employer brand

How to speak to your CEO about employer brand

I’ve attended so many HR events where HR leaders talk about the importance of building a great employer brand, treating your employees right, and about investing in attracting Gen Y. At the end of the event, everyone feels so inspired, people are patting each others’ backs, telling them what great ideas they have, and what an amazing job they are doing.

And then these HR folks go back to the office, to share some of these ideas with your CEO, and guess what? Their CEO doesn’t care.

To their CEO, all this sounds like HR fluff to them. “Just try to hire the right person with the least costs”. That’s all the CEO cares about.

So while it’s great we are talking about these things at HR events, it’s important to realise that we don’t want to be in this little bubble that we have created for ourselves, talking about the importance of a good employer brand, when their CEOs are not even listening.

Will my CEO care about employer brand?

So now I am going to attempt to answer a question I get asked most commonly – “How do I get my CEO to care?”

As someone who is running his own business, and also passionate about having great talent, I can share with you some ideas on what your CEO might care about and how you can position this in a way that he or she can relate to.

1) Money

How does this help us make or save money?

Let’s face it, the main objective of businesses is to increase revenue and ultimately profit, so let’s start with money. Does building a great employer brand help your business make money?

Well, if the nature of your business requires a strong sales and marketing team, then you could say attracting the best talent in sales and marketing helps the company make money, but that might feel like a bit of stretch for a CEO.

But building a great employer brand would definitely save your business money.

With a clear process and guidelines on who to attract and how to screen for specific talent (not just the best), and also create an environment that these talents will thrive in and be fulfilled, you’ll improve your staff retention significantly.

What happens when staff retention improves? You’ll spend less time and money on recruitment, less money on headhunters, and less on training and onboarding new employees.

And the “returns” you get on your employees will improve immensely the longer they stay with you. Employees that stay long will start to have a sense of belonging, become more dedicated, and their familiarity with the job and the business will mean that they spend less time learning, and more time contributing back to the business.

They spend less time learning, and more time contributing back to the business

2) Competitive advantage

How does this give us an advantage over our competitors?

Some companies greatly rely on the quality of their talent to succeed, and creating a company with great culture will give you such a huge competitive edge. This is especially true in these situations:

  1. When you work in an industry where there are only a handful of key competitors. In situations like this, companies aggressively compete with each other for the best talent, and so it makes sense to build a great culture to attract the best talent.
  2. If you’re in a service based industry, then there is a direct correlation between the quality of your talent and the service your customers receive. This is also an industry where customers don’t choose companies, they choose the people they want to work with. This includes audit firms, law firms, management consulting firms etc.
  3. If you’re in the creative industry where having the best creative talent helps generate great ideas and is key to your company securing customers and projects.
  4. If you’re in innovation and technology, where your products are intangible and you rely on your talent to design, develop and deploy your products. Having the best people will translate directly to the quality and innovation of your products.
  5. If you’re in a heavily regulated industry with complex products, such as financial services, where you need great talent who understand these products and also keep the company compliant.

In many cases, your CEO may be able to relate to how building the right employer brand to attract great talent will give your company a competitive edge.

3) Organisational transformation

How do we get our people to be more productive?

There are also situations where the CEO is frustrated at the productivity of the existing team, and is constantly trying to drive this productivity with the existing workforce, with little results. Some will soon realise that organizational transformation is what is needed, and that will involve flooding rebuilding the team from scratch and hiring the right people, while allowing some of their existing poor performing staff to leave.

For this to succeed, the CEO may realise that having a clear employer brand and building the right culture, is the key ingredient as the company goes through this painful but much needed organisational transformation process.

4) Fear of failure

How do we future-proof our company?

There are many companies out there who have been in business for many years, had a core group of people that successfully built the business with them. They never used to have talent issues, but for some reason, are noticing that they struggle to attract and retain new younger talent.

And this is a huge concern for some CEOs because they are starting to notice their aging workforce and realise they need fresh blood to keep their company going and that business will fail if they do not resolve this soon.

This is a huge concern for some CEOs because they start to notice their aging workforce and realise they need fresh blood

Not every CEO can relate to this, perhaps largely because they themselves are a lot older now, are just thinking about stability and keeping things as they are. This is clearly a mistake though.

Some of these companies are run as family businesses, and when their next generation start getting involved, typically they know that the business has no future if they can’t bring in new talent. So if you’re a HR person, perhaps you can engage in this next generation of the company’s leaders.

What you can do now

Often, because these CEOs or business owners achieved their success without having to think about talent too much in the past, some may not understand why this is important now.

So I hope this post can help make your job easier, by giving you ideas about what your CEO cares about the most, and how you can relate this back to the importance of investing in employer brand and work culture, which will ultimately help you attract and retain the best talent.

Interview Questions I Ask Every Candidate

After speaking to many SMEs in Malaysia, I’ve found that SMEs don’t have access to good interview training, because with limited resources and infrequent hiring, this seems like a low priority for them. Yet, in small teams, reducing the amount of bad hires is critical to the success of an SME.

Many large corporations, who are already advantaged by having a bigger brand, have excellent interview training programs to help them screen candidates that are interested to join them.

