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“It all starts with a chance to show who you are”

Evidence-based, talent-centric, and unbiased. That is how Sam Joukhadar envisions the bank’s future talent acquisition. Sam has made quite a remarkable personal journey, migrating from Syria with an engineering background to become the Global Head of Talent Acquisition. He knows how important it is to have a chance to make a first impression, no matter where you come from.

Sam Joukhadar, Global Head of Talent Acquisition in SEB, has a background as a data engineer and is specialised in artificial intelligence. Before fleeing the war in Syria, he worked as a teacher at the university in Aleppo.

When looking back at his first months in Sweden 2015, Sam recalls the challenges of coming to a new country without knowing the language and with a foreign-sounding name. He landed a job at a staffing agency, where he laid the foundation for a new business area. With an understanding of both IT and HR, Sam wanted to show that immigration can be a valuable asset for companies, if that experience is channelled in the right way.

Eventually he came into contact with SEB, where he has been leading the Talent Acquisition team for the past two years. The ambition is to drive SEB’s talent management in that strategic direction.
“Everything starts with a chance to show who you are. SEB saw my potential and gave me that chance. Everyone should be given the same opportunity no matter your name, ethnic background, gender or age. To make sure that people get chosen based on their talent, and not unconscious personal preferences, it calls for evidence-based and data-driven recruitment”, says Sam.

Talent, according to Sam, is not the same as having a miles-long resume or having some specific skills.

“At SEB, we believe that everyone can be a talent. We want to recruit people with potential, and then invest in that potential. Potential is about learning how to use your strengths and adapt to different situations. The competence need is changing all the time, so most importantly, you need to have the mindset and will to learn new things”, says Sam.

Diversity of thought as key to innovation

Sam highlights the importance of a recruitment process that is unbiased at an early stage with respect to the candidate’s identity. This will lead to more diversity in the workplace and more dynamic teams.

“Diversity of thought is key for any company’s success. It contributes to new perspectives, creativity, and innovation, which is needed to reflect the pace of change”, he says.

Sam believes in using AI to make better and smarter people decisions, not only with respect to recruitment. The technological landscape is advancing rapidly in this area with new intelligent tools and solutions.

In February, the new recruitment system from Lever was launched in SEB, and it will be integrated with a tool from Alva Labs that provides complete solutions and objective measurement methods.

Using these tools, Sam and his team can conduct team analyses and provide recommendations in regard to team interaction and compatibility.

“We can for example assess team dynamics, in other words, how members are likely to respond in a unique team composition, given their personality, or study a group from different aspects and try to identify which traits are important for success and retention”, Sam explains.

Smarter together

Evidence-based and unbiased talent acquisition is one aspect, but how do we make sure that we truly take advantage of a more diverse workplace?

“There are still unconscious and conscious biases that shape society today, and to change that, it requires a shift in our mindset. We need to continue building an inclusive work environment and a transformative leadership culture, where different backgrounds and experiences are respected and valued, says Sam.

“Having an immigrant background has not been easy at all times, but I have always felt warmly welcome by SEB. I hope that my story will inspire others to meet people who are different from you, with openness and that you welcome different perspectives in your team. That is how we can become smarter and better together”, Sam concludes.


Read more about Lever

Read more about Alva Labs