Friday, July 30, 2010

The Recruitment malaise

Well, the good news is that most recruiters are high in demand after a lull!! Whether this 'busyness" is converting into 'business', is anybody's guess :-)!

Earlier this week, I was pleasantly surprised by a blog post- a very interesting & revealing case study that exposes the efficiency/effectiveness /(lack of) sensitivity of a recruiter- but however admits "...Recruiters are definitely the culprits, but my fingers are pointing towards the career portals who lack proper tools and are monetizing heavily for the lack of viable “branded” alternatives."

The author being a serial entrepreneur, a part of firm contributing to the accleration of India's start- up revolution-had actually used the opportunity to get under the skin of a job aspirant's attempt to getting a job using online career portals in India. The comments /reactions are a must read-for all of us in the ecosystem- the corporates, the candidates, and the consultants!!

I think he hit the nail when he suspects that it lies in "our acceptance of mediocrity attitude, rather, there is no better way to do it attitude. The customer accepts it, the vendor does not know better and the ecosystem works on this perfect balance of status quo".

Yes, the acceptance of mediocrity...And the reality that hiring -eventually comes down always to quantity. Headcount. Number of seats to be filled. Cost per hire. Turnaround time taken to fill.

Having been in the industry for over 25yrs now..the first 7-8yrs as a job aspirant, and since 18yrs playing an important role (catalyst?) in the dynamics between the employers and employees, I would try and give a different perspective for a larger picture!!

Demand Side- the interaction with the corporates:

Almost 95% of the action in the hiring industry involving third party consultants are made on a contingency basis.

A contingent fee or conditional fee is any fee for services provided where the fee is only payable by the employer if there is a favorable result.

Analysing deeper, what are the odds stacked against the recruiter?

Comparative interviewing: clients benchmarking the internal staff against the recruiter’s candidates, and selecting an internal candidate. Fee paid for the recruiter’s work and 'the clients' favourable result : Zero.

Using multiple vendors: Client uses multiple recruiting agencies, some perhaps with a head start, and does not hire from your agency. Fee paid for the work done by your agency and their 'favourable result" -Zero.

Internal employee referral: This program is in motion while the recruiter is banging the phones and they coincidentally have not told the recruiter this is in tandem with his/her efforts (this includes internal postings and applications). Fee paid for the work and their 'favourable result"- Zero.

In a zero sum game, it invariably becomes a 'who pressed the buzzer first" game as most companies credit the source of the resume-rather than the quality or value add by the third party recruiter. You see, there is no incentive for anything beyond a key word search! Sounds familiar?

As a recruiter, one is racing ahead of time, clocking in registrations -in a bid to get the credit. But does the client see the effort put in for studying a resume? Or spend time even understanding the relative merit of the recommendation?

- As an employer engaging multiple agencies, is anyone keeping track of "what is in it for the recruiting firm" ?

Supply side : The interaction with the Candidates


Aspirants/job seekers are using the throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to their job search. For every one qualified applicant, recruiting agencies get resumes from 10 to 20 unqualified applicants for the open roles they post on job portals and their Web sites.

This “wall sticking” approach led to companies/professional recruitment consultants adopting Applicant Tracking Systems that allow recruiters to do keyword searches to cull out from a bank of resumes only the few that meet the criteria for the role. But that, too, causes problems: a backlash of disgruntled applicants who complain they are sending their resume into a black hole, never to be seen again!!

Applicants feel disconnected with the recruiting process and consequently hate recruiters because most recruiters are only contacting and following up with the truly qualified applicants, So what do the applicants do? Throw more up against the wall. Applicants feel like they need to send 100 resumes to get one bite…

If there is only one qualified candidate out of 100 resumes the recruiting agency doesn’t want to be obligated with the financial and time burdens of responding to the other 99, so they are not left wondering about the position.

Isn’t it a catch 22 situation? I am sure there must be a way out of this malaise.

Whats your take? Would love to hear from you...

PS: My next blog post looks at a solution for all the players in the game to benefit mutually.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Game Changer Recruitment...?

Earlier this week, I came across another masterpiece of an article by Dr John Sullivan in ERE, elaborating a case study to highlight why "Game Changer Recruitment is needed in all organisations."

Most recruiting managers focus on the cost of recruiting individuals (i.e. cost per hire), ignoring the potential return or the economic impacts that recruiting a game-changer will have. The case study illustrates a superior approach, one focused on return on investment.

Isn't it ironical that despite all the hype around human capital, today most companies pay more attention to the 'cost of hire' -rather than figure out how to maximise ROI!

Just look around- like Seth Godin says..our education system and society..makes people want to 'fit in'!
Take most job descriptions Why should not employees be rated on their competencies..rather than the number of yrs exp they possess?

We seem to encourage mediocrity -by generalising all candidates with a certain number of yrs exp -ought to be paid a certain salary budget!!