So I thought I would write down a list of some of the most important interview questions every company should ask a candidate that is interviewing with them. I would like to emphasise that these questions are based on my style of interviewing, but built across many years of interviewing top professionals in the industry combined with international standards of interview training.

You should ask additional questions depending on how the interview goes, but to have a fair and consistent assessment of every candidate, you will need to have a standardised interview question list as a base.

You can decide to word these differently, or to take less direct approaches to finding the answers to these questions, but I believe it’s important to ask them.

But first, understand the candidates’ interview mindset

One thing to understand when going into these interviews is to assume that the candidate will be trained to be their best self during the interview. This means that they will already know how to sell themselves well, and perhaps hide any weaknesses they may have. This is okay. In fact, it’s good.

What if it was the reverse, and the candidate didn’t bother preparing their best self for the interview? That is also a sign of how they will approach their work – lazy, unprepared and not in their best self.

Therefore, don’t have issues that candidates will prepare for their interviews and will have answers planned. What you do need, however, is to learn how to uncover the “real” them, to uncover the real reasons why they made certain decisions in their career, so you can assess if they are the right hire for you.

“A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.”
J P Morgan

What follows are the questions I typically ask every candidate, along with what goes through my mind as I ask them. And here’s the first question I use to kickstart almost every interview:

1) Tell me your story, from your education until where you are today

While many employers prefer a more general “Tell me about yourself” question, I find that question to be a bit too open, and often an unfair way to assess a candidate. Some have trained well to give a concise, work related answer, and many often do not. Asking this question would favour those that have prepared for this question well, yet it doesn’t help you uncover whether they are the best person to perform the job.

I believe a better question is to follow through what’s on their CV, right from the beginning, which is their education. I typically start at university level, which can give you some insights on someone’s personality.

2) Why did you choose to major in this degree?

Whether you ask this question depends on the seniority of the candidate. You may not want to ask someone interviewing for a VP role why they decided to study Business 20 years ago (then again, that’s up to you). But typically for junior talent, this question is very relevant.

Assuming you ask this question, you can get insights on a candidate’s decision making process. Did they choose something because their parents told them to? Did they choose it out of passion? And if they could choose again, would they have chosen the same subject?

3) Why did you choose to join this company?

For every job that they choose to join, ask them why. This again, gives you insights about what motivates the candidate, and their thought process. At the same time, you can also pick up any red flags about a candidate’s personality through this question.

Weak answers may include:

“I joined because I was headhunted to join them”

Yes, but why? Just because you were headhunted doesn’t mean you have to join them. Dig deeper.

“I just wanted to try something new”

This is a potential sign that this candidate lacks drive and focus. You will rarely find an ambitious person choosing a new job (which impacts their long term career) as though they were choosing a weekend activity.

“They offered me more money”

This may or may not be a weak answer, because we all have to accept that people work for money, bills need to be paid too. If they say they joined for a higher salary, the next question you should ask is what was their previous salary, and what is their new one. If you find the increment to be significant (what you consider significant is up to you) and can understand why a candidate would move for such an increment, that’s acceptable. However, if you find the amount to be insignificant (say 10% higher), you would have to worry that this candidate would leave you for very little money in future.

Also, if you’re interviewing for a sales role, hiring someone that is driven by money may be a good thing. Just make sure they play well in a team.

4) Why did you leave the previous company

For every new job, ask them why they left their previous one. Again, here you are looking for clues about their decision making process and what motivates them. Their answers to this question also gives you some insight on whether they will be difficult to manage.

As a rule of thumb, if they consistently complain about or blame every employer they leave, this person is likely to have an attitude problem. Similar to question 3 above, test to see if you find the answers to be weak, and then dig deeper to uncover their true reasons.

5) Tell me about your work here at X company

This open question will give you an indication of whether they have the skills required to fill your position.

Some candidates avoid specifics by focusing on general results, such “My job is to sell XXX products to our clients. Our clients include company A, B, C, D etc”. This doesn’t really help you understand if they have the right skills for the job. How do they sell? Are they cold calling (therefore are skilled in phone sales)? Do they just respond to customer inquiries (therefore more customer service style of sales)?

If they avoid specifics, ask them to describe what their typical day is like, from the time they enter the office, until the time they leave it. Understanding what a candidate is actually doing on a daily basis will help you assess their actual skills

On a side note, I generally recommend giving a written case study instead that is relevant to the role the candidate is applying for. Present a common problem that the person in the role will typically have to face, and then ask the candidate how they would solve it. Give them a couple of days to complete the case study. This is a much better way to assess skill, but is also a great way to test how interested the candidate is in joining your company. After all, if they are not that keen, they either won’t complete the case study, or do a poor job completing it. Don’t waste time on candidates like this.

6) If we decide to organise training for our employees, what training would you like to have?

Not suggesting you have training, but isn’t this such a clever question to learn about a candidate’s weakness?

Every candidate will have a ready answer prepared for the over-used question “Tell me about your weaknesses”. But this indirect question lets you learn more about what they wish they can improve, and it focuses on their work skills, rather than personality.

And just because they have indirectly revealed their “weakness” to you, it does not have to be a problem. Just fairly consider if this weakness is something acceptable to you for the role they are interviewing for.

7) What brings you here today, why are you looking to move on from your current job?

