Sabrina Ho, founder of women's career platform Half The Sky, on how to hire the right people: Leading Women #5
Levelling the playing field
Founder and CEO of Half The Sky (HTS), Sabrina Ho worked in the talent solutions industry throughout the Asia Pacific for over 10 years before launching her business. After seeing first-hand the challenges that female professionals faced at work, Ho was determined to create a more level playing field, focusing on addressing issues like flexible work, equal pay, and leadership development for both employees and employers. We asked her how to hire the right people and unlock their potential in the workplace.
Landing the job
As a seasoned recruiter, what is your best advice for an applicant to nail an interview?
As somebody who has been in the recruiting industry for a really long time, I can tell you that most people aren't trained in interview techniques. This is something that we should really get more skilled at especially in challenging economic times like these, where we will most likely be in multiple jobs throughout our careers. I always advise job seekers that an interview is a two-way process where both parties are assessing each other. These are the three core attributes that a hiring manager is looking for:
Attitude: How can you blend with the team
Aptitude: What's your ability to perform tasks and react to situations at work
Value add: If I hire and invest in this person, will they thrive and boost the performance of my team or let me down?
Your job is to convince them you have excellent attributes in all three. If you focus on these aspects and confidently talk about yourself, your skills, knowledge, and career achievements, with a little effort, you can successfully ace any interview.
What do you do to better the chances of the women and companies who work with you in finding right fit for them?
I launched Half The Sky in 2019, and it's something of a LinkedIn for women job seekers. I wanted to create a platform where women can easily find transparent and trusted information on the best companies that meet their needs.
This includes information on flexible work hours, maternity leave, childcare, availability of lactation rooms, equal pay, mentoring, management opportunities for women, and female representation in leadership positions. Women can then use this information to research companies and find jobs that better support their own career goals — as well as avoid those that do not.
You started your company because of the disadvantages you saw women face in the workplace compared to men. What can we as individuals do to bring about more equality in the workplace?
During my many years in the recruitment business, I witnessed so many incidents where hiring managers would openly discriminate against female candidates. I remember a client in the financial services industry advising me not to represent any women of child-bearing age for a senior investment role as there would be a risk — they might fall pregnant on the job, as if there is something wrong with being a mother and working. Looking back at those incidents, I wished I had stood up to them earlier and pointed out the injustice.
This is why it's so important for women to find our voice and use it. There is no doubt in my mind we're the stronger sex, but unfortunately due to historical and cultural practices especially in Asia, we have lost our voice. It's time we reclaim it so that we can stamp out bad practices and not turn a blind eye to when we see them. That's the only way we can bring greater equality to the workforce.
What were the most important factors that contributed to your successful career?
Well, I still have a long way to go as an entrepreneur but I think there are three skills that have contributed to the success that I have managed to have in my career:
Firstly, I have always been an optimistic person who looks on the bright-side of life despite falling down numerous times. I remember during the last global financial crisis in 2008, I was made redundant three times in one year. That was a record. I think having a positive outlook enables you to keep seizing opportunities that inevitably come your way. Curiosity has also been a key attribute in my career. I love asking why; seeking answers to things that I don't know helps me make better sense of the world around me. Finally, emotional intelligence — which is probably the most important in my line of work, as it's so important to try to understand the other person's perspective. Also, let me not forget a big dose of luck.
Being the boss
When you're helping to fill positions of leadership, what are you and your clients looking for and how do you figure out if they have the right management style from an interview?
Well I think most companies, when they are assessing for leadership, are looking at four things: mindset, experiences, capabilities, and awareness. For me, mindset is probably the most critical determining factor in any leader. A good leader will have a growth mindset that will be adaptable, future looking, and willing to embrace change.
Alternatively, leaders with a fixed mindset disapprove of the future and the inevitable disruption that it brings. So, in an interview, it's always about probing, to find the demonstrable experiences that confirm whether they have these all-important qualities. I also rely on my own intuition.
You went from being an employee to being a founder and CEO. What was the transition like for you?
Running your own business is tough. It's not for everyone. At first you are in love with the idea of being the captain of your own ship and for a while it's well and good. Then the reality of the grind and hustle hits you. That's when you start missing the comforts of a corporate life, like a stable monthly income. I must admit I questioned myself multiple times on whether I was doing the right thing, if taking this risk was worth it. But you soon learn to persevere through the dark moments. It's not easy and you have to be prepared to hit rock bottom and live to fight another day.
Saving and investing
Being in the business of helping women find good positions at work, does this ever wade in their financial planning and, if so, what advice do you offer?
Not so much, as it's not my line of expertise and I don't like to advise on things that I don't have sufficient knowledge in. But there are some great female-focused financial planning websites that I refer to, like The New Savvy by Anna Haotanta for some tailored advice.
What has been your personal approach to saving and investing?
Investing in my businesses have long been my biggest and best investments. I'm happy with that because I don't think there can be any better investment than investing in yourself.
My other less risky approaches are to hold cash and minimize credit as you never know what is around the corner. I saved regularly before the crisis and will continue to do so even more, as we head into a likely global recession. I invest 10% of my income in the stock market to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.
Living the dream
When it comes to having a success life and career, what tools and tips have proven useful to your clients so far?
I'm still trying to find the answer myself, to be honest with you. But, on a serious note, through personal observations, having a successful life or career starts with self-belief and the internal knowledge that you can have anything you desire, if you set your mind to it.
A useful technique I've discovered is the practice of visualisation and manifestation. Every morning I create positive images of what I want to accomplish that day, month, and year ahead. When you visualise and manifest to the universe, you create and send out powerful thoughts and feelings that bring whatever you desire a little bit closer.
What does success look like for you?
Well, I have a quote on my phone that best sums up how I approach this: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness, is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.