Steven Pang of Kelly Services: From engineer to recruiter

October 6, 201412:00 pm1721 views
Steven Pang of Kelly Services: From engineer to recruiter
Steven Pang, Operations Director of Kelly Services (Singapore)

With two decades of experience in the executive search, recruitment and staffing industry, Steven Pang, the Operations Director of Kelly Services (Singapore) started in Australia as a recruiter running a desk, eventually progressing to manage successful executive search and selection specialist recruitment businesses across Asia.

A talented headhunter and a results-driven leader, Pang has developed a reputation as a dynamic and resourceful manager, with a knack for confronting problematic situations with tremendous positive energy and resolving them skilfully. With deep insights into the recruitment industry across the Asia Pacific region, and particularly in Singapore, HR in Asia was able to secure a chat with him to have a glimpse of what makes him tick.

Excerpts from the chat:

What initially led you to become a recruiter?

I graduated as a civil engineer from University of Wollongong, Australia. Upon graduation, I embarked on a four year career in engineering and absolutely hated it! I just wasn’t cut out to be a process oriented, meticulous engineer. I’m more of a people person with high energy level and my ability to empathise and influence people.

So I decided to look for career change and started looking at sales engineering roles. The recruiter that interviewed me suggested giving recruitment a try. I like to think it was fate, as recruitment is quite a niche career. Most people don’t aspire to be a recruiter (like how people aspire to be doctors, lawyers, bankers). Most recruiters came into the job by a twist of fate. I’ve been in recruitment for 20 years and I still look forward to getting up in the morning and going to work. You can say I have found my calling.

What are the qualities a successful recruiter should have?

To be successful, you really need to be self-motivated and hungry. That comes with working in a highly competitive industry.  As a recruiter, you engage with people at an intimate level, you need to get people to trust you with their careers and you need to be able to build a rapport quickly.

A conventional interview is one hour, and in that one hour, I need that person to trust me and be completely honest with me about their motivations. You also need to be optimistic and emotionally stable, as you do get on a high when you manage to find someone a great job with a great company and you sink to the lows when you’re rejected. This emotional roller-coaster happens a lot in any given day, sometimes several times a day.

You have to be able to sniff out the opportunities and act on it very quickly before another recruiter does. Be quick in getting in touch with the good candidates in the market and forming a relationship with them. You need to be able to get job orders from clients (i.e. employers) and convince them to use you and, by extension, your firm.

What differentiates Kelly Services from other recruitment agencies? Why should people come to Kelly, rather than other recruiters?

Kelly’s strong point lies in being a one-stop HR solution provider for clients’ needs. We have about 140 people in the Singapore office. We provide executive search services for senior executive appointments as well as mid to junior level staffing solutions for permanent, contract and temporary staff. We also provide business process outsourcing & recruitment process outsourcing solutions.

In each division in Kelly Services, we aim to maintain a consistent standard of excellence.

Given the long hours in the sector, what is your opinion on work-life balance for recruiters?

When people think of work-life balance, they think of working eight hours a day and having free personal time to pursue their interests outside of work. For me, at certain times in my career, my life was indeed unbalanced, such as when I am building a new start up business. When the business is established with momentum, then I can normalise the work/life balance and return to more regular hours.

Ultimately, work-life balance means different things to different people, it has to be self-managed.

From your perspective, what have been the biggest shifts in the labour market since 2012?

The biggest thing to impact the recruitment industry is LinkedIn (LI). It never really gained momentum until after the sub-prime crisis in 2008. What LinkedIn did was to expose the recruiter’s little black book of names and contacts and cultivated network. Before LI, recruiters and head-hunters had all the connections with the top candidates in the market, something which employers had no visibility to.

With LI, employers now can have access the pool of candidates that recruiters used to have more exclusive access to. As such, it’s a game changer for the recruitment industry, which has forced recruiters to look at other ways of adding value to employers, rather than just providing a resume.

As an Operations Director, what is your role in Kelly Services?

My job at Kelly Services is develop and grow the Executive Search and Selection business in Singapore, which covers executive level roles, as well as specialty roles, such as roles in engineering, scientific, finance & accounting, HR, sales & marketing, supply chain, oil & gas, petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and medical devices. I lead a team of 20+ people specialising in those industry verticals and functional fields within Singapore

Any advice to new recruiters about dealing with prospects and the sector?

Candidate care is obviously important, since candidates are coming to you for career advice or a job opportunity. Sometimes a recruiter, in their busyness, tends to treat things trivially. Recruiters need to be professional when dealing with candidates at all times and accomplish the following; give good advice, follow up on what was agreed on and make the effort to practice common courtesies like returning phone calls or emails to acknowledge their receipt.

Any memorable recruitments?

The reason why I am still in the recruitment industry after 20 years is that recruitment has an altruistic element – you’re improving people’s lives at the end of the day. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I manage to place one of my candidates in their dream job. I am not just selling a widget or product, but helping them improve their careers and lives. I’ve made many friends from the people that I’ve placed. Some have become lifelong friends.

Another thing is, when I placed top quality candidates at key senior positions with great companies, we’ve ultimately helped that company grow.  Gives me tremendous satisfaction! Win-win-win for the candidate, employer and I.

While social media can be overrated when making hires, what would you as a recruiter like to see emerge from the technology side that would make your job easier (i.e. LinkedIn, etc)?

I think technology platforms like LinkedIn can be a friend or a foe. As a recruiter, our secret black book of names is now exposed via LI. But it can be a friend as well, since as a recruiter, it broadens my reach and grants me accessibility to potential candidates that otherwise would take time and resources to identify.

Is the social media profile of a hire relevant to a job?

When I get hold of someone’s name, the first thing I do is to check him/her out via LinkedIn. So, your social media profile is critical if you wish to be found. When it comes to professional recruitment, the only platform that I believe is relevant is LinkedIn.

Facebook and Twitter are very personal. I only let my family and friends onto my Facebook. I don’t strive to link up with my subordinates on Facebook, because I respect their space. A social media profile is critical – because I google your name when looking for a candidate.

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