Marketing Podcast

Marketing Recruitment Insights during the 2020 Pandemic with Michael Barry

Season 3 – Episode 1

Crisis Series: Marketers around the world, and across Australia, have been made redundant in the thousands since the start of March 2020. We are all grappling with how to deal with this pandemic, including the impact it will have on our marketing careers.

My guest on this episode is Michael Barry, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Sharp and Carter in Sydney, Australia.  Michael and I talk about what has been happening with businesses, and marketing jobs in 2020 so far.

We discuss:
  • The state of marketing recruitment in Australia in 2020
  • Remote working and flexible working moving forward
  • Changes to the recruitment process
  • Recovery and timeframes for marketing professionals looking to work

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Transcript

As part of the 2020 crisis series of this marketing life, I am chatting with senior recruitment consultant, with Sharp and Carter, Michael Barry. Michael has been specialising in marketing recruitment across Sydney since 2017. I think that’s when we actually met.

Originally from Ireland, Michael graduated from the Cork Institute of Technology with a Research Masters in Marketing while also lecturing in the college’s Marketing and International Business Department. After moving to Sydney, Michael worked in Marketing Research and Analysis at TAFE before specialising in marketing recruitment.

Today, we are chatting about marketing recruitment in a time of lockdown and crisis. Welcome to the show Michael.

Michael:

Hi Fiona, thanks very much for having me, it’s great to be here.

Fiona:

No, it’s amazing, thank you for joining me. It’s a crazy time, isn’t it? We’re experiencing a once-in-a-generation, once in a lifetime lock down and coronavirus pandemic.

Michael:

Yeah, look, I think you’re pretty much hitting the nail on the head. It is a once in a lifetime kind of a thing and something that we probably won’t see again hopefully not anyway, but look, I’m actually really glad that you reached out to me last week, just to come on to your podcast. The reason being is… Look, I suppose I’m actually in a pretty unique situation working in marketing recruitment.

I’m kind of at the forefront… front-line if you will, of companies and candidates and essentially acting as a conduit between people who are hiring and people are looking for roles. So off the back of that look, “I think I’m in a good position to give you some of my experiences so far, and talk you through what I have seen, and look hopefully help some of your listeners.

Fiona:

How are you, I mean, all this aside, how are you finding this very unique circumstance?

Michael:

Yeah, look, I’m good all things considered. It’s been a challenging time for sure.

It’s been a time that none of us have ever planned for, but it’s something that it’s something that you kinda have to get along with and run with. But look in terms of, all things considered, things are pretty good. I just kinda keep on doing what we’re doing. And you know, this is all temporary at the end of the day, there’s going to be a point where we come out of this. So I suppose, how we react now, in the here and now, that will define us when we come out.

Fiona:

True. It’s like writing the book while reading the book. You keep asking everybody, Oh, what are we supposed to do now? And people, I have no idea… Let’s listen to some politicians and let’s listen to some health professionals… And let’s just all stay the heck away from each other, anyhow…

I would have never thought that I would live through this, but finger’s crossed, we’re all gonna come out the other end okay.

Michael:

Oh look, that’s exactly that it. All we can do is focus on ourselves and what we do. A lot of this look, this whole thing is accompanying an external force. And I think that’s the main thing to kinda take into account. I’m in no position to kind of offer advice on how people, I suppose, act or behave or anything like that, but what I do do as a living is talk to a lot of people, and I think people’s attitudes towards the situation as being one of the big things that I’ve seen come to the fore.

A lot of people are taking a positive approach to this and it’s really encouraging to see to be honest with you. So hopefully there will be a lot more of that and we’ll come out better and stronger you know when it is over.

Fiona:

Finger’s crossed. I wanna get back into obviously your specialty, which is marketing recruitment and just pick your brain a little bit about what has been going on and happening, and what your advice is. So, I think initially I just want to ask you, this crisis came on us all very quickly and I think we were all kind of blind-sided by what was happening.

What was marketing recruitment like last year in 2019?

Michael:

Yeah, marketing recruitment was in a pretty good place last year.

And look, it’s fair to say it’s being changing this year for obvious reasons. But 2019 was actually a very good year and speaking from my own personal experiences, and with my company Sharp and Carter, we’re going through quite a good growth phase, you know, growing from a company that essentially started out a marketing recruitment company in 2017, to being a more established player now, and year-on-year, there’s been more and more activity, more growth and off the back of that, there have been more roles, so it’s been quite buoyant and it’s been in a pretty good place in 2019.

