Many jobseekers have a degree of experience dealing with human resources service providers from a personal perspective. However, understanding the industry or developing a career in professional recruitment services is a completely different story.
Blending both tenacity and flexibility, top-notch executive Odilia Poon has followed her instincts to become an expert in sourcing high-calibre professionals. Prior to joining the recruitment industry, she had achieved tremendous success as a marketing director for a multinational beverage production company serving the Greater China market.
As marketing alcoholic drinks entailed regular evening bar visits and frequent overseas travel, Ms Poon felt the pinch of balancing work and family and looked for a change. Citing a long list of expectations from any potential position, she approached a headhunter for consultation.
Then one day she received an invitation from the managing director of a headhunting firm to join the team. Her decision to resign from her marketing director's post and become an HR consultant proved to be a crucial step transforming the whole course of her career.
After years of hard work in the recruitment industry, she subsequently took up her current position as Talent2's China director and operations director for the human resources outsourcing and recruitment firm's managed services division in Asia.
Breadth and depth
Today, part of Ms Poon's responsibilities is to oversee all the recruitment projects in a wealth of industries and regions. When she first joined the recruitment industry, she began working as a consultant for sales and marketing jobs by leveraging the network and industry knowledge from her previous positions.
"I enjoy each and every day of my work because it never bores me," says Ms Poon. "My job offers me the opportunity to learn about specific professions and get to know different people."
She recalls her biggest project ever was the recruitment of 4,200 staff for a new hotel casino in Macau, where positions to be filled ranged from top managers to housekeepers and waiting staff. "I did not know much about the catering profession back then, but now I know a lot of chefs," she smiles.
Ms Poon and her consultant teams always work away from the Central office on a project basis. They work at clients' offices in different cities and fully promote the company's professional culture in the process. In contrast to traditional individual placement services, the consultants offer tailor-made hiring services including sourcing and screening as well as on-board services. She believes a complete analysis of clients' recruitment needs is tremendously worthwhile because corporate success often relies on the quality of the workforce.
"Be persistent with your work when going through economic peaks and troughs"
According to Ms Poon, rewards in the profession are more than monetary remuneration. HR consultants are the first to be exposed to changing market trends. The job market reflects industry prospects almost instantly and provides a reliable outlook for the following six months, so recruiters always stay ahead of the game.
A tertiary degree and English proficiency are the basic requirements to enter the field. "We welcome graduates from all disciplines," Ms Poon notes. At present, the firm is actively seeking candidates with excellent communication skills. "Part of a consultant's job is to gain the trust of both clients and candidates and convince them to rely on your judgment within a short period of time. Consultants equipped with interpersonal skills encourage involved parties to share sensitive information related to particular positions," she adds, noting that candour obviously speeds up the hiring process because expectations on both sides are then realistic.
Most new recruits start their career in the firm as researchers, working on market mapping analysis and providing support to consultant teams. People with several years' work experience and networks in particular fields often join the company as consultants.
With regard to the essential qualities necessary to succeed in this field, Ms Poon cites flexibility, high emotional intelligence and tenacity. "The job market is sensitive to economic trends. A distressed situation adds difficulties and pressure for HR consultants. You must be persistent with your work when going through economic peaks and troughs," she emphasises.
In Ms Poon's view, it is easy to break into the field but the challenge lies in sourcing talented people. She advises interested parties to conduct a comprehensive self-evaluation beforehand. "We are looking for candidates who are trustworthy, persistent and enjoy getting involved with different people," she concludes.