Anna-Carin Månsson is the Country HR Manager for India. She has been with IKEA in different HR manager positions for about 23 years. Anna-Carin has spent the last four years in India setting up IKEA, with the first retail store launching in Hyderabad in 2018. She is passionate about people’s development and propagates gender equality, diversity, and inclusive work environments. In this interview with HBR Ascend, Anna-Carin talks about what she looks for when interviewing people to work at IKEA, the qualities of a good candidate, and what she values.
What do you look for when you’re interviewing someone?
I start by understanding why the applicant is interested in joining us (IKEA). I want to meet people who truly want to be part of creating a better every day for the people (who buy our products). IKEA is on that mission and we want all our co-workers to be on that mission with us.
We recruit by values, so obviously the interview will be a lot around the personal values the candidate has and how these comes out in typical behaviour in every-day life. I like to listen to the ‘real stuff’, like stories about how they have created togetherness and made things simpler.
I am personally very eager to meet candidates who are open to sharing stories about mistakes they have made and what learned from them; people who dare to take both action and responsibility for their actions. Straightforward and down-to-earth people interest me.
What does a perfect resume look like to you?
More than the resume, I take interest in the cover letter and how the applicant has chosen to describe herself or himself as a person. When recruiting for IKEA, it is attractive to recognise that the applicant has read up about the company and managed to describe the connection i.e., what are the values they have as a person which makes them the perfect fit for working with the organisation.
When I look at the resume, I like to see the career path the applicant has chosen and also if the applicant has taken any unique and unusual career decisions. People shouldn’t shy away from including gap years on your resume. If they took a year off to travel or work at an NGO, that might one of most rich experiences they have had and it should of course be included when they apply for their dream job.
What is your favorite question to ask in an interview and what do you judge by it?
Oh, that’s a top secret (smiles).
My favourite interview question is, “What has made you the person you are today?”
I am not interested in recruiting the CV but the person. The way the person reflects will tell me more about openness, a sharing attitude, and integrity, which are all important things I look for in a person. I believe we can learn and grow from our mistakes, so I love to see if the person is willing to share both positive experiences and failures.
What makes a stand-out candidate?
Being humble and down-to-earth, and still showing clear motivation and drive to make a difference and an impact. For me honesty and openness are very important. We have all made mistakes so daring to describe mistakes builds a positive picture for me. During the conversation, if I can start visualising the candidate in an IKEA uniform, that is normally a good signal.
You have been with Ikea since 1996! Millennials today would probably change 10–11 jobs in their career. What made you stay here that long? And what advice would you give millennials who think job-hopping is the only way up?
You make me feel old! (laughs).
I have been with IKEA for 23 years, have had seven very different jobs in completely different parts of our business, recruited,lived in three countries during the time and worked with amazing people from all over the world. I have managed global teams, have worked under 12 managers from four countries (yes, most of my managers have been Swedish), worked in a global company with challenging assignments; I don’t know why this is not the most interesting job one could ever have!
My advice to all the young people out there is to follow your heart. Work for something you love, work with people that help you grow not only professionally, but also as a human being. Chose a company where you have a longer-term future, where you can develop in many different directions, and where you are welcome to make a difference. And of course,have fun!
Can you remember a question you were asked for your internal interview with IKEA for the Country HR Managerposition and how you responded?
When I was hired by IKEA in 1996 I was working for IKEA as a consultant.The team that recruited me knew me quite well, so I guess we had been interviewing each other for some time already when we came more to the formal interview. I was living in Beijing at the time and I believe one question was if there was a place where I didn’t want to move to. I thought about the question but could not really come up with an answer. I guess, in a way, that was a good thing.
When I was taking up the position in India I was asked to describe how I would go about building the organisation and, in particular, how I would find and recruit the people with the right values in a new market where we did not already have a retail presence. I proposed that we would start by understanding the market, doing some research around what a great place to work in India meant, and take inspiration from companies that have succeeded in their people practice.