Andrew Chan, award-winning CEO of ACI HR Solutions, examines his own career choices, shares top tips for recruiting senior employees and introduces his exciting new AI-driven startup, AiMYJOBS…
Were you always destined for a career in Human Resources?
Actually, it was something I pretty much stumbled into. As soon as I’d finished my travel and tourism diploma in Sydney, I started work as a mailboy for a travel agency. I then moved on to working in reservations for Cathay Pacific, followed by a stint in sales for Singapore Airlines, all without ever leaving Sydney. After that, I moved into the hotel industry, relocated to Singapore and joined a recruitment firm…
To be honest, none of that was planned. Throughout it all, though, it became apparent to me that my passions lay in travel and hospitality. Even though I currently have a recruitment / HR role, it’s still within those same industries. It’s what I’m most passionate about and I’ve never really wanted to leave.
What spurred you into starting ACI HR Solutions?
It was a mixture of luck, coincidence and a bit of ambition. I was fortunate enough to work in a recruitment company and be in a position to see how it actually operates, ultimately working my way up to becoming its Chief Executive. When the owners sold the business in 2012, I realised I was at a crossroads. I had to decide whether to find a similar role at another firm or if, armed with all my experience, I should start out on my own. In the end, it was the latter that appealed to me more, which led me to found ACI HR Solutions later that year.
In a crowded recruitment consultancy space, how do you ensure you stand out?
We’re an executive search firm-cum-recruitment company, which focusses exclusively on the travel and hospitality sector. Everyone who works at ACI comes from the industry including myself. What sets us apart is that, as a boutique business in a niche market, we’re able to focus on our customers like no one else. As we’re all industry insiders, we have a deeper understanding of how to deal with clients and candidates. We know exactly what both sides are looking for because we’ve been through the same process ourselves.
What do you think are some common misconceptions surrounding the HR industry?
That it’s boring. That it’s a back-office function. I feel there’s a lot of outdated views about HR out there. I always say that if the Chief Financial Officer is the trusty right arm of any business owner, then HR is the left. Why? Simply because employing the right people is now more critical to any organisation’s success than ever before.
What would you advise employers to pay particular attention to when considering a candidate for a senior role?
I think there are three things one should really consider quite seriously when evaluating a potential hire – their past achievements, their leadership skills and their ability to handle stress. In terms of achievements, it’s important to analyse exactly what they’ve done and how it was accomplished, while paying particular attention to whether the success was really down to them or whether it was due to external factors. For high-level employees, it’s particularly important to evaluate their people management skills and to get an understanding of their style of leadership. Here, it’s helpful to consider whether or not they managed to nurture the abilities and careers of those under their wing.
Finally, when considering how any candidate might deal with pressure, it’s important to identify their stress levers and then determine, as much as you can, how they would react in any situation where things are going badly wrong. Here, you need to get them to share previous experiences, while throwing in a few open-ended questions just to see where they go with them.
Do you have anything new on the horizon that you are particularly excited about?
Well, there’s a new project that I’m a co-founder of – AiMYJOBS. During the 15 years that I’ve spent running recruitment firms, I’ve come to realise there is a missing element, a gap between a fully-fledged recruitment agency and a job board. I was never really sure what was missing until recently when I started mentoring start-ups, something I’ve been doing for a year now. It was through that that I met two young guys who were building an artificial intelligence (AI) platform. We started talking and, ultimately, I kind of tweaked their idea a bit to see if it could be adapted into a recruitment platform. We launched the company earlier this year and we’re now beta-testing.
In essence, it’s a concept that operates in the middle ground between the low-cost, work-intensive process of sifting through hundreds of candidates and the high cost of getting a shortlist of potential hires hand-delivered to you by a recruitment firm. We’re aiming to deliver a low-cost shortlist that’s been narrowed down via the judicious deployment of AI.
Is there a particular philosophy you swear by?
Well, there’s a scene in one of the Rocky movies where Sylvester Stallone tells his son: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows… It ain’t about how hard ya hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” That really resonates with me. I believe that, no matter what happens to you, you have to get up and move forward.
Interview by: Tenzing Thondup
Photos: Jack Law Art
Direction: San Wong
Venue: ViA x Giorgetti Flagship Store
The full version of this interview appears in Gafencu’s latest September 2019 print issue. You can also view the digital version for free by downloading the Gafencu app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.