22 February 2017

Facebook jobs: a massive win for genuine recruitment consultants

Last week we saw the official confirmation of what has been an open secret for some years: Job postings on Facebook.

LinkedIn's dominance in the corporate recruiting world has been unchallenged due its unmatched depth of high skill professionals available on its platform. The price of the not-free LinkedIn recruitment offerings has made it clear that large enterprises recruiting relatively highly paid professionals are LinkedIn's profitable market. In its announcement Facebook has staked out its claim for the low-to-semi skilled staffing market that the Small-to-Medium Enterprise's (SMEs) are overwhelmingly recruiting from.

Given the vast numbers of active Facebook users, the number of visits each user makes to the site each day and the amount of time each user spends on the site once they get there, you can see the immediate attraction of a jobs option for many employers.

What could this mean for the recruitment industry?

Not a great deal, I suspect.

I recall that Seek was touted by many as beginning of the end for the recruitment industry. The same was said, and continues to be said, of LinkedIn.

Every entrepreneur with an app or an algorithm was going to cause great pain to the '...outdated, needlessly expensive and ineffective...' recruitment industry leading to our inevitable demise.

I have written about these entrepreneurs a number of times in the past. Most recently here, here, and here.

Every prophecy of doom has proven, so far at least, to be wrong.

And I can't see jobs on Facebook being any different.

As has been said by me, and many others, there's no data to support the proposition that recruitment agencies are becoming redundant (Greg Savage's excellent blog from nearly two years ago Agency recruitment is not dying. It's growing contains substantial data that counters this myth).

Last month it was reported that 2016 saw the largest ever number of UK recruitment agencies (4,529) commence business in a calendar year.

The reason for this growth is simple - there isn't an app, algorithm, job board, networking site, video hosting site or anything else that has the capability to pick up the phone, speak to a person, engage them in a conversation and cause that person to put themselves onto the job market for a specific opportunity, most likely an opportunity that the person was not aware of and would never have sought out otherwise.

I believe that LinkedIn, and now Facebook, risk alienating the good customers they do have by continuing to encroach on the territory of the other. Why do these sites make their offering less distinct not more distinct? The answer is to be found in the expectations of the shareholders of each company - they want to see growth in sales, profit and stock price and once a company becomes as massive as they each are now (Microsoft, owner of LinkedIn: USD$495 billion market capitalisation, Facebook: USD$385 billion market cap.) they can't afford to be too choosy about where that growth comes from; it just has to come otherwise the stock price stops rising (the Microsoft stock price has risen by 30 per cent in the seven months since the announcement of the LinkedIn purchase in June 2016).

This pursuit of the same customers inevitably leads to plenty of unhappy users who prefer that their favourite site would stop messing with tried-and-true formula they have liked for so long.

All the plethora of ‘recruitment disruptors' prove, more so with each new entrant to this crowded field, is that the core job of a recruitment consultant remains one beyond the reach of technology alone.

This is not the case for generic resume-referring recruiters who, largely or entirely, find active candidates and send resumes that match job descriptions, competing for a discounted fee with many other recruiters doing exactly the same thing. These types of recruiters are continually under threat because they are not doing anything which is not able to be done faster and cheaper by an app, algorithm, job board or networking site.

These types of recruiters are working increasingly harder for increasingly smaller returns and there's only one way it's going to end: in tears.

Meanwhile the genuine recruitment consultant; the recruiter providing an offering that no technology can replicate, will welcome all the disruptors who care to enter the recruitment industry. They do so safe in the knowledge that the value of their service is even more sharply apparent to their clients, compared to the multitude of apps, algorithms, job boards and networking sites.

Jobs on Facebook?

Bring it on!

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15 February 2017

Reputation: hard won and easily lost

Many years ago in the infancy of my stint as a Sydney temp accounting recruiter, I was asked by a very good client of mine, Thomas Cook (a brand no longer operating in Australia), if I could supply them with a secretary (as they were mostly called in those days) for a two week assignment. At that stage I was doing very well with my numerous accounting temps at the company and, with more than a slight whiff of hubris, decided that even though I had never interviewed let alone placed a secretary before, I was going to fill the job.

