Posts Tagged ‘recruitment’

Yes this topic has been on my mind since I started blogging about my career.  I deliberately held myself back, at risk of offending a union of powerful professionals.  For those who know me well through this blog, I hate generalization and it’s never my intention to put labels on anyone.  Come on, who am I to judge, when I am in a profession that is heavily undermined and stigmatized by many?

There, is my disclaimer for this long overdue piece.  It’s short, but I think it’s more than adequate for a personal blog with barely enough influence.

Gone are the days when we had to register at a placement agency for career opportunities, unless you are a fresh graduate from school.  Today, headhunters are constantly knocking on our doors looking for business.  There is always a new firm popping up every month or so in the city, but there are still countless of them reaching out to this region from the States, London or Australia.  Headhunters are to be respected.  They dig up the recruitment needs, make the connections, prep the candidates, negotiate the offers, and follow-up with the on boarding process.  They know the major power players in town, in the business, and in the profession.  They know the movements in town, the headcount surges and reductions, and most importantly, they know how much talent is worth by understanding the supply and demand dynamics of an engagement, or any industry as a whole.

How many times however, have you encountered into the following scenarios?

  • headhunters who fail to provide at least the minimum level of details of the job;
  • headhunters who you will never hear back once they get your consent to express interest;
  • headhunters who represent you in front of clients without your consent;
  • headhunters who don’t know anything, and I mean anything, about your profession

Alright I do not expect them to know the inside outs of what I do or what the client wants, but there are definitely basic answers that they should have before the first call.  That includes basic job description, reporting line, organization structure, whether the role is new or a replacement one, the type of personalities wanted, timeline as well as high level budget.  Although it is not unheard of for the candidate to discover these answers only at the first interview, with all the job opportunities around, we do need to assess whether we are at all interested in pursuing these opportunities, early on.  Most importantly, the last thing I want to do, and I think likewise for the recruiter, is the perception that we are wasting each other’s time.  That’s not what I would expect, when there is a headhunter mediating the process.

Since it’s such a fierce and fast-moving business, time and time again we are told that the opportunity is brand new, that things are evolving and the hiring managers are always on the move.  We are urged to send in our resumes and await further feedback.  Usually that’s the last you would hear from a majority of headhunters.  No, not even a courtesy phone call or e-mail.  Not releasing candidates prematurely is not an excuse for disappearing in mid-air.   There are ways and tactics to articulate messages while managing expectations in a professional manner.  Just not with those folks.

To make things worse, the last thing I want is a lecture from someone whom I have never known before in my life.  Believe it or not, it happens.  It’s un-called for when they don’t even know my profession, or when they have zero intention to find out what motivates me in my career decisions.  They make shallow and short-term assumptions, as that is a reflection of their remuneration structure.  Yes they don’t get paid from me, but that doesn’t warrant being ill-treated by them just because they have the client or hiring manager relationships.  There were times when I ended up sharing with the hiring company my very candid assessments of the headhunter, as I believe their actions and behavior are not only hurting themselves, but also the reputation of the hiring company.  For someone involved in assessing, selecting and negotiating headhunting service contracts with corporate human resources on a day-to-day basis, my first hand review certainly carry some weight.

The reason I am critical of our beloved match makers is that I care about my reputation and I take my career very seriously.  It’s an extremely personal business.  Better yet, I have seen and worked with the very good ones.  They are a delight to work with.  They are well prepared, informative, and great communicators.  They share candid and timely feedback and most importantly, establish a close partnership with the candidate.  Quite frankly, I do not wish there were more good headhunters.  I just wish there were fewer bad ones.  Much, much fewer.

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Are You Linked In?

The most recent IPO of LinkedIn raised a lot of eyebrows.  Starting off at $45 a share last Thursday, today’s stock price is a whopping $93.  With this apparent huge demand and popularity analysts are expecting to see similar IPO success with other social media firms like Groupon and Facebook.  Yes, there is enormous profit to be made being socially and commercially connected.

I believe I was on LinkedIn much earlier than the birth of my Facebook life.  Keeping business cards is a real chore and even if you have all of them nicely stacked in name card cases, they become obsolete in no time due to mergers & acquisitions, changes in company names, addresses and phone numbers, your contacts changing jobs, and eventually you find yourself totally disconnected from the business world, again.

Having my business contacts’ profiles on LinkedIn makes my life so much easier.  I can access them anywhere, be updated of their whereabouts, and no more obsolete corporate e-mail addresses due to personal movements.  More importantly, I can choose to upload my business credentials onto my profile for selected access of my contacts, making self introductions less necessary in business meetings.  Face it, knowing that you have been in the field for 11 years and being no stranger to competitors’ business, a subtle message of “I’ll not be fooled” is sent.

Though for bulk of the last decade LinkedIn is filled with so-called headhunters and personnel agencies trying to extend their talent database.  It’s not that bad actually if you are keen in knowing what’s out there, though at times it can get to be a bit annoying.  It certainly saves time applying for a job through conventional means.  Instead of approaching a headhunter or placement firm, now they come to you, and they come from all over the world with the convenience of a global platform.