Look, in terms of a general recruitment year, you can pretty much follow a typical flow over the year and a trend if you will, and generally speaking, because you can imagine, as any kind of job seeker can imagine in Q1, things are starting out, you know, people are I suppose, returning from their holidays, returning from leave, then it can typically be a little bit slow to get started in January.

But into February and March, it typically picks up. And that was the case coming into 2020, this year as well. It was no different.

Fiona:

Oh really it was quite… it was doing well at the end of the year, and good for January?

Michael:

Yeah, look, January was quite good. It was quite strong. It’s never the strongest month, but there was signs of, you know, I suppose, quite a lot of recruitment in the horizon.

It was quite a positive I suppose, month and start to the year and look, typically, when you go into Q2 you are really, really getting busy in recruitment. Q3 is probably your busiest and Q4 is actually very busy up until December where things can sometimes get a little bit quiet. You know, as people are obviously checking out again for the end of the year, Christmas and all that.

That’s kind of how a general flow would go and look the start of this year was no different. Q1 was in a pretty good place. Obviously, things changed quite dramatically after Q…

Fiona:

Yeah. It was a strange, in January, we were just looking at China with our deepest sympathy and empathy for what was happening in China without even a thought for a second that those circumstances would very shortly be upon us.

Michael:

I think it was something everyone was keeping an of, looking in the news for, while really understanding what impact it was actually going to have, and look myself included, nobody could have I suppose, seen the massive consequences that have kind of taken place since then. So it kinda gradually came about and obviously, I suppose around six weeks to go is when it really impacted…

Fiona:

Early March.

Michael:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Early March. It really impacted us here in terms of everybody pretty much changing how they work and working from home and obviously all that happened after that, as well, with certain businesses and jobs and obviously only that uncertainty that ensued.

Fiona:

Yeah the uncertainty. Yeah, and I guess also then maybe six weeks ago probably more likely four weeks ago, marketers were getting laid off a lot.

I think a lot of businesses were looking at their bottom line and looking at, what they needed to do to get through this crisis. I mean some businesses have still gone along fine, and some businesses and others have just especially in hospitality, or events businesses, they’ve had the rug pulled out from underneath them.

Michael:

Yeah, look, that unfortunately has been in the case, especially since the start of March as you mentioned, that’s when it really kind of started to turn. Some industries are obviously affected a lot more and others if you look at… Yeah, events-based industries, or retail.

We tell companies that when driving footfall is so key and getting people into stores, they’re obviously gonna be impacted.

Fiona:

Oh retail.

Michael:

Yeah. Look with that. You know, there obviously was a three to four week period, of certainty and people not knowing what was happening.

The government were making announcements – daily, weekly, and it was kind of a case of going with the flow. I have kind of, sensed over the last couple of weeks as it has stabilised a little bit, a renewed optimism just in the way that people are speaking to me, as I am speaking to a lot of candidates searching and clients that are actually going about their business too. And there is a renewed optimism over the last week. They think it’s kind of settled that little bit.

So hopefully that’s something to kind of take out of it, and hope that it’s going to step to better days ahead, you know?

Fiona:

Yeah, well, hopefully.

I’m just wondering, there was this sudden rush to do remote working as we were told to stay away from each other, and I know a lot of businesses were prepared for this and it was just a very easy transition to close the office doors and have everybody at home, but a lot of businesses were not prepared for this, a lot of them had not used comprehensively video teleconferencing software.

How did you find the businesses responded when it came to… Did you hear anything in terms of this transition to remote working?

Michael:

Yeah, it was pretty much a case by case, I suppose, action. Really a lot of businesses are equipped to work from home and have people working from home regularly as part of their normal week.

So it’s an easier transition for them, look also in the recruitment world included. We just need a laptop and a phone and we can work from essentially… So, with us, it’s been fine. We work for a flexible company, where we work from home a day anyway, which… yeah, so it’s fine for us.

So it’s just kind of a case of doing it more often than we’re used to, which isn’t the worst case scenario, but for other companies, look, that are more strict than I suppose, have a certain way of working with regards to these processes.

Look, that definitely has been more of the challenge for them, but I think some good has come out to where it’s actually forced some companies to be more adaptive, to be more flexible, to be more, I suppose, willing to use certain technologies available to us, like your Zoom and your Skype for Business and your… different mediums for connecting people a lot at home so… Well, it is challenging for a lot of companies, less so for some, look, it’s going to hopefully have a bit of a silver lining for how we actually operate moving forward.  Hopefully will avail of a bit more of a flexible environment move forward and using technology that a little bit more and better even.