I can’t recall how I sourced the candidate but I certainly remember that it was a disastrous placement; the candidate didn’t have the skills to do what was required and I had to tell her that her services were no longer required after day one.

It was a dent in my, up until that point, very good reputation with the client. It caused my client embarrassment internally and, unsurprisingly, he didn’t allow me to forget it for a long time. My glowing reputation with the client was brought down to earth with a loud thud.

It was a lesson hard learned and not easily forgotten. Although there were other mistakes I made with assignments outside of my competence, the pain of a damaged reputation was never more acute than that Thomas Cook stuff up.

The value of reputation is especially critical in a service business such as recruitment. This trust is a very profitable part of a recruiter’s relationship with an individual client. A deep level of trust enables a temp recruiter to confirm temps into a job without the client requiring a resume to review or a candidate to interview. A perm recruiter’s similarly high level of client trust is displayed when the client does not need to make a decision on which referred candidates to interview – all the recommended candidates are booked in.

That trust is hard won and easily lost as a result of complacency or overconfidence or both.

Last week we saw an example of this when the Australian Financial Review published a story under the headline Australia Post used executive recruitment agency that underpaid workers. The story opened:
  
Australia Post is facing legal action for using an executive recruitment agency to engage low-level workers at below the minimum wage.
The arrangement under the supervision of a senior executive member of Australia Post saw a group of four casual data entry workers paid $19.48 an hour when they should have been paid at least $32.16 an hour.
The workers, most in their twenties, were not paid overtime or penalty rates and one was allegedly underpaid $4300 in just four weeks.
The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union has taken Australia Post to the Fair Work Commission, accusing it of breaching its enterprise agreement which required it to notify the union if it contracted out work and to pay contractors the same as Australia Post workers.
The union alleges that in January this year national credit manager David Gibkus interviewed the employees for a short-term project and then directed them to sign up with executive recruitment firm Alex Kaar.
The workers signed employment contracts with Alex Kaar, which promised them $160 a day including superannuation, and then worked at Australia Post head office under the direction of Mr Gibkus.
At 7.5 hours a day, the pay equated to $15.59 an hour plus a 25 per cent casual loading, well below the minimum hourly wage of $17.70.
When I read this story, my first response was “What the hell was the Alex Kaar consultant thinking?”

Consider what you find on the Alex Kaar website:

Notice the tag line under the brand name: 'Executive & Board Appointments'. Notice that nowhere under Our Services does it list temporary recruitment (used to identify hourly rate, mostly award-level semi-skilled workers) distinct from Contracting Services (contractors who are, commonly but not always, daily rate non-award highly skilled workers).

It’s very clear, in this instance at least, that Alex Kaar provided services to Australia Post well outside its self-identified areas of expertise and competence.

To compound his company’s mistake, Alex Kaar MD, Chris Karagounis was quoted in the AFR story:

“….Karagounis said his firm did not normally engage low-level employees but would occasionally provide "payroll functions" to clients.

"We make no money from this, we do it as a favour," he said.
"We don't set the rates, we get told what to do."
Mr Karagounis said the underpayments were likely a mistake in the amounts provided by Australia Post.
"We will fix it on behalf of Australia Post because it's the right thing to do," he said.
I am not sure about you, but blaming your client for something you failed to do (check your legal obligations as the employer of the temps) in an area you don’t identify as part of your service offerings (therefore it’s even more obvious that you should be treading carefully) is not an approach I would recommend to any recruitment agency owner.
It also appears to be at odds with what can be found under Our Values on the Alex Kaar website:

Outstanding customer experience?

Integrity?

Partnerships?

Legal obligations?

Hmm, I am sure Australia Post would have every right to feel that Alex Kaar have not acted consistent with their service promise and brand values.

