The Wild West of In-House recruitment - Recruiter Interviews Hailey Chan

By Chamira Gamage

Welcome back to another week of Talentwolf recruiter series!

This week, we are joined by the lovely Hailey Chan, who has moved from recruiting Finance and Banking professionals in Singapore to talented computer game developers and now settled in at Uber in Amsterdam, recruiting for a range of senior titles. She’s had a taste of many worlds! We learned plenty about working in the always growing tech space, the transition in moving from one role and country to another and the Wild West of in-house recruitment. Happy reading! 

As always, we start off with how you fell into or actively got into the recruitment industry! Hailey, what’s your story? 

In the summer of 2012, I graduated from hospitality and was bored out of my wits at my first job with a local tour agency, where I was spending a lot of time working with Excel sheets (the irony, I now spend a lot of time on Excel and actually enjoy it). 

I enjoy interacting with people, so when a friend asked me to interview for a recruitment consultant position in an agency, as the job that “you get to talk to people every day and make money”, I thought “why not?” And the rest is history.

What’s one piece of career advice you’d go back in and tell yourself when starting your first job? 

Be curious, and be brave about the unknown. There were many times in my career that I get trapped in my own anxiety about the risk that I’m taking to go into something I have never done before – and yet some of those were the best decisions I’ve ever made. If only I could have been braver about it, I’d have spent less time tormenting myself on those decisions!

Having recruited professionals in various industries, from banking and finance to video games, how did you manage the transition from each role? 

I’m quite curious a person, so I took the challenges that came with learning about a new market as a learning experience. I would spend a lot of time reading up on the industries I’m recruiting in, all the jobs that I’d possibly recruiting for, map them into some sort of a mind map and try to stitch everything together in the context of the firms I recruit for. From there, I’d make sense of the skills and profile I’d look for in a particular industry, job family and location. 

The initial learning of an industry or market is usually the most confusing and time-consuming, but that time investment at the beginning has helped me with understanding the business and in turn, find the right candidates much quicker than if I’d have done just singular research for each individual role that comes.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your recruitment career? 

It would definitely be seeing people that I have placed, as well as hiring managers, go on to have successful careers and knowing that I played a part in helping them achieve their goals. Not many jobs get to do that!

What’s the main tip you pass onto agency recruiters before moving into In-house roles? 

I’d say…unlearn everything you think you knew about recruitment. It’s the wild west out there (okay, not that bad but wild enough if you are new to in-house).

The ability to contribute to a company’s success directly by being an in-house recruiter is great, but it also demands a lot of resilience, quick thinking, resourcefulness, patience and flexibility. Also, you can no longer pick the roles, nor the clients you’d want to work with! 

If you are ready for all of that you’re good to go – but also make sure to give yourself some time to adjust as it is no longer just a speed game. It’s also the impact you are making to help the business achieve their goals, and the hiring experience you are giving to the people you recruit who would go on to be your colleagues and hiring managers.

We all have moments where we learn from mistakes and become far better at our jobs after. Is there any moment in your career that taught you how to be a better recruiter? 

Definitely. In an agency I was with (not going to name which one), it was a common practice to collect service fees from candidates we successfully placed, and we as consultants were encouraged to do so. I was never comfortable with the practice but decided to try this out and asked a candidate for a fee for our ‘services’ in securing the offer, despite it being me that approached her in the first place.

Needless to say, my relationship with the candidate soured after and I had to deal with the guilt that came with it for quite some time. I then made it my personal ethos to always treat people with respect, and even more so with the people that will ultimately contribute to your success. 

What were the main recruitment processes that stood out to you when going from recruitment in Singapore to the Netherlands?

I wouldn’t say there is a whole lot of difference in the actual hiring process per se as most assessments are rather similar; there are however 2 distinct differences in the kind of conversations I’d have with candidates and how they determine if a role is attractive to them:


People care about rather different things in these 2 countries when it comes to benefits.

In Singapore, as there isn’t a standard applied to benefits offered across companies (even in the same industry); a difference of 4 days in annual leave can sway a candidate’s decision on which job to take. 

In the Netherlands, as typical benefits such as annual leave, medical coverages were much more standardised, the differentiating factor was more about having work-life balance - flexible work hours, as well as having the option to work from home, or remotely whenever necessary then becomes very attractive.


Previously, I will always ask for current/ last drawn salary package as Singapore works on a percentage increment model i.e. typically people would expect about 10-20% increment on their current package and we would work upwards to see if their asking salary fits into our hiring budget. 

For the Netherlands, I’m not sure if this is common practice, but I now tend to prescribe a salary range and it is then for the candidate to decide if it’s reasonable, or quote another figure to negotiate. Candidates will similarly ask for the paying salary vs sharing their own salary at the onset.

Everyone has a recruitment story. What is the most unexpected thing that happened to you in an interview or client meeting?

It’d be my story of how I ended up in Amsterdam! A recruiter reached out to me in late 2017 for a role with Uber in Amsterdam, which I was really surprised by. The first question I asked (with full scepticism), was why was she was interested to speak to someone 2 continents away – and her answer was that the company was looking for the best person possible for the job, regardless of how far they’d need to relocate the candidate from. This was the first time I heard something like this from any company I have interviewed with; 6 interviews later they did fulfil their promise and took a bet on me despite the risks and costs involved. 

I am now working in the same team as the recruiter who hired me (thank you Olga), and I am returning the favour by projecting the same openness and faith they have given me on to all the colleagues I’ve hired, and the ones to be hired in the future. 

Connect with Hailey Chan

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