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Daily Archives: May 7th, 2009

07 May 2009 6:14am

The strong jobs market in recent years means “the rust has gathered” on the core recruitment skill of effectively assessing and selecting candidates, says trainer Ross Clennett.

The challenge for many recruiters working today has rarely been trying to choose from a vast number of quality candidates, he notes.

“It has been the opposite – despairing at how few candidates, who even closely match the client brief, can be found and enticed to attend an interview with the client.”

As a result, Clennett says, “the client market of recent times has reluctantly accepted, or at least not penalised, candidate referrals from recruiters of the ‘looks close enough and there is nobody better to put forward’ type. Roles desperately needed to be filled and almost anyone half decent was worth referring.”

But this means that “rust has gathered” on the core skill of identifying the cream of what may be a strong field of applicants.

Now that the market has changed dramatically, he says, “the spotlight is well and truly on that skill”. Clients now have a very low tolerance for poorly assessed candidates and if they’re paying a recruiter a placement fee, “a very reasonable expectation is that all the wannabe, liar, try-hard, incompetent or unmotivated candidates are not allowed to slip through the net”.

Clennett recommends six steps that recruiters should take to ensure all referrals are of the highest possible standard:

Agree on key selection criteria. “Ensure there is agreement between you and the client as to the key selection criteria for the job being recruited. The selection criteria should be competency based, as using non-competency-based selection criteria (e.g. age, gender, years of experience, ‘Australian’ experience, family status etc) is both illegal and ineffective at identifying the most suitable candidates.”

Screen and interview all candidates against the agreed criteria. “Most interviews last less than one hour so it is pointless spending time on areas of the candidate’s background that are not relevant for this job.

“Gather evidence (not opinions) of the candidate’s capability in each of the key selection criteria. Use a consistent rating system (e.g. ‘significantly exceeds’, ‘exceeds’, ‘meets’, ‘almost meets’, ‘does not meet’), when assessing each candidate against each of the key selection criteria.”

Gather further assessment data before shortlisting. “Answers to properly constructed behavioural interview questions are a very good start in your assessment process. Other steps you could take include (privacy release permitting) reference checking, skills testing, psych profiling, qualification verification, police checks and confirming the candidate’s eligibility to work in the country.”

Shortlist by using the key selection criteria. “Having rated each candidate against each of the key selection criteria, it should now be clear who should be shortlisted. The advantage of using the rating scale system in step two, above, rather than a one-to-five numbering scale is that a ‘lesser’ rating (e.g. ‘meets’ versus ‘significantly exceeds’) does not signify ‘worse’ as a three versus five can do in a numeric system.

“The numeric rating can lead to ‘number inflation’ where candidates are rated more highly than the evidence suggests they should be, in order to ensure the candidate is interviewed.”

Provide a summary page for each shortlisted candidate. “The purpose of a summary front page is to answer all of the client’s front-of-mind questions about the candidate before they turn the page to read the resume (when their in-built biases and generalisations will inevitably kick in).”

Clennett suggests that along with your rating of the candidate against each of the key selection criteria, you might also want to include on this page:
the candidate’s reason for leaving their current/last position;

their current remuneration;

the remuneration sought;

their motivation for applying for the job;

a list of the background checks completed (references, qualifications, work eligibility, etc); and

how you sourced the candidate. This is a good opportunity to “differentiate yourself from the bog-standard job board recruiters, as well as the client’s own processes, by promoting your innovative sourcing methods”, Clennett says.

“The other huge advantage of the summary page is that it assists enormously when a candidate’s details are referred onto another decision maker or influencer. Almost certainly you will have no opportunity to talk to this person before they pass judgement on your candidate(s) so an effective written summary is your ‘insurance policy’ in preventing good candidates being declined for bad reasons by unmet decision makers.

“The summary page is one of the easiest, yet least-used, ways in which you can demonstrate your effectiveness in screening and assessing referred candidates and increase your shortlist-to-interview ratio.”

Rebut any invalid reasons for rejecting a shortlisted candidate. “When you met the client to take in the job brief you will have drawn some conclusions as to where the client was most likely to push back on referred candidates. Anticipate the pushback and be prepared to rebut the client’s decision with your evidence-based response.

“If you passively accept the client’s rejection of the candidate then you immediately demonstrate that your shortlist is more of an ambit claim than a carefully assessed and selected group of candidates. Stand up for your skill as a recruiter!”
“The current climate is one in which every dollar is hard-won and a critical part of that winning is having razor-sharp, water-tight assessment and selection skills,” Clennett says. “I suggest you review your own assessment and selection skills with the purpose of increasing your interview strike rate, your billings and ultimately your annual productivity.”

Origin buys up Wind PowerClancy Yeates
May 7, 2009 – 9:00AM
The carbon pollution reduction scheme may have hit a brick wall, but this is unlikely to stop a stampede of investment into wind farms.

