How can executives working in the industrial sector in Malaysia secure their first managerial-level jobs with respected national or multinational companies? Executive recruitment company Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia reached out to four senior human resources (HR) executives to answer this question, and others. Some of the answers may surprise you.
Mathias Agu, a consultant from Monroe Consulting Group’s dedicated Industrial division, said the comments provided by the human resources executives highlighted a number of key points, including the importance of cultural compatibility. “While qualifications and experience may be pre-requisites for consideration for a job opening, it is the importance, or even prioritization, of this cultural fit that might work to catch some candidates off-guard.”
Michele Chow, also with Monroe Malaysia’s Industrial Division, said that it was also apparent that employers set unwritten expectations above and beyond the requirements set out in job advertisements, including soft skills that were difficult to teach and must come naturally to job candidates. “Candidates should research the company, its history, culture and milestones,” Chow said. “Certain character traits and interests of the decision-maker might also prove helpful, if the information is readily available. This information should then be used, alongside the candidates’ qualifications and experience, to paint a complete picture of their respective capabilities and compatibility for the job in question.”
What are the common difficulties or struggles that you encounter when it comes to sourcing and recruiting for managerial or executive-level positions?
Elma Tambuwun, Talent Acquisition Professional at Siemens Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.
A common difficulty is finding an individual with the right personality traits, particularly leadership traits. Relevant and qualified candidates at times lack soft skills, which are defined as personal characteristics that allow a person to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. It is difficult to acquire these skills and is something that comes naturally. Another thing is that many candidates tend to focus too much or be influenced by the basic salary proposal and often fail to understand the wider bonus and benefits package.
Norzila Zarin, Talent Acquisition Partner for Seagate Systems Sdn. Bhd.
In the industrial sector a number of job openings are located in remote or underdeveloped areas, and relocating personnel to these places is usually an issue for job candidates. In these cases we generally provide greater leeway during negotiations, so we are more open to listening to a candidate’s preferences in regards to bonuses and benefits.
Felicia Liew – Human Resources Manager for F&N Beverages Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd.
Within the fast-moving consumer goods industry, we have an extremely engaging and thorough retention programme, which has resulted in below average industry attrition rates.
Judy Wong – Senior Group Human Resources Manager for Deleum Bhd.
Sourcing a person with the right cultural, personality and leadership fit with good technical capabilities. Some people come with good technical capabilities but poor managerial or leadership capabilities, while some are the opposite. Securing a balanced person is ideal for a managerial role.
Is it true that candidates with higher qualifications have a greater chance of being considered for a role? Or is relevant experience more important?
It is not necessarily true that candidates with higher qualifications will be preferred, in fact not that much attention is paid to qualifications, particularly for senior-level positions. More importance is placed on relevant experience.
Yes; most definitely, particularly for managerial positions.
Different jobs have differing core knowledge areas, and therefore need different assessment tools and methodologies to measure and assess the potential candidate. It is also dependant on whether it is a critical or technical role, but the protocol will usually require two primary stages. Candidates shortlisted for technical positions will be assessed based on their practical knowledge with the trials conducted in the designated assessment centres.
This depending on the role – if it’s a technical position then higher qualifications would be required, for example, an engineering qualification. For managerial levels in general, experience is definitely looked upon more compared to the qualifications.
As a Hiring Manager do you believe you must see a candidate more than once to determine his or her suitability? And why? What would you consider to be the most efficient and effective interview process?
At least two stages. Tasks are required and presentations are needed. There needs to be an element of practicality in the interview process as anybody can impress in theory but fail in the practical component. Therefore, hiring managers need an idea of how individuals (particularly those being considered for managerial positions) perform under pressure.
No matter how well a candidate performs in the first interview, in order to fully gauge the compatibility of core competencies, at least three interviews are required.
This depends on how critical or technical the role is but the usual protocol will require two stages. Candidates for technical positions will be tested on their practical knowledge with trials conducted in the assessment centres.
Not all positions require more than one interview. If candidates have more than more than one round of interviews, this is usually is due to hierarchical or structural reasons within our organization. If a candidate is put at total ease and is comfortable with sharing everything he/she has, be it personal or career expectations, we are able to ascertain the wants and needs of the person to match what we have. I also believe that total transparency is needed from the hiring managers, to share the good points as well as the challenging points. Painting too nice a view may mask the challenging areas that may be an area of concern for the candidate.
Qualifications and technical skills to perform the role are essential, but when it comes to qualities regarding character and personality traits, what is important when it comes to experienced candidates? And why is this?
A willingness to learn is a key trait. A candidate must demonstrate an eagerness to adapt to an ever-changing landscape, both within the company and the wider industry. The technology industry is constantly evolving and is a good example.
Confidence levels, communication and appearance. A person’s appearance and mannerisms are at times used as a yard stick to measure confidence, particularly for senior or managerial-level positions.
The personality has to be aligned with the advantage to the role.
Honesty and integrity, as well as professionalism. These are the ultimate core fundamentals in running businesses and are critical in an open and transparent culture.
What would you consider to be a red flag? Are there any words in particular, phrases or personality traits that automatically disqualify a candidate regardless of his or her qualifications? Why?
An individual who talks negatively about his former boss, colleagues or company. This is seen as a sign of what he might say should he decide to leave the current employer or be offered better package elsewhere.
No particular red flags: It’s all relative and subjective to each individual candidate. With regards to background checks, some leeway can also be given if the candidate is a right fit, if all variations of events don’t correspond 100 percent.
These complications are due to the lack of communication and clarity, especially in articulating the expectations of the job’s key deliverables from the hiring manager to the candidate. Occasionally, hiring managers may have difficulties expressing the whole picture of their expectations and the candidate who will be potentially filling it. Hence, the recruitment manager plays an extremely critical role in seeking clarity and alignment of expectations to ensure that the candidate is of the right fit.
Usually I do not pre-judge a person although I do like people who come prepared and take the initiative with their appearance and clothing. First impressions count. Words or phrases that will disqualify a candidate? Foul language and discriminatory words. These do not portray a professional person.
On a scale of 1-10, on a comparative basis, how important would you rate technical ability versus compatibility with company culture. Additionally, which would you prioritise if you could not have both in a candidate; that is if the candidate is technically capable but does necessarily mesh with some core competencies and values thiat the company considers essential or vice versa?
Cultural adaptability is prioritized because technically ability can be coached and taught. Cultural adaptability comes naturally. (8:2)
Technical ability tends to be prioritized during the initial sourcing as character traits cannot be distinguished from a CV. However, as the interviews begin, character traits become increasingly important (5:5).
Both technical competencies and a cultural compatibility with the organisation are equally important. If a candidate is a cultural fit but he or she may be lacking some of the technical competencies required, we will then evaluate if the candidate could be taught these skills and the amount of time and money that will be invested. On the other hand, candidates may not be able to adapt to the company culture, and this is an extremely challenging area to be taught or trained.
Compatibility will score an 8 while technical ability may be a 5. We will compromise on this if it is a very technical or niche position. Otherwise, it is critical to have a person that is compatible with the culture. A person who is incompatible may act like a ‘virus’ and infect many others, which would be detrimental to the organization as a whole. The priority will still be given to the person with compatible values. As mentioned above, once we bring in a toxic person that is incompatible, we risk the values of the entire organization. That is something that any organization cannot afford to happen.