It is this valuation -a la commodity like behaviour..that also is responsible for companies having 'high rates of attrition', no? Since most people leave their managers anyway, and with a complaint that their contribution isn't recognised or rewarded?

We see it in the hospitality industry. A 4 star hotel can demand a better 'value for money' -because it has better systems /processes/infrastructure ..than a 3 star? Don't CMM level companies inspire more confidence than those who don't possess the certification?

We are possibly moving into a 'free agent' world, where the onus in the knowledge economy -of career development -lies now with the employee-more than the employer.

Do we see new assessment tools..would help employers evaluate..and sooner or later, the employees also see the benefit in 'being outstanding'!!

Or like the different rating agencies classifying different products as AAA+ and BB- while talking about Mutual funds and bonds, do we see such association henceforth while evaluating and compensating recruitment firms?

Or do we all like to play safe? And continue doing things the way we have been used in the past-and quote, "as per company policy, we pay x% to all firms -and we just want you to meet the (lowest common denominator!) expectations!"

I shall be glad to have your comments offline as before! Why trouble trouble, right?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mandates keeping us busy!

Time has been flying! We are already half way through 2010 :-)!

At the onset of the year, I had posted some of my thoughts on the industries to watch, perceptions on salaries, expectations regarding the jobs, and the likely hot jobs in India!!


Taking stock-there has been a lot of action across all the sectors-with most of them hiring aggressively now- except for the Energy sector that hasn't yet translated the potential into serious mandates.

-Attrition figures are back into the double digits...across the industries in the junior levels.

-Companies have been hiring large numbers of entry level talent & training them.

-The demand-supply position in the middle management level ( salaries from 15 to 30 lakhs pa CTC types) has been distinctly in the favour of the corporates as there is no dearth of available talent (both unemployed & underemployed). I have never seen as many 'willing consultants' open to getting back into the industry!!

-The India domestic market story is perhaps the single largest driver -and those with proven track records -are back in demand. (with a difference- there aren't those joining bonuses as yet).

-Salaries have been lot more rationalised. The variable part of salary has become more visible -with the assured fixed salary being a conservative bar! The annual increments have become polarised in favour of the performers...


-And yes-the biggest difference -is that 'there isn't any tearing hurry' to finalise hires. If in the past companies had a system in place- that ensured a series of interviews -to enable the aspirants to pick up the offer on the same day, today there is the luxury of a pregnant pause! Hiring managers are willing to wait for a better candidate to walk in-even as the background verification tests are done. And for once, there is a conscious regard for the 'marginal utility' concept. "Can we pay a little extra and get the more senior colleague instead :-)!?"

All of this means...that third party recruiters like us -are having to wait longer and work harder than before-to be assured of the closures!!

What keeps us at Options busy?

Little surprising that there are a bunch of HR positions in Hyderabad that we are working overtime on presently!!

-Group HR Head for a large infrastructure group company with power generation assets in India that has been recently funded over 400m USD by a group of global investors led by a marquee name! (Premier institute preferred!)

-HR Head for a power plant 2x 1320 MW plant under construction in coastal Andhra (with over 5000 employees).

-Director HR for a leading consulting company-partner with business and handled end to end activities of L&D, training and recruitment (Premier institute preferred!)

-Head HR for a leading MNC giant in Pune

-HR Head for a IT Product company with about 300 employees. The company plans to hire 100 more in the next 12 month. ((Premier institute preferred!)

-Training Director for a IT MNC product co.

-AVP (Talent acquisition) for a BPO in Bangalore

-HR manager for a IT MNC leader in the supply chain domain

-Learning Manager for a IT MNC in Bangalore

- Recruitment manager for IT product company

- HR Advisor for a MNC leader -person strong on Sales HR-to handle a team of regional sales/service team

- Asst manager-Generalist HR for IT product about 250 employees


Please reach out to me offline([email protected]). For obvious reasons most of these are confidential positions and believe me, my clients ARE choosy :-)!!

We are also on the look out for

-an Expat professional to launch one of the largest convention & exhibitions centres in India.

-an Executive Assistant for a Country Head of a highly visible global MNC leader

-returning Indian scientists for a global major player in the pharma/health care business

-Researchers for a highly successful state of art R&D lab

-software developers for a 2Bn USD product company building its Centre of Excellence for mobile applications

- product manager/developers for a leading e-commerce player setting up its Indian operations-after an on site incubation of one year at the corporate headquarters in China.

-Sales & Operations professionals, apart from content management experts for a PE funded start up in the Education sector.

There are more.....You can find a widget on the left hand side panel of this blog that lists out some of the latest positions we are working on! ( Featured jobs!!).

One could also browse http://careers.optionsindia.com/ for an idea of the 'not so confidential' openings we have! Should you register here, we shall personally connect and update you about the exciting options for you. You may like to subscribe for the weekly newsletter to be in sync too.

