Interview # 5: The Headhunter
UK appears to be a distant memory for our next interviewee but she has certainly made a name for herself within the recruitment space since she graced our shores. Having no experience in recruitment, how does one break into the industry? How does one build a network of contacts or start a new desk? Let’s hear more from the lady herself.
IN THE BEGINNING
MMA. Hello Ann, how are you?
Ann. I am not doing too badly. The market is still not the best at this point in time you know but I am doing well.
MMA. Oh good. We were supposed to be catching up last Friday but you had a pressing appointment with a client. I hope that that went well.
Ann. I am so sorry about that. The client is a little bit out of the way, you know what I mean? I would have struggled to make it on time. I also like bundling my meetings together to get them out of the way. That also means that I have more uninterrupted time at my desk…or at least that is the theory.
MMA. No, no of course. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here. You will be the first recruiter / headhunter in this section of the blog. And for those readers that are looking for a new role, it would be good to grab your insights.
Ann. I’m always happy to help.
MMA. And so let us officially start. I always like to begin by asking what you did in university. Wait, sorry. Make that what you wanted to be when you were young.
Ann. Well not in my line of work now that’s for sure. I don’t know too many people dreaming of being a recruiter when they were young.
MMA. I guess not.
Ann. I always wanted to work in Fashion; designing new clothes and accessories, you know. However I did find out later that I am not very artistic so I dropped that idea and did a Bachelor of Science in university. In my 3rd year, I did a visitation in autistic schools and did that for 2 years. During this time I also did some promotional work to just get the cash in.
MMA. Familiar territory for university kids. And so what happened after that?
Ann. I joined an asset management group as a Relationship Manager. That was focusing on retention of business, handling of complaints. That was a tough period as this was during the GFC and I was made redundant.
MMA. I can relate to that. It was a tough time during that period and I had to take smaller projects for smaller money and some roles were intermittent i.e. they only wanted people to fill in small time gaps.
Ann. I guess at that stage the GFC was troubling, but it was also around this time that I received an invitation to move to this country. So there were a few things on happening to me personally at that stage.
MMA. Fair enough. So when you got here, did you take a holiday or did you work straight away?
Ann. I took a little bit of time to settle in first but then I looked for a job straight after. I was lucky to find something quickly; a small brokerage firm that specialized in fixed interest investments. Once again I was a Relationship Manager – the only Relationship Manager for the group. We only had 3 traders.
MMA. So I guess they found the close connection between your prior role as a RM in Asset Management to their opening.
Ann. I guess they did. The bad news was it was a small firm that was also feeling the after effects of the GFC. They subsequently closed down not too long after I started there. It’s actually amazing that upon reflection, I squeezed a lot out of that experience like the RG146 training they provided me. That’s a value add which I can use to this day.
MMA. That was good of them. I guess it goes to show that they were really keen on you. Additionally, providing a new recruit with immediate training speaks volumes about the attitudes of the company itself and the quality of personnel. But it was just a matter of bad timing for you unfortunately.
Ann. It was but I always take a something good out of every experience. In this case, I leveraged my recent experience for my next role which so happened to be within working for a structured products group, a subsidiary of a funds management company. I worked in retaining the current client base, attempting to grow the base where possible. But yes, I guess you can see the similarities between this role and my prior role…so one door closes and another one opens.
MMA. They sure do.
Ann. ..but then that door shut again, haha. Once again, I found myself in a similar situation where I was made redundant because the company wasn’t generating any revenues. GFC is far reaching!
MMA. You don’t have to explain. My contracts were also short as mentioned, for this very same reason.
Ann. I had an additional challenge in that they were sponsoring my visa. So I was really quite down at this point and had to look for something quick.
I was fortunate enough to know a friend who recommended me for a consultant role in an agency. This was something I never really considered doing you know, it just happened more than it was planned.
MMA. But it happened because of a ‘connection’. It goes to show the power of relationships.
Ann. Very true. And I guess that is an essential element in any sales-focused role.
MMA. So you got this job as a consultant-slash-recruiter for this agency. What can you share with us about this job?
Ann. As any recruiter will tell you, when times are good, it’s the best job in the world. We get compensated for sales. But when times are tough, it’s the worst job in the world.
MMA. So times are ok at the moment?
Ann. Well it’s not the best. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the worst I’ve seen. Compared to the stories back home, we certainly are having a better time over here.
MMA. Sorry we got side-tracked. You were saying about your job..
Ann. Oh yes, I quite enjoy my job. I like meeting new people. You know what? This job is really what you make of it; you can sit there on the phones all day and speak to clients and candidates, or, you go out and meet these people. I certainly prefer the latter.
MMA. So on a percent-of-your-day-basis, how much of your day is taken up meeting people and how much is on the desk?
Ann. I would say 40% meeting clients and/or candidates, and 60% at the desk. I must qualify that by saying the 60% is not pure on-the-phones time. There are other aspects to working in recruitment firm than just that. There is the resourcing aspect, where we source candidates for our clients. I’ll be in the office past 7pm just to make sure that the next day I have a list of candidates that I need to call. Each recruiter works differently but I certainly need to be organized in that way. My day falls in place if I prepare the day before.
Also for the role that we are talking about now, I set up a new Banking and Finance desk from scratch. That was a lot of work.
MMA. Can you take us through that set up process. What do you actually do when you set up a desk? What does the process entail?
Ann. Sure thing. First thing is that I look through my list of candidates and their profile. Their history will tell me who their employers were and by reading a few other candidates from this employer, I would have a profile for what type of candidate that employer historically hires.