The result has been that Australia Post’s name has been dragged into the mud at an especially inopportune time. On the same day as the Alex Kaar story was reported, Australia Post’s managing director, Ahmer Fahoud, had his annual remuneration ($4.4m salary, $1.2m bonus) publicly revealed for the first time, leading to much negative comment, with even the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, weighing in with his views.

Credibility: it’s hard won and easily lost, especially attempting to deliver services in an area outside your stated competence. Just ask Alex Kaar.
  
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10 February 2017

Can years of education predict work performance?

I received a lot of positive feedback in response to my last blog Why many CEOs fail: They talk smart but don't act smart.

Clearly many people in the recruitment sector have witnessed the same thing whether inside their own company or inside a client’s company.

Looking at the recent actions of President Trump, it’s obvious how his campaign rhetoric (I decline to label his talk ‘smart’) is proving very difficult to put into effective action (Tip for President Trump – effective work performance almost always relies on strong influencing and teamwork skills; it’s very hard to get things done unless you can gain consistent co-operation from others).

There are a couple of things you can do to ensure that you are not mistaking a smart talking candidate for a candidate who has delivered excellent results.

Three years ago I wrote about how to conduct an interview with such candidates in Is your candidate just very confident or really a charismatic narcissist? which I recommend you read.
Before an interview is even booked, I suggest you ensure that when reviewing any resume you do not make any assumptions about the candidate’s capability based on their total number of years of education.

As you all know there is a massive tertiary industry in Australia that relies very heavily on the fees of students who are encouraged to believe that additional years of study, to acquire a post-graduate diploma or post-graduate degree, will automatically lead to greater job opportunities and better remuneration.

The accuracy of this belief will depend very heavily on the industry that you want to work in and the type of job you want but in reality the most important thing is how effectively the acquired education can be converted into greater competence on-the-job, ultimately flowing through to a higher level of job performance.

Over the years I have met some very disappointed former students and graduates who discovered that all the time and money invested in gaining further education had not been sufficiently recouped via a better career or a higher paying job.

Research provides substantial evidence that total years of education is a very low predictor of job performance.

This is the result of the meta-analysis conducted by researchers Frank Schmidt and John Hunter, published in the Psychological Bulletin in 1998.
 
I read about this study on the blog of Bob Sutton (one of the co-authors of the book I quoted in my last blog; The Knowing-Doing Gap).
 
Sutton explains Schmidt and Hunter’s work as follows:
 
These two very skilled researchers analyzed the pattern of relationships observed in peer reviewed journals during the prior 85 years to identify which employee selection methods were best and worst as predictors of job performance. (A meta-analysis)… reveals the overall patterns revealed by the weight of evidence, rather than the particular quirks of any single study.
 
The authors examined 19 predictors and rank-ordered them by the validity coefficient, an indicator of how strongly the individual assessment method is linked to performance
 
The top 4 strongest predictors of work performance (and their respective coefficients) were: 
1. Work sample tests (.54)
2. General Mental Ability tests (also called Cognitive Ability tests) (.51)
3. Structured interviews (.51) 
4. Peer ratings (.49)
At the other end of the list of 19 predictors were the following 4 weakest predictors of work performance (and their respective coefficients):
16. Years of education (.10)
17. Interests (.10)
18. Graphology (.02) e.g., handwriting analysis.
19. Age (-.01)
Yes, equal third-last was years of education as a predictor of work performance.
Our industry provides a very high-profile example: Neither Geoff Morgan nor Andrew Banks completed an undergraduate degree yet, I suspect, their individual wealth would dwarf the combined wealth of 99 per cent of MBA graduates our business schools have produced since MBAs were introduced.

The other factor to consider when interviewing a candidate with a lot of education is that they are likely to have “…interesting information and ideas; and hav(e) a good vocabulary”  to quote the authors (Pfeffer and Sutton) I referenced in my last blog. This extensive education will enhance the likelihood that they talk smart and, according to the research, reduce the likelihood that they act smart.