Fiona:

Sure. Well some office space is very expensive, so if you… We’re talking about businesses surviving and businesses maximising their revenue, and maximising their profits, may be that super expensive office with the view, it may not be the most important thing anymore, if you can have some of your team working remotely?

Michael:

That’s exactly it, that’s exactly the point. Look, there will be some good come of this. It will kind of open the areas of a lot of businesses and how they operate, and what they actually need and what is actually of most importance.

Can they actually do things on a bit of a, I suppose, reduced format, whether it’s their office space or whatever, it may be. It will open the eyes of a lot of businesses, I think. So I’m just trying to keep the view of while these are challenging times and challenging situations, there’s definitely gonna be some good stuff come from this and hopefully businesses will really continue to be creative, be adaptable off the back of all of this as well, which, as I say, businesses have been doing over the last while, and that’s encouraging to hear.

Fiona:

No, that’s true. How’s the whole remote working thing?

How is that impacted recruiting as such? Because I guess recruiters are normally used to, I notice some companies do promise businesses that they will meet the candidate face-to-face before they send the candidate in. And how has that worked in terms of obviously not being able to meet anyone face but has that impacted your processes?

Michael:

Yeah, look, it’s made us, look, we’ve had to adapt.

Obviously, given the circumstances, in an ideal world and what we have always done is meet every candidate that we would ever kind of represent because it’s really, really important to do that, to get a gauge of what that person really is about, you know, what are their kind of experiences, but also their attitude and their personality trait. So, I really do stand by that.

Obviously in these kind of circumstances, it’s just physically not possible to do that. So what we have done is continue as business as usual as much as possible and that we’re meeting candidates but it’s all virtually done. So doing all of my candidate meetings via Zoom or via Skype for Business with my client meetings, but whatever the kind of technology we’re still meeting people face-to-face or be it, not in the flesh. It’s the next best thing.

So, we’re just trying to maintain as much as business as usual as we can, and just trying to keep it going as we use to as we can.

Fiona:

But I guess then it hasn’t really impacted how you assess candidates and stuff like that has it? That process probably still remains the same?

Michael:

Yeah, look, our process remains the same.

If we’re talking to candidates we obviously have an initial phone call, phone conversation and phone screen and then set up. Or what would be a face-to-face, but now it’s obviously a virtual face-to-face. So the same things have been done. We’re getting to the same end point.

Look, if you really want a kind of, I suppose, look at the kind of positive side of it. It actually is increasing a bit of efficiency as well because you can do quite a number of face-to-face’s as well if you’re doing them virtually and on Zoom. So there’s, some good things to take from it.

I ideally would, and would like to go back to when it does settle, and go back to that face-to-face interaction in reality, ‘cause I do..

Fiona:

Oh yeah, face-to-face, what is that?

Michael:

Yeah, that good old thing that we used to, but… Yeah, obviously we will just play the hand that were being dealt now, and try to make the most of it, you know.

Fiona:

Yeah, it will be interesting to see what will become a new normal where the face-to-face will really return or people will go – actually, we’re chatting to these candidates via Zoom, we’re getting to know them and still getting to get almost as much as that face-to-face interaction. Yeah, so…

Michael:

I’m hoping for a bit of both, to be honest with you, I’m hoping for people…

Fiona:

Ooh like a hybrid model?

Michael:

Yeah, I think people, if they use a bit of both and really… Yeah, there are some extra benefits to doing that.

For example, if I’m recruiting a role, and I want to represent the candidate or a short list of candidates and my client isn’t sure if they want to devote an hour to say meeting each of these three candidates, five candidates in person. There is a… To suggest maybe a quick 15-20 minute Zoom and get a feel for what this person has done and can bring. And it really…

Fiona:

It can speed up the process?

Michael:

There’s definitely ways that I feel I can improve our processes and actually get a bit more buoyant and get to the end goal.

So yeah, I think there is that to take from it too so hopefully companies will buy into it a little bit more, while maintaining that face-to-face interaction down the line when we can get to that point again, you know.

Fiona:

Yeah, well, it’s still keeping that personal touch, as much as possible, right? It’s still keeping that interaction, that face-to-face offers?

Michael:

Yes, that’s…And as we say, look particularly, I can’t speak for all of the recruitment industry really or the businesses, but here in our company Sharp and Carter, we’re a very, very big advocates of meeting everybody.