Origin Energy is the latest company seeking to cash in on the government mandate to increase renewable energy by nearly tripling its potential wind development portfolio through the purchase of Melbourne’s Wind Power Ltd yesterday.

Origin said the deal which will take its wind development portfolio to 2000 megawatts was signed in preparation for the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target that will require 20% of all power to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The price of the acquisition was not deemed material, but the deal is significant because it could support a wave of investment into wind, as the race to build new farms heats up.

Origin’s deal comes after AGL Energy last month spent $341 million – on construction of the 132 megawatt Hallett – 4 wind farm in South Australia. Under similar construction costs, developing all of Origin’s wind portfolio could cost more than $5 billion.

Wind energy is tipped to be a big winner from the renewable energy target, which is expected to stimulate about $27 billion in investment in the next decade.

The managing director of Origin, Grant King, said the move was part of the company’s plans to meet its obligations and meet growing customer demand for green power.

However the deal – estimated to be worth in the tens of millions by analysts is also an attempt to address Origin’s relatively low emphasis on wind compared to AGL.

“It gives them options, because they’ve clearly got a major liability under the renewable energy target the government has come up with,” an analyst at RBS, Jason Mabee, said.

Wind Power’s prize asset is the 484 MW Stockyard Hill wind farm near Ballarat. Analysts said the site’s capacity factor of 40% was on par with AGL’s Hallett farms in South Australia.

Eric Johnston
May 7, 2009

WESTPAC’S chief executive, Gail Kelly, has warned that the economy will deteriorate further into next year and recovery from recession is likely to be a “slow haul”.

But she believed households were holding up better than previously feared and low interest rates would help the housing sector to lead the recovery.

Yesterday Westpac became the latest of the major banks to cut its dividend as it sought to conserve cash and protect its balance sheet from the rising tide of bad debts.

The country’s largest bank by sharemarket capitalisation reported a 6 per cent decline in first half cash earnings to $2.29 billion.

The result, which includes the first full six-month earnings contribution from St George, was in line with expectations and underscored the impact the economic downturn is having on the sector.

In the past week NAB handed down a 9.4 per cent drop in first half earnings, while ANZ’s interim profit slumped 43 per cent.

Westpac’s result took the total cash profits earned by the big four banks to $7 billion since Commonwealth Bank kicked off the latest reporting season in February. They remain on target to turn in combined full year earnings of $15 billion for 2009.

Westpac’s interim dividend payout will be cut 20 per cent to 56c a share.

Analysts described the result as higher quality than the other bank profits handed down in the past fortnight. “We would regard this as the strongest result this bank reporting season,” said Credit Suisse’s James Ellis.

Westpac remains vulnerable to rising losses across its substantial exposure to commercial property, which accounts for nearly 10 per cent of its loans book.

Ms Kelly was more cautious about the prospect of a rapid recovery. She said lending losses were starting to spread from corporates to small- to mid-sized businesses and consumers.

“When the recovery comes, it is likely to be a slow,” she said.

After a slow start to the first half, St George delivered a 6 per cent increase in cash earnings to $529 million for the first half. Earnings across Westpac’s flagship retail business jumped 17 per cent, while earnings from its institutional operations slumped 62 per cent.

Westpac’s net interest margin expanded to 2.24 per cent from 2 per cent in the previous half, but it included an increase of about 10 basis points associated with trading and treasury operations.

Bad debt charges of $1.61 billion were more than three times the $541 million in the first half a year ago.

The latest provisions include $700 million from the collapsed corporate “bad boys” such as Allco Finance, ABC Learning and Babcock & Brown.

The bank also had a bigger than expected jump in losses across its margin lending book, which was hit with $156 million in losses across just three large trading accounts.

Westpac’s total provisioning now stands at $4.5 billion and the bank is among the best prepared to take shocks to its balance sheet.

The shares rose 46c to $19.96 yesterday.

April 30, 2009

As many as two million Australian contractors may not be included in unemployment figures during the economic downturn, the opposition says.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) report predicts unemployment in Australia will rise from 5.7 per cent to 7.8 per cent next year.

However, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey fears the figure will not include a high number of self-employed people.

“In this recession, quite clearly, there are going to be far more independent contractors in small businesses than in the last recession,” he said.

“It’s roughly half a million to two million.”

Some could be forgotten by the government because of the nature of their work, he said.

“I think there will be independent contractors and small business people, particularly in the service sector, particularly in home-based businesses, that might not be properly accounted for in the official data,” he said.

“When you are rung up by the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) and asked whether you have got a job, you will say `I’m employed by my own company. We are probably getting a proposal together … I just haven’t got any contracts at the moment’.

“I just hope those people are not forgotten by the government during the course of the downturn.”

Mr Hockey said job sharing would play a greater role in Australian working life in the near future.

“Job sharing is going to be a very real part of life and I hope the flexibility is still in the industrial relations system that allows for that job sharing activity,” he said.