Always assess a candidate against the competencies required to do the job at the level of performance required – make no assumptions about the candidate’s capabilities based on their years of education or how smart they sound.

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06 February 2017

Why many CEOs fail: They talk smart but don't act smart

On the morning of Friday 16 December 2016, Clarius announced to the ASX that CEO, Peter Wilson had resigned. No reason was given.
 
The previous month, I had written an analysis of the two years of Wilson’s tenure at Clarius (recently rebranded as Ignite Services). I expressed my concern about, what appeared to be, the very large gap between what Wilson was saying and the results he was producing.
 
In May 2015 I originally wrote about Wilson‘s public pronouncements a few months after he had been appointed as CEO. Wilson was heavily critical of the ‘old world Clarius’ he had inherited. He made lots of positive noises about the changes he was making, or intending to make, to fix things.
 
Nineteen months later Wilson’s resignation was announced. He left the company the same day and the following business day his successor was announced. This is not a sequence of events indicating a happy ending to a job well done. Clearly Wilson was unable to deliver the results he promised to deliver and the board decided a change needed to be made.
 
I would contend that many of the reasons for Wilson’s failure to improve Clarius’s results are most likely explained by what authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton identify in their excellent book The Knowing-Doing Gap (HBS Press, 2000).
 
Specifically, among other factors, the authors identify two significant reasons why commonly-believed-to-be ‘smart’ leaders consistently underperform in their job.

1.  Smart talk happens now, smart actions happen later:
The authors assert that forming an accurate view of a person’s capability and performance is not easy. The larger and more complex the organisation the more difficult it becomes to isolate exactly what each person has contributed to any team’s, business unit’s or company’s success. To do this properly is not just hard work, it also takes time. Conversely making a judgement about how smart somebody is takes very little time; it’s almost always immediately to hand.

“Appearing smart is mostly accomplished by sounding smart; being confident, articulate, eloquent and filled with interesting information and ideas; and having a good vocabulary. A problem arises when smart talk is confused with good performance.”

“Overall organizational performance comes from the actions of many interdependent people, so discerning any one person’s contribution is problematic and fraught with error. People also move from job to job that it is difficult to know, unambiguously, what any given person has accomplished. What you can know immediately, and with less ambiguity, is how smart a person sounds.”  (page 43, 44 & 45, my bold)

2.  Negative people seem smarter: The authors continue …
“Unfortunately for getting anything done in organisations one of the best ways of sounding smart is to be critical of others’ ideas. Be very wary of judging people just on the basis of how smart they sound, and particularly on their ability to find problems and faults with ideas. These are dangerous people. They are smart enough to stop things from happening but not action oriented enough to find new ways of overcoming problems they have identified.” (page 45 & 46)
 
Judging Wilson solely by his public utterings you could pretty confidently tick both of the above boxes.
 
I’m interested to understand why it took the Clarius board two years to realise that Wilson was ineffective at doing his job as CEO when there were plenty of red flags in his first year?

Just from the publicly available information, Wilson appeared to be focused on marginal ‘interesting’ areas (eg assessment technology, China, rebranding), making critical public pronouncements about ‘inherited problems’ that he had little or no practical idea of how to solve (eg Clarius’ sales culture) and ignoring the factors that would, most likely, make the biggest difference to the bottom line (eg the skills and motivation of both the Clarius leaders and frontline consultants).
 
Understanding the lessons from Pfeffer and Sutton’s research, it becomes a lot easier to have an educated guess why Wilson failed – he talked smart, but didn’t act smart. And the board was seduced by the smart talking for far too long.
 
As I pointed out in my previous blog on Clarius, the four Clarius directors have negligible operational experience in sales, technology or recruitment. They simply didn’t have the capability to know what to look for as a leading indicator in Wilson’s performance in leading a recruitment company, or if they did, they didn’t probe sufficiently to understand whether the results being reported were substantiated by independent data gathering or were consistently improving over the longer term, rather than the short-term.
 
