Jan Tegze

Author, Full Stack Recruiter

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

It quite hard to pick one amazing teacher because I have had the opportunity to meet many extraordinary teachers during my life. But if I had to pick one, it would be my science teacher in elementary school. I can’t remember his name after all these years, but thanks to him, I never started smoking. During one science lesson, he brought in a ball of cotton wool, a cigarette, and a vacuum cleaner and show us what the cotton wool looked like after one cigarette. His goal was to scare us through this demonstration, and he succeeded with me. But this demonstration also sparked my curiosity in science, so I am really grateful for that.

2. If you could write a brief note to your 13-year-old self, what advice would you impart in it?

I could write a whole book of things that I wish I had known when I was growing up, but if I needed to share something brief, it would be this:

“Dear Jan,

You will f*** up so many things in life, but that’s part of growing up and being an adult. So don’t worry so much about it. Spend less time being sad about things that ended and things you can’t influence, and spend more time with the people who are close to you because they will be gone in the blink of the eye. Time stops for no one. Fully enjoy every second when you are in love, and always try to lift up those around you.

Always stand up to bullies because they are sad people, and no matter what, you should fight for what is right. And what people (those you don’t know and you so) think about you is never going to be important, so don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.

And learn more languages!”

But even if I could find a way how to get this message to my 13-year-old self, my guess is that he would not understand it. Plus, he is quite a stubborn kid who would probably throw that letter away.

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

I have always had similar political beliefs, and I have always believed that any government should work for its people, and people should live in a democracy and have freedom of speech. People who are more fortunate in life should provide support via taxes so that the less fortunate have a better chance in life. One prime example is universal health care—we are incredibly fortunate here in Europe for what we have.

I know our system is far from perfect but imagine the alternative: You do everything right in life. You get a degree and avoid things like credit card debt. Over the years, you also save some money for your pension and put some money aside. You exercise and live a healthy life. For years, you do everything you should do. But one day, you get sick with something like COVID-19 or cancer. And you need to use all your money to cover healthcare costs. This could put you into so much debt that even if you survived that illness, the medical costs will ruin you, and you will be in debt for the rest of your life. That is just crazy.

4. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

In the Czech Republic, we don’t have Santa Claus, but we have Ježíšek (Baby Jesus). This invisible Baby Jesus brings presents to kids. Because he is invisible, my grandad always used a little glass bell to announce his visit and let us know that gifts were under the tree. When we were little kids, my and I would run to the living room to see the gifts right after we heard that magical jingle of the little glass bell.

After my grandad passed away, I got that glass bell. From that moment, it became my most prized possession because it always reminds me of him and brings back happy childhood memories every time I hear it ring.

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

It depends on the location and the country, but if I were going to have a bar in the city, my preference would be a combination of the NoMad Bar in NY and Atlas Bar in Singapore. It would be a bar with personality and the right ambiance for a business meeting, a party with friends, or quality time with your significant other. If the bar were on the beach, I would love to have something like the Whale Bar located at St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort or Baba Nest in Phuket, Thailand. But I am afraid that I would spend more time enjoying the view than serving the customers, so I am glad that I don’t own that type of bar, and I don’t have to deal with bankrupting my imaginary bar.

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

I have always rooted for Loki, the ruler of the Frost Giants in Jotunheim. Even though he is a cunning trickster, there is something good in him. He is a reminder that even evil people can do good things too, so there is hope that they will change.

But after the events of 2020 so far, I think I have to choose Thanos because of what I have seen and the way many people have acted during the pandemic.

People are believing less in science and more in stupid things like “facemasks could kill you,” “5G is dangerous,” “the earth is flat,” etc. I realize how much those people have changed my view of what a civilized society should look like in the 21st century. Even though we think we are civilized, we are still living in an age when modern slavery is still a thing. We are attacking others just because of their beliefs, skin color, or views. We are ready to abandon our beliefs and close our eyes because we could lose money if we raise our voices and point out on the countries committing genocides or any other injustice. When we stand up for each other we all benefit, when one of us succeeds we all succeed! 2020 helped me understand Thanos’s intentions.

It would be so tempting to snap my fingers and stop all these bad things from happening.

