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Secrets of successful selection

There are now about 300 third-party recruiters in Thailand who are licenced to help recruit Thais for jobs in Thailand. Not many know this, but the recruitment industry in Thailand is extremely regulated and is governed by the Job Seekers Protection Act enacted in 1985 (31 years ago). Recruitment companies must submit a monthly report to the Ministry of Labour showing the names and details of the candidates they have helped place with their clients.

Tom Sorensen is a 13-year veteran head-hunter at Grant Thornton, one of the longest established players in the executive recruitment business. We asked Tom Sorensen to discuss the changing face of recruitment and the role of recruitment professionals.

There are many levels at which candidates may be recruited: CEO, C-Class, mid-career managers, new entrants, office workers, factory workers. What types of recruitment services are most appropriate for each?

TS: Companies have two choices: One, do their own recruitment if they have the necessary resources and expertise; and two, engage an executive search firm to find candidates for management positions or a recruitment company for non-managerial positions.

Many large multinational companies and Thai conglomerates that frequently need to hire people have established a talent acquisition function within the Human Resources department. This function is often staffed by former third party recruiters. To add to that, up to 50 of the biggest companies in Thailand have also invested in advanced recruitment tools from LinkedIn, similar to what executive search firms have done for years.

The lines between executive search firms, recruitment companies and even online job boards are blurred. The word "head-hunter" was previously a prestigious title that executive search firms used to emphasise their personal approach; it was also a buzzword that came in handy when tapping on a candidate’s shoulder. This was distinct from recruitment companies that were not retained by their client but operated with a business model similar to throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks. All of that went out the window about five years ago. It seems even Tom, Dick and Harry call themselves head-hunters now, even though all they do is shop on the Internet and place ads on JobsDB.

With a contracting labour force in Thailand that will see the current labour force go down by 20%-25% over the next 25 years, combined with a very low unemployment rate, the heat is on and the war for talent is for real. Companies must start building an employee value proposition that can be used to attract the right candidates. It is no longer about funding your business with capital; the future is how you get the right people to work for you. David Packard from HP once said that marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department, and now more than ever this is the case.

Build the all-important unique selling points that show people why they should consider joining your company. Be prepared to answer questions asked by Gen Y candidates like "Why should I come and work for you?" and "How do you compare to your competition in these areas: Location/condition of premises? Career opportunities -- realistic? Corporate social responsibility? Atmosphere and culture -- safe or challenging? Social events -- is this a fun environment where people make friends? Flexible hours -- flexitime/telecommuting? Democratic management style/freedom from controls?"

In the era of the digital economy, much recruitment is undertaken directly on-line, at competitive cost to employers. What is the continuing relevant role of the recruitment consultant, and for what positions is intervention of such consulting still essential?

TS: The assumption that many entrepreneurs have when they enter the digital side of recruitment is that all you need to do is build an algorithm that simply matches a company’s job description with the millions of candidate resumes in the database, and out comes all the relevant candidates. With this type of transaction, external recruiters have no real value and will eventually close. Even though the number of LinkedIn users in Thailand has increased considerably over the last few years, there are just a million registered users in Thailand. That number includes less than 20% of people here that hold a higher degree, i.e. bachelor or master’s degrees.

According to official statistics, there are six million people in Thailand with a higher degree. That's the group of candidates most companies would love to hire from. So given these numbers remember this -- when you go shopping and hunting on LinkedIn, you are fishing for talent in a very small pool of candidates because you’ve made the choice to exclude 80% of those higher educated candidates. Why would you do that?

It is often said that the best potential candidates never apply for jobs, because they are successful and happy in their present positions. How do you attract such candidates?

TS: In the small world we live in nowadays, it is very easy to find the name of someone. Many have wrongly come to the conclusion that "Easy to Find = Easy to Hire". But that is where it goes off track for most people. Just because you have a name and just because you can send them an email, does not mean they are open to the suggestion of a career change.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics says that at any given time only 16% of a work force are active candidates looking for a job. LinkedIn and others have over the years said that the number is actually 25%, but whatever it may be, it is clear that the majority of potential candidates are not really looking for a job. This means that if you put a vacancy on your company website, perhaps even use job boards like JobsDB or LinkedIn, only the 16%-25% are likely to see it. 

So, the million-dollar question we all ask ourselves -- how do you get in touch with this big pool of interesting candidates if you don’t know their names and if they do not see your job advertisement and corporate branding?  It is really quite easy: pick up the phone and call the person you have heard so much good about. Perfect your pitch and create a script for the two to three-minute conversation. Unfortunately for most companies, HR is not a sales function and I know few HR Managers who have the guts and courage to call someone they don’t really know.

So if you don’t have anyone in your organisation that can cold-call potential candidates, and if you don’t have the resources or the time to research potential candidates, the best choice would be to engage an executive search firm which does exactly that for a living. Search firms are trained to nurture potential talent and champions, and know how to seduce the right people for their clients.

Christopher F. Bruton, 45 years in Thailand, is Executive Director of Dataconsult Ltd, a local consultancy. He can be reached ab. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides meetings, seminars and extensive documentation to update business on present and future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.