Because once you’ve met someone face-to-face, you really know if they’re gonna be a fit. Yes, there’s technical skills that are important for the role, but if the intangible stuff is, well, about desire and motivation what people want, personality that you can only get when you chat to people look face-to-face, and in reality our next best thing now is that we’re doing it virtually.

Fiona:

Wow, so I’ve noticed, you’re a specialist marketing recruiter, what is the real difference in being a marketing recruiter as opposed to just these normal recruitment consultants? Is there a distinct difference?

Michael:

Yeah, look, recruitment consultants can be what they want to be essentially dependent on obviously what the parameters are in the company.

With my own business, I guess, my own area that I focus in, I just focus on marketing recruitment. Because for the simple fact I don’t want to be everything to everyone, I don’t want to be recruiting in other areas. I suppose 50% in another area, another 50 or 20 or 30%.

I wanna focus on an area that I can actually recruit constantly and focusing in the same areas and roles, meeting similar types of candidates, similar types of companies to improve efficiencies. So nothing should be new for me.

Obviously, there will be here and there, but I want to be really specialist in what I do and that is marketing recruitment. Obviously, with my background being an ex-marketer and ex-marketing lecturer.

Fiona:

Yeah, true, that comes in handy.

Michael:

When I’m meeting, look, clients, but I can tell them that I really understand and what the role is and what they’re talking about, which is always good, but also and it’s because I meet of lot of candidates, and I know exactly what people are saying.

I suppose, what, who are telling me very good examples, and I suppose who are probably dancing around examples as well. It’s really nothing to examples of work. Because I’ve worked in the land and in the area before, so it does make it a bit easier, but to loop back to your question, sorry. The reason why I recruit in just marketing is because I want to be the best in this area, rather than be not focused in and spread too thin.

Fiona:

No, I think it’s a fantastic idea.

I think the marketing industry is broad enough that… there are so many different kinds of roles in that industry anyway, that it really has expanded, especially with technology and the development of different software and obviously now with this communication software is that everyone’s using, marketing just seems to be expanding, and expanding, and so it makes sense to specialise.

Michael:

Exactly… and when we started out over three years ago, we were focusing on a broad remit of the marketing space, and obviously with the kind of, more recent I suppose move and focus on digital, we actually have, I suppose, specialist digital marketing recruiters.

So we brought… we actually, I suppose, specialised even more as where I’m actually focusing on more traditional marketing positions, so on Marketing Managers, Brand Managers, Product, Head of, all the way down to Marketing Coordinators. And we have our own kind of digital marketing side, which would include your online e-commerce and all of that. Because it’s a whole being into itself, and we wanna have specialists, so… So yeah, we really wanna be this just specialists in what we do and focus on those areas.

Fiona:

No, it’s great that you have such a detailed marketing background and I just wanted to ask, so obviously, you’re seeing the skills that businesses are wanting from marketers and you’ve seen the skills that they’ve been demanding.

I know you’ve mentioned Marketing Managers or Marketing Coordinators, which are more generalist roles right down to your specialist kinda digital marketing and probably can go even further down. I’ve seen Content Marketers, Social Media Managers even Marketing Automation Specialists, the roles can become quite detailed.

Over the past 12 months or so, what are the skills that businesses are looking for the most from marketers?

Michael:

Yeah, look, and there’s no kind of one universal solution or answer for this one.

Fiona:

No golden egg?

Michael:

No, I don’t ever even a common answer here, but what I do have is a little bit of cadence anyway, as I recruit these roles look so consistently there is a bit of a team in a bit of a trend that say, for example, what someone would look for an Marketing Manager, for example.

Look, ideally they want… look, Marketing Manager or anyone in marketing, you’re going to want someone… firstly, talking about the intangibles, someone who is, I suppose, has a can-do kind of attitude, and I know this sounds like it’s very up in the air but someone who has or shows resilience, and a can-do attitude, roll the sleeves up attitude is something that I hear time and time again, so it’s just something to… I know you can’t quantify that, you can sure talk about it in examples…

Fiona:

Absolutely. I know you can’t quantify attitude, but attitude is also one of those things that is very difficult to cre.., to get as a skill. Either you have a certain attitude or you don’t. Either, you’re a go-getter, your resilient, can-do optimistic person or you’re kinda not. It’s not really something you can go out and study.

Michael:

That’s exactly, that’s exactly it. And I think now, more so than ever, look at the environment that we’re in, people are going to be looking for people who show resilience, adaptability, transferability can try to at least get to a solution rather than focus on the challenge.

