This is the start of a new, occasional series of interviews with interesting people. I’m lucky to meet a lot of interesting people with the work I do so I thought I would start to ask them a few questions about the work they do, which is why the series is entitled ‘A few questions to . . .’ (and I couldn’t think of a better title!)

Kicking off the series is Etienne Besson (aka @happyemployee).

Etienne is a human resources professional and social media enthusiast from Switzerland. Some people call him a geek, which he always takes as a compliment.

You are a European HR professional who has been blogging for quite a while now. How long ago di you start and how did you get started?
I started my first blog in 2006 and it had two readers (including me). In 2007 I wrote about Twitter and predicted that it would disappear within two years.

In October 2007 I started TheHappyEmployee.com. But after one of my regular and often very long breaks I let it rest in peace.

This changed again when I bought etiennebesson.com because I didn’t want anybody else to steal “my” domain from me. Of course I couldn’t resist installing WordPress, Thesis, a few plug-ins . . . and so I started again publishing the occasional blog post.

What was it like when you first started blogging? Who did you talk to online and what did you write about and why?
Back then I was a fanatical blog reader and some of my heroes were the EvilHRLady, AskAManager, PunkRockHR and HRWench. It was great because even without Twitter and all the social media channels we have today, we got to know each other mostly via the comments.

When I started writing myself, it was a way to share some of the many ideas that were running wild in my head. And blogging was for me the perfect platform that allowed me to express my passions for HR and the Internet.

Back then, what European HR bloggers were there?
I wasn’t really aware of European bloggers, except maybe for Jon Ingham. This changed when I attended TruLondon in 2010. Funnily enough, I found out about European HR blogs by following the links that my new recruiter friends were recommending on Twitter.

You are one of the very few HR practitioners who attends and follows the Tru events. Why do you think that is?
Well, I love the Tru events. That’s why I attend and follow them. Oh wait, did you mean why there’s so few HR practitioners at the recruiting unconferences about social media and recruiting?

I think that corporate HR people don’t usually go to recruiting events. Sure, for most recruitment is part of their job, but it’s not something they really identify with. Then there’s social media, which is something many start being interested in. But at the moment it’s probably more of a “interesting, so lets see what happens” attitude. Also, I don’t think that an unconference is the most natural setting for HR professionals.

And finally, Tru Events are promoted via Twitter while most of my HR colleagues wouldn’t dream of getting near this useless time waster 😉

Why do you attend – what do you get out of it?
Tru events are the place where I can meet people who share my passions for HR/Recruiting and Internet/Social Media.

The main benefits for me are of course the unconference tracks but also the opportunity to meet incredibly interesting people. During and after a Tru event I will usually fill 20 or more pages in my moleskine. Sometimes I’m in a track and just take a lot of notes because I have so many new ideas in my head.

And as an added bonus, there’s always Brits and Dutch at Tru events. And they aren’t offended by my dry sense of humor 😉

Would you recommend other HR practitioners to attend and why?
Tru events are a great place to share ideas and learn a ton of new things. So yes, I definitely recommend it to my HR colleagues.

But if somebody’s just interested in social media in general without a particular interest in (social) recruiting, they might want to start with a ConnectingHR unconference before moving to the heavier stuff 😉

And just so there’s no misunderstandings, I was at the first CHRU in 2010 and absolutely loved it. CHRU and TRU are maybe like Windows and Linux. None is better than the other. But depending on who you are and what you want, you might prefer one or the other.

What do you think HR can learn from recruitment – especially in the social space?
I think that recruiters are much more open to new things while HR people like me prefer to avoid risk and therefore stick to what we know. We’re also more used to people coming to us, whether it’s candidates or employees, while most recruiters are comfortable taking the first step in order to start a discussion and get to know new people.

These are certainly things that we can learn from recruiters and social media is the ideal playground. Of course, you have to take a leap to get started, but it’s less intimidating than walking into a room full of strangers.

How do HR and recruitment professionals use social media in Switzerland?
Most HR professionals I know are now on LinkedIn or Xing and some even use Facebook with their friends.

Many of the recruiters I talk to say that they’re using social media, but they’re mostly using the professional networks as a CV database in order to identify and contact candidates. A few recruiters have a Twitter account, but it’s either inactive or they cross-post from LinkedIn.

I think that it’s safe to say that Swiss HR and recruitment professionals do use social media, but that there’s not much engagement yet.

But the good news is that there are more and more very interesting people on Twitter and I also recently had an informal “lunch tweet-up” with three colleagues from the HR/recruitment/job board field!

Finally, tell us something we don’t know about you . . .
Did you know that there’s a Marsupilami sitting on top of my TV?

Let me know if you would be interested in being interviwed. Email me at: martin@nullitsdevelopmental.com