Das Humankapital meets Vera Karin Tomatis

Max Weber argued that power is not simply the ability to take, with the required accuracy, the behavior of others. But in this, perhaps mistoke; Mayo argued it is impossible to predict, so what? How do you know, understand, recruit the world of work? Das Humankapital meets Vera Karin Tomatis: after her high school graduation from United World College of South East Asia in Singapore, she specialized at the University of Southampton and University of Surrey in Human Resource Management. During her career she has worked for various recruitment companies in Italy and London. She is currently responsible for the recruitment strategies at EMEA level for a business unit of an American multinational company operating in the technology area.

Davide de Palma : Who is the Recruiter?

Vera Karin Tomatis : The recruiter is the first point of contact of a candidate. So first impressions are vital, it doesn’t matter if you are in-house or from an agency in both cases you are representing the company you work for.  The recruiter per se is usually a very social person who likes to meet new people, socialize and must be available 99% of times. A good recruiter is someone that understands 80% of the other person in the first 2 minutes but will not influence the candidate in any way as the main job of a recruiter is to see if the person will fit the requirements of the job so the personal opinion of the candidate comes into second place. As one of my mentors said :” a candidate does not have to become your friend, he must be able to the job”!

Davide de Palma : What tools does a Recruiter use to find the right man at the right place?

Vera Karin Tomatis : Once the most important tool was headhunting (calling in companies trying to find names etc). however with today’s technology most ‘hunting’ is done on the net via social networks and specialized websites.  A good recruiter will have also to be able to build a good network of contacts so that if a new job arises the first thing to do is to ask relevant contacts if they know anyone who might be suitable for the position. This is a very quick method and in time the connections you have build become a real and ‘virtual’ database of candidates.

 Davide de Palma : What do you think is the most important competence?

Vera Karin Tomatis : In the company I’m working in we use Lomingers cards competencies which is a very helpful tool. We are trained to identify 3 main competencies in relation to the role of the position and the managerial responsibilities associated to the role. Once those are identified a set of relevant questions will drafted and then used in the interview. Since a competence is formed by a combination of skills, job attitude and knowledge, the ones that come across most positions are “ability to learn quickly”, “customer focus (attention to the client which can be internal and external)” and for managerial positions the “ability to motivate others”.

 Davide de Palma : Perhaps the above question is too general … Can I have more details? What is the basic skill of a worker when applying for:

administrative sector? Vera Karin Tomatis : Candidate has to have excellent organizational skills, be flexible and precise. 

human resources department? Vera Karin Tomatis : Candidate has to quickly understand the dynamics of the situation, be a good mediator as usually has to intervene between managers of different departments of the organization and must be able to maintain confidential matters at all times.

IT industry? Vera Karin Tomatis : Able to focus well on problems and able to find quick solutions. Able to work long hours and have a real passion for IT.

Sales and Marketing? Vera Karin Tomatis :A sales profile has to be able to communicate and relate well with others, has to be focused on tangible objectives and be perseverant. A marketing profile has to have patience (marketing projects are usually long term objectives), creative and also be able to relate well to others and even have a sales streak when selling projects/ideas to clients.

Davide de Palma : What do you look for in a candidate?

Vera Karin Tomatis : I read an article which argues that there are really only three main job interview questions you need to be able to answer. All the other questions are just variations on the main three:

       1. Can you do the job?

2. Will you love the job?

3. Can we tolerate working with you?

I pretty much agree with this.

Davide de Palma : What is talent? How do you recognize it?

Vera Karin Tomatis : From a CV point of view there are various ‘factors’ that would portray a candidate as talented. Names of good Universities, Associations etc. which means that the candidate has already been preselected from a large group of applicants due to their marks, extra curriculum activities etc. The same applies for names of companies, for example I know that candidates who are working in Google have an excellent education record, their employment background has been thoroughly checked, references have been taken and I know they have passed multiple personality and skills tests before getting hired. This applies to many other companies for example in the consultancy world (McKinsey, Bain etc.) the hiring process is similar, however this does not exclude candidates who are coming from less notorious schools or companies are necessarily less talented, however in a screening process this is less evident so the candidate will have to really prove his projects, work achievements etc. in the cv.

Davide de Palma : A few years ago you worked in London, where you also had to recruit for the Asian market; do you think are there differences in the recruitment processes in Asia?

Vera Karin Tomatis : Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, today with the globalization the recruitment process is quite standard worldwide. However there are some cultural differences for example in Asia no candidate will ever tell you their salary on a first interview phone call whilst its normal to ask in Europe. Another example is that if I post the same sales manager advertisement in Italy  I receive 195 cvs (if not more!) while in France I receive 3. In Italy its acknowledged that you will get people responding even though their cv has nothing to do with the job, whilst in other countries, especially northern European candidates will not respond unless they fit ALL the requirements.

Davide de Palma : In these years you’ve developed a deep knowledge of the techniques of head hunting, what is it?

Vera Karin Tomatis : Today the meaning headhunting is used in many different ways. The most official meaning can be summarized in ‘Executive recruitment agency that tracks qualified personnel during their work life, and can quickly and precisely locate a suitable candidate for a specific job requirement’. In my career, as mentioned above, before the internet evolution I had to identify the right candidate (through researching magazines, associations lists etc.) and then I had to call the person in the company in which they worked (as it was the only detail I had). The difficulty was when headhunting someone in multinational companies as in order to be transferred to the person I usually had to use fake excuses such as pretending to sell something, asking for references, saying it was a personal call etc..Once I did manage to talk to the candidate I had to explain who I was and what I was looking for and if it could be an interesting offer… Obviously with the boom of internet and the use of social networks its much easier to identify candidates and to get in touch with them.

On a more executive level, this is usually done via networking and meeting potential candidates at events, conferences etc. as you can imagine that months could pass before you are able to get transferred to a CEO!

Davide de Palma : What happens if you find a candidate, 34 years old, hyper-specialized, but in a difficult period of layoffs? Do you think he can re-enter on the market?

Vera Karin Tomatis : I’m always positive. I believe that being negative will not bring you anywhere, however the employment markets in these past few years have changed and there is a general frustration going on. There are some markets which are quicker such as the UK or the Nordic countries where there is a quick job rotation while countries such as Italy and France have a much lower percentage of job openings in relation to the number of companies thus it takes longer to find a suitable job. If the candidate is hyper specialized I would suggest to move to an emerging country such as China or Brazil where the skills will be highly required by companies and it gives a chance to the candidate to gain international experience. If that is not possible then I suggest that the candidate envisages job hunting as a real work: setting goals, calling agencies and companies, sending cvs, networking in associations etc. as similar to sales, it’s a game of numbers! If you send your cv to 10 or 100 companies the possibility of getting an interview will be different!

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