Transcript #52. Has COVID-19 derailed your career? Interview with recruitment expert Geoff Slade

Click here to see the episode show notes.

Renata: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Job Hunting Podcast. But before we get this episode going, I want to talk to you about, about Reset Your Career, which is a program that kick-starts with a workshop next week, the 27th of October, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and you still have time to register. And even if you're listening to this podcast after the 27th of October, go to my website because everything that will be happening on that workshop will be later available on a very special online platform. And it will be like doing a mini-course with me. There will be four sessions from the workshop that will be available on my online platform. There will be the 31 days of action ready for you to access and start doing it anytime you wish. And then a month from now, we will be having the final live webinar, which again, will be recorded and available as another module inside the online platform. 

Renata: So, Reset Your Career was designed by me to really get you back on track. Get your career back into gear. 2020 has been a really tough year for many job seekers out there. And I would really like you to consider investing. It's been a tough year for many, many reasons, for many industries and sectors and professions. It's time for us to rethink what we're going to do with our careers from now on. COVID the pandemic, working from home, remote work, leading projects, and people from home is not going to go away. There are lots of different things that we need to learn to make ourselves more employable, more interesting and more confident as a job candidate going into recruitment and selection in the next weeks, months ahead. And I am here to help you and guess what, the Slade Group is collaborating with me on this project.

Renata: So we will have a recruiter’s panel. We have Geoff Slade, participating and welcoming everybody at the beginning of the workshop, and he is our guest today. So there's a reason why we saved this conversation for the launch of Reset Your Career. Geoff Slade is the executive chairman of the Slade group, Trans search, Australia international, Yellow Folder research, and Interchange Bench. So these are several different parts of the Slade portfolio. And if you want to understand a little bit more about what each of them does, listen to the episode with the executive director of the Slade group, Anita Ziemer. I will put a link in the episode show notes below. I've also interviewed the managing director of Yellow Folder a few weeks ago. I will put the link to that in the episode show notes as well. 

Renata: Geoff has trained and mentored a lot of the recruiters and head hunters around Australia, people that are now based in other cities and have, you know, working with him in the past, see him as a mentor in a really great, part of their development as professionals in this recruitment world. And I've known him to be a very generous person, and very good to me as I'm developing this project, and very interested in the work that I do. So I am delighted that the Slade group is supportive of the Reset Your Career workshop and willing to participate and share with their candidates, the knowledge that they're getting on the ground, during this pandemic, operating with their clients, the employers in this pandemic. And now the job candidates can have some of that information as well. We of course discuss getting jobs candidates, what they need to do to be more effective, to be more successful. And I hope that you enjoy the advice and tips and ideas that Geoff shares so willingly on this podcast. So without further ado, let's listen to Geoff Slade and please check my website, There is a link to it on the episode show notes and consider registering for Reset Your Career. It will be a great workshop. It will be an online platform for you to keep for life. And I can't wait to give you access to it. Bye for now. 

Renata: Good afternoon. 

Geoff: Hi Renata.

Renata: Hello there, all right. So today for the podcast, let's talk about you, your career and then talk about everyone else's careers. What do you think? 

Geoff: Happy to do that. I got your note thank you. 

Renata: The other thing that I wanted to discuss with you is this massive scale of recruitment that used to happen in the eighties and nineties. When, you know, we probably had a lot of manufacturing happening in Australia. Do you still see that today? Or have we moved into a service society and those sort of massive recruitment drives don't happen as much. I'm talking pre COVID. Let's talk about up to 2019, right? 

Geoff: Yes, you're absolutely spot on, the manufacturing sector doesn't do that sort of recruitment anymore, or very rarely. Where it does happen occasionally is in financial services. That's about the, you know, the strength of it. But you don't see it in the sorts of quantities or numbers that we saw in those years. 

Renata: Yes, yes. 

Geoff: I remember, Renata if I can just say, I had a standing brief with the managing director of Pacific Dunlop. Once he gained trust in me and my objectivity in terms of being able to bring good people to their organisation, he would hire, because they’re rapidly growing, he would hire about eight out of every 10 people I would show him. And I used to have people from the MBA school at Melbourne University, almost lining up at my door, wanting to get into Pacific Dunlop because it had such a great reputation for the way it looked after its people. 

