Talent hunting: missteps and good practices

Article published on July 11, 2018 
Ysrael Dumasig


Finding the right talent who fit an organisation’s culture and meet its business needs can be challenging. Human resource managers and recruitment experts say fund firms need to make changes and adopt a shorter and more detailed approach to get to know candidates better.


One of the biggest recruitment problems in the Asia-Pacific asset management industry today is a drawn-out hiring process, according to Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, Singapore-based managing partner at recruitment consultancy firm Robert Half.


While it makes sense for companies to invest significant time to learn if a candidate is a good fit for the position and meshes well with the company culture, waiting too long could turn off top prospects and prompt them to drop out.


Vanguard Australia, for example, tends to have a number of interviews in the hiring process and takes its time before making a judgement call as to whether a candidate is going to be an appropriate cultural fit, says Lucy Carr, the firm's Melbourne-based head of HR.


This is to ensure that interviewers have a robust conversation with the candidates to understand their aspirations and what they look for in terms of job satisfaction and career, she says.


But Robert Half's Imbert-Bouchard suggests cutting back on the number of interviews, as some organisations can have up to seven or eight rounds. They could do panel interviews, for example, instead of one-on-one interviews.


Another problem he sees is that most companies in the region don’t give feedback immediately, which happens quite frequently.


“You’ll have companies that [will take an unusually] long time to get back to you with…feedback on a candidate,” Imbert-Bouchard says. “By the time they do, let’s say three to four days later, that candidate has already accepted a job or [has] already [received] two job offers.”


It helps to lay out a clear and definite timeline so candidates know what to expect.


“Explain to them that you have this process; this x number of rounds of interviews or a test,” he says. “We have this and that.”


Get to know candidates better


When it comes to getting to know the candidates better, Vanguard's Carr believes that the interview should be a two-way conversation. By allowing time for candidates to ask questions, they themselves gain an appropriate understanding of the role, the organisation and the potential commitment they would be making if they were to get the job.


Another way to learn more about a candidate beyond interviews is by doing more thorough reference checks, something some companies don’t do enough of, according to Will Tan, Singapore-based managing director at recruitment firm Principle Partners.


Doing a “360-degree” reference check should help, Tan says.


“Talk to the person’s ex-boss, to some of the peers that he has worked with before, and even their former juniors,” Tan says. “By doing that, you can learn a lot about the candidate and get more details about them.”


Think long-term, look for internal hires


Tan also cautions about not having a long-term view on hiring. Companies should consider if there is enough room for candidates to grow. After all, they want someone who can contribute to the firm’s success over the long run and not just be a stop-gap solution for the present.


T. Rowe Price’s U.S.-based head of HR, Dee Sawyer, echoes Tan’s sentiments and says that hiring full-time employees based on short- and intermediate-term needs, without thinking long-term, is a mistake. Before Sawyer’s firm creates a new position, the team asks whether there is a long-term need for this role.


“Will the work be sustained as the organisation evolves?” she asks. “If the answer is no, then it’s probably not worth creating a new full-time position.”


Sawyer also stresses thinking about the timing of hiring new personnel. Because the fund management industry is closely tied to the market, hiring trends can sometimes follow market trends. This means that a lot of investment managers look to recruit the same talent at the same time. So it helps to build and invest in their capabilities to ensure they have the right talent to meet the changing market demands.


Ken Cogger, Tokyo-based head of HR at Nikko Asset Management, says that oftentimes the best candidate for the role already exists in the firm. He says it is critical to have a proactive employee leadership development culture, as good employees look for opportunities to grow in their careers. Those who feel they are achieving growth will be engaged and stay for the long term.


Diversity and authenticity


When it comes to diversity, not addressing unconscious bias can be a problem, because people have a tendency to sometimes seek out candidates who are very similar to themselves, Vanguard’s Carr says.


The end result of this, she says, is the lack of diversity in the workforce. Vanguard avoids this by making sure everyone is involved in the recruitment process – not just the recruiter and HR team but also the hiring managers. The interviewers and screeners are given the right training and guidance to conduct interviews and make hiring decisions. The goal is to have an open mind and give every candidate a fair and positive experience to achieve the right decision.


T. Rowe Price’s Sawyer, who oversees all HR aspects across all of the firm’s global offices, including Asia Pacific, says companies should be authentic with employer branding. It’s important for employers to be open about what they are and aren’t. How they market themselves to recruits has to be authentic and show who they are.


“Otherwise, recruits may not understand why they should work for an employer or, worse, have experiences after they are hired that are inconsistent with how the organization was marketed,” she says.