Minesh Jobanputra, co-founder of Deltra Group - a recruitment consultancy specialising in programme, project and change - was recently interviewed by Nick Synott for the Climb in Consulting podcast. Nick’s show provides consultants who want to rapidly accelerate their careers with access to guidance from industry specialists. In the interview, Minesh talks about the importance of building relationships in recruitment; from the key skills that clients are looking for in a consultant, to the best ways of working with a recruiter, and what separates a good candidate from a great one.
Our preview provides a taster of what’s discussed in the session. You can listen to the full interview with Minesh on the Climb in Consulting website or by downloading from iTunes or Stitcher.
To give a bit of background to Deltra, what made you set-up the business?
Myself and my business partner, Julian used to work for a large recruitment company and when that was bought out by a larger organisation, we recognised significant changes, changes in the way that the company was operating and the way that candidates and clients were treated. It became a very transactional model but the team that we worked in at the time bucked that trend massively. For us, It wasn’t about operating in a transactional manner. It was about working with candidates and clients and trying to build good relationships with them, and those relationships take time as it can’t happen on the first meeting.
When we saw that change coming, we knew it was time to leave. We’d gone out and met with some impressive characters that had built some big businesses that we hear about today. The one thing we weren’t getting though was inspiration. We weren’t meeting people that we thought “I want to work with and for you”. Quite often the big common denominator was that not many of them were client facing anymore. They’d built these businesses sat in their offices but weren’t interacting with customers on a daily basis and our entire model was all about going out there and being client and customer facing.
It’s a point of contention amongst myself and Julian – neither of us agreed on who suggested it, I’m convinced it was me. But once day we said, why don’t we start a company together? I think it took about 5 minutes for us to say yes, let’s do it. And that was it, Deltra Group was born and we’ve not looked back since.
Ok, so onto what you do. What advice would you give to a consultant on finding the right recruitment company to work with?
The one piece of advice I can give is, if you’ve got a relationship with a particular agency or consultant then use it and work with them to find opportunities. So many times we hear about opportunities that have been released to us and competitors and sometimes you get agencies that’ll send a CV without qualifying it with the candidate, just to make sure they’ve got in there first.
Any recruitment agency worth their salt will speak to you first and get your consent to represent you. They should brief you on the role in as much detail as possible and even challenge whether you’re right for the position. Don’t always go for the agency that’s offering you an extra £20, £30 a day for the role. If you’ve been briefed by 2 agencies on the same role, go for the one that you feel you’ve got the best relationship with, the people that genuinely know the client and the line manager, the one that has insight into the culture of the organisation. You’ll get a gut feel whether you think they can accurately represent you as opposed to just sending your CV across.
A key way to distinguish different recruitment agencies is knowledge, I like to think that when someone comes into Deltra and they meet with a consultant in their relevant sector, they get something back from that meeting. We don’t promise to find everybody a job because it’s impossible to do so, but we’ll talk to everybody about our network. Companies we’re working with, companies we are prospectively working with, companies we have relationships with but don’t have live opportunities, companies that we’re on their PSL. We’re happy to share that information with candidates and that’s when we get candidates sharing information with us. It’s got to be a 2 way street.
If we know our clients, our industry and the marketplace and we can share that knowledge with our candidates then hopefully they’ve got confidence that we know what we’re talking about.
What advice can you give to candidates to test the competency of a recruiter?
The only way to find out if a recruiter understands your experience or your industry is through the quality of the questions they’re asking you. Taking a real-life example, instead of simply asking what an individual has done as a PM or a BA. They should be asking how you went about the requirement gathering exercise, what sort of techniques did you use, did you put together the project initiation documents? If you were running a project as the PM you’d expect to face questions regarding how you dealt with business readiness and user acceptance testing. You want an interview where you don’t get a set of generic questions for a specific role type.
So, the best thing you can do as a candidate is to test the agency when you talk to them. Ask them, what types of roles they would put you forward for? If you get the stock response of business analysis, they don’t get it.
What information should a candidate prepare ahead of meeting with a recruiter?
The best examples that we have is when we get candidates come in here and we’ve had 2 hours of free-flowing conversation. On the one hand, we absolutely deep dive into skills, what is a candidate capable of doing and what have they worked on previously? Where we get the most value is when candidates are happy to share information, it doesn’t have to be commercially sensitive, but having them talk about how they deliver, what their delivery style is and how they overcame certain challenges certainly helps.
