Ed Han

Senior Recruiter, Cenlar FSB

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

I was fortunate to have a privileged childhood:eldest son in Asian family, my parents were your classic American immigrant success story, my father being a doctor. I say this because quite honestly, I was fortunate to have many happy memories from which to choose. But literally the very first thing I thought of was of being a kid in the kitchen, helping him make milkshakes.

My father, as mentioned, was a doctor, a surgeon (he’s since retired), so he wasn’t around much: when someone needs a doctor, it’s hardly a trivial thing, you know? So looking back on it, I realize now that I was always starved for time with him. He usually was home to have dinner with us, and if we were efficient in the mornings we might see him finishing his breakfast before heading off to his office (private practice) or the hospital. And like most Asian men of his generation, he didn’t “do” household chores.

So the memory: Dad making milkshakes for the family. The first time was this mind-blowing moment that hey, he knows what a blender is and how to use it?! But more importantly, while I knew he was providing through his work, this was a really tangible way to experience it. And especially that first time, it was particularly special. His process always involved strawberry ice cream, his favorite, milk, and he added a raw egg, a preference I retain to this day.

I think a lot of sons grow up profoundly shaped by our fathers and our relationship with him. In his case, his absence also shaped me.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

Back in 2007, my position was eliminated, a position that honestly I had ceased wanting anyway. At that time, although I knew some basics about job search (having had service through outplacement) but not much more, a friend of mine told me about this platform called LinkedIn. At the time I was firmly and 100% avoidant of all forms of social media, but I came to understand that my fear was a luxury I could no longer afford.

It’s funny, in retrospect. LinkedIn was so different then: so few dimfluencers, so many fewer features, so many fewer members!

But my presence on LinkedIn was massively consequential because through it, I began to learn the platform, and really began on my path to mastery.

As I did, I started sharing my learnings and began exploring and engaging experts I found on the platform, their blogs, and their Twitter. I began networking with career coaches first by commenting on their blogs and via Twitter. As I did, I also learned names like Glen Cathey, Steve Levy, Bill Boorman–names familiar to every reader, or at least names that should be. And I thought: “Hey: recruiters! These folks know all about hiring, I better start listening to them!”

I found another job for a time, but then the Great Recession happened. The next 2.5 years were spent without having a proper job: I was a full-time student in a study program I was designing that in retrospect might have been titled, “So you think you might want to be a recruiter?” The last paid employment I had prior to my first recruiting job was as a customer service rep, which completely shaped how I now conduct professional phone conversations. I know the warning signs and how to guide the conversations. I think most recruiters–no, most people–would benefit from such experience.

That stint aside: through this activity, I became a speaker to job search groups in my area, and indeed ultimately took on a leadership role with one. Thanks to these presentations, I was invited to begin delivering webinars to job seekers as well. After a while, I started to think that recruiting might be the right path for me, and that was realized when one of my webinar hosts asked me if I’d be interested in a contracting role recruiting electricians. The rest is history.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

In the past year I’ve had some fairly life changing news that’s really pushed me to give a lot more than lip service to work/life balance. Learning you have stage 4 cancer precipitates a fairly wide scale reevaluation of how you invest your time for just about everyone, I would imagine.

Don’t get me wrong: I love this profession. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that in my life I’ve really only ever had two love affairs: my wife, and this profession. But I also need to be cognizant that my work is not my life, and although it still can be my mission, I need to be more honest with myself about when I am actually adding value and when I am fooling myself about it.

4. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?

I suspect that this is a uniquely American, and indeed perhaps a uniquely New Jersey answer, but Bruce Springsteen. Let’s start with the fact that my familiarity with popular music begins with him and specifically his seminal album Born To Run. I love singer songwriters, and he’s been a wordsmith. But perhaps more importantly, if you’ve ever seen concert footage of him (which still isn’t the same thing as seeing him live), you’ll see a supremely talented bandleader who is there to deliver a night that you won’t soon forget over the next three hours.

This is his life’s purpose: performing. And I love seeing people have the opportunity to fulfill their purpose at an exemplary level. That he’s been doing it for as long as he has (and I’ve been alive!) says something about his enduring appeal to many others.

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

Wheaton’s Law. Seriously: that’s it. I am by nature a diplomatic communicator. I do this because I want to know about others, and I want to ensure that I get the kind of response I am after. My mode of interaction defaults to treating others with dignity and respect. All others.

When that isn’t being met, I begin to implement my conversational exit strategy.