Here’s where you bring it all together. After asking them why they left and join every previous job that they’ve had, you already have built an image of what motivates this person and their decision making process.

Now see if their answer to this question is consistent with that image that you’ve build in your mind.

Weak answers would include:

“I’m just exploring”(What goes through my mind) Sure, but what triggered you to want to explore?

“It’s been X amount of time, I think it’s time for me to look out”(What goes through my mind) Sure, but if you’re happy and progressing, why move for the sake of moving? What’s the underlying reason? Also, if you join us, will you be leaving us “just because it’s time”? This makes it hard for me to invest in developing you and building your career.

8) Apart from this job that you are currently interviewing for, what are you looking for generally as a next job?

I love this question as it almost always catches candidates slightly off-guard, as they are now put in a position to reveal what other jobs they are currently interviewing for and also surprised at how you can accept that they are interviewing elsewhere (some employers still have the mentality that if you want a job in my company, you should only be interviewing with me, and we all know that is actually very unrealistic).

Here you will learn if they are truly focused on a particular job or whether they are exploring very broadly. I have interviewed candidates who have admitted to me that they are interviewing for sales roles, marketing roles, admin roles or pretty much any role they can land an interview with. Whether or not you find this acceptable depends largely on the candidate’s experience level (if they are a fresh graduate, I suppose it’s common to explore), and whether this matters to you.

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list of questions, and often, depending on the answers the candidate gives, I frequently tend to focus on certain aspects of their career. And you may feel you have better questions that are more relevant to your style of interview.

Some will also notice that many of the interview questions I like to ask seems to focus on a candidates’ motivation and decision making process, and this relates back to my personal belief that a candidates’ attitude is what matters. Understanding what they care about also helps me understand how I can attract them to join the company if I find them to be the right candidate. This may not be your own belief, and you may want to focus your interview questions on other aspects of the candidate.

I recommend employers personalise the interview questions they prefer asking during an interview.

But what is most important is for employers to ensure that every interviewer is given and trained to ask a standardised set of interview questions you believe is important, with some sense of what good and bad answers are, to ensure consistency in screening talent.

derek toh politics at work

How to write job descriptions on job portals to attract talent

There’s a bit of confusion about how job descriptions should be written when you are advertising your jobs.

Most employers believe that in order to avoid an irrelevant candidate applying to their jobs, a job description should be an extensive document that captures ALL the roles and responsibilities of the job, along with a detailed list of every experience that the candidate should have before applying.

So if a candidate is irrelevant to the job, they will spend time reading this lengthy, detailed job description, realise they are not suitable, and then decide not the apply. And the candidate that fits the job will read the description and think “this is the perfect job for me!”, and apply to the job. Pretty sound logic right?

Not really.

Lengthy, overly-extensive job descriptions do not prevent a spammer from applying to your jobs (because they don’t really read the job descriptions anyway!), and in fact, causes a potentially good candidate to not apply to your job because of one of the following reasons:

  • The job description was just focused on the job, and didn’t really answer their question “Why should I apply for this job”
  • The job descriptions describes the “perfect” candidate, and a jobseeker spotted something a responsibility that they may not be experienced in doing. It may be only a small part of the job.

This idea leads to many poor decisions on how the job description should be written employers advertise their jobs. It’s the reason why many job advertisements are written badly, and fail to attract the right candidate to apply to their jobs.

It’s an advertisement to help you attract the right candidate to apply to your job. Therefore, stop thinking about this as a job description and start thinking about this as a job “advertisement”.

That’s it. It’s not a contract of responsibilities, you can sign that later when you actually hire the candidate. But when you first post that job vacancy, you need to be SELLING to the candidate, not keeping them out. Don’t think putting a long list of requirements is going to keep the bad candidates out, because the bad candidates probably don’t read your descriptions anyway, so you will get their CV regardless.

With that in mind, here are some guidelines that will have you craft an effective job description:

1) Keep it short

If you can’t capture what the role is about in three or four bullet points, you may not fully understand the job, in which case the candidate isn’t going to either. Less is more. Split it up into clearly identifiable sections, as a suggestion:

– Who we are (maximum 3 sentences, with information on what your business is about , the location and who they will be working with)

– Key responsibilities (maximum 5 bullet points, ideally 4)

– Requirements (maximum 5 bullet points, ideally 4)

2) Write from the jobseekers’ point of view

When describing the job, communicate from a jobseekers’ point of view, focusing on what they will find interesting. For example, if you are hiring an accountant, stating “you will be working closely with and learning from our company’s leaders to achieve our financial goals”, sounds much more interesting than “to submit the annual report by the required deadline, and to demonstrate good stakeholder management skills”.

3) Use simple language

Unless absolutely necessary, you should use simple language to describe what the role is about. Using big words only make the writer feel smart, and in most cases, does not actually help you filter out poor candidates anyway (remember: spammers don’t read job descriptions, you will only end up keeping a good person out). Your goal is to attract as many good applications as possible, even if they are not the perfect fit. So why scare applicants away with complicated language?

4) Inject some personality about your company

Write in a way that showcases who you are as a company. Don’t be boring. Tell a short story about your company and its’ vision, it’s people, or maybe just write the job description in a style that reflects the personality of your company.