I am sure the Clarius directors have learned their lesson. They couldn’t possibly be seduced by a potential CEO who simply sounded smart? They couldn’t possibly appoint another person, who like Wilson, has little, or no, recent operational experience in sales or recruitment?
 
Surely after the ‘Wilson experience‘, they would take their time to identify the best possible short-list of candidates for the role and do everything they could to hire a CEO who could restore confidence to the staff and investors?
 
What did the Clarius directors do?
 
After Wilson’s departure was announced on Friday 16 December the appointment of new CEO, Julian Sallabank was made public on Monday 19 December.
 
And what’s Mr Sallabank’s relevant background?
 
Four years as a management consultant; six years as an artist manager and event organizer, eleven years developing and managing online communities. Oh, but he has a Masters in Business and Technology from the University of New South Wales and he sits on plenty of boards.
 
I bet Mr Sallabank sounds really smart.
 
I hope for the sake of both Clarius’s staff and shareholders that he is smart in the way that he needs to be right now: smart acting. Watch this space.

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25 January 2017

Interview with 2016 SARA (NZ) Recruiter of the Year: Alex Allan of Randstad


Following on from my interview last week with New Zealand SARA winner of the Recruitment Leader of the Year, Randstad’s Brien Keegan, this week I speak to his colleague, Alex Allan who won the New Zealand SARA for Recruitment Consultant of the Year.

Originally from the UK, Alex started his working life in professional sport before leaving the UK for New Zealand in 2007 and joining Absolute IT. After a brief stint in Sydney with Talent International, Alex returned to Wellington and joined Randstad in July 2010.

Since then Alex has won many awards at Randstad, including NZ Top Billing Consultant for 2015.

Ross: What was your background prior to becoming a recruiter and how did you come to choose recruitment as a career?
Alex: Before entering the recruitment industry, I was an aspiring Snooker player in South East London. I spent many years playing in tournaments up and down the UK before deciding I wanted to do something else with my life. A childhood friend suggested I look at the recruitment sector as he thought it might be something that my skills would be a good match with.

I'd had a number of sales-centric roles, mostly door knocking selling power and insurance packages. It was those early days that I developed a fairly thick skin as well as the need to handle objections. Like many others, I guess I fell into recruitment rather than chose it.

What aspects of Recruitment did you find the most challenging when you started?
When I first started in London, I remember being given a niche market (Linux Contracting) to recruit in. I found it pretty daunting at first; putting in sales calls to people without really knowing what I was talking about. I quickly realised that your knowledge and expertise develops very quickly when you need to make 100 calls in a week.

The other challenge we faced in the UK market was that everything was done over the phone; you seldom got to meet your customers as they were often based in different cities, sometimes in other countries across Europe.

How long did it take until you saw recruitment as a viable career choice rather than just a job? What was the catalyst for this switch in thinking?
I got into recruitment when I was 20 years old, at first it was very much just a job; an avenue to get some beer money and pay for some travel. It probably took me a good three years before I started to feel really excited about the industry. The changes that were taking place with technology and the success I was starting to feel really created the fire in the belly for me.

It certainly didn't happen quickly for me. I really think it takes a couple of years to truly understand what it takes to be successful and last the distance in recruitment. It's one of the disappointing things about our sector; the high volume of turnover from people who last less than 18 months.

What niche do you recruit in and what have you found to be the biggest challenges of recruiting in that niche?
I've always been a tech recruiter. I have very little interest in doing anything else. I made the decision about 7 years ago to be a specialist; an inch-wide, mile-deep approach. I hang my hat on being able to recruit across Development, Testing, Business Analysis, Architecture, Project Management & Infrastructure roles.

The challenge with IT is that it's always evolving, always changing. The challenges our customers had 5 years ago are very different from those they face today. Being able to match tech skills used to be the key component of being an IT recruiter, now the people skills are more important due to IT being at the forefront of business these days.

