Travelpayouts Blog

Meet our team: Kristina Mets, former HR manager

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In this interview, Kristina Mets, our former HR manager, reveals the secrets of the inner workings of Travelpayouts: how we hire new employees and help them adapt to the new environment, what questions we ask during interviews, what bonuses you might receive as our employee and how a person from outside can receive an iPhone as a gift from Travelpayouts.

Before Travelpayouts

  • As a child, I always dreamed of becoming a psychologist and working abroad. Either way, I moved abroad and am kind of psychologist, at least partly. Before I returned to Russia last year, I spent three years in our Phuket office. Hopefully, I’ll go abroad again. It’s my childhood dream and I want to follow it! 
Meet our team: Kristina Mets, HR manager
  • I’ve been working as an HR manager for 10 years, but I’ve tried a lot of jobs before that as well. At the age of 14, I became a waitress, then I had jobs in a call center, an optical store, as a promoter and as a flower shop assistant. The most memorable part was when I worked as an entertainer for children. Once in the winter, I was on a ski slope, and I had a big mouse costume on. During the break, I went behind the building to smoke, took off the head and put it under my armpit. Then, all of a sudden, I saw a boy staring at me. I guess, he was just passing by with his parents, noticed me in my costume and got shocked. It might have been a psychological trauma. I still can’t get that situation out of my head. 
  • I have a degree in sociology from St. Petersburg State University, and during my last three years of studies, I managed to study and work full-time. My degree is good, but it is not practical enough for me, and for this reason, my work experience came in handy.

My role at Travelpayouts

  • This interview feels weird to me, because I am always asking the questions and not vice versa.
  • I am an old-fashioned HR manager, and I don’t like to use the word “hunt” and other slang. Today, it’s good luck to find a decent expert who wasn’t even looking for a job and lure them here. In practice, when people find a job offer themselves, they are already motivated and I don’t need to sell anything. Such an applicant will accept our job offer sooner and will try their best at work. On the other hand, if a person was “hunted” and persuaded to take this job, they’ll be less active and be waiting for action on the company side. We like applicants who want to work with us themselves and share our values. This is a perfect foundation for the employee-employer relationship. 

About employees

  • The Travelpayouts team today reminds me of Aviasales in its early days. It is a small company inside a bigger one. Now, there are around 47 employees, and all the HR processes are the same as with Aviasales: recruitment, on-boarding, training and quarterly performance reviews.    
  • Travelpayouts is a consolidated and strong team which is experiencing growth right now. The last time we hired a developer was two years ago, and during the last quarter of this year, we hired 7 new people and want to find more.
  • The average employee age is 27. There are just a few people over 30 and a few younger than 25. Normally, people stay with us for five years or more. Developers almost never leave the company. 

About job offers

  • Our HR department is lucky because the Aviasales brand attracts candidates on its own. Travelpayouts is not that well known yet, and we publish our job offers on behalf of Aviasales and mention that Travelpayouts is our affiliate network. It works much better, as candidates understand that Travelpayouts is a part of a bigger business.
  • We receive many applications through the section “Job offers” on our website. Also, we publish offers on the vc.ru, here and in different Telegram chats for specific areas and programming languages (Python, Javascript, Go). Sometimes we hire people who were recommended by someone. Finally, we have a recruiting agency to help us find developers.
  • The most amusing thing for me is when people apply for a job with us and write that they dream of working in aviation. We’ve received many requests from flight attendants. Unfortunately, there are still many ignorant people out there.

About interviews

  • Naturally, there is a huge difference between interviews in person and via Skype. During my first year, it was very unusual for me. At that time, I was living in Phuket, we were hiring people from Russia and held interviews via Skype. In the beginning, we didn’t even use videoconferencing and saw new employees for the first time right after their arrival at Phuket airport. It had always been kind of a lottery. Now we use Skype for each interview: it helps to understand the candidate better and establish contact. Now I live in Russia, but interview potential employees only via Skype because receiving managers are based in Thailand. These calls are less efficient than personal meetings, but we’ve gotten used to it. For some candidates, this is their first online interview experience. 
  • During an interview, it is important to be yourself, so that there won’t be any surprises later. We always ask about expectations and the things that make this person happy. We look for flexible and active people who are always prepared for the unpredictable and are great at what they do, have their own opinion and are able to defend it. Ivan Baidin always encourages employees to credibly argue with him and says that a solid argument can change his point of view. 
  • We don’t ask provocative questions during interviews, they are rather conventional and even abstract so that we can see if a person is able to find an answer fast. For example, we ask what a person will do if someone pushes them to the swimming pool during a break, or what if the whole team comes up with a huge prank. If a candidate panics and asks how it is related to this job, it might be a no for us. We often tell stories about similar situations from the past and ask what you’d do. 
  • The best way to fail the interview is to be in a cafeteria where we can’t hear your voice because of the music or other people talking. Once, a candidate decided to talk with us on his way somewhere, at the bus stop, surrounded by screaming kids and grumbling old ladies. It was definitely amusing but it also lowered the probability of their success.

