Re­cruiters rein­vent rules

In the cur­rent job cli­mate, em­ploy­ers sell them­selves to ap­pli­cants and hope some­one will like them, writes Denise Cullen

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

YOU’VE heard of speed dat­ing, but what about speed in­ter­view­ing? Based on the pop­u­lar sin­gles events which help suit­ors con­nect with sev­eral ro­man­tic prospects in a short time frame, speed in­ter­views are just one of sev­eral strate­gies be­ing hauled into com­mis­sion by em­ploy­ers des­per­ate to find and keep the best can­di­dates.

Launched at Na­tional Ca­reers and Em­ploy­ment Ex­pos across the coun­try this year, speed in­ter­views in­volve chats last­ing as lit­tle as two or three min­utes, be­fore re­cruiters and can­di­dates are moved along by the sound of a bell.

As with speed dat­ing, par­tic­i­pants who sense they share a cer­tain com­pat­i­ble chem­istry can sub­se­quently pro­ceed by mu­tual ar­range­ment to full-length ‘‘ first dates’ — or, in this case, job in­ter­views.

Such con­ver­sa­tional sprints won’t cure Aus­tralia’s staffing prob­lems, but they do of­fer a fresher and friend­lier approach to find­ing the right peo­ple for the right roles, says Julie Mills, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Re­cruit­ment and Con­sult­ing Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion (RCSA). ‘‘ It pro­vides a more fun, en­gag­ing way to build re­la­tion­ships with fu­ture clients and can­di­dates,’’ she says.

Af­ter all, given to­day’s record em­ploy­ment lev­els and acute labour short­ages, woo­ing new re­cruits re­quires a whole new set of tech­niques. Gone are scenes of po­ten­tial hires left sweat­ing it out in an im­per­sonal re­cep­tion area, wait­ing to be in­ter­ro­gated by a hand­ful of panel mem­bers who make it clear they wield all the power.

‘‘ Lip­stick­ing the pig’’, where em­ploy­ers dress up a dud job to make it ap­pear more ex­cit­ing than it re­ally is, is also on the wane, given dis­sat­is­fied em­ploy­ees’ predilec­tion to sim­ply walk rather than stay.

Keep­ing can­di­dates happy is the name of the game. In the wake of a job in­ter­view, it’s now far more likely the can­di­dates, not the em­ploy­ers, will be the ones to say, ‘‘ We’re just not that into you’’, as they snap up al­ter­na­tive of­fers.

For both re­cruiters and em­ploy­ers, at­tract­ing and cap­tur­ing tal­ent in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place thus re­quires far more cre­ativ­ity and com­mit­ment than ever be­fore.

‘‘ Like all com­pa­nies in the min­ing in­dus­try, we’re vy­ing for a lim­ited num­ber of ex­pe­ri­enced and skilled en­gi­neers,’’ ex­plains Ja­son Stirbin­skis, gen­eral man­ager of Min­eral En­gi­neer­ing Tech­ni­cal Ser­vices (METS) in West­ern Aus­tralia.

‘‘ We had to come up with a new way (to stand out),’’ he adds.

Toss­ing out for­mal job de­scrip­tions and let­ting can­di­dates write their own is how METS has en­sured its grab for high-cal­i­bre can­di­dates isn’t lost amid the prom­i­nent ads of much larger min­ing houses. ‘‘ This is a sell­ers’ mar­ket, so rather than tell the ap­pli­cant what we can of­fer, we ask them what they want to sell,’’ says Stirbin­skis.

Rather than ad­ver­tise a given role and job de­scrip­tion, METS pro­vides a job ti­tle and the rest of the ad­ver­tise­ment is a make-your-own smor­gas­bord of at­tributes from which can­di­dates build their ideal job.

‘‘ Would you em­ploy a great met­al­lur­gist if they in­sisted on not work­ing Wed­nes­days? Of course you would,’’ Stirbin­skis says. ‘‘ What if a strong process en­gi­neer said they must have in­ter­na­tional travel? Would you turn them away or would you find some way of get­ting them over­seas for awhile, even if it didn’t gen­er­ate rev­enue? What if a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer said they wanted to learn mar­ket­ing? Would you give them one day a week with the mar­ket­ing team, or re­ject their ap­pli­ca­tion?