I once saw a job description for a sales role that read “Your goal is to make money for the company so we can pay everyone and don’t have to eat maggi goreng everyday”. You could tell immediately that this company has a sense of humour, and may make a connection straight away.

Stuck? Here’s a simple trick

The key thing is stop thinking about a job description which you are posting on a job portal, as a contract of responsibilities. Instead, start thinking of it as a job “advertisement” i.e. you are using this to attract as many good applications as you can (don’t get distracted by the spammers, tell will apply to you job whichever way you write your job description).

If you are stuck in terms of how you would write a job description, try this. Ask the hiring manager “Why would a high quality candidate, that is already be employed elsewhere, be interested in this job?”. Be honest, and once you can answer this question, you can craft your job posting message around the answer.

 

derek toh malaysian fresh graduate

Malaysian Fresh Graduates Have Attitude Problems?

Here’s an interesting article that’s been going around social media recently about why many Malaysian fresh graduates remain unemployed. It seems, we can all basically sum it up to them having attitude problems. In fact, the article breaks this down into several key reasons:

  • Unrealistic salary expectations – RM3.5k to RM6.5k
  • Poor communications skills
  • Dreaming too big (it seems, if you are from a “small” university you should work with a small company)

Understandably, employers who agree with this are furiously sharing this article on social media, along with expressing their own frustrations with their experience of hiring Malaysian fresh graduates.

But many of the fresh graduates that I have interviewed or hired did not actually show such “bad attitudes”, therefore I am a bit confused. As a startup, our salaries are fairly modest. Yet we’ve hired many quality Malaysian fresh graduates. They are matured and capable. Their communication skills are good, their attitude is decent, and they certainly could work in any multi-national company, yet they are working in a small startup (are they dreaming too small?). Continue reading →

recruit malaysia

Recruit using Linkedin for FREE

Linkedin is a great way to recruit and approach passive candidates. Yet some employers tell me that they haven’t had any success or that response rates are poor. As someone that has successfully recruited passive candidates via Linkedin without the paid recruiter account (i.e. I’ve been doing it for FREE!), I believe it’s all about using the right technique to approach these candidates and this makes a big difference in how successful you are.

Here are 3 of my top tips to help you be successful when you recruit via Linkedin:

Continue reading →

3 simple methods to make sure your new hire turns up for work

JUST BECAUSE HE OR SHE HAS SIGNED THE OFFER LETTER, DOESN’T GUARANTEE THAT YOUR NEW HIRE TURNS UP FOR WORK ON THE FIRST DAY. AND IF YOU’RE AWARE OF THIS REALITY, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE STEPS TO MAKE SURE THIS CAN BE AVOIDED.


Have you ever had a candidate that signed their offer letter, but then changed their mind and decided to join a different company? Or worse, they didn’t bother informing you, and just did not turn up on the first day. Now you can get upset about how unprofessional this behaviour is, and I would agree with you, but there are some realities that you need to be aware of.

And that reality is that your “new hire” is a person and a person can get influenced and is free to change their mind at any time.

You see, while you new hire was looking for a new job, it was often done confidentially, and their friends and colleagues / bosses would not have known about it. Now that they have signed the offer letter, it sets into motion a chain of events, and it is this chain of events that will easily sway them to change their minds. As soon as they signed their offer letter, these three things will start to happen:

For many employers, they believe getting the offer letter signed means the hire is confirmed. But in reality, it’s far from being confirmed.

1) They will get counter-offered

If your new hire is any good, chances are they will be made a counter-offer as soon as they resign. And depending on how badly their current company wants to keep them, that means their colleagues or leaders will continuously convince them to change their minds, either by offering them more, or promising them a better future. (Separate article on managing counter-offers to follow)

2) They may get offers from other companies

In the perfect world, they only interviewed at your company. Because they REALLY want to join you, it’s the only company for them.

In reality, that doesn’t happen. Jobseekers will always be interviewing at several places because they are weighing their options, and wouldn’t know which companies would make them an offer. So even if they’ve accepted your job offer, other offers may slowly come through from other companies. And because they now have something to compare to (your offer), there’s a good chance

3) They may hear bad feedback about you over time

Their friends and colleagues will start hearing about the new company they are joining. They will have opinions. They would have heard rumours. And it’s difficult to control rumours or points of view. After all, over the years, no matter how good you believe your company culture is, there is always bound to be ex-employees that who not have a good experience. That’s why they left isn’t it?

And suddenly your new hire isn’t so sure anymore. With such a huge influx of “friendly” advice, some may start re-evaluating if they truly want to be at your organisation.

No matter how good you believe your company culture is, there will always be ex-employees who did not have a good experience.

So what do I do?

The most important thing for you to understand as an employer is that signing the offer letter does not necessarily mean they will join. I’m not going down the route of saying legally they should join because they’ve signed the contract, because in practice, it’s not worth pursuing legal action over matters like this (at least I’ve not seen it myself).

The following will greatly increase the chances that your new hire turns up for work:

1) Shorten the notice period / get them to start sooner

If you live in a country where you are able to buy out notice periods, you should seriously consider it if you have the resources. From experience, waiting any longer than a month means you stand a higher chance of your new hire changing their minds. So consider a buy out and get them to start as soon as possible.

