What was the motivationt start working for Unique?
What attracted me initially was the combination of sales and recruitment which Content offered in one job (Content merged with Unique in 2010). For me it is very important to have a dynamic job while being able to mean something for people. Previously I had been working in sales and I was just selling products that could make peoples live easier. At some point I wanted to add value on a much deeper level. In this job you can actually change peoples lives by offering them the opportunity that they have been waiting for. After my first interviews I got the choice for which office I wanted to work; a newly opened office in The Hague (focusing on smaller businesses in the area) or as a recruiter for Shell. I chose Shell because I have always been interested in working in an international environment and working for such a large multinational would offer me more opportunities for my own development. I have never regretted that decision as I enjoy speaking to people from all over the world and I have gotten the freedom to take on various projects while working with a great team.
What is the specific approach towards recruitment at Unique multilingual (Shell inhouse)? How are contacts with the company and candidates established and maintained?
Unique has a personal approach towards both candidates as well as clients. This is even embedded in our core values with the aim to realize long-term matches between candidate and client. Part of our standard procedure is matching the mentality of the candidate with the culture of the organization based on both the results of an elaborate test as well as a personal interview with our consultants.
For us specifically the culture scan does not add so much value as we have been working with Shell since 2005 and know the company culture very well.
Our team is dedicated only for Shell and since the start of our working relationship, we have grown from a supplier into a full business partner. By maintaining strong relations with HR and Contracting Procurement on a tactical level and the hiring managers on the operational level, we have been able to add value by advising on new policies and procedures for contractors.
This has eventually led to the addition of new services (such as un-assessed internships, and a professionals contract between our holding company and Shell), in addition to better expectation management, a higher customer satisfaction and a higher conversion rate to Shell staff.
On the candidate side we strive to keep our candidates well informed on their application process and (once hired) their contractual rights and obligations and future possibilities. Since many of our contractors are of foreign nationality, they are not always aware of how things work in the Netherlands, which is why I created a Handbook with general information on the collective labour agreement, insurances etc. as well as Shell/Unique specific information. Our team sends this before they start on the first day. Once they have started, we keep in contact by a combination of personal meetings, newsletters, social media and when time allows, employee engagements sessions (covering a different topic each time). Many of our contractors are working for us for a longer time (which is rare within the agency business) so we really do have a role to fulfill as employer. It helps that we are all located in-house, so we are always available onsite for urgent issues.
Which industries and functional areas have a greater demand for international professionals and which sectors are at the moment struggling?
Many smaller businesses (and specifically in construction and in luxury goods) are still struggling due to the economic crisis. Oil&Gas, the energy industry, health and pharmaceuticals are doing quite well, there will always be a demand for their products/service.
In Technical roles there is already a shortage on qualified candidates, but we also expect that professionals in Finance and IT roles will become more scarce in the future. For these roles companies are broadening their search which offers opportunities for international professionals.
What has been the biggest change in the recruitment business during the past 5 years?
In the last 5 years the market has changed severely. When I started in 2008 we had more trouble finding good candidates. I remember when I invited one candidate for an interview, she insisted on having a parking space if she would be selected for the job, simply because she refused to walk to the bus on her Chanel shoes (this is an actual quote). This was literally a 5 minute walk so obviously I did not proceed with this candidate but it shows how demanding candidates could be at the time. We had to put more effort in finding the right candidates as well as negotiating with them. These days we have much more choice in candidates so we have to let people down unfortunately, and they are usually happy if they can get a job at all.
Another big change lies within the tools to use within recruitment: Social media has become so much more important for recruitment and employer branding.
What is the balance between permanent and temporary contracts offered to international workers?
As an agency our core business is mainly to mediate in temporary assignments. For our office specifically, we have converted quite a few contractors (both national as well as international) in the past. We based our decision on a number of criteria as we are always dependent on our client meaning that we do also have to consider the possibility that future employment at our international client may end. Therefore part of our criteria was the ability to speak Dutch. Candidates who learn the language have much more opportunities in the Netherlands as they do not have to limit themselves to international organizations only. Thus offering a permanent contract is less of a risk for us, and the contractor does not have to sell him/herself short by limiting themselves to only a small number of organizations.
In our current pool of contractors with a permanent contract about 40% is Non-Dutch. This is only at my office though, the national numbers are probably different. We are also seeing a higher rate of contractors being converted to Shell staff (both national as well as international workers) since 1,5 year.
How would you advise expats/ internationals looking for work or for a career change in The Netherlands to best go about their search?
A great tool is Linkedin. It takes time to build a complete profile and strong network, but once it is in place it is a small effort to keep it updated. What I like is that your able to connect with groups so that you can keep updated on relevant information for your (or your client’s) business as well as receiving jobs in your area of expertise. This way you can get a good view of what’s going on and you can also determine your marketvalue while positioning yourself. Another great attribute is that you can get endorsed by your contacts, so viewers of your profile can actually get an impression of who the person is behind the profile. Adding your linkedin profile in your CV is also something I would recommend.
Aside from this, there are a few niche players in the recruitment business focusing on international clients/candidates such as Unique. Connect with these agencies and discuss your ambitions and possibilities. They will be able to advise on the steps to take and perhaps they can already start the mediation process with one of their clients.
What motivates you personally?
Firstly, being able to add value to both my client, candidates and colleagues. Secondly, variation: I get a lot of freedom to take on extra projects such as creating the Handbook, organizing workshops (or being asked as speaker on workshops), implementing new services or tools such as social media for our team etc. That along with working with people in such a dynamic environment means I never have a dull day.
What is your challenge for the next year?
Winning the tile of Intercedent van het Jaar would be great, but aside from this we have some other challenges as well. The professionals contract between Shell and USG People (our holding company) has expanded so in addition to recruiting for Communication, Contracting&Procurement, Marketing, HR and Finance (entry-mid level) are now also recruiting for IT professionals, Project managers and (senior) Finance specialists. It’s a big challenge but one I’m really enjoying!
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