Getting Ahead With GoCar

Jacie Tan speaks to Alan Cheah, Chief Operating Officer at GoCar Mobility, and Ashley Chew, Head of Marketing, about what they look for in a new hire.
Jacie Tan Cheng Hwee

GoCar Mobility’s office is pretty much what I had expected from an expanding, new-generation startup. A three-storeyed house in Bangsar, it has the open-spaced, floor-to-ceiling window and token beanbag that many have come to associate with the startup workplace. I ask Alan and Ashley what it takes to get hired, and stay hired, at a startup like theirs. 

An ideal candidate

‘You have to be curious, ambitious and adaptive,’ says Alan, ‘as well as driven and interested in personal growth. We generally hire for personality and attitude rather than skills set; to me, skills are something that can be taught.’

Ashley mentions one of the designers she has hired, Adeeba, as an example. ‘She presented herself and her portfolio well at the interview. She knows about the importance of direction and corporate identity, and has done a lot of freelancing during her studies.’ On whether the other graduates she has interviewed are up to standard, she says, ‘Many of the applicants I meet are very passionate about start-up culture. They just need to apply for roles that better suit their personality.’

Personality matters

Both Alan and Ashley have mentioned personality as a deciding factor in a candidate, so I ask them to elaborate on this. ‘I think personality is one of the most important things about themselves that many candidates don’t understand,’ says Alan.

‘Yes,’ agrees Ashley. ‘They just come out and try their luck at any job or role, regardless of whether it suits their personality or not. For example, candidates who want to go into marketing have to be sociable, confident and able to communicate well.’

‘Candidates should invest more time into taking MBTI personality tests or even things like the love language test to find out what it is that motivates them,’ continues Alan. ‘At the interview, the best thing to do is to be upfront about your personality to that the conversation becomes more of a two-way street.’

Alan also points out that this honesty about your own traits have the potential to pay off. ‘If I feel that a candidate’s personality is better suited to a position other than the one they interviewed for, I can sometimes fit them into that role instead. More often than you think, employers have a lot of openings that they don’t always advertise for.’

On startup culture

I express my curiosity about GoCar, a startup, being acquired by a player as big as Tan Chong Group. Alan’s smile tells me that he’s probably been asked this a lot before. ‘What we’re doing is keeping the startup culture and pairing it with the structure of a corporation,’ he explains. ‘Running a business with startup culture that sticks to a startup organisation structure only works until a certain level. To go further and expand, you’ll need the structure you can get from a corporate-type organisation. As to keeping the startup culture alive, that’s why we operate out of this office here in Bangsar; we’re remaining here to build up and maintain the startup culture of our company.’

And what exactly is the startup culture that GoCar is trying to cultivate?

‘The culture we want to build here is about empowerment,’ says Ashley. ‘We want to empower our people to do all that they feel they can. That way, they can go out of their comfort zone and carry out crazy ideas.’

‘We work on the basis of “always ask for forgiveness, never ask for permission”,’ Alan says. ‘If you want to do something, go ahead and do it – it’s not going to burn the company down. We also have a very open feedback system here, and that’s how we encourage personal growth.’

Startup advice

Alan advises graduates who are aiming to begin a startup on their own to get some experience first instead of jumping straight into it. ‘Working with a more mature startup, or even in a corporate job, will let you see how things are done and help with managing your future expectations,’ he says. ‘Unlike some years back when a simple idea was all you needed to get started, startups are now getting more mature. In order for a business to be sustainable, the idea behind it had better be new and impactful. Don’t try to invent the wheel all over again.’