So someone who really has that resilient nature, and adaptability and displays it, more so that ever is gonna be really, really at the forefront of thinking, in my opinion anyway. So coming to here and just thinking of your examples of what you have done in the past to showcase those, those traits would also think about, now, what are you doing right now in terms of this challenging situation? Obviously, it effected a lot, a lot of people not just one person, and it’s an external factor that is…

Fiona:

The whole world.

Michael:

Yeah, well, exactly, so you can obviously sit down and say – why me? It’s not just one person, you can actually take actions to really step it up and kind of do things in this challenging time to make yourself stand out.

Reconnecting with people, I suppose, opt in any kind of skill set that you see fit, anything that you really feel is going to show a bit of resilience moving forward. I suppose with…

Fiona:

So basically, be reaching out to people you’ve worked with before, reaching out to old friends and colleagues and stuff like that, that’s probably a good idea to do, now.

Michael:

Absolutely, more so now than ever, networking, connecting, referring people, basically chatting to people and just getting them…

Fiona:

Chatting to people? What’s that?

Michael:

Talking to people.. my Irish… my accent and slangs are coming through here…

Yeah, speaking to your network and really kind of just showing a bit of initiative to get back on that horse. Look, those are I suppose your kind of intangible stuff, with regards to skills that other employers do look for…

Project Management is always a common one, managing multiple projects at the same time, so just being able to kind of juggling, exactly, that balancing act. Again, it’s gonna be something at the forefront and balancing a lot of things when we come out the other side of this. So that’s always something to look at.

Look, someone who can take ownership, run, whether it’s campaigns end-to-end and whatever it may be, but someone who can really show to the ability to take ownership of projects. People obviously work in teams, have guidance and are managed, but, if someone has that initiative and can take ownership, it’s always something that’s welcomed in companies.

Fiona:

Can I just ask you about that? Taking ownership, taking responsibility, how should marketers do that?

Michael:

Yeah, look, first thing is, for us, is to assess the state of play in any business that you go into, understanding how processes work, what the norm is and just see where you can add value…

Fiona:

Ahhh, processes.

Michael:

To see if you can add any value across any kind of… Any kind of processes really… look, add value with ideas. If it doesn’t bring stuff to the table, offer to take on more duties, offer to take on responsibility, just show an initiative to really, really help out and take ownership as much as possible.

I know that you can only do that to a certain extent, given your role remit, but as best you can sometimes…

Fiona:

True, you don’t wanna lose your evenings…

Michael:

That’s exactly it. It’s probably just more the showing that you’re there and can do that. So, put your hand up… exactly.

So those are probably the key things if you wanna talk about technical and things that loop back into something I mentioned before… look, not just over the last year, but over the last number of years is obviously being an importance on that digital site, it’s a key component of a lot of businesses.

Some businesses have really broadened their digital kind of performance and whether it’s their socials, their websites, whatever it may be, they’ve really expanded over the last number of years. Look, that’s continuing to be the case. Some companies are slower than others to do that, but if you can, I suppose, if you come from a strong background in this space and then that’s great, but if you don’t, then you have some downtime, by all means, you know..

Now it’s a good time to up-skill in anything and any way you can…

and I’m not saying you’re gonna complete a degree in the time this pandemic is going on, but you can certainly make in roads, or do kinda courses part-time, or week-to-week courses, or this kind of stuff, just to show that your willing.

Fiona:

Oh yeah, I have seen a lot of platforms open up, and open up a lot of courses and people uploading a lot of courses to Skillshare and stuff like that, or Linkedin Learning or even the tools like the HubSpot learning area and whatever, all kinds of courses on social media or content or stuff like that, I suppose it’s a good time to just…

I guess it’s every business kind of needs that kind of awareness and skills, especially when it comes to digital marketing. So, it’s probably, this is probably quite a good time to up-skill that tech knowledge?

Michael:

That’s exactly it. Up-skill in any areas that you feel you may be kind of lacking, you want to kind of develop and if you are kind of looking to align yourself down the different path, or in a slightly different industry or area. When we click back into gear, now is the time to do it.

Let’s turn a challenging situation into something that can actually be quite positive and make the most of it too, you know.

Fiona:

Yeah, I suppose, I mean we’ve got this time. It’s starting to look like things are going to be getting better is certainly from Australia’s point of view, it looks as though we have fared quite well globally through this crisis so we may be back on our feet, with obviously, borders locked down, but we’ll be back on our feet, sooner than other countries, so we could be back at business sooner.