2) Invite them to meet casually while waiting to start

Maybe you’re having team lunch? An office party? Or maybe just a casual coffee. If they are comfortable, invite them to join you. This will get them to start getting to know the team better, and especially if there are people in the team that they can get along with, it will help make them feel integrated and significantly more likely to stay the course.

After all, even if they hear rumours about your company from friends or colleagues, if it does not match their own experience while socialising with you, it will not affect them or change their minds.

It is worth noting that if they never want to join you for these events (unless you believe it’s for a good reason), it’s a red flag that they not be 100% certain they will be joining your company.

3) Give them a call, with a valid reason

Perhaps before they start, you want to get their business cards ready for them? Or ask their opinion about a project you are about to start? Have a valid reason to give them a call, get them involved in their new job in small ways, and during the call you will also be able to gauge if they are still warm, or if things have changed. Always check with them how they have been doing, and if anything has changed since you last spoke.

You can pick up cues about any change of heart from the phone call.

Conclusion

Remember, just because they’ve signed the offer letter, it does not mean your job is done. Keep your new hires warm, get them involved early with the team, and make sure they start their new role on a positive note.

How to Recruit Superstars for Your Early Stage Startup

Unfortunately, if you are an early stage startup, you HAVE to recruit superstars. You don’t have a choice. When teams are small, one or two average performers would mean that you have an average team. And with the level of challenges faced by early stage startups, average teams are going to fail.

But that’s really tough right? Because being an early stage startup also means that you do not have the resources to compete for the best talent. Some people think can get away with just “selling them your vision”, but be careful not to exaggerate because many startups are saying that they want to change the world or revolutionise something, and most of this sounds a lot like fluff to smart people (they are the ones you want to hire, remember). I mean think about this, if your startup’s business is to make money by selling bags, TVs or toys online (I’m not referring to any particular startup here), any altruistic vision to “change the world” doesn’t really work for most people.

The most important question you need to ask yourself is “Why would a superstar want to join an early stage startup? Why wouldn’t they just start their own?”. The truth is, they may want to start their own startup one day, and you should accept that as the reality, and for whatever reason, perhaps they are not able to do that now, or don’t currently have an idea that they feel very strongly about.

Be careful not to exaggerate, many startups say they want to change the world or revolutionise something, but most of this sounds like a lot of fluff to smart people.

Before we go any further, I would just like to mention the very basics of being able to recruit. Your startup needs to have a good idea and is able to pay salaries, either because you are revenue generating or are well funded (or has the potential to be well funded). After all, for employees, one of their top concerns is having some form of stability and career path. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at how you can attract and recruit some superstars for your early stage startup.

1) Build Credibility for Yourself (the Founder)

Regardless of what area your startup is in, what matters most to talented people when they decide if they want to join you, is less about what business you are in, and more about who you are as the founder. Is it someone they respect? Can this person mentor them in their careers, when they too may one day decide to have their own startup?

When news came out that Joel Neoh was starting KFIT, many people that wanted to apply to join KFIT probably were not into the entire fitness thing, but because they’ve heard so much about Joel and the opportunity to learn and work with a team that they admire, it was easier for KFIT to attract talent.

When Cheryl Yeoh first came back to start MaGIC, they managed to build such a high quality team. I don’t think it was the “excitement” of working in a government agency, but the idea of working alongside Cheryl was enough to draw a lot of good applications to MaGIC.

(Both KFIT and MaGIC use WOBB.CO to hire, so I know for a fact that they attract good quality applications.)

Well, most of us don’t get that kind of media attention. I certainly didn’t,  and most people don’t know who I am. So when I first started WOBB, without a strong track record, I knew I needed to build some credibility. I want to share with you some of things I did at the start that really helped us hire good quality talent.

Build your Linkedin Profile

Derek Toh Linkedin Profile

When someone googles your name, what’s the first thing they see? You can start by having a strong Linkedin profile. There’s so much you can do on your Linkedin profile (include photos, videos, links to publications) that it’s definitely under-used.

I will write a separate, detailed piece about what makes a strong Linkedin profile in Malaysia (there are also many good articles on the internet about this), but as a start, make sure your profile is complete. That means, having things like a professional looking photo, up-to-date information about your career to date, any achievements and definitely have a summary that is personal, yet gives you credibility.

Have a personal / professional blog

Yes, like the one you are reading now. I bought “derektoh.com” at the start of my entrepreneurial journey, because I thought it was a great way to tell a story as I learned about the business world. Turns out, it was also a great talent magnet. I’ve actually had people approaching me after they read my blog, asking if they could join WOBB.CO.

When someone googles your name, what is the first thing they see? You can start by having a strong Linkedin profile.

So go out there can get a domain in your own name. Basically, people who didn’t know you before will now have one stop where they can read about what you value, how you think and behave, and most importantly what kind of leader and entrepreneur you will be.

It’s important to know that even though I’ve called it a “personal blog”, I would suggest keeping it fairly professional. Not to write about your break up, or food, or travel adventures. Unless it’s relevant to what you do.

Also, remember to update it frequently, ideally at least once a week.

