Working Successfully with Recruitment Consultants – Candidate Guide

We recently asked for votes from our readers and followers in our May Poll rating their experiences working with recruiters. The response was generally pretty negative with low satisfaction levels.

We think it is therefore useful to offer a guide to people in how best to choose and work with a recruiter and what to expect.

  1. Be selective about which recruiter you work with.

    Do your research before you send them your CV. Ask your colleagues/friends for recommendations, see who is rated highly on places such as LinkedIn – just be thorough! A job search is an important process and must be handled correctly. You wouldn’t buy a house without doing the necessary checks so why would you treat a job search any differently? We suggest you check the following:

    • Does the consultant know your market area? Can they therefore advise you properly on the companies you should be targeting based on your experiences?
    • Do they have the connections in the industry to be able to add any value to your search or are they firing CVs blindly into HR email addresses? If you speak to a recruiter you will soon be able to tell and if it is the latter, you may as well send CVs to HR yourself!
    • Are they honest with you? Most people complain to us that they speak to a recruiter and never hear from them again. We ALWAYS say if we cannot help someone and we are happy to give advice on how people can perhaps secure options directly themselves.
  1. Understand what we do.

    Recruiters are employed and paid by clients to find them candidates who they find difficult to find themselves. Depending on the market conditions, clients can be very open or very closed to who they wish to be introduced to them. Right now (June 2012) clients are more prepared to wait for people that tick all the boxes. Therefore if a recruiter is responding to say that they probably cannot assist you then please do not take offence. This is because we know our clients well and what our clients will consider. Take the feedback on board and focus your future search on the basis of the response.

  1. Understand recruiters receive MANY applications for positions every day.

    Therefore be very careful and targeted in what you apply for.

    • Don’t send your CV to all open positions multiple times, particularly if the positions are for a range of job titles. For example, if you are an architect, send your details to the architect jobs listed.
    • Please carefully read the job requirements. If a skill is listed that you do not have, please remember the clients have asked recruiters to find people with that skill – they won’t pay a recruiter a fee for someone that doesn’t have it. A common example in Asia is the requirement for someone with language skills, usually Mandarin, and/or locally based experience. It is no good asking a recruiter if the client is prepared to consider someone that doesn’t have this – rest assured, we will say in our job descriptions if a client is willing to do so!
    • Due to the high volume of applications, recruiters simply cannot respond to every application they receive. If you strongly feel you should be considered for an advertised position then by all means follow up. If you are speculatively asking a recruiter if they can find you a job, please see point 2.
  1. Work with one good recruiter

    There is no need to work with multiple recruiters. Most of you have specific skills and experiences and your market sectors are therefore generally pretty small. Whilst it is tempting to try to cover all options by using many recruiters, this type of approach often results in duplications and a lot of time is then spent trying to figure out where your details have gone. If you follow the advice in Point 1 above, you will find a recruiter that can add value to your search and may be able to present you with a few options based on your experiences. A good recruiter is also one who is honest in telling you if they cannot help – the very best will actually take the time to point you in the right direction so you can help yourself.

  1. Please take (a good recruiters) advice on board.

    For example, if a recruiter advises you to revise your CV, this is because they know what their clients will look for. If a recruiter gives you advice on how to interview successfully with their client, this is because they are helping you maximise your chance of receiving an offer. We work in recruitment, full-time, every day and know how companies go about hiring their staff. The best of us are considered essential partners by our clients so when we are offering advice, we are representing what our client partners are looking for.

The important overall point to remember is that recruiters work for their client companies – they ultimately pay our fees and are the reason the recruitment business exists. Whilst the best of us can sometimes help people to find a job by providing them with ideas and options, it is very dependent on that person’s skills and the needs/sentiment of the market at that time. If you go to a recruiter expecting them to simply find you a job then you are likely to be disappointed. However, if you go into the process having followed the points above and are open to guidance and feedback, then working with a recruiter can be an extremely rewarding and positive experience.

There are of course recruiters out there who unfortunately do give our industry a bad name – common complaints usually centre around a lack of honesty or lack of follow up on actions promised. A lot of candidates also tell us that other recruiters just fire their details out blindly to the market. We are pretty confident that if you follow the guide above you will find yourself working with a consultant more likely to be able to assist you (even if it’s just with some good advice) and avoiding those recruiters who’s sole focus is on quantity rather than quality. We know this guide is relatively direct in it’s tone but at the same time we hope it provides a refreshing, yet honest, guideline on how to make the most out of your experience of working with a recruiter.

We are available for any further advice or tips – just drop us a note in the comments at the bottom of this post!


Opinion Poll: June 2012

This month we would like you to tell us which countries in Asia you think will offer the greatest growth potential for our industry over the next 10 years. Please select up to 3 choices and feel free to add your own additional countries in the “Other” box if you think there is great potential in other places.

