Casting the right hook

More and more companies are using external agencies in order to find new recruits for their IT departments. Outsourcing your recruitments comes with a particular set of pros and cons. How can businesses utilise these services? Joe Lipscombe looks into how enterprises can make optimal use of external agencies and ensure they get the right personnel for their company.

Recruitment can be a long and sometimes difficult affair. Whether a company decides that it needs to adopt a new approach to its strategy or that it must fill a gap left by a retiring servant, people come and go in business all the time.

It’s a big commitment to recruit a new member of staff and one that offers many considerations. Will this person fit within an already established team? Does this person share similar values to those of the company? Can this person adjust to new environments? Whatever the issues may be, a recruiter must be absolutely sure that they have the right person for the job before handing over a freshly printed contract.

A company can never be totally sure of what kind of employee they are hiring. The Middle East is a good example as a high percentage of people working here have been employed from other regions around the world and knowing exactly what you’re going to get from someone who you haven’t met is not feasible.  Companies often use social media to research their perspective employees, references, work examples and portfolios. A company will go to great lengths to be as knowledgeable as they can be about a person before they offer them a job.

However, a large percentage of companies are still using outside agencies to recruit their staff for them. This situation comes with its own set of pros and cons; time management, resources, intelligence, these are all elements which can easily fit into both categories.

How can a company utilise these agencies and be sure that they’re getting the optimal performance out of them and how can job seekers be sure that they are getting an adequate service?

“The results of our [Bayt.com] Recruitment Methods in the MENA poll showed that according to 34.5% of professionals across the region, online job sites are the most effective recruitment method,” says Suhail Masri, VP of sales at Bayt.com.

“The main reasons, the poll showed, that professionals frequent online job sites were that they were the fastest and easiest way to land a job, they allow them to access jobs outside of their country, they are free and they are rich with facts and information on careers,” he adds.

Mahesh Shahdadpuri, founder CEO of TASC believes that outsourcing agencies can provide expertise that individual companies may not possess. Utilising these can save you money, time and manpower, he says. “You would use these agencies because they have the ability to pick and replace specific skills depending on project needs. Customer internal HR departments lack the specialised skills and need help due to time constraints.”

Dulsco recently reported an increase of 11.8% of companies providing digital media, internet marketing and cloud computing solutions, which in turn has increased the demand for skilled IT manpower in the new digital media field. The company claimed that it expects the demand will increase significantly in the fourth quarter of this year. Independent agencies will play a huge role in this evolution as companies hope to be provided with the best available candidates on the market.

This rapid shift in demand for IT manpower only increases the importance of external input. The pros and cons of which should be clearly identifiable for businesses.

“[The pros are that] you have access to a much larger number of candidates than anywhere else online or offline,” says Masri. “Typically, ‘e-cruitment’ hiring is on average 70% faster than traditional hiring methods and the recruitment cycle is speeded up at every stage from posting, to receiving CVs, to filtering to managing the contacts and workflow.”

However, Shahdadpuri outlines some cons found within the process.

“Poor selection of the agency can result in delayed visas and start dates which overall can impact project delivery,” he says.

He adds that different pay-scales of the outsourced employees and permanent employees can create organisational behaviour issues.

End-users should check the background of their chosen agencies, including references and client checks. Also, they should check the company’s financial capability and tenure. Shahdadpuri believes that it’s important to ask the agency relevant questions on how they will recruit and manage resources and also the timeframe the agency proposes to work within.

But how should the end-users streamline their requirements in order to get the agencies to provide the best outcome in terms of employee?

“When writing job descriptions to be posted on jobsites, companies need to include as much specific information as possible about the job role, expectations, and more, as this will ensure that they get the most relevant candidates,” says Masri.

Shahdadpuri adds that “providing what type of background and work culture is prevalent on site will ensure better selection. Provide and prepare the staff for the challenges in the workplace.”

Different end-users will have different reasons for needing to recruit a new member of staff. They may need to get a new body in fast and be quite flexible on personal traits. Others may want a long term fill and insist that the candidate fit the mould of the office and role as strictly as possible.

“We would say there is no generic “best” selection system. Many a time, it depends on the company. Some companies prefer a candidate who would come and get the job done, instead of worrying about whether he is an introvert or an extrovert, with a GPA of 2.0 or 4.0. Perhaps they would give an assignment to the candidate or run a test, and performance on that test would be their key selection criteria. Meanwhile, other companies might have a “company culture” that they engrave in the minds of every employee,” says Masri.

Even so, external agencies do not have a 100% satisfaction rate. How simple is it to pinpoint the reason behind this?

Shahdadpuri believes that a number of factors contribute to an unsuccessful recruitment. “Job descriptions often lack significant detail for what person is needed for the role, some companies will want the best personnel but refuse to pay market rates and also when talent isn’t available locally, companies will have to look abroad and this often brings complications with getting the candidate settled, etc.”

“At times, for a new employee, settling in a new country takes a considerable support effort from the agency,” he adds.

Masri says that once a new recruit has gone through a probation period, the managing staff should answer three questions: Can the candidate do the job (experience, job knowledge)? Does the candidate want to do the job (attitude, behaviour)? And is the candidate manageable (chemistry between themselves and their superior, are they seen as part of the team)?

“If the management is unable to answer basic questions such as these then there were clearly gaps in the interview process,” he adds.

It’s important to know that enterprises are being offered employees which were carefully chosen from a large database, but with an ever expanding IT market in the Middle East, how can agencies keep these databases full with potential hires? Recruitment firms often affiliate themselves with local universities and institutions to make sure that they are corresponding with upcoming graduates and therefore constantly improving and increasing their database.

“We work with universities in order to give opportunity to fresh graduates or graduates with one or two years experience. Also, we liaise with external agencies to source people from countries which we do not have a direct link to,” says Shahdadpuri.

However, it’s not always that an enterprise wants to hire a graduate or entry level candidate. When more senior roles need to be filled, the pressure to make the right choice is significantly higher. The costs are higher, the search needs to be more detailed and the outcome needs to pay-off almost immediately. What elements need to be taken into consideration when employers are looking for more senior roles and how does this differ to junior roles?

“Senior candidate’s expectations are significantly higher and far more demanding than junior candidates,” says Shahdadpuri. “Therefore, senior positions require deeper searches, assessments and validations. Several face to face interviews and assessment centres are usually carried out with senior hires as opposed to a shorter process with junior positions.”

“Also, here in the Middle East junior candidates are happier to move around quickly whereas senior candidates will often have to consider their families, so it takes more time and negotiating,” he sums up.

In the Middle East, which faces chronic skills shortage, working with experts to find the right resources has its benefits. Many CIOs have seen value in enlisting third-party recruiters in hiring specifically for the IT department but it comes with a caveat: Working with your own HR or a resource outside the company always takes some effort. Extra communication and due diligence when working with external hiring agencies is always key.

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