That happens of course, if you have put together an impressive and colorful enough resume on your profile that attracts attention.   Although it’s impossible to gauge what recruiters and employers are looking for in each and every job opportunity, a detailed and comprehensive write-up won’t hurt.  Unlike Facebook, you are responsible to manage your professional image in front of the world, and it’s worth spending the time to craft your message.  With the functionalities of the two social networks getting more and more similar,  it’s gratifying to know that none of your business contacts will see a tagged photo of yourself dancing drunk on the bar counter, appearing right under your career achievements.

Well, maybe not yet.

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In every job search opportunity the topic of remuneration and package always comes out one point or another.  Regardless whether you think you have any negotiation power on what’s on offer or not, you should know what you are worth.  If I were the employer, even if I don’t agree with the number you are proposing, you would still have gained my respect if you present a relevant logic of how you tabulate the number.

Salary surveys, benchmark reports, and insider information are all undoubtedly helpful in assessing how much your fair pay is going to be, but don’t apply yourself in everything you are hearing.  Each person has distinct characteristics and experience to offer and the higher the career ladder you are at, the bigger the variability.  So next time when the so-called headhunters coerce you in accepting an “unbeatable” offer, do your own research and make your own assessment.

What makes you stand out from the other candidates being considered for the same position?  Do you know who are out there and what level of experience they have?  The number one step is to know your competition.  Once you have been in a profession for some years, that should not be as hard to do as it seems.  You should have compared yourself with your colleagues in your own company, those in competitors’ organizations, at business seminars, trainings and cocktail parties.  In my line of work, I particularly pay attention to the personalities of my industry peers other than just their professional qualifications, because sometimes that is what it takes to tell a couple of similarly qualified candidates apart.

The hard qualifiers are easy.  Years of experience, number of subordinates, revenue numbers, savings figures etc. are all quantifiable.  Compare your accomplishments with the market to assess your net worth.  Why is your employer going to be “profitable” to bring you on board?  To drive revenue up?  To land more savings?  To re-energize the team?  Always make sure you will be delivering a much bigger number than what you want on your paycheck.  It’s simple math, and both sides have to win.

Yet it’s the soft qualities that few manage to notice.  Soft qualities like personalities, influencing skills, communication skills, staying power and leadership skills all have unlimited potential that no past accomplishments can truly showcase.  We have seen countless cases where a very competent high performer fails miserably in his new role because he does not have the leadership skills at the next level.  I wrote about that in my earlier post recommending Marshall Goldsmith’s book.   On the other hand, if you are confident that your soft skills are going to add great value to the post at hand, make sure you let your employers and headhunters know about it with examples, and then attach a dollar figure to it.  Yes how one sees this figure as relevant is a subjective issue, but as long as you can put together your logic behind it, there isn’t much to lose.

When negotiation is at stake particularly for a fairly big portion of your career life,  don’t be shy about it.   The key is to be as fact-based as possible, build a convincing proposition and articulate it skillfully.  If you are a good salesman at your job, why wouldn’t you do it for yourself?


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Unless you have a clear and straightforward career path, you are likely to run into potential employers of a brand new industry.  I have plenty of experience in this area.  In my career life I have almost never repeated industries in my job moves, and I covered that on my About Me page.  Aside from obvious assessments of a potential new employer’s standing within my particular professional domain, I often need to run some “background checks” of my own.  What is this industry?  How do they rank relative to their competitors in the industry?  Are they performing well?  With help from the internet, while many employers are now Googling their candidates, it is just stupid if I am not doing my share in return.

Regardless of the actual likelihood of staying with any one employer for good, it is still prudent to presume that your next employer is a life-long dependable partner, very much like in the world of relationships.  Hence I also try to validate the long-term viability of the company’s business.  Do they stand a chance in the upcoming one to two decades?  I generally prefer not to take risky odds unless I know full well that my role is going to be consultative and transitional based.

So when IBISWorld identified 10 key industries that will for sure decline even after the economy revives, I was captivated by the title.  According to IBISWorld, “Of these 10 chosen industries, they all generally exhibit one or more of the following detrimental factors…

  • Damaging external competition
  • Advancements in technology
  • Industry stagnation”

For the full March 2011 IBISWorld special report by Toon Van Beeck, click here.

It’s no rocket science really, but I still feel it’s valuable enough to pass it on.  Thanks to Vault.com, who has put together a nice little Top 10 Dying Industries slide show accordingly. 

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In Part One I wrote about procurement salaries and I recently come across new United Kingdom data from The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS).  For those who are curious over the profession’s earning power, read on.

Earning Power

By Supply Management magazine

Purchasing managers are more highly paid than their colleagues in marketing, HR sales, IT and finance. Members of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) earn £1,500 more a year than purchasing professionals who are not members. The pay gap between men and women is virtually non-existent in procurement. And more than half of purchasing professionals say they have good or excellent job satisfaction.

