Yves Grejin

Executive Leadership Recruiter, Maven

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?

As a kid, I loved playing sports. Getting out there early in the morning on a sunny day. I vividly remember driving into the woods in Germany (I was raised on the border) to go for an early morning mountain bike ride. The fresh leaves, the mountain dew. I felt like I was on top of the world. Just me, my bike, and everything that nature was going to throw at me that day. Early morning deer spotting in the German forrest just across from the Dutch Border. The feeling of making up for such a tiny element to my, much larger, surroundings. It hit home quite a bit from a young age I guess. This is probably also the reason why I now live in a Nature Reserve between the cities of Valencia and Alicante. Thank goodness for Starlink internet. Benefit is having 2 airports at 80 minutes driving, so which enables me to visit clients if need be.

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

My move to Facebook really had a bigger impact than I initially expected. Yes, it sure was a great opportunity at first glance, but I wasn’t yet aware that I would be the first person in EMEA to hire the highest level of engineers the world has to offer, and having to set up process and procedure as well. The knowledge I gained I am still using until this day. The amount of complex systems I was asked to work on, and the amount of domain knowledge was requested from my end in order to help find a solution, has created a deep understanding with me of distributed systems and software engineering as a whole.

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

Oh, that’s an interesting question!

Lately, I’ve picked up the habit of daily meditation, and it’s become a really important part of my life. I know, it sounds all zen and stuff, right? So, why did I start meditating? Well, it all began because I was feeling super stressed and overwhelmed with work and life in general. I mean, who isn’t these days, right? I read about the benefits of meditation – like reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus, and promoting general well-being – and I thought, “Why not give it a try?”

I started with just 5 minutes a day, using a meditation app to guide me because, let’s face it, I had no idea what I was doing. It was a bit awkward at first, but I quickly noticed that it helped me relax and clear my mind. As time went on, I gradually increased the duration, and now I’m up to 20 minutes a day.

It’s funny how something so simple has made such a big difference. I find that it helps me handle stress better, stay focused at work, and even sleep more soundly. Plus, it’s a nice little escape from the chaos of daily life. I guess you could say that meditation has become a part of my daily routine because it’s my way of hitting the reset button and finding some inner peace. Who would’ve thought that sitting still and doing nothing could be so beneficial, right? But hey, it works for me, and that’s what matters.

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

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Amazing book on the value of building connection. Also how I got to the name of my company. I’ll dare you read and find the link!

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Marc Anddreessen. Book with all the answers I wanted to find when building our start-up together with my childhood friends. This book gives you the answers behind the diagrams and charts you can find online. A must-read in my world.

Ship It – Silicon Valley Product Managers Reveal All by The Product School. Whoever has seen me speak on stage or read something about me, likely have heard me say how important it is to understand the domain which you are hiring for. There are many recruitment books one can read, but the real challenge sits in how well you understand the job someone needs to be fulfilling. For those familiar with the Product vs (Software) Engineering split (“what” vs “how”), for someone like me it is important to understand other important stakeholders in the world of software engineering as well. This combined with a love for products which show a tremendous Product-Market-Fit, make this a very interesting read for me.

5. What is your untrainable superpower?

My untrainable superpower is empathy. While empathy is a trait that can be developed and refined, it’s also something that comes naturally to me. I have a unique ability to understand and connect with the emotions and perspectives of others on a deep level. This enables me to provide support, offer a listening ear, and help people feel understood and valued. Empathy allows me to navigate complex social situations, build strong relationships, and make a positive impact on the people I interact with. It’s a superpower that can’t be taught that easily, given it relates to the kind of upbringing I have received. Certain things come down to nurture, and are incredibly hard to acquire through training in later life. It’s an innate quality that I’m grateful to possess.

6. What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the
world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and
wellbeing?

Stress Reduction: Mindfulness helps reduce stress by allowing individuals to better manage their reactions to challenging situations. It encourages a non-reactive awareness that can mitigate the harmful effects of stress. This kind of ties in with improving ones mental health. Practising mindfulness is associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression and therefore can help individuals gain perspective on their thoughts and emotions and make more informed choices about how to respond to them.

Work can be stressful at times – we’ve all been there, and in the line of work I’m in I definitely deal with ‘peak stress moments’ at times. But it’s how you balance these out with moments of relaxation, afterwards. Cortisol I believe is the single biggest ‘killer’ in our society. I’m living in Spain, a country with now the oldest people on the planet. They do not eat particularly healthy (however do eat a lot of fresh produce), with ample amounts of sugar, alcohol and late night dinners.
However, look up average life expectancy and main causes of death in countries like Spain, and there seems to be a clear differentiator when comparing to Central- or Western-European countries.