Renata: Yep. No, I think that, that the idea also of coming into an organisation as a junior member of the team, as a graduate coming in, it's so good when that organisation has teams and projects and, things that you do as opposed to, you know, the big four. in Melbourne, there is this tradition that you were going to graduate from university, and everybody wants to work for either KPNG or EOI or PWC. And that's great, and these are great organisations to work for, but I would often challenge my students when I was at Monash university and say, apply for Kohls. They have a great graduate programme, apply for a programme at Central link. You really want to get your hands dirty when you're young, and you really want to, you know, have actually people issue to worry about, you know, big, large scale enterprise-wide projects that you have to implement, real people that you have to manage. It's such a different experience, isn't it? As opposed to going into consulting from a very young age and not actually having that lived experience of managing teams. 

Geoff: Yeah. It's very different and it's unfortunate that we don't have that anymore or not very many cases anyway. 

Renata: So what is it that we have now? So for people who are in their, let's say thirties and forties in a country like Australia, where there's very little manufacturing happening, they've graduated from business schools, engineering schools, IT degrees, what is the bulk of the work that's available to professionals these days? 

Geoff: Well, it's primarily in service industries, but what's changed is that you could join a company like Pacific Dunlop in the eighties and nineties, and they would manage your career for you. I had two or three people that I recruited as 25 to 27-year-olds, who ended up as group managing directors of Pacific Dunlop. Now their careers were managed well and true, they are offered opportunities that you just wouldn't see happen today. Today you have to manage your own career and that's why you see so much change. So people, when I first started out, if you hadn't worked for a company for 20 years, you were regarded as unstable and they would never hire you if you'd change companies and jobs every two or three years. Today, if you haven't changed jobs every two or three years, they don't want to know you. So you do have to manage your own career. And I think a lot of people still don't recognise that. Particularly those who are being displaced in their late thirties and mid-forties, maybe even fifties, I see people every day who in their fifties will be lucky to see another job. 

Geoff: And it's very difficult for them. And the biggest problem is they don't know how to go about finding a job. And that's where people like you come in, with the service that you provide in terms of, how do you find another job and how do you understand what the market looks like? And how do you understand how to position yourself in the market? Most people who've worked in one company for 10 or 15 years have got no idea about any of that. 

Renata: Yes. And it seems like we are in a state of flux right now, right? So this has been happening, I wouldn't say slowly, it's happening quite fast, where the tenure of CEOs is now very short. It's less than five years in Australia. And that has a flow-on effect because changing leadership usually means restructures of organisations. And that leads to people coming in and out of organisations and having, you know, those redundancies happening to adjust to new styles. But, we come from, people in their forties come from a generation where they still would expect to be taken care of by their employers. And they're still learning that they need to be their own agents. So they're not actually taking the proactive steps, or have the tools and the skills to present themselves as agents of their own career, their own professional abilities. Yes. What does that mean for the brokers? Because it must be an enormous amount of work or a challenge for you when your client is the employer. And you have a lot of candidates that are not really aware of how the recruitment and selection process works. What do you feel are the gaps that somebody like me can, can help and support my clients, the job candidates with? 

Geoff: I think it's largely about education. You know, the sorts of things that I think most people don't understand, is the supply and demand equation. You know, where are the jobs have actually happening? And if you've been in an industry that's largely been lightened for five, 10, 15 years, your ability to get out of that job and into something that's a real growth opportunity is going to be very difficult. So you need to recognise that reasonably early, that you're in an industry or a company, I mean, I was very fortunate that I got into an industry that was really in its infancy when I started, and I was able to ride that growth curve for the last 50 years. But not many people and circumstances, circumstances can often dictate this. I mean, I was young, I was single, I was prepared to work, whatever was needed to be successful. 