About benefits

  • We have a referral program. If an employee brings us a candidate for one of our job offers and this person successfully passes a probationary period and stays with us, the former can get the latest iPhone in full packaging. In fact, anyone can bring us a potential employee and get an iPhone. You can follow the news on our Facebook page. Anyway, it has only happened once so far.
  • We buy tickets to Thailand for every new employee and their family members, pay for the first two weeks of accommodations and buy insurance. On top of that, we help with small stuff as well: buying a sim-card, renting a bike, paying for driving lessons, etc. We do all of this so that our new employee can move to Thailand and start working without worrying about details. Their visa is received upon arrival as well.
  • If a chosen candidate can’t move for some personal reasons, we might find a similar position in offices in Moscow or St. Petersburg. However, it’s rather uncommon and the relocation is put on hold until our candidate is ready to move.
  • We also support the partners of our employees. We have a special Telegram chat for our girls. We have a “Woman’s guide to surviving on Phuket,” which includes information on where to go for a manicure and other important details.. This chat is called “Avia Girls” and includes 47 girls so far. Our happiness manager organizes meetings for girls to help them get to know each other and adapt to the new environment.
  • Employees with children receive an allocation for kindergarten and school. However, we have only about five children so far.

Performance review

  • To review employee performance, we meet with every employee at the end of each quarter or talk on Skype with those who work remotely. We check what goals have been achieved and set new ones as well as discuss some basic things.
  • We have a quarterly bonus that is dependant on the employee performance review which is made by the supervisor for each employee and the team in general on a 100-point scale. Then, a bonus is calculated on the basis of this review and it can grow to half the amount of the monthly salary. If you get 100 points each quarter, you might be able to receive two additional paychecks by the end of the year. 

About rules

  • We have a few rules for employees, including you have to wear a helmet. Otherwise, we can charge you a fine, because safety comes first! Also, you need to take good care of the office. Close doors, switch off the air conditioning and electrical appliances when you are the last one to leave. Also, it’s prohibited to take things from the office for personal use and to jump into the swimming pool from the second floor. If you are a newbie, consider bringing us rye bread, sausage and candies. (That it isn’t a strict rule and we do make exceptions for jumping into the pool.)

Working environment 

  • When I joined the team three years ago, my task was to help Yevgeniya Panova, the only HR manager in the company. Now there are six of us. At that time, I was helping with everything: documentation for visa applications, office management, food and party planning. We lacked people, so I had to keep up with all the tasks. Aviasales used to be one small family of less than 40 people. When I was just applying for the job, they told me “Kris, you need to really love the guys.” So, that’s what I do. 
  • You’ll be scolded for using the word “corporate.” 
  • I am a team player, and I guess we all are, on this team. Even though I was working from home for one year, I always stayed in touch with the HR department and the whole team. 

About motivation

  • Even the most energetic people experience a slowdown and creative crisis. You need to remember that it’s always temporary. When you face an emotionally difficult time and feel like the world can collapse, just keep working on a daily basis, and at some point, you’ll have the spark again. For me, such a spark is often a successful interview which cheers me up and reminds that everything is going to be fine. 
  • I am inspired by emotional returns from our team, mutual support and the friendships that have grown through these years. It has become a part of my life, and I can’t call it “just work.” 
  • A dream job for me equals passion. I am a rather calm person, but passion is what we associate with work in Travelpayouts. I see their bright, shining eyes and it inspires me as an HR manager. 

Things I’d like to improve

  • Now is a very interesting time for Travelpayouts as we have become a serious company. New processes emerge and go through optimization, one example is recruitment. Before, we only had one interview with each applicant. We divided it into two parts and gave a test task beforehand. Now, we have added a behavioral questionnaire for applicants and invite product-managers to take part in the interview. Also, we pay more attention to the onboarding process which is staying in touch with every newcomer during their probationary period. I call to check on them and make sure they’ve already found accommodations, if there have been any health issues (like ant bites) or if they need help. 
  • I don’t follow any famous HR managers and I am not keen on social media in general, even though it might help me out in my work. However, we try to not miss out on huge events. For example, our entire HR department went to the HR API conference in late April.  

Let’s get personal

  • The Hawaiian islands are waiting for me, as well as many other wonderful destinations in the United States, Australia and other remote countries.  
Meet our team: Kristina Mets, HR manager
  • Once, a trip influenced me a lot. I spent a week in the Dipabhāvan Meditation Centre and monastery on Samui island, and it helped me get to know myself a lot.
  • Among the books I’ve recently read, I can highlight the non-fiction book “Write, Reduce the Text Volume. How to Create a Powerful Text” and a few other books on raising children, as I am a young mother. 
  • At a corporate party, I’d play this track or this one.

Further plans

  • How do I imagine my life in 10 years? My story is just getting started!