Francois Gauthier

Talent Acquisition Manager, Ubisoft

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?

Weirdly, it involves the smell of gasoline.

As a kid I grew up in the French Alps and I went skiing every winter weekend with the ski club. After every session we had a strawberry or chocolate donut, and a carton of apple juice with a straw. The bunch of random kids, my sister and I were snacking on the side of the bus, on a parking lot, while looking at the city down below. We were exhausted from the ski session, and happy to have a snack before sleeping in the bus that will bring us back home.

Every time I smell a mix of gasoline and snow, I think about these snacks on the parking lot, and it makes me happy.

2. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

I’ve learned the importance of telling a story when I was 14.

My favorite teacher was Mr Hudry, he was my history and geography teacher. I wasn’t passionate about history and geography, but he was. He was vibing when we gave us lectures. He transmitted his thirst for knowledge, and every lesson was a show to me. He had a talent for narration. He knew how to make basic history facts exciting. With Mr Hudry, I’ve learned that every topic can be interesting to listen to if the speaker is passionate enough about the topic he is speaking about. Narration is everything. It’s all about the story you’re telling the audience.

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

I decided to drastically limit my exposure to screens.

My phone is tracking the time I spend on each app, and I realized I can spend up to 2 hours per day on social media, doing nothing but scrolling! I’ve uninstalled all social media apps from my iPad. I’ve uninstalled Facebook from my phone, and I added a timer to Instagram and Twitter to limit my consumption of social medias to 20 minutes per day.

During workdays, I stay away from screens when I take breaks: I drink water, eat a fruit, clean the dishes, listen to the news on the radio… I’ve added a Chrome Extension named Go Fucking Work to my internet browser to help me get more productive. It also helps me take breaks away from screens.

It had a big impact on my daily life: at work I am more productive, and in my personal life I’m less tired. Scarcity makes every little moment on social media more enjoyable. Opening social media apps is now a pleasure and not a bad reflex when I’m bored.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Surprisingly, there are two comic books amongst the 3 books I would recommend to anyone.

Calvin & Hobbes from Bill Waterson.

These comic strips were published in newspapers during the 80’s and the 90’s, and it is an inexhaustible source of wisdom, even today. You see the world through the eyes of a 6 years old kid and his stuffed tiger, and everything becomes simple and absurd and poetic and chaotic at the same time. Every panel is smart and beautiful. It feels good to be a kid again. Bill Watterson published long-format, colorized panels every Sundays, these are my favorites.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters, from Emil Ferris.

It is a graphic novel about a young girl solving a crime in Chicago during the 60s. The art is sublime. The story is captivating. I’ve always wanted to live in Chicago (I’ve seen the Blues Brothers movie at least 20 times when I was a kid, that may have had an impact) – with Emil Ferris’ book, I could almost feel the ambiance of the city, that’s awesome work and I can’t wait for her 2nd book!

If you really don’t like comics and graphics novel, then you’ve got to read The Prophet from Gibran Khalil Gibran. It is a short and poetic book that speaks directly to your heart. Don’t miss it.

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

I am a conflict averse person. If you try to start an aggressive argument with me, I will just stand up and leave the room. Then I will overthink our conversation for 7 years straight, trying to find what I did wrong, blaming myself for turning you angry, even if you were just a random jerk.

6. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?

I am not an extrovert. Because I’m a Recruiter and I am always enthusiastic, people think I’m an extrovert. I am very shy and introverted. Large meetings are making me nervous, I hate crowded places, I’ve been living alone for 10 years, sometimes I leave parties to go back home and do nothing, I think holidays are stressful, I can spend weekends alone speaking to no one and it does not bother me, I love eating alone at restaurants… despite the appearances, I’m a false extrovert.

7. On what topic would you never make a joke?

“You can laugh about everything but not with everyone” is a famous Pierre Desproges’ sentence that really sums it up. I will make a joke on any topic if I know my joke is not overly offensive to the person I am speaking. Know your audience, always.

8. 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?

My political beliefs changed overtime – they soften.

As a kid I repeated what I’ve heard the night before at the dinner table. Then, as a teenager I got politicized by my friends, went to protests, went to political meetings, it was some kind of rite of passage to adulthood. Then I started working, I had new people around me, I realized things are more complex and it is OK to think differently.

When I take a step back I realize I am not the same person I was 5 years ago when I was a student, not the same person I was 10 years ago when I was a teenager, not the same person I was 20 years ago when I was a kid. I’ve realized I’ve changed, my views changed, what I believed was the truth was only a matter of perspective.

I started doubting my political views around 20, because who knows what I will be thinking in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years? I decided I didn’t want to be stuck with the same views my all life. Today, I still expect my views to change in the future – otherwise it means I’m stuck in the same environment for too long.

9. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Can you explain?

A bunch of branches in wooden boxes.