And like you said, you mentioned that some businesses are already starting to think about getting back in a some kind of normal?

Michael:

Look, it’s obviously gonna be where we’re kind of at the hands of what we’re being told from government and whatnot. But what I will say for my interactions over the last six weeks since the start of March say, I’ve talk to people for the first four weeks, and it was just uncertainty across the board, a lot of, I suppose, fear, skepticism, ifs and buts, on the client side company side, as well as this job seeker side.

What I can say over the last, say two weeks into May, I have seen a renewed optimism ’cause things have somewhat settled down, people have accepted, somewhat of a new norm for now, and people are kind of looking… Okay, this is where we are, this is the hand we’re dealt then, and let’s get on with things.

So there is a renewed optimism particularly from some clients, they’re quite… some clients are more optimistic than others, obviously, but… It’s been on the industry as well, some industries are actually quite busy in this period of time…

Fiona:

Well, actually, that’s a good point to talk about actually what industries are actually okay at this time or are jumping in early to look at getting people back at work?

Michael:

I go do a lot of recruitment to cross, particularly over the last couple of years, across B2C consumer products.

So whether it’s your kind of, FMCG food and drinks…

Fiona:

Not toilet paper?

Michael:

There’s a prime example of a company who is ultra, ultra-busy especially at the start of this saga. If you think of FMCG, as well, fast-moving consumer good status, foods, drinks… What happened when everybody was hearing about this epidemic? Shopping, shopping, shopping… shelves sold out.

These industries are very, very busy off the back of it. So obviously you can compare that to some retailers who felt the opposite, like fashion retailers and stuff like that. These companies and stuff like that. But it is important to know that recruitment didn’t stop.

The recruitment hasn’t stopped at a dead end, through this whole thing, recruitment has still gone on, it’s just in certain areas, there’s pockets of recruitment, there’s industry, there’s recruitment in certain industries, so I feel that some industries will look to recruit sooner rather than others. And look, hopefully that will be quite soon.

I suppose, something that I wanted to talk about as well, as the actual length of a recruitment process. Like are…

Fiona:

Ooh, please.

Michael:

The recruitment process. It’d be brilliant, if you met a candidate and you place them two weeks later. It’s fantastic when that happens. Yeah…

Fiona:

Magic.

Michael:

But that’s an ideal situation. And as you can see, it’s not an ideal world at the moment though, so what a normal situation is, is from the moment you actually get a job brief from a company to the moment you place a candidate, have your references and contracts signed off, that can take up to the six, even eight weeks.. being a realist.

Yeah, so if you think about it, before a candidate sees any advert, there’s, I suppose, a meeting to get a proper job brief with the company to assess what the actual role is and get really into the detail, and then it’s the case of advertising from my perspective, advertising on online portals, but also in going through my internal networks, going through my referral base, so going through all these different avenues.

Fiona:

That good ol’ network.

Michael:

That can take a couple of weeks and then a week anyway. And then you can, obviously go into your phone screening phase and you can go into your face-to-face interviews before you whittle down a short list of, say three to five candidates. This is rolling from week to week, so before you actually get to interview stage, you can be two or three weeks in the process and then you have your first round interviews potentially one week, and second interviews potentially the week after, and then you are at offer stage… Hopefully, and then you have your reference checks, and you have your creation of a contract.

So if you think about it, if it takes five to six weeks to recruit a role, where are we gonna be in five to six weeks, are we gonna be in a more positive position? I really, really hope so.

Yeah, it is a lot of shrewd companies and companies out there are kind of starting to have initial discussions just with that renewal in optimism and talking about just the kind of, I suppose…

Fiona:

Well they have to use forward planning right?

They can’t just suddenly turn around and in two weeks if they announce some lock downs are ending in two weeks they think – Oh, okay, well… we need to hurry up and hire someone. When you have to do it so fast, that’s when it gets tricky…

Michael:

You’re going from standing start when that’s the case. So if people need to be preempted, to be ahead of the curve, I’m not telling everyone to go back to recruitment, straight away now, but it’s gonna be case by case on business and there has been signs of that.

So yeah, forward planning is a big thing at the moment. So, yeah, the companies that do that will actually be ahead of the curve and probably have the pick the rest that are out there off the back of that.

Fiona:

Well, no, that’s really insightful, I guess from a candidate perspective, or even a business perspective, to sit down and actually think about how long that process needs to be so that you place the right person in your business.

That’s step one right? To decide okay, right, it’s gonna take six to eight weeks to find the right candidate. Let’s get started now and let’s get this process going so that… by the time things turn around, we have the right person.