Geoff: And if you're stuck in the mid-thirties with a marriage and two or three kids, you've got to educate, put food on the table every night, it's not that easy and it's not that, you know, you're not inclined to take risks, which is very understandable. But sometimes you do have to take risks, or the risks will be tagging for you. And I don't think most people understand that, you know, if you don't look after yourself, someone else might dictate what you're going to be doing next year or the year after for you. Yeah. So understanding the supply and demand equation, where are the jobs likely to be? What are the growth industries, who are the companies within those growth industries that are going places? What I found is that generally speaking, the companies that are either growing or in trouble are the places to be. Because if a company's in trouble, chances are you'll get, you might get the opportunity to go in there and do jobs that would be on your capacity in your previous company, because they're looking for someone who will shake things up, whereas the growth and the growth companies will offer you opportunities because, because of the natural growth. 

Geoff: So that's one thing. I don't think enough people understand the, again, I'll refer back to the Pacific Dunlop days. Philip Brass, who was the managing director in those days said to me, when I was presenting him with the best young people I could find out of business schools, et cetera. Geoff, he said, I need you to make sure that they're capable of, that they're intelligent, they're capable of thinking. But to me the way they communicate, the way they present themselves is just as important as their intelligence. Because in the end, you know, back then we're a manufacturing business right across the various industries that we're in. We are selling things all the time. And I think this is one of the other big issues for a lot of people coming into the into industry these days is they don't understand that they have to sell themselves and they have to sell themselves to people like me as a recruitment consultant. 

Geoff: And if I don't believe what they have to say, if they're not authentic, if they don't ask the right questions, how can I represent them truly to my, the people who are paying me a fee to find people. So not only do they have to sell themselves to me, they have to then be able to sell themselves to the ultimate client. Who's going to employ them. And I don't think they get a lot of them and things like, communication skills, assertiveness, self-belief, doing the homework before they come in for the interview,  persuasiveness, believability, all those things go into the equation. You have to be, you have to know what you're looking for. I mean, I say to people, tell me what you're really looking for. And if the answer is, well, I just want a job. 

Geoff: I wind the interview up very quickly because, if they don't know what they're looking for, how on earth can I know what they're looking for? So you actually have to go in with a plan for the interview process, and that might change from job to job interview, but you have to be believable in what it is you're saying. It's the same as when we get job applications, we might get seven job applications from one individual, for seven different kinds of jobs. Now, this person can't be good at everything. You know, you can't be as a manager of a security firm one minute, then an HR manager the next, so you have to actually fashion your application, whether it's verbal or written to the job you're applying for. And again, so many people don't do that. 

Renata: Yes. And, and Geoff, from an employer's perspective, I mean, you've been in this industry for 50 years. Have you ever seen anything like 2020 or something similar to the situation that we're living in now when it's so hard for employers to make decisions, hiring decisions or planning decisions? Um, I am assuming that there is a great trepidation to set out to hire people for permanent roles when there's so little that we know about what's coming up next. I mean, we're in lockdown in Melbourne, we're already being prepped by the premier about potentially not getting a lot back on Sunday when he makes the announcements about the next steps out of lockdown. This podcast is coming out the day after that. What are you getting in terms of briefs from your clients that you can share with us on how the job candidates can plan themselves and prepare themselves for what could probably be a longer stretch of unemployment, do you think? 

Geoff: I do think, but I'm pretty optimistic that next year will, in spite of covid, I think next year, we'll see a substantial upturn in the job market. 

Renata: Why is that? Where would that come from? 

Geoff: Well, I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who's the MD of another recruitment company, a much bigger company than mine is a billion-dollar turnover. Now a lot of that's in blue-collar, but he said to me that every other state, but Victoria is back to pre COVID levels. Um, and I think there's quite a bit of pent up demand. You started the actual question by saying, you know, have I seen this sort of situation before the answer is no, but I've seen pretty much pretty close to it. I've been through about six or seven downturns, some more severe than others. The GFC was one, the one in the late eighties, the mining boom crash was another, boom crash in 2001 was another. ‘71 was another, it’s about every 10 years they tend to happen. And, you know, I remember I set up another business in 1990, a service office complex in South Yarra. And I thought I'd been paid handsomely for my original business by this English company. And so I decided that I diversify a bit and I set up a 45, service office complex at the top of the Como building in South Yarra. And when we got to the end of the building part, I suddenly had a bill for $774,000, which was the cost of the construction. Um, and the cheapest finance I could get to lease at those premises was 21%. 

