Cristina has a master’s in human resources and more than 10 years of experience in recruitment: thousands of interviews, hundreds of people hired, tens of relationships nurtured. It might not be the easiest career but it’s clearly making her happy.
When I was five – six years old, I used to tell everyone that, when I’d grow up, I would be a teacher. That was because I loved being around children but then I realized that I said because adults liked hearing it. I went on to study pedagogy in high school with that plan in mind. My sister had a different insight though – she had seen that I enjoyed communicating with grown-ups also and helping them. Beginning with 2008, universities started to include subjects related to human resources in their curriculums and she was the one who suggested that it would suit me. I did some research and we started looking for related master’s programs. Since then, HR has become my passion.
What was the toughest lesson you’ve learned throughout the years?
It isn’t pleasant when, after putting in a lot of effort to find a candidate that would match a vacancy, he or she tells us in the last possible moment that they aren’t interested in the opportunity anymore. Or, stops answering altogether. It’s unpleasant but we always find the resources to move on, keep looking, start over if needed.
What was the best moment so far in working in HR?
I’m thrilled when people I help hire perform well, become part of their new team and enjoy going to work. I am also happy when clients appreciate the partnership and come back to us with new projects.
On a personal development level, it always brings me joy when colleagues reach out to me for advice, to mentor a new colleague or help with a project. It’s proof that my work is appreciated, and that people feel comfortable asking for my help.
What was your most difficult project?
I always find it hard to hire for my own team. But it quickly becomes rewarding once I find the right people and help built a successful team.
What book taught you the most, professionally speaking?
There were lots of useful books when I was training to enter HR. However, I think I learned the most from the people I interacted with during interviews, business meetings, professional development courses, etc. Even more, I was lucky enough to work with colleagues that shared many useful things.
What about a book that you found enlightening from a personal perspective?
The last book that captured me completely was Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I had bought it out of curiosity, but it quickly became more interesting than expected. The way she tells her story – honestly and straightforward -, the achievements and disappointments, the fears, the courage, and the way she managed to manage both professional and family responsibilities. I appreciated how she made sense of everything around her, the way she fought and the way she loves, her honesty and her efforts to help those around her.
“Life was teaching me that progress and change happen slowly. We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient and trust. […] Be an example for others!” (Michelle Obama, Becoming)
Did you have a mentor or role model that helped guide you in your professional or personal life?
Yes, my sister – I am grateful for her support and guidance in helping me find my path as a professional.
What abilities should an HR professional have?
First of all, curiosity. It’s a field where things change constantly and it will quickly become difficult to keep up if you aren’t connected to what is happening in the market, new theories or methods, etc.
Secondly, perseverance. A capacity to find new ways to deal with challenges (candidate refusal, changes requested by clients, etc.) and deliver results.
Lastly but not less important, a positive attitude. As they say, a smile can go a long way in building a strong relationship with both clients and candidates.
What would you say to young professionals who are just starting out in HR?
Many young people say that they want to work in HR because they enjoy working with people. Yes, HR is about people but that’s not enough. To become an accomplished professional in this field, one needs to be prepared and willing to never stop learning. Being able to build relationships and trust with both clients and candidates is key. I’d say that, in HR, being well prepared is a must, but attitude really does makes a difference.