Maziah Mathavi from PFA Asia Jobs explains how recruitment firms work and provides advice for job-seeking graduates.
Recruitment firms (also known as employment agencies and headhunters) pair organisations with the right candidates. 'We don't decide who gets the job but shorten the screening process for employers,' Maziah explained.
Recruitment consultants generally employ two main methods in searching for potential candidates.
The first is the firm's database. Once PFA gets a job order, they look into their database for potential candidates, using the employer’s criteria as a guide. They also post job advertisements, from which they obtain fresh CVs that are also added to the database. The CVs are then collected and added to the firm's existing database. The consultant will then search for candidates that fit the employer's criteria.
The second method is networking. 'If the employer is looking for someone with experience, I will search through my network as that level of work is more specialised.'
Selecting Potential Candidates
'After looking through the CVs, we interview the qualified candidates personally,' Maziah said. When asked about the first thing she looks, her answer is obvious – a good attitude. 'Negative thinkers are bad apples. Sending such a candidate will reduce morale and create a bad environment at the company.'
'Then, I look for other skills and abilities they have,' she said referring to soft skills such a communication, interpersonal, teamwork and leadership skills. 'You also need to be able to multitask, prioritise your work and have desire to learn.'
Sealing the Deal
'After interviewing the candidates, I propose the best ones to my client,' she said. If the client is interested, arrangements are made for the candidate to meet the employer. 'Once a decision is made, we notify the candidates on their application status and proceed with employment procedures.'
Ultimately, the consultant's goal is to create win-win situations for both employers and job seekers. Job matches are usually made only upon request, but sometimes, the consultant would recommend an exceptional candidate to an employer even when there are no vacancies.
Getting the Most Out of Recruitment Firms
According to Maziah, legitimate recruitment firms in Malaysia work exclusively for employers.
'To be registered under the Ministry of Human Resources, the client has to foot the bill for our services, not the candidate,' she explained. Good recruitment firms also pick and choose the employers they service. 'Besides making sure the employer is legal, we also want to ensure the working environment and staff remuneration is in accordance with market trends.'
While sending an application to a recruitment agency does not guarantee you a job, it is an excellent way to expand your job search, gain access to exclusive positions and discover suitable career options that may not have crossed your mind.
'We don't service job finders but we do give free advice,' Maziah said. She also recommends courses and training for graduates to improve themselves if they are not qualified for the expected position or salary range.
In fact, most recruitment consultants are more than willing to help fresh graduates correct their résumé writing and give constructive criticism on their performance during the interview. The best time to meet them is during office hours, though some consultants may be available after work. Make an appointment before showing up as they are often busy meeting clients or networking after working hours.
Words of Advice
'Pay attention to your communication skills and build your attitude,' Maziah advises. Besides improving your English proficiency, Maziah suggests picking up an additional language. 'The ability to converse in another language is highly advantageous because you need to adapt to different audiences and be able to make a strong impression, not only during the interview but also among the people whom you will be working with.' Listening skills are equally important as it completes the communication process and allows you to understand and learn as you go.
For graduates who are undecided, Maziah suggests trying out any job they qualify for. She adds that graduates should also read up on a variety of occupations before writing them off, as many tend to shy away from service positions. 'Multinational corporations, such as Starbucks, train you in many skills that you will need for the working world. Through work, you may also find out what you want in life.
'Don't be obsessed with office politics. Think about what you can do for the people around you. Employers will certainly hire you if you are good.'