We look forward to seeing the results at the end of the month!

Putting Together A Portfolio – Architects and Designers

This article is designed to provide a guide for design candidates who need to put together a portfolio for interviews they have. We also last year created a graduate specific version which you can view here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. This guide should provide information for all levels of design candidates.

If you are an experienced candidate with a number of years experience, your portfolio is likely to be made up of around 90% practical project experience and maybe 10% university work. We think it’s important to keep the practical and academic experience separated with the focus being on the work that YOU have undertaken as a designer in a professional environment. As your career develops, the percentage of the portfolio that is academic based should decrease as the practical/professional experience takes precedence so if you are nearing 2 decades of experience, it’s fairly obvious that most firms will probably not want to see your university sketches.

Your portfolio is in essence what shows a potential employer how you approach a design problem and the design solution you come up with. Therefore it should be fairly detailed including work from earliest design briefs and sketches through to more detailed final drawings and any models (3D or physical) constructed. It should tell the story of a project and be easy to follow and most importantly show the employer your strengths and what you could bring to their company. A lot of design portfolios simply include pretty 3D renderings or photographs of the final or completed design. These are important but only show a small part of the process you have completed. If you have spent a year working on a project, show a year’s worth of work. Compile the portfolio in reverse chronological order starting with your most recent work first and working backwards. Include some written descriptions if necessary but remember this is a visual tool. Also make sure you include any drawings you have done with specialist software to reaffirm the information on your CV (e.g. Rhino, Maya, 3D Max, Environmental Modelling Software).

'Susanne Schuricht' photo (c) 2007, Sascha Pohflepp - license:

A lot of people ask us how big their portfolio should be in terms of amount of content. We are of the opinion that you should almost take along too much work and then from your research prior to interview (and feeling at interview) decide which parts of the portfolio you will spend most time on – if you take a large portfolio, remember you don’t need to go through all of it, allow the interviewer to feedback and guide you if you are unsure. We go into more detail on presenting the portfolio in our Interviewing Successfully (Part 1 and Part 2) article.

We are also asked how big physically the portfolio should be. We would say that 90% of the portfolios we see are A3 size. This is usually the easiest size to transport to and from interviews and is usually enough to present a high enough level of detail. The best portfolios are those that are presented in a binder/folder and can be flicked through like a book during interview. Take the time to organise the portfolio in a folder or bind it – there is nothing worse than someone scrabbling through loose sheets of paper trying to find a drawing. And then you have to reorganise it for every interview.

This leads on to whether you should show a hard copy (paper) portfolio or an electronic (PDF/Power Point/etc) portfolio. We think that most companies still prefer to see hard copy printed portfolios. However, in the age of more specialist software tools and 3D renderings it can be useful to have an electronic copy as well. If you do take along an electronic portfolio we’d recommend taking your own laptop – an employer may not have the ability to read a CD or USB memory stick in the interview room. Make sure the laptop is fully charged and if necessary turned on when the interview starts. Organise the portfolio efficiently ideally into one presentation file as a PDF or equivalent. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to locate an image in the midst of hundreds of folders – it’s akin to sifting through a pile of loose papers as outlined above. It’s ok to have some separate files to show, just make sure you can access them easily and quickly. For example you may have created a video fly-through to show alongside your image portfolio.

Finally, once you have completed a portfolio ready to present at an interview, we highly recommend creating a condensed, email-able selection of work samples to send with an initial application. This does not have to be as extensive as the full portfolio but should give a flavour of your design experiences. We think that 10-20 PDF pages/slides is more than sufficient and generally speaking try to keep this file size below 5MB so it can pass through most email systems.


Monthly Update: May 2012

Market News

There was a bit of a worrying report last month from the top 30 developers in China. 22 of them recorded negative cash flow in the last quarter of 2011 whilst the debt ratio for 13 of them has surpassed 70%, worse than the level in 2008. Some speculate that this will cause a number of the smaller private developers to fail in the coming months. Either way, there are slightly nervous times ahead for some.

Following on from this, another think tank reported that they expected China’s growth to slow to 7.5% in the previous quarter, down from 8.1%. It is being blamed on the knock on effect from the European debt crisis with rising costs for labour, raw materials and financing making things more difficult. The group urged the government to cut taxes for the nation’s companies in the face of weaker external demand.

In Hong Kong, fears of a property bubble and the fall in the stock markets have taken away a lot of confidence from buyers causing a sharp drop in residential property sales. There is evidence that sellers are already starting to offer big discounts to attract offers but even so, sales fell sharply week on week during May.

