Guest Comment: why bother with a recruiter?

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On the surface, with the current low volume of job vacancies in Asia and high number of candidates immediately available, the importance of recruitment consultancies could be called into question from both a job-seeker and employer perspective.

However, the value of recruiters should not be underestimated in toady's employment market. Specialised consultants still retain their extensive networks of client relationships and contacts, which will almost certainly be more extensive than any one individual's, irrespective of a candidate's length of experience.

As a candidate, your strategy should be not only to utilise your personal network of contacts, but to also ensure that you are plugged into the network of ideally two to three consultants who you value in terms of their market knowledge. You should take care to ensure that these networks do not overlap too far to prevent the duplication of applications.

Some banks are now taking advantage of the current number of potentially good candidates on the market. Those companies who are seeking to up-skill their workforce are very unlikely to go out in a high profile manner to the market, as this will needlessly unsettle and demoralise some of their staff who they want to retain. Employers will look to keep these potential opportunities confidential and approach perhaps only one or two consultancies.

Experienced recruiters will almost certainly be closer to the internal developments of their banking-sector clients than you as a candidate in the open market. It is these close relationships that candidates should look to take advantage of.

Obviously each bank is looking to control and reduce costs where possible and the removal of recruiters' fees seems a perfect opportunity to make such savings. However, the more enlightened firms still value an experienced headhunter's knowledge of the market and recognise that there now is an even greater amount of leg work needed to identify the best talent.

Intensive screening of large volumes of applications and the time spent managing candidates through the recruitment process will divert resources from the core business of the bank.

Employers recognise that a candidate's first impression of a firm is often through the recruitment process, which is now taking significantly longer. A well managed process ensures that a candidate has a positive experience and this reflects well on the company.

During these difficult times, agencies are working with their clients where possible to help them reduce costs, helping to ensure the survival of both parties.

Candidates who are not tied to the local market and are genuinely interested and committed to seeking opportunities internationally should make use of the relationships they have with local consultants within agencies that have a global reach.

Your local recruiter can put you in touch with his or her relevant counterpart abroad and give that consultant a comprehensive overview of you - your abilities, presentation and style. Due to the large volumes of applications consultants are currently receiving, this approach will give more weight to your application than would a direct response to an advertised role overseas.

A number of candidates are now finding themselves in the unfamiliar position of being unemployed for the first time in quite a while. They are out of touch with interview techniques and how to best present themselves to prospective employers.

Job seeker should use their face-to-face time with their consultant to practice their interview techniques and to learn how to answer those awkward questions they know will come. At the very least candidates should be asking for feedback on how to improve the content of their CV to ensure they are presenting themselves in the best possible light.

Naturally candidates may well find themselves accepting positions that they would not have accepted under different market conditions and will seek to move jobs as soon as the employment market improves.

Registering with a select number of agencies now and building a relationship with them means you will be more likely to be on their radar when the market turns, so they will be able to approach you for those opportunities that fit your career aspirations more closely.

Guy Erricker is managing director of Charterhouse Partnership in Hong Kong

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