Brevity in a conversation with me either means that something pressing arose, or you’ve failed Wheaton’s Law.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

Grasping the emotional truth behind what someone is saying. I have a pretty high EQ (emotional quotient) and it’s served me well throughout my life. I don’t think this is trainable on a fundamental level. Sure active listening as a skill can, but the rest, I’m not convinced.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

In American politics, I am a progressive, a stance that moderated from my early years, although I used to be a bit extreme about it. That moderation isn’t the result of a single precipitating event so much as a natural evolution over the course of talking with more people who have different priorities than I have.

8. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

My health. I post semi-weekly about it on LinkedIn, which is both in order to normalize such posting on the platform and to update those in my network. but also to make people comfortable with broaching the topic in conversations with me. It seems a staggering number of people have been touched by cancer, either themselves having fought it, or having loved ones who have.

9. What’s your favourite meal? Can you say why?

Everyday breakfast: a fresh hot bagel with cream cheese, thinly-sliced cucumber, and lox. It is one of the things I most crave from my childhood.

Everyday dinner: there’s a Korean class of dishes known as jjigae, which occupy a culinary space between a soup and a stew. There’s one featuring tripe that I absolutely adore.

Special occasion dinner: my wife and I had a lovely meal at St. John in London,, Fergus Henderson’s place. That was quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever eaten in my life! Offal was treated in a way that elevates it to art!

10. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

For a number of decades, I’ve been a fan of tabletop roleplaying games (e.g., Dungeons & Dragons) and have been a student of the rules of such games for most of that time. I’ve wanted to create my own for years and have begun a draft. I’m not sure how long it will take to complete a new draft, but it’s a bit of a passion project for me. My time constraints and energy are the chief limiters, though. Besides, who knows if it will ever lead anywhere…

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

For decades, my wife and I talked about such an establishment, although in our conception it also serves food. Design: modern, sleek, yet warm. Menu: brewpub-style upmarket versions of familiar comfort food dishes. Liquor: a well-curated craft beer selection, wines to accompany the menu, and otherwise a full service bar. Bartenders will be forbidden from the use of mustache wax!

12. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?

Probably Zemo, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He’s working through his grief at the loss of his family and lashing out at its authors, as he understands them to be. How might any of us respond to such a devastating loss? Besides, the role is performed well, especially in the Falcon & Winter Soldier show on Disney+.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

I had a manager many years ago, and was having trouble with a project I was working on: getting data feeds from stock exchanges and similar sources. These kinds of discussions do not move swiftly, as one might imagine. However, the PM established a weekly cadence call during which I usually could not point to any tangible results. My manager wisely advised me to begin reporting effort, not results.

That’s been my go to now when reporting for anything.

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

I don’t think any of them would articulate it in quite this way, but a skill that I possess is recognizing where a skill or capability isn’t present on the team, I tend to take that on. Where I have been successful, that’s what I’ve done. We all talk about the importance of team success vs individual success, but I demonstrate my commitment to team success thus. And that’s absolutely a trainable skill:do a gap analysis, become knowledgeable, then train the trainer.

15. What is the optimal number of people in a team, with you in it? What roles are those people playing?

Because of the foregoing, I don’t care! I adapt my value add to accommodate the need.

16. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

Is it cheating to say none? I don’t think there’s a single heuristic that tells the whole story: we need a few in my opinion to get there. I’m quite taken with Steve Levy’s notion of recruiter efficiency, but for as smart as I think it is, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet answer.

If you put a gun to my head, I guess I’d choose hiring manager satisfaction, despite how intrinsically squishy this is and rife for various kinds of bias. Because at the end of the day, that’s the stakeholder whose happiness most drives the feedback my manager will get about me.

17. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

I recruit in the US in financial services. The résumé/CV is here to stay in regulated industries for compliance reasons. Until compliance standards evolve to embrace skills-based hiring, it will remain the domain of non-regulated industries. I’m excited by what skills-based hiring can mean, but am forced to conclude I’ll never do it firsthand in my career, at least for as long as I remain within this industry.

18. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

Insofar as I have experienced success: just listening to what people say–and don’t. Generally, people tell you who they are all the time through the decisions they make about what words come out of their mouths and don’t, and how they’re delivered. And probing questions are great for uncovering the BS.

I like to think that this is much more broadly applicable as well, but that’s beyond the scope of the question. 🙂

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

“Adventure, excitement…a Jedi craves not these things.” Wwll, with apologies to Master Yoda, we aren’t Jedi!

What excites you about what you get to do?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I would love to see one with the ever present, always funny Tom Bolt, whose observations in RBFL are usually funny as well as insightful.

Thanks Hung!

Thank you to Ed Han for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Ed on LinkedIn




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