South China Morning Post – Article 7 – Probation Periods

For our most recent South China Morning Post advice column we gave readers some pointers on how best to handle the probation period once they had started a new position.

Please click the following link to open a PDF of the article:

SCMP Article 7 – Probation Periods

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South China Morning Post – Article 6 – Handling Notice Periods

Our sixth article for the South China Morning Post gives readers advice on how to handle the awkward time between serving notice and starting a new job.

To see the article please click the link below to open up a PDF:

SCMP Article 6 – Notice Periods

South China Morning Post – Article 5 – Post Offer Pointers

Our fifth article for the South China Morning Post covered advice for how to handle jobs offers.

Please click the link below to open a PDF of the article:

SCMP Article 5 – Post Offer Pointers

Opinion Poll: May 2013

*Thanks for all your votes! This poll is now closed! Results below.*

This month is a quick and easy poll asking how many of our followers/readers are happy in their current job. Don’t worry, all votes are totally anonymous and we will be interested to see the results at the end of the month!

Stats Series 1: Avoiding the Counter Offer Trap

We are starting a series of blog posts entitled the “Stats Series” (“Stats” standing for “Statistics”). As a recruitment business we have access to a lot of recruitment data which gives us the ability to see trends and predict the outcomes in certain scenarios. As part of this series we will be sharing some of these stats with our readers to highlight how they affect certain situations.

Disclaimer: Please note that these stats are very basic level stats which include things such as interview numbers, how many offers we get and the number of starters etc. No personal info is used or shared in these stats.

This week we will look at Counter Offers and the stats surrounding these.

What is a counter offer?

A counter offer is when an employee resigns from their existing company to take up a new offer of employment elsewhere and their existing employer offers them better contractual terms to stay.

We have taken a look back over the last couple of years of counter offer data and were surprised by what the data revealed.

  • In the last 2 years we have had 21 instances of candidates receiving counter offers either for offers we have had for them or offers they have received elsewhere.
  • Of those 21 candidates, 10 candidates rejected the counter offers and moved positions successfully.
  • That leaves 11 candidates who decided to take a counter offer.

Now this is where things get interesting…

  • Of those 11 candidates, 9 came back to us within 3-6 months to express their regret at taking a counter offer.
  • Of these 9 we were able to only reintroduce 4 candidates successfully to the companies that they were originally offered with.
  • The reasons stated by these 9 candidates for why they regretted their decisions included:
    • The company made it very difficult for them once they knew they had intended to leave.
    • The company hired new staff in a clear attempt to replace them.
    • The reasons they had originally wanted to leave did not change with an uplift in salary/title – the problems were still there.
    • Two of the candidates found themselves being relocated to undesirable locations.
  • The 5 other candidate reintroductions were not accepted by the companies that offered them originally for the following two main reasons:
    • The company had subsequently refilled the positions.
    • The company now felt the candidate was unreliable and they were therefore no longer interested.
  • All 5 of those candidates found it incredibly difficult to find a new opportunity following their decision to actually leave their current employer. This was simply because they had already explored most of the job opportunities during their original search and not enough time had passed to allow for them to be reconsidered by companies.

These stats highlight something that we, as recruiters, all know – counter offers do not work for the overwhelming majority of candidates. In a competitive candidate market place it is so much easier for a company to counter offer a member of staff than for them to try and find someone new. But ultimately the relationship between employer and employee is usually irreparably damaged by this point.

We wrote a detailed article on Counter Offers in 2 parts (Part 1 here and Part 2 here) previously.

We will be continuing this stat series in the coming months to highlight other situations faced by clients and candidates and what we can learn from these numbers.

Working With Recruiters – A Rough Guide

We have previously written another extensive guide relating to working with recruitment consultants (please visit the link here) but thought it would be worthwhile providing an updated version for candidates to go through. We sometimes find ourselves as the second or third recruiter a candidate has spoken to – more often than not, the reason the candidate is contacting us is because they have had a poor previous experience with another recruiter. The poor experience usually relates to a lack of realistic feedback from the other recruiters both on whether they can actually help the candidate or get them feedback from their client companies.

