“It is important to me that the teams I manage are composed of people who think and look for solutions together with me. I’m a big fan of teamwork on projects, and I think the best solutions come from multiple chapters. I try to educate my employees in teamwork, quality communication with each other and a positive attitude towards problems and life in general“, shares Slavyanka Stoikova, who is also the next guest of Biser Kunchev in the “HR Guest” column.
Who is she?
Slavyanka Stoykova is the owner and manager of Tradingbulg OOD, the official importer of Skeyndor professional cosmetics for Bulgaria, as well as a partner and manager in Polymetis OOD and Cobden Partners Bulgaria OOD – consulting companies, current chairman of the board of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Bulgaria – Selena . Slavyanka is an entrepreneur by heart and vocation, and her superpower consists in creating opportunities for the realization of the potential of the people around her, as through knowledge, skills and experience she motivates them to develop their business ventures. Her experience is valuable in the areas of beauty, spa and wellness business development, business idea development and strategy.
Are there awkward and mandatory questions during an interview and what duration is the criteria for showing interest in the candidate?
My company is growing at a fast pace, which requires us to increase our team every year. This is why I prepare and standardize to a certain extent the interviews I conduct for new team members. I have a few favorite, must-have and not-so-easy questions that I always include in candidate interviews with us, regardless of the position.
I am always interested in the candidate’s long-term plans, or rather where he sees himself and what he wants to do, what he likes to do. As an entrepreneur and a person who has found his vocation, I believe that a person reveals his potential best when doing what he loves. I also want my team members to feel like they belong and fulfill their dreams through and through their work with us. It sounds ambitious, but to me this is the basis for a sustainable team that achieves its goals in the long term. I conduct this part of the interview until I am sure of the candidate’s goals, and I do not hide that I sometimes receive thanks for discovering his vocation together, regardless that this vocation does not always include working in the teams of my companies.
I also always ask the question about the candidate’s financial expectations, in the light of his monthly expenses and desired goal. It’s important to me that people in my team don’t think about the subsistence minimum and get paid enough to be able to focus on their work. With this question, I often find some inconsistencies in the previously submitted information with reality. Regarding the duration of the interview – I try to be equal to everyone and allocate an hour for the interviews. The length of the interview does not always indicate my interest in the candidate. Sometimes in 20 minutes I understand that I have found the right candidate and we can proceed to appointment.
What is the most valuable advice you would give to a person going into an interview? Do you think an approach is possible where you send your advice online to the candidates in advance about the most important and during the interview itself you can see how he has really prepared?
The most valuable advice for me is to be yourself, be calm and just enjoy the process. For me, the interview, both from the employer’s and the employee’s point of view, is an opportunity to find out if we are for each other, if we have common projects. This is the reason why I do not give advance information about preparation. Working with us requires a large palette of “soft” qualities, and these are best seen in a natural and relaxed environment.
How important is the first impression when you see a candidate, even before you’ve asked any questions, and which candidates do you prefer: more aggressive or more relaxed in approach? How do you take into account the factor of momentary mood of you and the candidate and how is this reflected in the process of conducting an interview and the conclusions from it?
The first impression is undeniably important, but I have also had changes in the first impression during the course of the interview. It is important for me to find out who is behind the concern, and whether the candidate is more aggressive or calm, I appreciate his qualities and potential to be mutually beneficial.
Which has prevailed so far in your experience when choosing a candidate – the remuneration or the desire to develop in the company? Would you hire a candidate if he doesn’t meet many of your criteria, but you see serious potential to catch up and develop what’s missing?
Our brand has become recognizable in the cosmetic circles in Bulgaria, which is why we often do not even have to post a job advertisement, and potential candidates apply to us on an ongoing basis, inspired by the team and the company’s development plans. We work a lot on the impression we create, which is a bet for candidates with a high level of desire to develop within the company. We do not harm them in terms of pay either, which guarantees us a productive and relaxed team. This is the reason why I did not have to decide the dilemma of whether to choose a candidate according to the remuneration or the desire to develop in the company.
I strongly say yes to appointing candidates with development potential, even though they may not have all the necessary qualities for the position at the given time. In the selection of new team members, I am guided by one of my mottos, apart from the specific needs of the company at the moment, of course, namely – I do not miss talented candidates. I have met my future employees in other environments and under other circumstances and liked them beforehand for a particular position with us. I always tell them if I see such potential, regardless of what the person is currently working on. The truth is that there aren’t that many talented candidates, and whether I need the particular background right now or will need it in the future, I’d rather develop that potential than let it go and not be sure it will I find it when I need it.
What does the ideal job candidate look like in your eyes and understanding? What are the three most valuable qualities that would impress you? What corporate values do you educate your employees in?
Important qualities of the ideal candidate for me, without of course making them absolute, are a person who is willing to learn and develop, an inquisitive seeker of solutions, positive and responsive, flexible and able to adapt and change. I value the latter qualities more than knowing and being able to do everything. It is important to me that the teams I manage are composed of people who think and look for solutions together with me. I’m a big fan of teamwork on projects, and I think the best solutions come from multiple chapters. I try to educate my employees in teamwork, quality communication with each other and a positive attitude towards problems and life in general.
What are your impressions of the internship programs at your company? Do you manage to find enough talents to take their first career steps in it? What do you think about the new wave of young people coming out of universities?
We definitely have positives from the internship and temporary employment programs in general, which allow you to work with new and young people and include them in your team. Until now, they have a 100% success rate with us, that is, everyone who has been included in such a program has found their place with us in one position or another. I try to take into account the positives of the young generation coming out of the universities and not emphasize the negatives. In fact, young people speak the language of our existing or future customers, and by including them in the team, we have the opportunity to learn from them the trends among our future users.
Tell us in a few words the most important highlights of your first steps in your career. If you could go back in time, would you change anything? What is the most important moment that determines your career?
I think I could define my career as a constant pursuit of acquiring the knowledge I need. I started as a graduate, but in a field different from the subject of the company’s activity, and during my 12 years of managing the company, I never stopped developing, especially in terms of managerial qualities, people and team management, development and business strategies , innovation in the beauty industry. Every lack or mistake up to this point has led me to new knowledge and for that reason I would not change anything in my development. I have a lot more to come in the future, especially with the innovative and challenging projects that we have started to develop and which will certainly lead to further development for me as well.
Has your criteria for evaluating the performance of current and prospective employees changed in the context of Covid? What policies do you have for team bonding and a positive working atmosphere?
Employee responsibility became a more valuable criteria for me after we all experienced the first, second and subsequent waves of Covid. Some of the company’s employees work remotely, and trust and responsibility for commitments is an important factor. We’ve introduced more online team meetings, we’ve created shared cloud spaces for the projects we’re working on, and for me, my future as a manager will be more and more about bringing teams together and giving them the direction to work, and them being more -independent in execution. We are also in the process of integrating a software product to effectively manage our projects.
Which work model does your company prefer – working in an office, at home or depending on the commitments of each one? Do you expect the standard workplace to look different in 2-3 years?
Depending on the activities performed, part of the team works from home/remotely, part is in a mixed mode of work – office/home, some are entirely in the office because the specifics of their work require it. I don’t expect any bigger changes in the workplace than those in the next few years because our work is already largely remote where it can be achieved.