Put it on your business card and email

Now that you have an amazing Linkedin profile, and a professional blog in your own name, it’s time to make sure people can find it. When WOBB.CO first started out, I had my personal blog address and Linkedin profile on every business card I gave out, and in the email signature when I’m emailing. People do click and read it, especially if they don’t know you very well.

Btw, this benefit goes beyond just recruitment, it could even help you close business deals and partnerships if the person you are working with believes you have credibility.

2) Get Visibility, Go Where the Talent Are

The next thing you need to do is figure out where you can find the type of people that you are looking to hire. In my view, there are three types of people that you could potentially hire. And they are:

  1. Fresh graduates who are generally open to consider different careers
  2. Talent from other startups
  3. Startup enthusiasts (i.e. people who are not necessarily already working at a startup, but they follow startup news and may have friends who work at startups)

I would avoid approaching people who have been in corporate jobs for most of their career, not because it’s not possible for them to consider working at a startup, but it’s a decision based on how best to invest your time. This group is the least likely to consider working at a startup, and therefore should also be the one you invest the least time on.

So where do you find the people you are targetting?

magic career fair

Go to career fairs for startups

Career fairs are filled with fresh graduates or people in the early careers, and it’s a great place to get your brand out there as an employer. You will want to avoid generic career fairs that are dominated by large corporate companies (basically the guys with the most money also buy the most outstanding booths, and get all the attention). You want to look for the career fairs that were designed for startups.

Here are some of the startup career fairs that I am aware of:

  1. MaGIC – happens once every six months or so, I believe, and typically coincides with other events that they hold such as MaGIC Startup Academy. Doesn’t charge for this.
  2. YouthsToday – organises startup events (may not be directly about careers, but great place nonetheless) every now and then, and it’s good to reach out to them to find out when the next one is. There is a fee to attend.
  3. Enactus @ University of Nottingham’s Malaysian Campus – as far as I know, they have organised the first one in early 2015, and currently preparing for the second one in 2016. There may be other universities that have startup career fairs, but at present I am only aware of this one.  WOBB attended the first one, I think results were okay, but they promised the second one to be bigger and better. This is a paid event, should be a couple of hundred ringgit to attend.

At the time of writing, we are also considering organising our own career fair / networking session at WOBB.CO, as long as employers are interested to fund their own costs, it will not be profit-driven.  You can drop me a line at derek@wobb.co to discuss.

Attend startup networking events

This is where you will meet existing startup talent and startup enthusiasts. There are many startup networking events that have grown and increased in popularity, and that’s great news for someone like yourself who is looking to recruit. Here are some of the startup networking events that I am aware of that may be worth your time.

My number one tip for networking events is to have long, meaningful conversations with a few interesting people, rather than trying to meet as many people as you can, and end up having superficial, unmemorable conversations.

Here are some of the startup networking events that I am aware of:

  1. Startup Grind – this is a global movement, originated from San Francisco I believe. Events are in the form of an “interview” with a popular startup personality on stage, and is very casual and conversational. Arrive early and leave late if your goal is to meet people. There’s a fee to attend, and they provide snacks and drinks during the event.
  2. DrinkEntrepreneurs – this is a pure networking event, no stage, no speakers. I’ve never attended one myself, but some of our WOBB team like going, and I hear there is a lot of startup talent and startup enthusiasts who attend these events. And people are drinking. Yes, alcohol. Which means if you stay long enough, you could be in danger of being too happy. And make some real friends. You’ll need to pay a cover charge to join the event.
  3. SITEC – This is Selangor’s version of MaGIC, as their goal is to play a role in building the tech startup community in Selangor. They organise networking sessions every month, and invite startup founders to speak. I believe it’s free to attend.
  4. WOBB’s Coffee Sessions – Every month, we organise a meet up with jobseekers who use WOBB, to understand how we can help them, and to get feedback on our app and website. Turns out, we ended up making some new friends and even hired people we met through these sessions. Everyone buys their own coffee, so it’s really casual. I would welcome some founders of early stage startups to join us, we don’t charge. Just be nice to our jobseekers.

StartupGrind KL

StartupGrind KL, image from PEATIX.COM

Get invited to speak at startup events

Instead of attending an event, why don’t you speak at one? Many people who attend startup events are not actually founders, but people who are curious, inspired by startups, and would consider working for one. So if you’re up there speaking, you’ve automatically got the attention of potential employees.

You will need a compelling story, perhaps you are solving a problem that many people care about, or if you are doing really well, then let them know you are succeeding. No one likes to join a startup that is stagnating or on the decline, so get the audience excited by showing how much progress you are making, and invite them to speak with you for “advice” afterwards, which will be your opportunity to identify potential hires.

Many people who attend startup events are not actually founders, but people who are curious, inspired by startups, and would consider working for one.

Now, getting invited to speak for the first time is always the most challenging, especially if you don’t speak publicly that much, and you are not very well known. Start by looking at events where where they invite a panel of speakers, instead of having solo speakers. Get connected with the organisers, either through your friends in the startup scene, or even approach them on Linkedin (you’ve got a pretty good profile now!).

At the start, don’t worry too much about how many people are there, or whether you can hire them. Just go out there and speak. Get some practice. Get some exposure. Before you know it, you may be invited to speak at other events.