Geoff: Now that's an awful dent in my ability to make any money out of that business. Um, you know, these things do turn. And I think my advice would be with, it will turn up, is that you've got to be prepared and be out there and amongst it, and not sitting at home on your hands, hoping it'll happen for you. I mean with headhunting as it's called these days, there are people that will be found by the head hunters, but if you're not being found by the headhunters, you've got to be out there, making sure that people know about you. The days are long gone where you reply to advertisements, whether they're online or in the newspaper, with any great hope of success and what will happen at the end of covid is there will be jobs advertised. There'll be hundreds of applicants. 

Geoff: It'll take time to come out of COVID, whatever happens. And so if you're not being found by search firms, you have to understand that you need to be out there painting a picture of who you are and why you should be employed. And I say to people, first of all, don't send me a resume of any more than three or four pages. I'm only interested in what you've done in the last 10 years. Really. I still get resumes of 20 pages where people go into huge detail or great detail about what their job was in, in 1989. I mean, it's of no relevance at all. In America now, almost all CVs are one page in really tiny printing. So you sort of get 2 for 1. But we still haven't seen that to any great extent here, but you have to have a cover letter that says, this is what, this is who I am. This is what I've done. This is what I'm capable of doing, and this is what I want to do. Um, and I'd like the opportunity to talk to you. 

Geoff: And beyond that, you know, they need to be making contact with companies that they think they're relevant to. And that's another part of the equation is that you might have worked in one industry for a particular amount of time, maybe 10 years, let's say, but that doesn't mean you're not going to be relevant to other industries that are like the industry you worked in. So let's say you've worked in an insurance company. You could be of interest to a financial services company, or, you know, other financial services type industry mortgages, for instance, and things like that. But if you don't think about it, you don't actually go and apply for jobs there. So it's important to actually understand where those jobs might be. 

Renata: Yes. Now thinking about what we're going to do on the 27th of October, which is our Reset Your Career workshop, some of the concepts that I want to discuss with the participants then is the idea of communication and narrative and how important written communication has become in the sort of work environment that we're living in now, working from home, working remotely, everything being done, and being led by people that are not actually physically together. How important it is to have great ability to present on video, and give the participants of the Reset Your Career workshops, some tips and ideas and advice on how to very quickly improve their verbal communication, their email skills, their presentation skills on video, because I've been seeing even interviews not go well for lack of understanding of this and how important it is to be very well prepared for it. 

Renata: Also the idea of how to transition from sector to sector confidently. Some sectors have disappeared. Some of my clients are moving away from sectors because there are no jobs for them in the sectors that they come from. They have great skills. They have a finance background, they have an HR background, but the sector that they were in, be it an airline or whatever is just not there. So how do you transfer those skills confidently so that you can present yourself well so that we will be discussing as well? I want to, in the recruiter’s panel that we have booked, which is our third session, and we will have some of the Slade team attending that and discussing and getting questions. I'd love to hear their take on some of my clients and followers have been telling me they're very confused about the salary package this year. 

Renata: Some have felt that the salaries are below what they would have been offered last year. And I'm not surprised by that. So it will be interesting to hear from the horse's mouth, from the recruiters if that's true or not because it could be just that people's perceptions of their value and just sort of valuing themselves and their skills a bit higher and blaming COVID. So we will have to look into that, but also people are usually when they're made redundant or they have their roles terminated. They're usually more optimistic about their ability to get a job, than the reality. And I'd love to hear from the recruiters their feedback because people often say, you know, I'll give myself, I need to have a job within the next month or two. When I know that even with my best efforts as a coach, I can maybe shave off a week out of three months. But the truth is once you reach a certain level of seniority, from middle manager up, it's very hard for you to, you know, be in between jobs for less than three months. Would you agree? 

Geoff: I would. I’d say three to six months is the norm. 

