies and go in for sports - swimming in the pool. I also go to intensive EMS training, which lasts about 40 minutes - I just don't have enough time for others.

Life hacking from Nina Osovitskaya


The professional book that I recommend to all communications professionals, executives and managers is “Work rules!”. It was written by Laszlo Bock, a former HR director at Google. This is probably the best book about working with people published recently. Personally, I am very close to the approach that Laszlo describes, because, on the one hand, it is built on the basis of data, and on the other, it takes into account the subtle nuances of the human psyche and behavior.

It is more difficult with fiction, because everyone has their own preferences. Some time ago I was shocked by a huge novel "", written by our compatriot Valery Zalotukha. This "War and Peace" of our time is an epic, sometimes difficult, and sometimes very light work. If you are ready for serious literary feats, I recommend it!

Films and series

I am a very addicted person, so it is dangerous for me to deal with serials. If I'm seriously interested, I can take up the time allocated for sleep, so I don't risk watching films in which the plot is tied to the continuation from series to series. Of the cool options, I can only recommend the "Black Mirror": it perfectly reflects the challenges and opportunities of our time and allows you to additionally reflect on this.

In terms of films, now is a good time: a lot of great stories have come out. I advise everyone to watch The Joker. And despite the label "18+", with children and adolescents, because this is a great occasion to discuss the plot and gain new insights. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is also a good film, and for extreme lovers with a strong psyche I recommend "Solstice". This work seemed to me very interesting and gives a lot of opportunities for further conversation.

Websites and Videos

If we talk about the professional field, I recommend subscribing to the blogs of international experts, for example, Josh Bersin. The video is great to watch at TED - a very inspiring format. It is especially useful to study it if you yourself are preparing for public speaking.