3) Vision and Culture

Superstar talent don’t just want to work for a paycheck. And while you’ve built up some credibility for yourself, that still won’t be enough to attract them if they don’t feel like they are part of something much bigger than themselves.

Have a vision for the company

Think about how your startup can change lives, but remember not to exaggerate. If your vision is clear, ambitious, realistic and resonates with who they are, it will be a strong magnet for superstar talent.

Examples of some vision statements include:

Microsoft – A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software.

Toys R Us: Our vision is to put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parent’s faces.

WWF: We seek to save a planet, a world of life. Reconciling the needs of human beings and the needs of others that share the Earth.

At WOBB our vision is that one day every Malaysian will be doing a job that they love, as we make it easy for jobseekers and companies with the right culture to find each other.

(So many people have approached me directly to ask if we are hiring because they care so much about this vision)

Have a vision for their careers

This is not the vision for the company, but rather a vision for the careers of your team and their individual careers. Tell them how you will expect them to progress as the startup grows, and how this accelerates their growth, opportunities, and finances. The beauty of being in a startup is that the possibilities are endless, there isn’t a set hierarchy or structure for growth, and that gives you flexibility to craft out the right plan for people who intend to hire.

Have you heard of the chain of fruit stalls, MBG? I was speaking on a panel at an event with their founder, Adnan Lee, and he told me that his vision was not about the business, but rather, he had a vision for the people that work at MBG. And that vision is “To Improve the Quality of Life for All MBG Staff”. Interesting isn’t it? You can have a look at their vision and mission statement here.

MBG’s vision is not about the business, but rather, they have a vision for the people, and that is “To Improve The Quality of Life for All MBG Staff”.

And most importantly, let’s talk about CULTURE

If you want to be able to attract and hire superstars, you need to be clear what kind of culture you want to have as a company. Some of the employers that use WOBB.CO started out without a Culture Page, and they didn’t attract many CVs, but after they created a Culture Page, their job applications jumped up between 4X to 5X. And the quality of the CVs improved dramatically too. So it really works.

I could go on and on about how to define and shape your company culture (it is, after all, what WOBB is all about), but to get you started, here’s a simple infographic.

DEFINING COMPANY CULTURE

 

CONCLUSION

Increasingly, what superstar talent care about is evolving really fast. If you look back 10 or 20 years ago, all the best talent would have wanted to join large corporations who can pay well, have good benefits, and also stable long term career growth. Small businesses were generally seen as not the best place to work for some of the most talented individuals.

This is, however, no longer true. Young talent are drawn to the new, unfamiliar territory known as the startup scene, which is essentially made up of many many small but fast-growing companies, and with the right credibility, presence and culture, they may choose to work at your company too.

recruiter startup

Corporate companies, start paying attention to startup talent

FOR MANY YEARS, CORPORATE COMPANIES HAVE BEEN AGGRESSIVELY COMPETING WITH EACH OTHER TO RECRUIT THE BEST TALENT. BUT A NEW COMPETITOR HAS EMERGED, AND QUALITY OF STARTUP TALENT SHOWS HOW THE PRIORITIES OF THE TALENTED ARE SLOWLY EVOLVING.


Last week I had a really good chat with Michael (not his real name) who works at a large respectable corporate company, and naturally the conversation was about the talent market in Malaysia. Michael has been struggling to recruit quality talent, despite the fact that the company he works for is well known and can offer a bright career path to people who join them.

Michael: “Derek, where are all the talented young people hiding? It was hard before, but it seems harder now.”

Me: “There’s a big group of them that are very curious about the startup scene. Not everyone wants to work in a startup, but I’ve seen some really bright young people choosing startups, and many would have at least flirted with the idea. I think corporate companies should really start thinking about how they want to attract this group of entrepreneurial talent if they want to stay competitive.”

Michael: “Really? But there’s no stability in a startup, and no one knows what kind of long term career you will have.”

Me: “That might have been true a couple of years ago, but that’s changing. With many well funded and successful startups, stability becomes less of an issue, in fact if you look at corporate companies now, many of them are laying people off. There really isn’t a safe job anymore anyway, so many young people just decide to go ahead to do what gives them the most satisfaction.”

Many startup talent would have landed a role in large prestigious companies, yet they decide to work in  early stage startups

The conversation ended with me promising to see if I can help them think about how they can stay relevant when it comes to recruiting young talent in Malaysia. And to get these answers, I actually didn’t have to look very far.

WOBB.CO has actually been very fortunate to have hired some really bright people. These guys would have landed a role in large prestigious companies, yet they decided to work in an early stage startup. I did sometimes wonder in slight disbelief that they chose to join me, but I was always very grateful and never really asked them “why”.

Now that some of them have moved on to different things in their life, I decided I can start having candid conversations with them about why they decided to work at WOBB.CO in the first place.

Meet Rou Jun

The first time I met Rou Jun, she had just recently graduated and was in the middle of interviews with some prestigious corporate companies. She knew very little about WOBB.CO at the time we met because we had not launched the app yet.

rou jun tanRou Jun was a first class marketing graduate from HELP University College, and was valedictorian for her graduation ceremony. She’s been actively involved in social work in the fight against human trafficking, and was also a state and national level swimmer for Malaysia.