7. If you could invite any three people—living or dead—to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

If I knew that end of the world was near, I would invite Katherine Johnson, Alan Turing, and Stephen Hawking every single time.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was a brilliant mathematician who worked for NASA. She studied how to use geometry for space travel, and she figured out the paths for the spacecraft to orbit Earth and land on the moon—all that without a modern computer and all the other things we have now! Katherine was an important member of the NASA space program for 30 years and an inspiring person.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing was also a brilliant mathematician. His ideas led to early versions of modern computing and helped win World War II. What a remarkable and brilliant person he was. Not only he was the brain behind the code-breaking machine that helped break the Enigma Code, but he was also a founding father of artificial intelligence and modern cognitive science. He is definitely a person who I would love to meet.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. Even though he fought amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he was able to bring us lots of groundbreaking thoughts. He was not only a great scientist but also an extraordinary man. He viewed spaceflight and the colonization of space as necessary for the future of humanity, and I would love to discuss that with him because I agree with him.

Those three people lived different lives, but all of them were remarkable people. They all made an immense impact on humankind through their work. I have so many questions that I would like to ask them if I had the chance.

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

A colleague of mine who has had a big impact on my life once told me, “Be patient. Good things take time, and most people give up at the first sign of adversity. Don’t be most people.” I am trying to be patient in life, even though it sometimes takes a lot of effort. But my colleague was right—good things take time.

9. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

I would say that my best purchase was a new bike and new headphones. I hadn’t ridden a bike for years, but it’s fun and a great way to get out of the house and clear my head. And second thing was noise canceling headphones. They are just an amazing thing, and I couldn’t imagine traveling without them or not using them if I wanted to focus deeply on work with help of binaural beats.

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

New things and new tools won’t always bring you better results. Our brains are wired to search for new things, so we are always excited by a new plugin and tool. Together with FOMO, that wiring is leading us to spend an incredible amount of time testing all those tools instead of mastering the tools we already have. That’s why only a few people I know really know how to use automation tools fully without wasting hours on them. Sometimes, it is good to master one tool rather than have basic knowledge of the many tools available on the market that all do the same thing.

11. Who will be the winners and losers in our industry in the post-COVID-19 world?

I know this will probably sound weird to many people (especially when everyone is on the “everything will be remote” wave now), but the post-COVID-19 losers are going to be chatbots and tools promising video pre-employment assessment with AI.

Current chatbots will lose because the future belongs to voice chatbots. Doing an interview through a text-based chatbot is just a different way of asking people to fill out a form. It’s not progress or an improvement of the candidate experience. It is just a way to kill the candidate experience. I did a test of 15+ chatbot interviews, and in every single chat, I asked for the company to contact me. I got zero responses. To me, it seemed like nobody was reading those answers, or recruiters were checking only those applications that were completed. Nobody was checking the incomplete applications, and that’s quite scary. Candidate selection is automated, and if that AI can’t read a typo correctly or doesn’t understand your answer correctly, your application will be rejected, and you will be removed as a candidate from the hiring process. That’s quite sad. On the other hand, maybe text-based chatbots really are amazing solutions, but companies can’t implement them properly, so it’s not that interactive experience. You are still just filling out a form.

Then there are all those video AI platforms and video personality evaluation tools, which I consider a trojan horses for companies. In 2018, Best Buy and CVS Caremark Corporation reached an agreement with EEOC to stop using personality tests as their automated hiring processes. Those tests were designed to predict how workers would perform, but EEOC and Best Buy’s tests between 2003 and 2010 showed that they discriminated against applicants based on race and national origin.

All those AI platforms and video personality evaluations don’t share their algorithms, so they’re currently just black boxes, and customers don’t know how exactly those tools work. Everything is hidden behind the buzzwords: “AI,” “machine learning,” etc. Using these tools will not magically end employment discrimination. In fact, they could make it worse. That’s why I wouldn’t invest a dime in those companies and tools. I think that within five years, those tools will be banned or heavily regulated, and the companies using those tools will face lawsuits. We cannot rely on automated AI hiring platforms without adequate safeguards to prevent unlawful employment discrimination.

Imagine people suing companies that use those AI video personality evaluation tools. EEOC holds companies accountable for the hiring decisions and tools they use in their processes, so companies using those tools need to realize that they are liable for biases caused by the tools. It will be interesting to see how those companies will defend themselves if they don’t have any idea how the tools’ algorithms work and select candidates.

The winners will be tools focusing on productivity, learning, and team collaboration. The world will not be fully remote, as everyone is saying now. Instead, the world will be flexible. Companies will build more flexible offices—let’s call them hubs—where employees can go for a meeting with the team. People will still be using offices, but they will have more flexibility about when they want to work from home or anywhere else. Companies will also invest more in online learning and LMS tools because they will realize how important skilled employees are in a situation like the COVID quarantines.

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

There are so many beautiful books out there, and recommending only three sounds unfair to the other books! But if I need to choose three that I read over and over, it would be these:

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.