Renata: It's the norm. Yeah. And people, I think they probably read that, but it's like having kids, you always think that with you it will be different. I don't know. I'll manage just fine. I'll have two and a half kids, three kids and I will manage just fine. And then you have your third kid and then, you know, all hell breaks loose. 

Geoff: I've had four, so that's why I'm looking battered. 

Renata: Yes. So we will save all of those juicy questions for the workshop. 29.50But what else do you think we can discuss, we should bring up during the workshop? What do you think people should know and why would they register for the workshop on the 27th? 

Geoff: Well, I think there's a general misunderstanding of how long a selection process takes. I think there's a general misunderstanding of the role of the recruiter. Now I think a lot of recruiters bring that upon themselves that they are misunderstood because I don't think they necessarily level with the candidates as to what the situation is. But equally, I would say that in any, maybe not many cases, but in a reasonable number of cases, the recruiter is hamstrung by what the client is saying to them. And they’re not always telling the truth either. 

Renata: I had an interesting conversation with Julian Doherty about this. Yes. About a recruitment process going on for so long that halfway through, my client and I felt like the client had forgotten what the role was. 

Geoff: I could believe that.

Renata: They're starting to give him feedback that didn't make sense, that wasn’t really in the position description anymore. And I felt like we had to remind them at the next opportunities, you know, the next catch-ups and interviews, you know, can you, can you just remind them what the role actually is? It seems like it's been so long. They have forgotten it's a, it was a very big organisation, you know, very structured lots of jobs. This was a new job. So, everybody, I think had a different understanding of what that role was. Every time he met one of the stakeholders, be it a superior or a colleague, he got completely different feedback about the role. 

Geoff: Well, one of the big problems recruiters have, arguably the biggest problem, in all the years I've been in the business, and every survey we've done about what's important to the client, the most important thing they say is you, that is the recruiter, understanding what we really want. Now, as I said before, in terms of the candidate, being able to ask the right questions, one of the big issues for a lot of recruiters who are not well trained or, don't have the self-confidence to be able to ask these questions of the client, you have to be able to really probe what the client is after. And who's in the decision-making process because you can quite often talk to the HR manager and then you talked to the CEO or the line manager, and they have a totally different take on things. And it's worth walking that fine between really understanding what they're after and actually getting them. We try to get them to sign off on this is the brief. 

Geoff: Now, in fact, we encourage quite often three, four or five people to be involved in that process, particularly for very senior jobs. And then our job is to put together what does the brief really look like? And what is the company really all about? And what are the opportunities here? It's that ability to develop a story about the company, about the job and about the people in there about the future that mark's a great recruiter from a not so great recruiter. And equally, I think with candidates, I often say if a candidate can't challenge me with their questions about the job and the company and what it is they're looking to do, then really, should I be thinking about recommending them to somebody? And I've had lots of candidates say to me, look, I say, well, what are you really looking for? They don't really know. And they make it obvious they don't know. As I said earlier if they don't know how on earth can I know? 

Geoff: So it's very difficult to help those people. I once had a guy a couple of years ago who had been on big money, $350,000 a year as a GM in a major corporation. And he'd been made redundant at the age of 56. And he came to see me. And I said, well, you know, we talked about what opportunities he was looking for. He was general manager of a division of a big corporate. And he has pretty much been in the same job for about 15 of the 26 years he had been there. And I said, you know, what are you really looking for? He didn't really have an answer. I said, what sort of money you're looking for? He said, well, I've been on 350. I wouldn't accept anything less. And I said to him, look, I've got to be really frank with you. I don't, I think you'll be lucky to get a job at 150,000 because really there's nothing unique about you. What is your unique selling proposition when you talk to a company? What are you bringing to the table that they weren't already having in space? Now they hate hearing that sort of feedback. And not very many people will give it to them. But I think you've got to be honest with them. 

Renata: Yeah. I bet he took that very hardly. Very.

Geoff: He did. He did take it hard. I mean, he virtually insinuated that I didn't know what I was talking about, but he's entitled to that opinion. But I’ve never heard of him turning up anywhere else so maybe I was right. 

Renata: It's really tricky when you've been in an organisation for so long. And that time means your salary has been going up and up and up, but you haven't taken the time to do the professional development to keep up with the external job market, which is different from the internal advancement. 