I thought to myself, “Seems like quite the super star candidate, she’s probably not going to join me. But let’s do coffee and see what happens.”

She did join us. And did an amazing job while she was with us too, almost single handedly helping us build the foundations for our marketing work. She has since moved on to embark on her next adventure in Europe.

She promised to be honest when I asked her these questions, which I hope will you some insights into the mind of our young talent today.

Me: Why did you choose to work at a startup when you could have worked at a big, prestigious corporation?

RJ: Because I have heard many interesting stories from fellow friends who have worked in startups about the experiences startup companies have to offer compared to big companies. For example, many people/articles told me that startup companies offer more hands-on and practical experiences I would need if I plan to start my own business in the future. It is also more exciting to work at a startup because the company is still at the starting stage and I get to be really passionate and excited about the product. Working at a startup also makes me feel like I am contributing to the company’s vision as I can see the impact of my work pretty quick.

Me: How would you rank the importance of these five things: company brand; impact of your job; work culture; salary; and self-development opportunities.

From high to low: Self-development opportunities, work culture, impact of my job, salary, company brand.

Working at a startup also makes me feel like I am contributing to the company’s vision as I can see the impact of my work pretty quick.

– Rou Jun

Me: If you were offered a job in a corporate company, what would you need to know about the company or job, for you to choose them instead of going to work at a startup?

RJ: Working hours – meaning whether it would provide me with a healthy work-life balance or if I would have to work overtime most of the time. Opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally: If the job can provide me with a continuous learning curve. If the salary is decent. And the company reputation in terms of treatment of employees.

Meet Kai Yong

It was a busy day when I was pleasantly surprised to have received a message from a super enthusiastic undergrad student, emailing me from Manchester. Kai Yong found out about WOBB.CO through reading articles about the startup scene in Malaysia, and decided to approach me directly to see if we were hiring interns during his summer break.

kai yong kanI looked at his CV, and I was really impressed. First class grades in pursuing a Law degree in the University of Manchester. Had leadership roles in associations such as Enactus, Manchester Entrepreneurs and AIESEC. Interned at several reputable law firms. Another super star candidate.

Is this guy serious about working in a startup? I repeatedly told him about all the mundane stuff he will have to be involved in as an intern, and kept making sure that he will actually show up for work when he got back from Manchester.

And yes he did show up. He was a soldier, a business development machine, so involved with many bright ideas, and did his work with a lot of passion and drive. So now that he’s back in Manchester, I asked him these questions.

Me: Why did you choose to work at a startup when you could have worked at a big, prestigious corporation?

Ever since I learnt about the stories of successful startups, I changed my perception towards how business is operating now. Big corporations no longer enjoy huge competitive edge because technology has allowed startups to grow rapidly at a more cost-efficient way. Joining a startup gives me the opportunity to put myself in the front line of revolution and innovation as the work often involves introducing new ideas to the society and challenging the current social norms. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I believe a startup is the best avenue for me to learn how to grow a business by grasping the essentials of people-power, Internet of Things and branding. 

Me: Large corporations may argue that having a strong brand on your CV is important for your future career. How do you feel about this? Do you feel this is true, and how does that affect what you think about working in a large corporation vs a startup?

KY: It is true to a certain extent that having the names of those huge corporations on CV may indicate someone is a strong candidate as the competition for a placement or an internship at such corporations is intense. However, I do believe that good employers nowadays look for candidates who are all-rounders specializing in 1 or more areas. With that being said, specialisation is no longer the only skill that employers are looking for now.

Joining a startup gives me the opportunity to put myself in the front line of revolution and innovation as the work often involves introducing new ideas to the society and challenging the current social norms.

– Kai Yong

Working in the corporate world that are usually systematically departmentalised may not be able to offer an overall perspective of the company’s objectives to an employee as the layers of bureaucracy involved have made it almost impossible to happen. Employees may be put in charge of one specific area of expertise for a long period of time. This may not be beneficial to both parties in the long run as the employees will lose their ability to adapt to new environments or learning new skills. 

On the other hand, I believe that a startup offers an environment where you are constantly faced with challenges to complete tasks with limited resources and manpower. The best thing about the task is you get to decide how you want to solve the problem. The tasks are always well integrated as they involve various areas ranging from marketing, branding, technology to business development. This is where creativity and innovation start to become part of your day-to-day working life. 

Me: How would you rank the importance of these five things: company brand; impact of your job; work culture; salary; and self-development opportunities.

1: self-development opportunities

2: impact of your job

3: work culture 

4: salary 

5: company brand 

CONCLUSION – So what does all this mean?

It can mean nothing. After all, these are only two people out of a huge pool of talent out there. Or it can mean a lot. Because the fact is, they are two highly qualified young people, completely unrelated to each other, that many large corporate companies would love to hire. And if a little startup (which couldn’t even afford their own office, laptops or a proper table) managed to out-compete a large corporation to hire them, then it’s time to pay attention.

WOBB.CO is only a tiny blip in giant, fast growing startup ecosystem in Malaysia. I believe I’ve barely even scratched the surface when it comes to the quality of talent working in startup scene.

I hope this helps companies understand the evolving priorities of our young, talented workforce, and the need for companies who are serious about recruiting quality talent, to start adapting and rethinking their company culture.