Michael:

That’s it exactly and look, another thing as well that’s probably important to note, I’ve spoken, I speak to a lot of candidates a day and as I say, a lot comes back to attitude. A lot of them are positive, but a lot of them I feel it a little bit harder.

And look, the commenting that I guess said to me, is I’ve applied for such-and-such a role and I’ve seen that there was 300 applicants so there was 400 applicants, or whatever the case may be, and… That’s something that people really need to be mindful of not to worry about, because it’s… Yes, there’s all those applicants yes, there’s more people in the market now, given the circumstances, but that…

Fiona:

But we are in a crisis.

Michael:

Exactly. That does not mean that those 300 people are relevant. It means that people may be applying for roles that may not necessarily fit into their profiles. There’s a whole host of things that go into it, and at the end of the day, all you can control is your own yourself. Control the controllables…

Fiona:

Yeah, well actually this is a good point. If you do wanna stand out, obviously, there’s an avalanche of people available who wanna work. Now, how can you stand out? Is it still about the CV or is it about, I don’t know, your LinkedIn, I mean, where’s a good place to polish, if you’ve got this time?

Michael:

Yes, that’s exactly it… Hopefully, we all have a bit of a bit of time now and there’s definitely things that we can all be doing.

And look as basic as it sound, yes, your CV is your first port of call. Because people just need to have this down before they do anything, before they start applying for any roles they feel, you need to make sure your CV is spot on in terms of what you’re applying for.

And I won’t go into massive detail. But it’s just really important to have your CV relating to the role that you’re applying for.

You might have experience in a few different industries, for example, but if you have experience in the industry that the role you’re applying for, you need to accentuate those points and bring them to the fore.

You need to give the most examples of work in that particular bulk of experience, that makes it the most, the easiest to kind of, put two and two together and put the pieces together that you are a good candidate for this position.

Fiona:

So, customised.

Michael:

Sell yourself on your CV. I’m not saying to create a hugely… create an essay of a CV… Like a two to three page will do, but it’s important just to make sure your CV is relevant as much as it can be to the role you are applying for.

A lot of people just push “responsibilities” on their CV also, which is something that you need to do more, you need to do more than that, you need to put your “achievements” on as well and really sell yourself through those achievements.

Because if you think about the next person that is applying for the role, they may probably have done those same responsibilities but I wanna see you doing those via your achievements. And yeah…

Fiona:

What did you deliver?

Michael:

That’s it the end of the day. So really nutting down on small things like that, well not small things, they are huge, but those things in this down time is quite good. So, once you see these is set, a cover letter, some people do, some people know that they’re time consuming.

I know it can be quite painstaking if you’re doing it for every single role that you apply for, but if you ask me, “Are they worth it? The answer is yes.

Fiona:

And especially if you’re not a talented writer, it can be a bit tricky to write a proper CV that reads really well.

Michael:

Obviously, it’ll come easier to certain people than others. Look, if people can get a bit of help in that area, with CV, cover letters or whatever the case may be, if you can just really link it as best as possible to the areas that’s required in a role, that’s gonna put you in the best position.

But outside of the CV stuff, your cover letters and all these technical things, it’s just about aligning yourself with the right people…

Fiona:

Do people still read cover letters?

Michael:

Yeah, they do. Well, I can’t speak for all people, but do I still read them? I do.

I feel if someone has a cover letter, it shows that extra bit of effort it shows a bit of proactiveness, and that they are really wanting into apply for this job. Do you know you can see how easy it is to apply for a role in these days? You can be on your phone and you can flick an application on a swipe of a button.

Fiona:

It takes one second, right? We want it to be fast, but it’s very hard to be customised if you can just apply for a job with one click?

Michael:

So, I think when there is a  cover letter in there as well. It just adds bit more sustenance to it, and it really does mean that you’re kind of putting a solid effort into applying for this job. And I certainly read them anyway.

Fiona:

It shows you really care (the candidate)

Michael:

So those are the things that you can do, and in terms of in this downtime and look, outside of that it’s just something that I kind of touched on earlier. It’s just align staff with the right people. So if you work in marketing and go to a specialist marketing recruiter, by all means, come to me but I…

Fiona:

It helps because it’s where I’ve spoken to some recruiters in my working career, and I swear they don’t know half of what I’m talking about… And I’m talking about the kind of metrics that a business wants to know about in regards to marketing. And they go, “Oh they want leads, and it’s like Yeah, I… Okay, and Oh yeah, no, they need someone and it’s just like, No, seriously, you need to speak to me in terms of…

How is their brand going? What kind of campaigns are they running? Are they in a standstill position or are they moving? and it’s just… Yeah, some recruiters don’t really understand marketing, don’t really… aren’t able to articulate exactly what the role is and exactly what the people need to do…

Michael:

There can be certain pitfalls, for sure, and that’s gonna loop back to what….