‘‘ We stay within a few guide­lines so the com­pany will con­tinue to be suc­cess­ful, but ev­ery­thing else is com­pletely open for ex­plo­ration. METS does not pre­tend to un­der­stand the plethora of mo­ti­va­tors that may in­ter­est an ap­pli­cant. Rather than guess, we sim­ply ask the

‘ ques­tion, ‘ What does your next job look like?’ Then we see if we can cre­ate it inside METS.’’

Giv­ing peo­ple free­dom to cus­tomise their ca­reers, with more of what they want and less of what they don’t, is a hall­mark of the cur­rent em­ploy­ment mar­ket, says Gra­hame Doyle, a re­gional di­rec­tor at spe­cial­ist re­cruiter Hays.

For in­stance, in the re­sources in­dus­try flexible fly-in, fly-out poli­cies are no longer a bonus, but a must. ‘‘ It was quite a rigid frame­work be­fore,’’ he ex­plains. ‘‘ It was a view of, ‘ If you wish to work for us this is our fly in and out pol­icy’. Now em­ploy­ees get a lot more choice.’’

This free­wheel­ing at­ti­tude spills over into count­less other ar­eas. Doyle says em­ploy­ees now have far greater flex­i­bil­ity to opt to work from home, to travel, to take ad­di­tional an­nual leave, or to re­ceive ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tance so they can up­grade their qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Gen­er­ous ma­ter­nity leave pro­vi­sions are an­other in­creas­ingly im­por­tant tool used to both at­tract and re­tain staff, says Tris­tan For­rester, a se­nior con­sul­tant with Beaton Con­sult­ing.

‘‘ This is a key is­sue for the pro­fes­sions, par­tic­u­larly in law where there are more women than men at ev­ery level ex­cept part­ner,’’ he says.

Some law firms cope with an­nual staff at­tri­tion rates of 35 to 40 per cent while the cost of re­plac­ing a sin­gle lawyer with four years’ ex­pe­ri­ence is es­ti­mated at $150,000 in loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­place­ment costs.

Yet Beaton Con­sult­ing re­search, based on a re­cent study of 1000 law firm em­ploy­ees, shows that the most ef­fec­tive way to at­tract tal­ent — ahead of even money and ca­reer pro­gres­sion op­por­tu­ni­ties — is through the use of a firm’s strong rep­u­ta­tion.

‘‘ En­sur­ing that part­ners in pro­fes­sional ser­vice firms act in ways that at­tract and re­tain good peo­ple, by giv­ing them learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, dis­cussing their ca­reers and talk­ing to them about the firm’s di­rec­tion, is still the holy grail for many firms,’’ says For­rester.

This, com­bined with the fact that in­ter­views are now as much about sell­ing the job as as­sess­ing the can­di­date, many firms are hand­pick­ing and then train­ing any­one likely to meet a can­di­date in an in­ter­view.

‘‘ The fo­cus is on con­vey­ing the firm’s brand in the in­ter­view, in both word and deed, and on telling great sto­ries that demon­strate the brand,’’ he says. ‘‘ One firm had a 50 per cent in­crease in ac­cep­tances af­ter train­ing all staff in­volved in the re­cruit­ment process.’’

He notes the skills short­age is push­ing up spot­ter’s fees for suc­cess­ful lat­eral hires.

‘‘ A fee of $5000 is quite com­mon — though anec­do­tally, some firms are of­fer­ing be­tween $10,000 and $20,000 for the right can­di­date and firms are also run­ning re­fer­ral drives, or ‘ blitzes’, in which the fee goes even higher,’’ he ex­plains.

Even a can­di­date turn­ing down a job of­fer is not a sig­nal to shred their file.

‘‘ If a can­di­date says ‘ no’, they ac­tu­ally be­gin on a new jour­ney where the firm tries to stay in touch and slowly con­vinces them to say ‘ yes’,’’ For­rester says. ‘‘ Firms are cre­at­ing alum­nis of ex-can­di­dates and ‘ can­di­date track­ing’ pro­grams, then pe­ri­od­i­cally send­ing out post­cards or let­ters to stay in touch.’’

Pic­ture: Andrew MacColl

Speed in­ter­view: A more fun, en­gag­ing way to build re­la­tion­ships with fu­ture clients and can­di­dates,’ says Julie Mills

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