Work to me gives me an incredible sense of purpose, but I have learned over the years that it is important to ‘not make your life all about work’. Trust me, at a birthday party the last thing someone is waiting for is another person who can self-identify only through the topic of work.

I have learned to become a more complete human being over the last few years, and becoming a father certainly also contributed to this.

7. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

I think the topic of Privacy Concerns might be on the list. With the increasing prevalence of surveillance technology, data collection, and online privacy issues, what is acceptable in terms of data sharing and surveillance might perhaps change. Stricter regulations and societal norms could develop to protect individual privacy. We’re already seeing this in social platforms and messaging apps, where big open group communication is less and less preferred, in favour of smaller (more controllable?) ways of putting one’s message out there.

I myself feel particularly interested in this topic, given I was once tasked with hiring Facebook’s Chief (Software) Architects. Folks who ultimately had a big responsibility in what billions of users around the world would ‘see’ and be able to interact with on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Perhaps nicely tying into this would be: Social Media Behavior. What is currently acceptable in terms of online behavior, such as cyberbullying (absolutely not acceptable btw! But, I feel that there’s still way too much room for bad actors throughout the internet), or the spread of misinformation, might become less tolerable in the future. Society may demand more responsible and ethical use of social media platforms. Equally, I know how hard it is to stop these bad actors from doing so. Facebook was dealing with an incredible amount of malicious actors at any given moment, and it is – from a Software Engineering perspective – incredibly hard to eradicate these people’s behaviours.

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

This might sound like a simple one, but I’m going to go with ‘ask for help’! Many people I feel would love to ask me about some of the working experiences I have had over the years, or some of the more challenging ways of solving complex hiring puzzles. But, I equally feel that sometimes folks feel a bit nervous about asking me about it.

As I always say, I am more than happy to share my views and insights, with the aim of ‘paying it forward’. I have been lucky to have gained quite some interesting learnings and insights throughout my working life, so far. Why not share them? This is also why occasionally I do agree to speak on a recruitment conference in order to give more exposure to my specific line of work. Should it be only about work? Definitely not. But, in the context of these 20 questions, I’d like to focus on many of the people working in Recruitment (Leadership) and challenge them to a dialogue.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

This will be a bit of ‘drumming my own beat’, but I am feeling very passionate about it, so only fair that this is what I’ll mention. I’m building my own software at the moment, in order to analyse patterns in recruitment data, much more effectively than what is currently available in the market. For a long time it has been my passion to be able to give the best possible overview of a potential talent market, and automating my sourcing activities to the level that all the elements which could be automated, are indeed automated. I have been putting years of recruitment analytics experience into my own software tool, and this greatly excites me. Especially given I couldn’t find a tool out there in the market which was focused on large scale data intakes. Once candidates apply in an ATS things are all well and dandy, but in a landscape where the perfect candidates rarely ever applies, and Senior Leadership hiring often relies on nurturing a close network of relationships in combination with large scale data analytics on how these groups of leaders behave in the global market of Software Engineers, is incredibly exciting and useful to me. The tool has no name, does not have the intent to sell to the market, but is intensively utilised by myself to deliver the best possible quality to my clients.

10. What would be the perfect gift that someone could buy you right now?

Good books to read, or an insightful training to depthen my skills on stuff like data analytics or perhaps something more non-work related. I spoke at a larger recruitment conference and the organiser gave all key-note speakers a book after coming off stage. I love these types of things. Another gift I’d happily take these days is peace on earth. It seems to be almost impossible to love one another on this planet, yet it would be so delightful if we could.

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

Would I have not started out in HR in my career, I would have likely studied architecture instead. I love beautiful buildings which blend in well with their environment. Should I ever own a bar, the design would 100% come out of the stable of Richard Neutra, my all-time favourite architect. Post, beams, beautiful wood mixed with concrete and glass. I would add in natural elements on the inside, likely a wall of moss as well as water elements. I love ferns as well, so likely there’d be a ton of those in there. Kind of like an episode of some nature show on Natural Geographic, but beamed right into a bar. Add some butterflies, dogs, and I think we have arrived.

12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Barack Obama, Dalai Lama, Kobe Bryant.

I admire all three of them, and that all 3 of them would keep me sane during these final moments on earth.

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

Move slow to move fast. This was explained to me by the former VP HR at Lightspeed, Chelsea Finnemore, who was leading on all global HR activities out of Lightspeed when we sold our startup to them and became part of the larger group. Often – no matter the situation – people can move to conclusion ‘too fast’. It yields incredible results to do deeper research up front sometimes which makes things feel ‘slow’ or ‘laggy’ for starters. But later down the line, you’ve realised how much more velocity it can bring you, and how much more smoothly you can deliver your work.