We’re big believers that people recruit personalities, not words on a CV. Of course, the CV helps - it’s a supporting document, but it’s not the shop window. The recruiters ability to sell a candidate to a client or explain what a candidate can do is probably the most vital thing, and that hinges on their ability to really understand what the candidate is capable of, what they want to do, the type of environment they want to work in and the culture fit. A recruiter can only get that from having a completely honest conversation.
When looking for a new opportunity, is it best to engage with a single recruitment company or multiple agencies?
It depends how specialist the consultant is, if you’re looking for a particular industry type, embed yourself with recruiters that have a good network in that space. It’s probably frustrating for candidates as they see hundreds of jobs advertised with different suppliers and that’s because there’s no barrier to entry in recruitment. There’s thousands of agencies, generalist and niche in the UK that offer a similar service.
Personally, I would say work with a small number of niche providers. If there’s a sector that you want to work in specifically, find a niche provider that does it and work with them to build a proper relationship so they can go out and be pro-active on your behalf. We don’t always wait for opportunities to come through to us. As soon as we’ve met a good candidate and built what we deem to be a strong relationship with them - and have an understanding of what they’re capable of doing, we’d much rather introduce them to a couple of clients. Whether there’s an open vacancy or not, we want to start the conversation around the candidate’s capabilities and even if it’s meeting up for a coffee, we want to match people with businesses where they could help solve a problem and build their own relationships and networks.
Are there any key skills that clients are looking for that won’t make it onto the job description?
There’s not any specific qualifications as such, but the things that do crop up I feel would be really hard to articulate on paper, things like culture fit. That’s why our briefing calls with clients and our meetings with candidates are so important, as it helps us to really understand those additional skills sets that I feel is impossible to put down on paper. A lot of our job as a recruiter is to tease out what the challenges are from a client and then understanding what’s required from a candidate.
What separates a great candidate from a good one?
It’s the softer skills, emotional intelligence is probably the best way to describe it. We like to look at all our candidates and judge what their EQ is. We’ll ask ourselves, do we think we could put this person in front of a client and could they have a conversation with them offline that’ll put the client at ease whilst adding significant value?
Those skills aren’t something that you can recognise on paper. All of that comes down to the pre-screening and candidate qualification that we do ahead of submitting them to a client. When we meet people, we’re looking at whether they’re down to earth, what level of openness and honesty we get from their communication with us and who of our clients would they get on with? It’s then down to getting references, to back up our thinking. We might think they’re a great candidate, but it’s essential to get references to prove that they have done what they said they can do.
Are there any common themes that you see with feedback from clients about candidates?
Not really, we sometimes have clients’ feedback that the candidate didn’t listen to the question so they weren’t able to provide a succinct response. Sometimes candidates will go into a meeting and unload everything they know about a particular topic, whereas often what the client really wants to know is what’s your experience with that subject matter and how that’s relevant to the particular role they’re recruiting for.
I think sometimes, candidates can get nervous and want to showcase that they’ve got a whole load of knowledge about a particular subject matter, but what they need to focus on is what has the client specifically asked me? Listening to the question is a big thing, we’ve spoken about EQ already but it’s important to read the room and recognise at what point it’s right to stop your response and hand back to the interviewer.
Are there any beliefs about recruiters that you fundamentally disagree with?
Yes, the perception of the industry that everyone’s out for a quick buck. Everyone’s here to make money really quickly, that they don’t care about building relationships and will just shove a candidate in front of a client and let them work somewhere without considering what the candidate wants. That unfortunately, is a really common misconception. There probably are recruiters that do that, but that’s worlds away from what we try to do and what we want to do at Deltra. We’re not looking to have thousands of vacancies to work on, we’d much rather have a smaller number but focus on quality.
I’d like to think that one of the ways we’ve tried to dispel the myth at Deltra is by focusing on repeat business and looking at how we can enhance our relationships with the people that we work with. We have a candidate that’s currently working on their 7th project for us, so instead of going and finding a new CV for every job we’d rather look at our existing network to see who do we know that’s good and why don’t we use that person again.
This is a common myth that we really need to quash very quickly. It stops people from wanting to join the industry and prevents clients from wanting to work with recruiters.