I read this book when I was a kid, and I have reread it many times since. Sophie’s World is an outline of Western philosophy that is beautifully set within a fictional story. It goes from pre-Socratic philosophy all the way to Sartre. If you want to have a decent grasp of Western philosophy, then you should read this book. If Gaarder had also covered Eastern philosophers, that book would have been amazing.

Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.

These books need no introduction. The books are way better than movies, and if you have never seen the movies, read the trilogy first! Getting lost in this Tolkien’s world as a reader is an amazing experience.

Emotions Revealed by Paul Ekman.

Ekman is an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. His books convey his curiosity and passion for understanding human emotions. Even though it is a complicated field of study, Ekman does a great job explaining his research in layman’s terms. This book will help you to understand micro-expressions (tiny facial expressions that only last for a fraction of a second), your own emotions, and the emotions of others.

13. If you wrote a “user manual” for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

If I wrote that user manual, it would be one simple paragraph because interaction with me is quite easy. Be brief, get to the point, and don’t lie or try to sell me something during our first interaction. I always prefer honesty, creativity, curiosity, kindness, and a good sense of humor (and sarcasm) and always try to avoid communication with people who prefer lies, trickery, threats, manipulation, and putting others down, and breaking promises. These people are not my type of people.

14. Imagine: if we were to go to people who don’t think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

Maybe they would tell you that I am a terrible person, but it’s all lies. I am even worse! But honestly, I don’t know what they would say about me, and I really don’t care. If I am living rent-free inside of someone’s head, that is their problem, not mine. As H.E. Fosdick said, “Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.”

As Confucius said, “It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.” We all have people in our lives who are not our fans, people who hate us for no reason, people who hate us because we did something to them (knowingly or unknowingly), or people who just envy something we have. I wish all my haters only the best so that they can find something in their life that will make them happy. I don’t hate them, because hate in your heart will consume you too. I focus on my life instead, and they can think whatever they want.

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

That’s a very good question. There are many skills that I don’t have in my resume. But the answer to this question would be my patience, creativity, and desire to always find a solution. I like riddles, so I sometimes I enjoy some “impossible” tasks and projects. You learn a lot through them.

16 Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

Frankly, I think that is the only way I learn things in life—the hard way. Most of the things I have learned and that have forced me to move forward, I learned the hard way. I think that is how we all learn our biggest lessons. Our parents told us not to touch a hot stove, or we would get burned, but we all did it to find out for ourselves that we would get burned. The same goes for relationships and our work. You will learn through your mistakes and the mistakes of others. And sometimes you learn your lesson the hard way.

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

Removing biases from interviews is something that I don’t believe will be ever solved. The more people you have in the interview process, the bigger chance that somebody will have a bias. Solely relying on technology to solve this issue is just a dream. Technology can help us, but you still need to train the team to remove and reduce hiring biases from your interview process.
Building awareness around hiring biases is the first step, and it needs to be followed by other steps, such as checking the language used in job descriptions. The language you are using in your job descriptions has an impact on your candidates.
This topic is very broad, so while I am glad to see that companies are trying to solve it, the human element will always be the weak link here.

18. What changes to our industry would you like to see post-COVID-19? What changes do you think we will see?

I can’t predict the future, so I don’t know what we will see. I would love to see more funding for schools and educations because this is what drives innovation—our professors ignite our curiosities—and could also be a driver to remove racism and biases from hiring processes and society. It would have a bigger impact on our industry than any AI tool ever could. What we will see is that even though companies are hiring people remotely, they will still be hiring people near their offices or people from that state due taxes and other reasons. And they will be trying to build some work hubs, instead of offices. And we recruiters will need to find a new ways how to motive our candidates to join our companies because they will have more options to chose due to remote job offers.

19. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?

Taking a job in recruitment. I took the opportunity without properly know anything about it. My only thought at that time was, “I will be talking with the people about their work and helping them find a new job.” What a surprise it was to see how complex our industry is and how little I knew at the time. But in the end, I am glad that I took that leap of faith and said yes to the offer to be a recruiter.

20. What’s the one question that we should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

What makes you happy?

This question is simple and yet powerful. When you ask others this question, many of them pause for a moment and start thinking about the answer. Some people will need more time than others to think about that answer, but the answer could reveal way more about that person than anything else. Most of us are constantly in a rush because some so-called gurus told them that they should be hustling 24/7. When they finish their work for the day, they should hustle on their side project, and so on. But that’s why so many people are fighting depression and anxiety.

“What makes you happy?” is a simple and very effective question that will help you to learn about the other person.

Thank you to Jan Tegze for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune.  Full Stack Recruiter is a must read for any recruiter

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