We also try and update our jobs blog as often as we can. Or you could follow anyone of us among team Options on twitter!

Lets stay connected. It is all happening at once :-)!!


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Seth Godin c/o [email protected] ISB!

I felt I was back in class-attending a revision lecture!! Listening to the same lessons again and again :(!

Having read a couple of books ( Linchpin &The Big Moo), listened to an audio book (Purple Cow) that spurred me to subscribe to his pod casts and follow his blogs, I was overwhelmed when I came to know that Seth Godin was live in India!!

I cannot pin point the exact nature of my disappointment-or even the root cause of it!

-was it that Seth's visit to India -was connected to hiring a CEO for Acumen? I was curious to know how the blog post was likely to be part of a social media recruitment strategy!

-was it that I tried to register for a free invite for the talk by reaching out to Acumen local office immediately after seeing the blog post?

-was it because I didn't hear from them, I invested 50 USD for the status of a 'special guest"! It is another point that the acknowledgement of this -was just as great a leveller..came in 10days later "we need to be sure you're still able to come and so are asking you to fill in ONE LAST FORM to confirm you'll be there -otherwise we''ll assume you can't make it and will seat the others who are patiently on the wait list"?


-was it because it was an event meant to market Acumen's domain of social enterprise & pay tribute to ISB being a catchment area for future hires for the company?


-was it that presentation as ISB was marred by a poor quality of mikes & the abysmal videos?

(Thank goodness for google, one can see 90% of the ideas he conveyed in this 18 minutes presentation two yrs agoo -the slides are same, the jokes are similar!!)

No looking back, the last straw was the learning's one could have got during the 1 hr Q&A session that was to follow the promised 105 minute presentation...it was abrupt & didn't last half the time!!.

But then, the positive point was that it was a fantastic reinforcement -as he drummed in those pearls of wisdom-that forces all of us be aware and re-think and make a difference!

-Generations have been brainwashed -by school and by the system-to" do our jobs and follow instructions" and conform- a la interchangeable/replaceable parts in a large machine ( ref Henry Fords theory of industrial model of cheaper labour) or lizard brains ( to be safe and average!!) and taught to fit in !!

-We need to awaken the genius in us ( Real Artists Ship!)

-The age of mass marketing of idea (spam or ads on TV) are over. It is now the time for leading a movement! Finding what we believe in, and creating a tribe -leading and connection people and ideas..and time to make a change!!

Well, this morning, after a good night's sleep, I reflect- well..I did get my 'paisa vasool' (more than the return on investment) :)!! The most profound concepts come from most simple ideas.

Make a difference. Are we doing things because we know it is the right thing to do? Are we bringing in emotional labour to work- a la an artist? Are we making ourselves valuable-indispensable?


PS- For those who missed the talk yesterday, here is a tip. His blog posts on marketing are a treasure..you get a great insight every day!!. And one can also mine for a wonderful treatise as

Monday, July 05, 2010

Creation of Jobs: Changing perspectives?

As employment in US fell for the first this year in US, the July issue of the Bloomberg Businessweek has a great article by Mr Andy Grove, the former Intel chief-who says that 'job-centric' leadership and incentives are needed to expand US domestic employment again!

The article is a way worthy read for all and here are my key takeaways from the same.

- "The underlying problem isn't simply lower Asian costs. It's our own misplaced faith in the power of start ups to create U.S. jobs.

Start ups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up."

"For every Apple worker in the U.S. there are 10 people in China working on i Macs, i Pods, and i Phones. The same roughly 10-to-1 relationship holds for Dell, disk-drive maker Seagate Technology (STX), and other U.S. tech companies."

-."There's more at stake than exported jobs. With some technologies, both scaling and innovation take place overseas.

A new industry needs an effective ecosystem in which technology know how accumulates, experience builds on experience, and close relationships develop between supplier and customer. The U.S. lost its lead in batteries 30 years ago when it stopped making consumer electronics devices. Whoever made batteries then gained the exposure and relationships needed to learn to supply batteries for the more demanding laptop PC market, and after that, for the even more demanding automobile market. U.S. companies did not participate in the first phase and consequently were not in the running for all that followed.

Not only did we lose an untold number of jobs, we broke the chain of experience that is so important in technological evolution. As happened with batteries, abandoning today's "commodity" manufacturing can lock you out of tomorrow's emerging industry."

-" In a thorough study of the industrial development of East Asia, Robert Wade of the London School of Economics found that these economies turned in precedent-shattering economic performances over the '70s and '80s in large part because of the effective involvement of the government in targeting the growth of manufacturing industries."

Mr Grove's mantra:

"Long term, we need a job-centric economic theory—and job-centric political leadership—to guide our plans and actions.