Agile used to be an word you only heard being used in yoga studios, these days it's on 99% of the requirements we receive. I really enjoy the fact that I don't know what the world will look like in a few years, it keeps you on your toes.

Having recruited in both the London and Sydney markets, what were the biggest differences you needed to adapt to when you started recruiting in Wellington, nearly ten years ago? How has the Wellington market changed since then (if it has)?
I remember the first boss I had in New Zealand giving me a talk when I first arrived, essentially saying "you're not in London anymore". I didn't really fully understand what he meant at the time. Looking back though, it was really good advice. He said to me that Wellingtonians don't want to be sold to.

I was  used to the transactional style I had developed working in bigger markets, so it took me a little while to understand that a different approach was required in Wellington. I told myself to 'sell without being salesy' which is a mantra I still remind myself of today. The relationship building side has become one of the most enjoyable factors for me now.

We've certainly seen change in the market in my time here including a shift from a contracting to a perm market, the evolution of role types, business challenges our clients face and margin erosion, to name just a few. The unchanging fact is the need for quality recruitment professionals.

What do you do to keep up-to-date with issues in your market niche?
The majority of my learning happens 'on the job' on a daily basis. Whether that’s attending networking events, reading articles, interviewing candidates or meeting with clients. I have a number of websites I read on a regular basis to ensure my knowledge is kept up to date. I've also been listening to podcasts for a couple of years now, which is a great way to stay in the know, even when you're lying in bed. :)

What do you do to continue the development of both your recruitment and personal skills?
We have fantastic L&D opportunities at Randstad, both internally and externally delivered courses. I've also been fortunate to attend a number of overseas development opportunities in Australia and Singapore, which are Randstad's two hubs in the APAC region.

I've also been really fortunate to work alongside some amazing people over the years. I learn from my colleagues on a daily basis which is a direct result of the expressive and open culture we have at Randstad. My leaders have always challenged me to get better which I've really benefited from.

Do you use statistics or KPIs to manage your performance? If so which ones and how do you use them?
We have every stat imaginable available to us at Randstad. We have an Analytics team who provide us with some incredible data to help us define what we're doing. I haven't always been the best adopter of analytics but I've learnt to appreciate how powerful a data driven approach can be. I certainly attribute a good portion of my success to having access to market leading intelligence.

Who have been important influences in your recruitment career and what have those people specifically contributed to you?
I've had many positive influencers in my career, too many to name even. The people that stick out the most to me are the Directors from absoluteIT (Tina Ng, Grant Burley and Moran Collard) for giving me a chance in the industry. I was a young lad straight from the UK with very little experience but they took me on and gave me my start in the industry.

Joining Randstad in 2010, I was exposed to many amazing people whom I've worked for, alongside and also managed. The most influential people I've worked with would be Sherena Dullabh, Ian Scott, Brien Keegan, Blair Cashin and Kieran Sim.  They have, individually, all  made me better, helped shape me and undoubtedly, together contributed substantially  to my success.

What do you attribute your win in SARA 2016 Recruiter of the year to?
For me, this accolade is the culmination of five years of hard work, dedication, failures and successes. When I joined Randstad in 2010, the IT team was the smallest team in the business, not taken seriously with very little success to speak of at all.

Over time we've managed to hire some amazing people, partner with some incredible clients and develop ourselves into a force in the market. The last couple of years have been really successful for me personally but it's the hard work of our entire team that has got us to this point. Our Integrated team which consists of Marketing, Business Concepts, HR & Client Solutions all play a key part in the success of our sales operations.

What are the most important things that an individual recruiter can do to maintain his or her relevance and credibility in the next five years?
There's no doubt we're entering a period of ongoing change, continued disruption to our industry from Technology and changing market conditions. In my opinion it's all about knowing your market, understanding when to pivot but also ensuring you have an 'inch-wide, mile-deep' approach to your market.

Understand your competitive advantage and get out the door and in front of your customers (clients and candidates). The successful recruiters that I've worked with all maintain consistently high activity levels coupled with deep knowledge of their market.