Figures like that make procurement a real contender in the graduate jobs market. The profession is seen by many organisations as the department that saves money, and while purchasers were not immune to job cuts during the recession they have generally escaped the worst of the cull. And now, procurement recruiters are reporting a buoyant market post-recession as posts open up and buyers become more confident about switching jobs.

And salaries are holding up well. The general complaint in this resurgent procurement jobs market isn’t that there aren’t enough applicants, but that there aren’t enough of the right calibre, so employers are willing to pay more than average to get the right people.

For junior managers, which is entry level for graduates, pay is about on a par with the national average for similar jobs in other professions: £30,000 compared with an average of £29,650, according to the 2010 Purchasing & Supply Rewards research from CIPS and Croner Reward. This is ever so slightly less than you’d get in an equivalent position in IT (£30,904) or sales (£30,441), but a bit more than in finance, HR and marketing.

As you rise through the profession, though, you can expect the gap to grow. At senior manager level you would probably be earning in the region of £52,500, about £10,000 more than you would be in HR or marketing, and compared with a national average at this level of £45,000. The trend continues right up to director level, where the average for purchasing is £90,000. For HR this is £72,611, against a national average of £80,000.

It is only at director level that there is any discrepancy between the genders, with the women who responded to the survey (10 per cent of the directors who responded were female) saying they earnt an average of £78,000, compared with an average of £90,000 for the men.

Average bonuses reported in this year’s survey were £2,500, with the top earners getting £4,800. Middle managers generally ended up with about £2,160, and 29 per cent of all respondents received a bonus averaging £1,200.

Of course, reward isn’t all about the pay. Working conditions and job satisfaction are also part of the package. The news isn’t quite as rosy as far as working hours go. There has been a general increase over the past year in the number of hours procurement professionals work, although this is by no means unique to purchasing. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has recorded a rise in the number of hours worked across the UK as the economy recovers and labour demands grow. In procurement, this has meant that the biggest proportion of employees work 41 to 45 hours a week; last year the biggest proportion worked 40 hours a week.

Despite this, 54 per cent of survey respondents rated their job satisfaction as good or excellent. Almost all of them said that their job security was fair to excellent, and 77 per cent said they thought their total pay package was equal to or above market rates. A happy bunch, then – and with the right skills and abilities you could be well placed to join them.”

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“Did you know that Guiness employees…

  • Enjoy free happy hours on Thursday nights at a onsite pub;
  • Receive a liquor allowance each quarter;
  • Can take advantage of partially paid gym memberships;
  • Enjoy on-site services such as health clubs, laundry and dry cleaning services, film development, tailoring and banking services;
  • Are paid well and receive great benefits?”

This is an e-mail I received from Vault.com to market its company profile and insider information services aimed at job seekers. 

Interesting.  Free alcohol on work site.

Though this is hardly unorthodox at all.  At least they are an alcoholic beverages producer, and who can testify their products better than the employees?  I once conducted a e-sourcing training program for Nestle in Beijing.  During break I found fridges packed with ice cream bars that are free for employees to indulge themselves, let alone all the other coffees and soft drinks.  How they managed not to weigh 200 pounds was a mystery to me.  What’s truly amazing, is when companies like accounting firms, investment banks and law firms, offer Friday parties and fully paid gym memberships to the employees as an attempt to promote workplace harmony and work-life balance.

Undoubtedly we all love our perks and benefits.  Other than the critical medical and insurance benefits that I think everyone should be entitled to, I am not too crazy on the perks above.  It’s a nice gesture, but I do get a paycheck from my employer.  If I think that paycheck is fair, I will be as loyal to the company as the reciprocal treatment is evidential.  If my colleagues want to complain about not getting free wine, free office furniture, free fancy stationery or even free meals on company dime, I am happy to see them leaving for the folks that do.  We all have a choice, and it’s not like our employers have tricked us staying for good.  They might have in other aspects, but that is a whole different story, and one that shouldn’t be mixed in the same pot.

At the end of the day, all I am saying is that as long as I am compensated appropriately, I’d rather make use of my paycheck and spend it on dinner parties, gym memberships, home furnishings, investment and vacation plans with my family and friends, my way my time.  If you find that you are not receiving your paychecks lately, call the Labor Department now instead of stealing office supplies.

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I read from the vault guide that there are now actual internship applications with candidates listing “excellent Facebooker” and “highly skilled Tweeter” on their resumes.  Apparently the ability to connect with thousands of Facebook friends is an accomplishment, and I take my hat off to them. 

But seriously?  What are they thinking?

Hold that thought.   Continuing on from my thoughts yesterday, when today’s post-80s, or Generation Y, are ready for more senior roles in the corporate world, the scene may be totally different.  While social networking skills may not be something worth bragging about now, a few years later the absence of such will be considered fatal disqualifiers for Generation Y hiring managers.

Social media usage will only grow further with younger generations as they mature, contrary to some beliefs that they will grow out of such sites.  With the increasing leverage of social media sites for corporate advertising, loyalty programs, public awareness and even hiring, the next time we try to shrug our shoulders reading those social networking attributes, let’s get real for a second and think again.

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