We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of off shored labor. "

Interestingly, just last month there was a news report that although India has become synonymous with outsourcing, Indian companies created nearly 60,000 jobs in the US between 2004-09 through nearly 500 investment and acquisition deals worth USD 26.5 billion. Highlighted in a report, "How America Benefits from Economic Engagement with India,' released by influential Congressman Jim McDermott in the presence of India's Deputy Ambassador to the US Arun Singh, it is noteworthy that the software and IT services sector, which account for bulk of the outsourcing deals, received less than 15 per cent of the total investment; the investments mainly were in mining, manufacturing, and other industries!!

Is the nature of jobs changing?

Personally, I have a strong hunch that technology is indeed a double -edged sword. While automation helps in speeding up processes, what it does-is it makes quite a few jobs redundant-while creating a slew of new roles. For instance, in contrast to the dozens of 'turners' and 'fitters' that one saw in a engineering firm of the yore- the new CNC machines call for perhaps a handful of differently skilled technicians -who write simple code. I recall -if in the 80s, one had a bunch of accounts assistants who would burn the midnight oil to compile the balance sheet-today, the accounts department has a different look altogether!

Globalisation, technology, telecommuting, collaboration, ...contribute to the changing nature of jobs. If one were to look at the past eighteen months at the way most companies tightened up their belts, the most number of jobs that were axed -were the middle 'managers'! In India alone, the amount of talent that suddenly became available at the 15-30lakhs salary-is a revelation. Most companies preferred to retain 2-3 'doers' instead of a 'manager'!

Thanks to the economic downturn, attributed entirely to some 'financial magicians in the banking sector' some Governments have made a lot of changes in the statutory regulations & compliances required by the industry. Do these not throw a different nature of professionals ?

Would it mean that there would be more emphasis on the quality of jobs- rather than mere quantity? Would recruitment go beyond traditional methods of reacting to the responses? Wouldnt it be better to be pro-active and engage in 'talent scouting' and 'fish where the fish are'?

I shall be glad to hear your views...

PS It is almost a sense of deja vu. In an earlier post I wrote in October last year, referring the article by Dr Vivek Wadhwa on the "reverse brain drain", I had alluded to the above topic!

1.In the 15yrs since 1994- US had slid from being the topmost destination of R&D to being the 17th in 2007.

2. There has been a steady decline in the US citizens choosing careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)-as they were filled up more by immigrant students.

My own theory now is that perhaps the outsourcing of manufacturing in the seventies/eighties to lesser developed countries -were the precursor, for American students following careers in management & law-as manufacturing and R&D jobs had begun to dwindle...


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Lessons from the Sports Arena

It has been an amazing week for sports lovers. Amongst other events, we have been witness to some of the spectacular matches -be it in the last eight rounds of FIFA World Cup or the Wimbledon.

It was a week when the some of the best names , as I write, Brazil and Argentina, and Roger Federer-as well of the favorites (at least those carrying the hopes of the local crowds) - Ghana (in this case for an entire continent) and the British idol Andy Murray have not been able to muster through...

Are there any lessons that we in business can learn from the events that happen in the sports arena??

Here are a handful of the tweets in my timeline this morning,:

@S_Sivakumar:Every single #Arg Argentina strike at the #Ger Germany goal went straight to the goalie or far above the goal bar. Ball possession was of no consequence

@MaheshNBhatt:You cant win matches on the reputation of the past.

RT: @Des_Kelly_DM: Bonkers fact: If Spain or Germany win the #World Cup the only unbeaten side at WC2010 is New Zealand!


Would I be wrong in concluding

- More than individual brilliance it is the team play that matters!

- It is not so much about skills alone, the temperament is paramount! Sheer youthful energy and persistence paid off for the Germans & the Dutch

- Andy Murray probably won more points in the match against Nadal in the semis, but it was Nadal who won those points/games that really mattered in the end!

- Referees are human and prone to error at all levels- the true champions garner enough spirit to draw from their own reserves and succeed!

-Of the 4 South American teams that reached the last 8 -only one has made it to the last 4 even as all three Europeans stayed on course. The game of football -like all other things, is changing-and only those who adapt -make the next grade??

Of course there is still a lot of room for development for the administrators of the games to think of

1. Consider the meaningless rules that allowed a first round match of Wimbledon to go on for 13hrs over 3 days.. to see the winner lose the next match-on the very next day-as he was too stiff from the marathon!!

2. Despite advances of technology and science..allowing human errors to be perpetuated as tradition! For egEngland being disallowed a goal, or the Uruguay's Hand of God!!


While on the learning's, I think one must read the HBR interview of the Chess Legend Garry Kasparov that explores the rich territory of chess as an analogy for business strategy!!

Cheers-have a great week ahead!!


PS. There is still room for superstitions... FIFA is interestingly hinged around Paul the Octopus & Mick Jagger, World Cup angel of death. )!?