What personal philosophies drive you each day in your job?
  • Sell without being salesy. I pride myself on being able to get a result without coming across as a salesman to my customers.
  • Be easy to deal with. Clients tend to come back to you more often if they enjoy the experience.
  • Surround yourself with people who are better than you, they'll make you better. Leave your ego at the door.
What advice would you give to anyone who is just starting their recruitment career?
Join an organisation that puts its people first. Ask lots of questions, the more the better. Work harder than your colleagues. Don't take the bad days personally. Set goals; then smash them.

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17 January 2017

Interview with 2016 SARA (NZ) Recruitment Leader of the Year: Brien Keegan of Randstad


In mid-November last year, one week after the equivalent Australian awards, Seek announced the winners of the New Zealand SARAs. The winner of the Recruitment Leader of the Year was Randstad's Brien Keegan.

After completing his undergraduate degree at Massey University in 2001, Brien worked at Telecom New Zealand for just over 18 months before he commenced his recruitment career. Having left New Zealand in mid 2006, Brien subsequently worked in various Randstad's businesses in Melbourne, Vancouver and Kong Kong. 

Brien's current role is Country Manager for Randstad New Zealand, based in Auckland. Randstad New Zealand offers specialist recruitment services in Construction & Engineering, Accounting, Banking & Financial Services, Education (child care teachers), Technologies (ICT professionals including sales & marketing), Call Centre, Assessment Centre & Business Support and Government, in addition to a suite of HR products and services. Randstad New Zealand operates from four locations.

Brien kindly agreed to answer my interview questions just after he returned from this Christmas/New Year break.

Ross: What was your background prior to becoming a recruiter and how did you come to choose recruitment as a career?

Brien: I'm perhaps the first person to ever say this, but as a young person I wanted to look at a career in recruitment. I believe it is an excellent industry to have a positive impact on individuals' lives and also to help organisation's grow and prosper. I am really interested in people and in business, so it is a great match.

What aspects of recruitment did you find the most challenging when you started?

Just managing time and ensuring you meet and exceed expectations, of our clients and candidates. Too often we get criticised as an industry for being underwhelming in our customer experience, For me it all starts with the basics of follow up; doing what you say you will do.

How long did it take working as a recruiter before you were offered your first leadership role? Tell me a little about that role.

I started in the industry in January 2004 and led my first recruitment team (accounting and business support) from October 2005 (with Drake in New Zealand). I was asked to take on a team that had not been profitable for a number of years and had been through various leaders, so it was a great challenge. We were able to turn the business around, which was hugely rewarding.

Funnily enough (and this is not a paid editorial!), I was fortunate to attend one of your training sessions for new leaders and to this day, I still heed the advice you gave me in terms of what to look for in new recruits to our industry - thank you!

What did you find to be the biggest challenges in moving from a consulting role into a leadership role?

Just managing the balance between the organisational requirements of a leadership role (i.e forecasting, budgets, planning, hiring etc), but not losing sight of the fact that the reason you are a leader is due to your ability to connect to people; not just your team, but also your clients and candidates. I am passionate about being in front of our customers as well as still helping our team source and fill the occasional position myself.

Tell me a little about the opportunities Randstad provided to you to work in both the Canadian and Hong Kong markets. How did those opportunities arise and what were the most important things you learned in each of those markets? 

A huge advantage in working for Randstad is the potential to work in other markets. I was lucky enough to get support from Randstad to work for the Canadian business, rather than having to work on ski slopes, when I wanted to visit Canada. It also enabled me to learn more about IT recruitment through the strategic sourcing role I had with Randstad Technologies.

Hong Kong was an unbelievable experience. We grew the team from 13 to 50 in my time there and the learnings were massive both professionally and personally. In many ways there are many differences in working in Hong Kong, but it cemented to me that no matter where in the world you are recruiting, it is about your ability to connect with people. The better you connect, the more successful you will be.