A more positive sign came from the office sector where commercial real estate investment exceeded HK$32 billion in the first 3 months of the year. CBRE reported that a more flexible lending approach from banks was the main reason for this in addition to mainland banks becoming increasingly large players in the market. The trend is expected to continue as mainland companies look to increase the Hong Kong presence and investors look to use their significant cash reserves.

Another glimmer of positive news also came from residential sales in China which have seen an increase in May, albeit at a slower pace. Second and third tier cities saw big growth year-on-year but Shenzhen and Beijing also posted a strong recovery from recent weeks. Low mortgage rates brought about by a cut in the required reserve ratio has brought liquidity to the market which should sustain a more moderate growth in coming months.

Poll Result

In May we got a big response asking you to rate your experience using recruitment consultancies. The results can be seen here:

Not surprisingly, most people were underwhelmed by their experiences. 53% of respondents rated their experience as average. Nearly a quarter of you felt your experiences were poor. Only 20% rated their experience as good or excellent. With nearly 80% of you feeling the experience has been average or worse we can safely say that recruiters working in the Asia markets (90% of respondents were based and work here) need to up their game to ensure that they are adding the value to candidates/clients that they should be. It hasn’t come as a surprise to us – on a daily basis we speak to people who tell us about their previous  poor experiences working with recruiters. The main complaints tend to be related to consultants who don’t follow up, who aren’t honest or who simply don’t have the networks or market knowledge to be able to add any value to their candidates/clients. Within the last 4 years there has been an explosion of recruitment firms heading into the Hong Kong and Asia markets, often hiring by volume rather than quality when it comes to their consultants – as a result, particularly in the technical property/construction space, there are people here who do not understand the markets in the region and do not know how to add any value. It therefore becomes a numbers game for these companies where consultants are targeted on the amount of “product” (CVs) they send out rather than monitoring the quality aspects of these consultant’s activities. It doesn’t help that the recruitment industry here is pretty much totally unregulated which allows for all manner of practices to be deemed acceptable in order to “close that deal.”

We think things need to change and will be writing an article soon for those of you who want to know what to look for if and when you select a recruitment partner – we genuinely believe there is a strong desire from candidates and clients to have a personal, honest and professional recruitment service available to them in the market. We would hope that if more consultancies aimed to offer a similar service then the results above would be more positive. Let’s see what people think in a year’s time if we run the poll again…

What’s Hot

May continues April’s busy theme with continuing referrals and exclusive agreements being made with a number of our clients.

Our newer business area in Sales, Marketing and Leasing has really taken off and we have many active needs. These range from junior leasing candidates right up to senior business leaders for some of the region’s top consultancy and developer names. In addition, we have built strong relationships with some key people in organisations that typically haven’t used recruiters allowing us to offer opportunities to candidates that they will not be presented elsewhere. We see big growth potential in this area and our reputation is growing quickly.

We are still actively looking for key interior design individuals, the majority of whom should have hotel design backgrounds. That said we also need retail and corporate people – put it this way, if we had 20 designers, with strong Mandarin language and China skills, we would probably be able to find them all opportunities. We have roles with large firms and small boutique designers – please do get in touch if you could be interested in opportunities. Within architecture we still need strong China experience candidates, ideally with a technical background (and languages I’m afraid) for roles in Hong Kong and China. Urban Design has also picked up significantly with a number of opportunities available in China, particularly Shenzhen and Shanghai.

Our project management business continues to be busy – we have new clients and new roles with some very strong developer clients from Hong Kong and China. The needs remain the same as always – good China experience, excellent language skills and willingness to be stationed in China. If you fit these 3 things, we can help you. We have really strong relationships with key decision makers, often family members, within these developers. We can add real value to your search and provide you with meaningful feedback.

Most Urgent Requirements

We have outlined below the urgent vacancies we have had through from clients over the last month.

  • Junior Interior Designer – Boutique Design Firm, Hotels
  • Marketing Assistants – for a new concept retail mall
  • Operations Manager – retail, for the same new concept Hong Kong mall
  • Office Leasing Associates – top international consultancy, corporate background preferred
  • Project Director – small Hong Kong developer with a luxury project
  • Landscape Architect – small, growing firm in Shanghai
  • Interior Design Manager – Exclusive role with a top China developer
  • Lead Architect – top tier China developer with some landmark projects currently under construction
  • Interior Design Director – Shanghai – great opportunity with a new practice in China – still needed!
  • Senior Interior Designers – Retail and Hotels – Hong Kong and China – we need people here! China experience and language will be important
  • Project Managers – anyone willing to be stationed in China on some truly epic projects!

We also have many, many more roles posted on our website and these are only an overview of our top positions at this time. Please check back regularly. The easiest way to stay up to date with our latest positions is to follow us on Twitter.

Please visit our website for more information on the above roles and our other vacancies:

If you wish to inquire about a position please send an email and your CV to

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