On Sunday I was in Burgundy. After breakfast I went to the very end of the garden, near the forest and the old trees, to gather branches. This wood will be useful to start fires in the chimney during winter. I was glad to gather so many branches, I took a picture.

10. Cheese or Chocolate?

Chocolate, 100%. The amount of chocolate I eat every week is insane. I literally can’t finish a meal without chocolate, I take chocolate bars in my suitcase when I travel, I have chocolate bars hidden in my desk at work, I’ve already thought about my last meal in case I’m sentenced to death and it involves chocolate.

11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

I would be a “wisdom gatherer”. I would love to be the person that gather all remaining knowledge for the following generations. I would try to write a basic encyclopedia about basic things: gardening, mechanics, architecture, astronomy, music, cooking etc.

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

Darth Vader.

He travels the universe and destroys planets to solve his daddy issues. He could have been a great mentor to the next generation of Jedis, but he fell into madness and anger because he wanted to protect his loved ones, he screws up, and he kills everyone. You can’t be mad at Darth Vader: he only needed a little bit of mental support and acknowledgment to avoid falling into madness. Darth Vader is the kind of super villain that I sympathize with because I’ve seen him grow since the Tatooine race, he was a good kid, I loved his background history, and I just can’t forget who he was before he turned into a monster. I always look at Anakin with mercy and compassion.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

The father of one of my best friends is running several factories across Europe (France, Portugal, UK…). One day he said to his son that there are 2 main skills to master to move forward with your career in the French corporate world. You’ve got to speak English, and you’ve got to know how to work with a computer.

This advice can seem basic, but most of French people can’t speak English properly, thus they can’t move forward with their careers to leadership roles, or to global roles. Computer literacy is a must, so that you don’t work for the computer, but you make the computer work for you.

Working as a Recruiter / Manager of Recruiters in international companies, I now understand what my friend’s father meant. I’ve seen efficient Recruiters and I’ve seen inefficient Recruiters; tech-savvy / computer literate ones have a huge competitive advantage.

14. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Some form of laziness. Lazy people want to obtain the same results with less efforts, so they tend to optimize everything, they automate and innovate to be more effective. They never over engineer things. They do the simple things first, thus they achieve more over time. They always go with “less is more” and they are easily understood.

15. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

I try to spend as much time as possible speaking with people from the team. I set up objectives and give context for people to find a purpose. I try to speak about our long-term goals as much as possible so people can picture themselves working with me on the long run. know working in a new team can sometimes create a lot of stress, I think I just want everyone to feel safe and allow everyone to move forward towards our team’s goal. And I bring snacks to team meetings, preferably candies or chocolate 😉

16. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?

Sourcers are not junior Recruiters. Good Sourcers are rare and they are expensive. Sourcing can be basic and repetitive, but it can also be very creative and very (very) technical. Sourcers need good understanding of the position, the team, the context… and a lot of resilience. On reqs with no inbound, a good Sourcer makes the difference between a good and fast hiring, and a long and bad hiring. This should be a senior role. I think everyone can learn to source because hard skills can be learned, but I don’t think everyone has the mindset it takes to be a Sourcer.

17. Who will be the winners & losers in our industry in the post-Covid19 world?

Unemployment is high, people are currently looking for jobs. Recruiters that are focused on building a pipeline of passive candidates bring less value to the business in the post-Covid era than they did before. On the other side, Recruiters that are focused on selecting CVs and assessing tons of profiles to shortlist the very bests are bringing a lot of value to the business nowadays, because we now have to deal with the massive inbound of profiles, and we have fewer jobs open.

That is counter intuitive in 2020, when sourcing techniques are now democratized, and everyone is still speaking about finding purple squirrels, 5-legs unicorns and war for talents. But I think a high unemployment rate and a low number of open roles means companies need fewer Recruiters, and that’s bad news for us all.

Winning Recruiters will be the ones being able to adapt themselves to a new paradigm, being versatile and being able to switch from an outbound to an inbound mindset (of from an inbound to an outbound mindset, depending on your industry), to continue bringing value to the business.

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

I treat myself like a house plant. Every time I worry things go sideways, I remember this cartoon from Poorly Drawn Lines: “Don’t forget: drink water, get sunlight. You’re basically a house plant with more complicated emotions.” Get out of your room, take a walk outside, exercise, read, treat yourself with a nice dinner, get a good night of sleep. You’ll get back to work tomorrow with more energy.

19. Name one person who would you like to read these answers

My elementary teacher that said I was so dumb I won’t be able to enter high school. Who’s the dumb one now?

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

Benjamin Jean! He has been recruiting Recruiters in Europe for more than 2 years, leaving his perm contract for an independent status, he is traveling a lot and he is working from a different place almost every 3 month – I’m sure he has a lot to tell about his experience and about the recruitment industry.

Thank you to Francois Gauthier for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune

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