Geoff: You haven't changed with the market. And this guy’s been in manufacturing, you know, as I said to him, you definitely will not get a job in another big corporate, because they boot everybody out at 55 or thereabouts, and you're one of them. You might get a job running an SME where maybe the owner is wanting to step back or retire. That will be your best bet. 

Renata: Yeah. I love when I have a client who comes to me in her fifties, for example, and has been in an organisation for over a decade. But during that time managed to squeeze in an AICD programme, a Harvard executive education programme so that, you know, anything like that, which at the time may sound like an amazing amount of work on top of a busy job when you're made redundant.

Geoff: And you bring your kids up as well probably. 

Renata: Yeah. So much better to do that professional development when you are employed. And then when you're job hunting, getting a coach to actually coach you through the recruitment and selection process, I think is more important because that's when you are in competition, you are an athlete and you need all the support that you can get to shave off weeks and months by having somebody who can guide you through the competition and help you out through the process. 

Geoff: One of the things that I think people need to understand to Renata, is the importance of networking. Even in your current job, because if you're well network, if you've got a client base, let's say you're a sales manager, and you've got a client base that you've serviced for the last five years, and you've done a great job. And then all of a sudden circumstances change. And you're out of a job. If people out there who you've been looking after as customers think very highly of you, there’s a very good chance one of them will want to offer you a job. They've actually seen you at work. But if you sit in your office, as a lot of sales managers do, and let the field reps do all the work and don't get to know the customer themselves, then they're not doing what's important in terms of looking after their own future. 

Renata: It’s good that you reminded me that that's something that has been coming up a lot this year because of remote work, people working from home. How do you actually network when you're in lockdown when you're working from home? And we will be addressing that on the 27th for sure.

Geoff: That’s right.

Renata: Yeah, because there are ways of doing that, that are not salesy. You know, people don't want to sell themselves, especially if they are now unemployed and they haven't connected with somebody for sometimes years, how do you actually reconnect? So we'll be talking about that on the 27th. Very exciting. I want you to thank you and your team so much for coming on board to participate in the Reset Your Career workshop with me. It's very nice to be doing this together. 

Geoff: It's a pleasure. Well, we hope it helps a lot of people. I mean, there’s a big market out there in terms of people who need help. And this is one way of addressing it.

Renata: Yes it is. Thank you. It's going to be exciting. I'm excited. Geoff, lovely to talk to you today. I will let you go. You can enjoy the lovely weather down at the farm. 

Geoff: My pleasure. I'm about to do one and a half hours of education for myself on positive intelligence. 

Renata: Oh, really? What is that? Positive intelligence, I know positive psychology. I've never heard of positive intelligence. 

Geoff: Look it up on the net. I'll talk to you about it when I see you. 

Renata: Ok, ok.

Geoff: But it's a programme that's being wound out via Stanford University in the States.

Renata: Oh I like Stanford.

Geoff: And, it's really interesting. So I’d have to do them over the weekend. And the first part of the programmes tonight, that's for about the next six or eight weeks. 

Renata: Oh, okay. I will tell you very quickly that when I was doing my Harvard programme with the John Kennedy school of government, it was online and it was at 2:00 AM in the morning for me. And I was in my pyjamas and I thought, you know, it's online. Who cares? So I was wearing my pyjamas middle of winter in Melbourne, and it's Harvard style. So they call on you and all 70 people then see you on screen and you have to answer the question, and it was the most embarrassing moment. My first day during my first Harvard module. And I was wearing pyjamas at 2:00 AM in the morning answering a question. So just not sure what time your Stanford thing is, but just letting you know, be prepared.

Geoff: Its on in 15 minutes. 

Renata: Okay. I'll let you go then.

Geoff: Alright, thanks Renata. I did the Harvard advanced management programme too.

Renata: Oh but that is on location. That's way fancier. 

Geoff: I went over there three years in a row for three weeks. It was great. 

Renata: Exciting. Yeah. Geoff, thanks so much for your time this afternoon. Great to talk to you.

Geoff: Pleasure. Thanks Renata. Bye.



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