I would then want to identify if there were any live requirements from that employer. “Live” as in if that employer needed bodies in their business. The best way to approach this is through connections – if I knew someone from that company then I would want to be introduced. If I knew someone that knew the hiring manager then I would also request for an introduction. For example in a recruitment agency, I am naturally surrounded by guys that have existing relationships with clients. I typically ask my manager first if they have a relationship before I ask anyone else.
If I don’t have a connection then cold-calling will do but there are a lot of nuances about that too such as where to source the information. Of course, LinkedIn comes into play here. Having connections, joining groups and just general networking is essential. But as mentioned I am believer in meeting people. Being connected is one thing, but having a personal face-to-face interaction is another, do you know what I mean?
Also, when I meet a client for the first time, it is very important to know what you’re talking about. Actually that filters down through to the 2nd, 3rd impressions too…if there was ever such a thing. So yes, a lot of research goes in to the process too.
MMA. I believe there is certainly such a thing as making a good impression post-introduction. But I guess you can only ever make a good impression once. After that, you are either in the job or you’re not.
Ann. Quite true.
MMA. Sorry, you were saying about starting a new desk?
Ann. Yes. That was a bit of effort but we were successful in opening that Banking and Finance desk up and its grown to be a good profit earner for that agency.
I forgot to mention that for that agency, I started recruiting for project managers but that market was crap so I switched to DBA’s. That was far healthier than PM roles let me tell you. Although commissions for PM placements are better, it just does not have volume.
MMA. That’s something I have pointed out in my Job Market Demand reports if you compare the data for PM versus Developers .
Ann. I’ve experienced it in the real world so I know exactly what it’s like.
MMA. Out of curiosity, how do you get around the fact that some companies only deal with agents on the panel which have existing PSA’s.
Ann. I would initially stress that we are a specialist recruitment company and I would name our specialties. It’s ok if we do not have a PSA but what we do have are people with specialist skills which could match their requirements closer to those agencies with a PSA.
Of course after we say that, we try to find out when that company will reassess their existing PSA’s so that we can get on it! It just makes it easier you know.
MMA. Haha. I completely understand. So you’re referring to this agency in the past tense. Did you leave?
Ann. I did because of the opportunity more than anything else. So now I am with another recruitment firm, a larger group who are willing to sponsor me for my visa which was one of my main requirements.
MMA. I’m glad that that is working out. We certainly don’t want you to go.
Ann. Yes, well I don’t want to go either.
MMA. What’s the most annoying thing that can happen at work? It may have been something that happened recently or in the past.
Ann. This situation happened recently. I had a done deal, made the placement, all contracts were signed, everything all set and ready to go. The problem was the candidate didn’t turn up for job!
MMA. They just didn’t turn up? Did they have a better offer?
Ann. At first we couldn’t contact the person. Days later we found out that the drop off was due to personal reasons. You know, these things happen and I fully understand that. It just makes it difficult when people don’t call me in the first instance because this was a new client that I placed him with and I was trying to build that relationship. It certainly doesn’t look good from my perspective if the candidate just doesn’t turn up without any form of warning.
In the background, we also invoiced the client for a resource that didn’t turn up.
MMA. Can you tell me a little more about how that entire commission system works?
Ann. There is usually a threshold where the consultant is paying for their own desk so to speak. Mine is x amount which means that I receive commission calculated based on a percent of wage figure when I make a successful placement.
There is also a time factor here. If we invoice a client for a placement but a month later the candidate leaves the job, then I may not be paid my commission.
MMA. I see. That must be terribly frustrating as you do not have any control over the situation.
MMA. Hey speaking of no call-backs from people, can I ask why job applicants do not hear back from recruiters these days. Is it just due to the volume of candidates out there coupled with low demand from clients?
Ann. Well every recruitment consultant is different, don’t tar us all with the same brush! If I have sent a candidates resume over to a client, I always get back to the candidate, however, if I am in the process of resourcing, and creating a shortlist of candidates I am going to send over, I will let the candidate know that I may not get back to them , only if they have been shortlisted. A recruiter’s time is extremely precious as the market moves so quickly, so spending a couple of hours calling back candidates who you are not going to send to a roll is not an effective use of your time.
MMA. That’s fair enough answer. And similar to that question, how does the email system work? Is there a generic drop box accessed by all consultants where all job applications are directed to? What happens when you advertise a job but an applicant applies through another channel e.g. your own personal email or a LinkedIn message? What is policy and how do you personally prioritise between job ad responses?
Ann. Again, each recruitment firm is different, however my experience is that all adverts that I put up on Seek, go straight back to my email address, and also if a candidate send me it directly, of course it comes straight through to me again.
MMA. So Ann, what do you see in your crystal ball for the industry?
Ann. There will be more emphasis on PSA’s rather than specialist companies for areas like ‘Business Analysts’ for example. I can just see that trend happening right now as we mentioned before.
MMA. Not a problem. And where can you see yourself in the future? Am I potentially speaking to the next managing director of a specialist agency?
Ann. Ill stay in the industry for a while just because it pays the bills. I’d say maybe about 10 years or so. After that time, I would love to get back into doing something with the autistic kids. I really enjoyed that time in my life. It was personally very rewarding for me you know?
I would also like to do something with animals. I can marry-up both; dogs that help guide autistic kids. That’s been on my mind for a bit now.
MMA. A dog lover?
Ann. How can you not be one? They are just sooo adorable. Every time I see one I just want give them a hug!
Regrettably, the interviewer did not have a dog at hand with him at the time of interview.
Ann’s identity has been masked upon her request. This blog uses real people who have worked for more than 5 years in the Australian Banking and IT industry.
Market Measures Australia
 RG 146 stands for “Regulatory Guideline 146″ which is a document outlined under the Financial Services Reform Act 2001 (FSRA) which is governed and administered by the Australian Securities Investments Commission (ASIC). Source: RG 146 Courses website, 8 May 2012.