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Azza Ghattas is the founder of Accountancy Options Melbourne and has worked in recruitment for over 30 years. Here are her thoughts on how recruitment has changed over the past few decades.

I can’t quite believe it, but this week Accountancy Options is celebrating its 19th birthday.

A new employee recently asked me what has changed since I first started out in the recruitment industry, and my immediate response was ‘everything.’

Here are the biggest changes I’ve seen in the industry and how we need to adapt.


Changes in the Melbourne recruitment market

During the economic boom on the late 1980s employment grew rapidly and there was suddenly a huge demand for recruiters. Since then the market has been constantly changing.

When I launched Accountancy Options in 1999, most of our candidates were career contractors, and it wasn’t unusual for companies to have a hundred temps on their payroll. Then the market retracted, and candidates wanted perm roles and job security.

When the GFC hit in 2008 a lot of companies retrenched, injecting the market with a huge pool of new candidates looking for work. There were virtually no senior roles to fill, and a bigger demand for back office and accounting support staff emerged. Then, companies started sending their back office work offshore and this market gradually shrunk.

Now, we’re in a truly candidate-driven market. There’s a lot of work out there – both contract and permanent – with a definite trend for temp to perm hiring so that you can try before you buy!

The construction industry is still thriving in Australia, along with the power and energy sectors. The financial services industry is also very buoyant.


The recruitment process

My career as a recruiter began in 1987, when it was still perfectly acceptable to say the word ‘fax’ and fiddle through a box of index cards on your desk.

You picked up the phone, talked to people about what they wanted and arranged to meet them that day. We placed weekly ads in The Age and when it was published calls from candidates would flood in. Back then, your most trusted selection tool was your gut instinct.

Now we rely heavily on tools and technology. LinkedIn has given us instant access to a global database, and psych testing and competency-based interviews help us identify the most suitable candidates.

Search tools are often more powerful than ever, and most recruiters will look at a candidate’s online profile straight after receiving their resume.

Although communication is more instant, it’s becoming increasingly impersonal. Often when companies advertise jobs they don’t include contact details, and the chance of speaking to someone about a role is slim.

Increasingly CVs are screened by automated tools that decide whether the applicant is suitable for the position based on the identification of keywords in a resume.

It’s a longer, but more thorough process.


How to adapt to changes in the recruitment market

Candidates need to ensure their LinkedIn profiles are strong and up-to-date to avoid being overlooked by headhunters. Many senior roles don’t get advertised, and if your profile is weak it’s unlikely you’ll be approached. It’s also essential for your CVs to be tailored for each role to ensure relevant keywords are included.

As it’s currently a candidate-driven market, companies need to focus on setting themselves apart from the rest by placing a stronger focus on culture, well-being, and investing in their employment branding.

Recruiters need to continuously leverage new technologies to strengthen what makes us valuable: our networks and our expertise.

Keeping the recruitment process human is vital and technology should be used in conjunction with soft skills.

As it stands, technology can’t give us an accurate sense of someone’s soft skills, for example, their ability to influence others or engage stakeholders. We still need to connect with people in person to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what they need.

A lot has changed, but if you stay true to your values and you have the right people behind you, you can adapt to anything.

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