Fiona:

But this is why you exist.

Michael:

I wanna specialise because I know the area. It is simple as that. If I was doing a generalist marketing role or generalist recruitment role, I know that I wouldn’t be as successful.

So my advice is to align yourself with companies and people that have specialist recruiters in the area that you work, and that’s the way to do it. And look, don’t just go to… you can obviously go to one, and you can have a good relationship with recruiters, but you have to get across the market as well.

It’s important to have a number of chats, also not just with recruiters but also with your network. People are sometimes a bit hesitant to dip in and consult with their network of past peers and employers and stuff like that. Not too sure…

Fiona:

Of course, fear of rejection or fear of looking bad.

Michael:

Fear of showing a bit of vulnerability perhaps. I’ll tell you that it is a really valuable thing to do because if someone refers someone to me, I will absolutely meet them. Whether I have a role or not. I know it’s gonna be someone, look someone’s put their, not, name on the line,… but someone has stuck their neck out for someone else and it does carry a lot of weight.

So, referrals and networking is so important to do. It’s not just about talking to the likes of me and applying direct, it’s something to tap into… So it’s a kind of multifaceted approach.

Fiona:

Hey, there was just one other thing I wanted to quickly ask you about. And that is psychometrics?

How important is either strength-based assessments, and psychometrics in recruiting? Does it have more of a place now in terms of not just whether the person can actually do the role but whether the person has the strengths to match the role, or shares the same values as the company?

Do you know much about that?

Michael:

In terms of psychometrics, that is company by company. It’s not something that’s iron fast, and across every company does it. Only certain companies, would have I expect.

Fiona:

Do you find them helpful though?

Michael:

To be honest, a lot of it is external, and it’s done between the actual candidate and the external company itself. So it wouldn’t actually go through us, we may facilitate it and  it kind of, it determines and helps decision making from the client side, but it wouldn’t be something that we’re involved in the detail of. It’s more from their perspective, to kind of see how they would actually fit.

It really just does depend on the company, it doesn’t really flow though us, in terms of the detail unfortunately on that one.

Fiona:

No, I just think about that in terms of how recruiting and HR is a moving in the future, how can we make the process… are their tools or technology, or neuroscience, are there tools that can make recruiting easier and faster or better for the… Because staff turnover is… but maybe short tenure is just part of our fast-moving economy now and our fast pace, business lives where businesses start up and shut down and get acquired and bought?

And maybe this is just our new reality, but no, I think about the future of HR and recruiting and ’cause we’ve had CVs, and recruiters and stuff, for years, for decades and I’m just wondering if AI is gonna come in or…

No, I’m really just really getting ahead of myself. But I do think about if these things are actually gonna effect the industry?

Michael:

That may be the case and for now, I think it has value, I think it’s used in places in areas, but it’s certainly not covering the whole landscape.

Fiona:

It’s still quite small.

Michael:

Who knows what the future brings with that and how much we may or may not come to rely on things like that. It’s up in the early… And yeah, so it’s something that we can kind of keep our eyes on, see what happens… Yeah.

Fiona:

Cool, no, that’s… Hey, thank you so much. I’ve kept a little bit longer than I said I would, but I’ve just really gotten an immense amount out of chatting with you today. And I know once this goes live, other people are gonna get immense value out this as well, so thank you so much.

Michael:

No worries at all.  As I said at the start, it was really good to come on, and because I have to say, I’m in a unique position where I talk to a lot of the markets, so I’m more than happy to kind of give back a little bit of what I’ve been learning too, so thanks for having me on today.

Fiona:

Sure, if someone wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to contact you?

Michael:

You can go onto my LinkedIn obviously Michael Barry, you can find me on that, add me on that, or send me an email to my email address as well and I can provide that if need be.

Fiona:

Okay, cool, that’s perfect, again, thank you so much, I hope you get through this pandemic okay, and you stay sane and hang in there. And yeah, hopefully we’ll talk again on the other side.

Michael:

I thank you as well and yeah, finger’s crossed we all come out of this better and stronger. Thanks Fiona.

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