EXECUTIVE RECRUITMENT: Virtual Hiring Ventures – Give Me The Job Or…

Holding gun to the head of person interviewing you for senior executive role in major company is hardly good way to make an impression. Neither is taking all your clothes off – but both of these situations happened when well-known taxation, audit and advisory firm went looking for new talent on the social website Second Life.
Using the internet to find potential employees has come long way from the well-known Seek or other advertisement-based websites. Frog Recruitment director Jane Kennelly says companies are experimenting using social networking sites to look for skilled staff such as engineers and accountants – expertise which is in hot demand in New Zealand. But the practice is still in the settling-down stage and Kennelly suggests it may be bit early to take it seriously.
She tells the story of the firm which got some fairly bizarre results when it tried setting up character in Second Life to interview potential candidates for role.
“It’s worth experimenting but it can be an alien world,” she says. “While new technologies are arriving every day, we’re still not sure how to use them.”
One area that offers real potential and has got many recruitment firms excited is an online professional business network known as Linked In. Frog Recruitment’s development manager Katherine Hall says recruiter creates profile for themselves in Linked In the same way they would in social networking sites like Facebook or My Space. The site allows only individual profiles, so it’s not possible for an agency or group to register. It is full of potential candidates in many industries.
“There’s couple of ways to use it,” Hall says. “Some recruitment firms use it to search key words to link with individuals with expertise in some areas. You can also advertise role or send messages through your network to see if people can refer others to you.
However, Hall believes Linked In is not being utilised as it potentially could be in New Zealand.
Kennelly says Linked In has been successful because it is business to business. One person may have made connections with 30 others, but they can also be connected with their connections’ connections. That means the number of people they can contact increases exponentially.
“Through network of contacts you can cast your net to link in to particular organisation. It is like an advertising vehicle but using business-related networks already set up. It is phenomenal the reach these things have.”
Peter Kerridge of Kerridge and Partners says the firm uses Linked In to connect to the global market. One of the partners is connected to 32 different countries.
“It gives our clients confidence that we can authentically attract talent from offshore, which is of increasing importance,” Kerridge says.
He says eight out of 10 candidates applying for jobs were born outside New Zealand.
Even social-oriented networking sites like Facebook and My Space are becoming more popular in the recruitment industry. Instead of banning the use of social sites in the office, companies are encouraging the staff to go online to find people who might be interested in filling vacant positions.
“Young people talk about their company all the time,” Sheffield director Ian Taylor says. The intention in allowing this is to build the company brand as one worth working for.
Some companies pay large sums of money ($5000 and even up to $15,000 Taylor believes) if staff member finds someone who applies for role and is selected.
“There are myriad of social networks that can be used positively by companies for attracting talent and that is happening more and more and will continue to happen,” Taylor says.
Kennelly says there is very strong body of evidence that people recruited after an internal referral stay longer than an external candidate.
Recruiters also need to think more creatively about using other forms of technology to present their client’s company and its available roles.
“They have to understand in this competitive market that you have to think of ways to reach an audience that allows them to stand out head and shoulders from anyone else,” she says.
One way to achieve this which Kennelly has found successful is turning the job description into video format. She says to be successful, this must be authentic.
“It’s like taking back the curtain and looking into the business to see what it is like there,” Kennelly says. “It’s real people, talking to real people about real job.”
Frog Recruitment recently did this to advertise an executive assistant position. The video was put on the company’s website and attracted 142 applications.
Kennelly recommends the website careertv.com for examples of the best and worst job promotion videos.
She also has warning for companies that put profiles of staff on their own websites – beware of the cyber sleuth.
“It’s almost like allowing people to window shop,” she says. “There is definitely new type of individual on the recruitment market.
“That is why I don’t have any of my staff up there [on the Frog Recruitment website]. They are too precious. To have your people on your website is like asking for headhunting to increase.”
With the increasing use of the internet for recruitment, what will become of recruitment agencies?
Taylor believes there will be more of role in strategy and evaluating talent. This includes personality profiling, assessing intellectual acuity and ­qualitative judgement. Recruitment agencies are increasingly involved in finding the right person for the job, not just warm body to fill seat. Rather than relying on transactional model, where agencies find bunch of candidates and their client company makes selection, some companies are taking the smarter approach of going into partnership with recruiters.
Kerridge says companies are getting more conscious about managing the induction of top-level executives. commitment is made to the firm within the first 60 to 90 days of taking up new role, he says. If it’s not done right, even if the executive stays, they will spend their first two years thinking about the next step in their career.
Kerridge and Partners offers coaching service which mentors new candidates during their integration into the business.
“With CEOs in new role, who do they turn to for support? They can’t turn to the board because that is seen as weak and you simply don’t turn to senior managers. We talk to them as often as they require. It’s customised to each individual. It’s usually monthly catch-up with loads of phone calls in between over three to six months with more intensity at the front end,” Kerridge says.
The economic situation in New Zealand is also causing flight to quality, Kerridge believes, with companies being choosier about the recruitment firms they use. They’re thinking that if they are going to invest money, they want to make it count and are prepared to spend bit extra to get quality result.
Swann Group director Don Jaine disagrees and believes companies are actually looking for ways to save money and turning to in-house recruitment as solution. He says The Warehouse has been very good at this and is also using the internet well.
Hudson executive and specialist recruitment general manager Sara Clarke agrees with the do-it-yourself trend.
“Companies recognise what an expense it is to them to keep recruiting and they are looking at different ways to manage reduction in that expense,” she says.
When it comes to salary and benefits, Clarke says there has been “significant upward pressure” on salaries for executive roles – of about eight to 10 percent.
“To put that in context, we saw most markets increase in 2006/07 and in 2008 that has not dropped back, but the rate of increase has slowed down in keeping with the slowdown in the economy,” she says.
Clarke says there has been move towards cash-based packages so employees can choose how they want to invest the money.
Movement in the market has reduced, Clarke says.
“There is always going to

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