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?

Apparently I am able to tell a story in quite an engaging manner. My energy seems to be present when I’m being put up on a stage or in front of a group, apparently. It is often the passion and excitement that makes people engage further with a person, and I do recognize it more when speaking with (passive) candidates during my work. Passive folks still often are quite critical / sceptical in the beginning, but if you mix deep understanding of the challenge you’re trying to hire for with profound enthusiasm, you’ll see that even the most passive of candidates (this is when you are able to ask the right questions and don’t ‘over-sell’ to them) will give you a chance to break open the conversation. It is only the smallest of cracks that I need in order to get things in motion. But it is exactly this that doesn’t come without showing your passion. Afterall, if you can’t get excited about something, how could they ever be as well?!

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

Given I’ve gained plenty of experience in the field over years, usually I tend to want to play a bigger role in the structural approach of how talent is brought in. I can help the team search more efficiently, ask the ‘hard questions’ in order to scope a role better (as needed for a proper pitch), reach greater conversation during interviews, help deal with demanding business stakeholders, and navigate time-to-hire whilst maintaining the highest possible influx of talent.
However, before one embarks on a journey of ‘sharing the wisdom’, I’d rather get to know the individuals in the team. A strong team never consists of a bunch of strong individuals. They would have to work together in order to reach their full potential as a unit. I would see myself as someone who can step in on any technical role, unblocking both business and recruiting stakeholders, quickly debugging if need be and helping with creating a solid pipeline which relies on high quality and proper conversion. Given I see myself as an Individual Contributor (IC), I will not take on the role of Manager to a team. Look at me as more of a Tech-Lead/Manager (TL/m), where TL are capitals and ‘m’ plays only a minor part. No formal leadership, but leading through example, mentoring and coaching.

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

I would not at all mind a very ‘individualistic’ approach in people around me, funny enough. In the past I have been part of teams where I’ve seen very strong IC’s deliver amazing work, given their focus, knowledge and ‘hunger’ to close out a role got them incredible results. Personally, having people in a team who strive to “outdo” others on a constant basis, actually manage to “fuel me” in a big way. I love it where a team has the hunger to want to perform. Strong team members usually know how to manage their agendas really well. Because of the nature of our work, this makes for – to outsiders – sometimes a scenario of individualism. It is understanding what you can learn from other strong team members, and looking at things out of a viewpoint of healthy competition, not envy. Find connection, observe. See what you can incorporate into your game. Don’t think you know everything all the time. Sure, I can rely on lots of experience. But does this mean I cannot learn on the job anymore? I don’t think so! If a team of A-players is ‘gunning it’, magic happens. However, it is not something I ‘need to be exposed to’ in order to perform. I can self-motivate rather well, which allows me to work well as a one-man band.

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

While it’s difficult to predict the future with certainty, one industry challenge in recruiting that may never be fully solved is the subjective nature of evaluating soft skills and cultural fit. Soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and adaptability, as well as assessing how well a candidate aligns with a company’s culture, are inherently challenging to quantify objectively. Recruiters and hiring managers can use various methods like interviews, reference checks, and personality assessments to gauge these qualities, but there’s always room for bias and subjectivity. Additionally, what constitutes a perfect cultural fit can vary greatly from one organization to another, making it difficult to create a universal standard for assessment. While advancements in AI and data analytics may help improve the objectivity of these assessments, the human and dynamic nature of soft skills and cultural fit could mean that they remain somewhat impossible to standardise.

The challenge lies in finding the right balance between objective evaluation and embracing the uniqueness and diversity of individual candidates and organisational cultures.

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

I focus on data before looking at individual people. Patterns in data can unravel many important factors when going to market in order to hire a mission-critical, pivotal talent. If one does not rely on data in the process, the potential scenario might arise where either ‘it takes too long to hire a specific person’, or the level of talent is simply not as high as it ‘could have been’. Also I’m not the worst in asking the hard questions which bring to light the biggest challenges (and drivers) for candidates to get excited about.

Deep domain knowledge about Software Engineering, Data Engineering and -Science, as well as Machine Learning, helps me qualify candidates well and equally, allow candidates to self-qualify well against my outreaches.
Putting this all together in the way you work with a Hiring Manager, updating them accordingly on progress to goal, all contributes to creating an optimal climate for hiring great talent.

Is it secrets? No. Does it work? Every time.

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

Do you think that AI will eradicate the human factor in hiring, even on very senior positions?

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

Ebony James, my former colleague at Facebook within the Leadership hiring team.

Thank you to Yves Greijn or taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Yves on LinkedIn.

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