What sort of formal and informal leadership development have you experienced in your time at Randstad?

I have been very lucky to have had significant leadership development opportunities both locally in New Zealand and Australia, but further afield in Asia and Europe. I have been fortunate to be involved in leadership development programs, visits to other locations to learn best practice, structured training on both hard and soft skills of management/leadership and in addition to that have been supported by some amazing mentors right across the Randstad world. The development, learning path and career opportunities that Randstad provided me, has been what has set Randstad apart for me personally.

What books, blogs, podcasts, websites or other external resources have you gained the most from in terms of developing your leadership skills?

I have read numerous leadership books and watched various TED Talks. I am a big fan of Simon Sinek's, ‘starting with why', as I think it is important to understand motivations deeply in this industry. I follow the Harvard Business Review, as well as McKinsey. I also like to keep up with those blogging in our industry as well.

I am currently looking into information, reading and support available around developing mental skills. I think resilience, or a lack of it, is one of the biggest reasons that individuals do not progress in our industry, which is a real shame. If you think about the All Blacks, they are not only highly skilled athletes, but they spend a lot of time on their state of mind and mental wellness. If anyone else is looking into this in our industry, I would love to connect and understand your learning and viewpoint (Ross's note: Both, Paul Lyons, co-founder of Ambition, and, Rob Collins, former Clarius CEO, have both pursued this area since leaving their respective executive roles).

What sort of statistics or KPIs do you rely on, and how do you use them, to effectively manage the leaders who report to you?

You can usually tell, when you walk into an office, whether a team is successful, which is why I don't think you can only rely on KPIs and statistics. They are perhaps an indicator, but rather than using them as a tool to ‘manage' people, I believe they are best utilised as a starter for coaching. I have eleven direct reports, all focused on different areas, so largely it is ensuring that I am setting clear expectations on what needs to be achieved and then hold the team accountable to that.

Back to KPIs; I truly believe the parameters you put around people drive their behaviour. I remember being aware of an agency that the consultants had to do 50 ‘dials' each day which makes it really hard to deliver quality calls. In the end the consultants were calling local supermarkets to get to their ‘dial' number towards the end of each day.

What do you attribute your win in SARA 2016 Recruitment Leader of the Year (NZ) to?

I expect it's due to the fact that I genuinely care about the success of every individual in our team. In the last 12 months we have spent a lot of time focusing the business, adjusting our structure and pushing ourselves to be better. In doing this, we have maintained high levels of engagement, so I am hoping that this is a sign that we are communicating effectively as a leadership team across the country. I am very enthusiastic about 2017 for our team in New Zealand as we have a great team in place and we are fortunate that the market conditions here are strong.

What are the most important things that a recruitment agency leader should focus on to build a team with strong morale, excellent skills and outstanding results?

Ensuring that all the basics are in place around setting a vision, creating a strategy to deliver that and then ensure that you have your team structured in the right areas to execute. Beyond that, it is important to ensure that there is a clear purpose in place, so that everyone is connected to where the organisation is going. At a more cultural level, creating a fun environment, not taking yourself too seriously, treating your team as individuals and setting very clear expectations, are all very important.

What personal philosophies drive you each day in your job?

To not get tied down by emails - if you aren't in front of the team, your clients or candidates, then I think you may be in the wrong job.

Go to every meeting as though it was your last, I truly believe we can get stuck into routine, both in our internal and external conversations, so always to be in a position where you have perhaps made an individual think differently before they leave the room.

What's something about yourself that very few people, who know you professionally, would know about you?

I tend to hit an awful slice off the first tee. In general, my golf could be a lot better; love the game though.

What advice would you give to a recruiter who has leadership ambitions?

Lead away from the desk, get in front of clients, candidates and network with your team. The challenge can be in leading through the economic cycles and as such I think the saying that the real test of leadership occurs in the worst of times, not the best of times, is very accurate. In those tough times, don't completely change who you are; be consistent and your team will respect you for that.

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