Finding a new job is one of the most important changes a person makes in their life. If you are looking for a recruiter to assist you in this you need to make sure that you are getting the information you need in order to understand if this recruiter is able to help you with this change. Here are some things to ask or look out for when you speak to a recruiter for the first time:

  • What specialist area does this recruitment consultant or recruitment company focus on? There is no point approaching a company or consultant who specialises in areas that do not have anything to do with your background and experiences. Do some research BEFORE you send your CV or give them a call. LinkedIn or a basic web search should be able to give you an idea if they may have the right consultants in your market space.
  • How long has the recruitment consultant been focusing on their specialist sector? In Asia the recruitment industry within Property and Construction in particular is still relatively new compared to more established markets in Europe or the US for example. This means that there are a lot of inexperienced consultants in the market place who are not specialists. Experience counts for a lot in Asia. If the consultant knows their respective market sector inside-out AND knows how things work in Asia then they can give you invaluable guidance and experience. If they have only been working in recruitment for a few months then be very cautious. It is likely they are under KPI (Key Performance Indicator) targets to drive volume rather than quality to clients. This is where many people find they have fallen victim to a CV sending service. One other word of caution here too – if a consultant is telling you they have had “X” number of years of experience, do a check on their profiles on LinkedIn to make sure they are telling the truth. You may be surprised to find that most consultants exaggerate this extensively when speaking to candidates.
  • What type of client relationships does the consultant have? You will notice that we haven’t suggested you ask WHICH companies they are working with – that can come later. Firstly try to find out whether the consultant has the right type of contacts to be able to get you tangible and real feedback. Are they working with decision makers in their client companies? Directors, Line Managers or ultimately the person who is hiring for their team? Do they purely have a relationship only with HR? If so, what is the relationship there? If it transpires that they can only offer to send your CV to a HR contact and wait for feedback then surely that is something you can do yourself? What you are really asking here is “am I better off approaching companies myself?”
  • Can the consultant actually help you in your search? We are very honest with our candidates and if we cannot help them we will tell them and let them know the reasons why. Part of the reason we get candidates coming to us who have had poor recruiter experiences already is because the other consultants have not been honest with them in saying they cannot actually help them. Our clients ask us to find them candidates with specific skills and experiences – if you do not match the requirements of our clients then we probably cannot assist you. What we will do though is explain the best way to try and help yourself whether it be to contact a firm directly or rework your application to give you more chance of success. The feedback we get from being open and honest with candidates is overwhelmingly positive and allows candidates to focus their efforts more appropriately.
  • Is the consultant talking to you about specific companies IN DETAIL and explaining why they think you could be right for them? Or are they sending you a list by email? Do you even know where your CV has been sent? A consultant should be able to explain to you why they are suggesting a company is appropriate. It is essential they can represent you to the right people and in the right way and you understand why they are recommending certain options. A lot of recruiters will send a list through to a candidate promising a huge range of options – this is just to cover things off in case you speak to other consultants. Most candidates come to us in this situation having never heard anything further after a long list of companies has been sent to them. This is because the recruiter either hasn’t sent their CV or doesn’t actually have the relationships at those companies to get you feedback.
  • When will the consultant contact you again with feedback? If the consultant is able to actually provide you with real options they should also be able to tell you what the feedback process will be. You should go away knowing when you can expect to hear back from them and you should also go away knowing that even if the news is not positive that you will still get some tangible feedback you can work with in the future. Most candidates never hear from a recruiter after the initial contact has been made.
  • Can they give you real advice and guidance on your salary level and what you can expect in the market? Different markets offer greatly varying salary levels. Across Asia the salary levels can vary depending on location or the market conditions specific to a region. A good consultant can help you understand how your current or expected level compares in the market. We will be publishing a rough guide to salary expectations in Asia shortly.
  • Can they help you through the entire process from interview to offer and after you have started your new role? Or will you just get an interview date and time and be told where to go? Or an offer – here’s a number, what do you think? Or no call or follow up after you have started to see how you are doing? This approach is not helpful to you or helpful to the companies using the recruiters. A consultant needs to guide you through the entire complicated process in order to ensure you work out for the company you join. This includes making sure you are fully prepared for any interviews, that you understand fully what any offer is and ensuring that your first few weeks and months (usually the most difficult) are as trouble free as possible.

Following the above guide should ensure your relationships with any recruiters you speak to are more meaningful and ultimately more helpful to you in your job search. Even if you are speaking to a consultant and they tell you that they cannot help you, you should be going away from the recruiter experience with a positive view point. We can see that being honest and open with candidates works – we are often referred new candidates by people we haven’t actually been able to assist because they know that if nothing else they can get an honest service. If you cannot get this from a recruiter, do not use one!

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!