Podcast Episode #11 What recruiters are really looking for, an interview with Ed Michelsberg

In this episode, Leah interviews Edward Michelsberg, Partner of Melbourne-based recruitment & executive search firm, EMU Search.

In this interview Leah and Ed discuss the following:

  • How much input does the recruiter have in the job brief
  • Whose responsibility is it to maintain contact, the recruiter or the candidate
  • How often should candidates follow-up and what is the best form of communication
  • How do recruiters use LinkedIn to search for candidates
  • What are recruiters looking for in a LinkedIn profile
  • How can jobseekers stand out in a competitive job market post Covid-19

For further information about Ed Michelsberg and the team at EMU Search: https://emusearch.com.au


Leah Lambart 0:02
Welcome to the Relaunch Your Career Podcast. I’m your host Leah Lambart, Career and Interview Coach and founder of Relaunch Me, where we help you find the work that you were meant to do. Today on the podcast, I am talking to Edward Michelsberg. Ed is a senior recruiter who has 20 years experience in accounting and finance recruitment, and is the recruitment partner of EMU Search. I’ve asked Ed on the podcast today to answer some questions for some listeners and from some clients about how to best work with recruiters. Welcome to the podcast Ed.

Ed Michelsberg 0:49
Leah thanks so much for inviting me along.

Leah Lambart 0:52
Well, look, it is great to have you on the show and if you have listened to my podcasts before you know that I always like to hear a little bit about your career journey. So can you start off by giving us a bit of background on how you came to work at EMU?

Ed Michelsberg 1:06
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve worked, as you said in the recruitment industry for a touch over 20 years. And like you, I also started my career as an accountant. I’d actually joined Ernst and Young in England, but it was very short lived. So after a brief foray in audit, I then joined a recruitment company in the UK and it was back in 2001 that I came to Australia. So when I got here, I kind of found my feet with one of the big global brands, but I’d always had the aspiration to start my own business. And that happened back in 2007. When Dom and I started Venator, a specialist finance and accounting recruitment business. And now we have EMU so that came to life back in early 2019. At the time Dom and I were pretty content with Venator you know, we’re great friends and always enjoyed working together. And we built an established brand great reputation in the market. But, you know, we were kind of on the same page thinking that after 12 years of doing that, something fresh would be a positive thing. And we didn’t know exactly what that might look like or when it might happen. So it was really fortuitous that at that time, Dom and I were having those conversations that Luke Marshall was looking to set up a new recruitment business, and then Zenco was also looking to move back into agency recruitment. He’d spent a number of years managing in house talent acquisition teams. So yeah, we just got together had a number of very productive conversations and we quickly recognized that our goals and our values were all in sync. So we made the decision to join forces and just to be able to broaden our service offering to our collected client base, made it a no brainer, especially given the convergence of finance, tech and digital which is where we now play.

Leah Lambart 3:05
And I believe you’re coming up to your first anniversary, is that correct?

Ed Michelsberg 3:09
We are yes. We started the business on the 1st of July last year. Timings been an interesting thing for us, because 18 months after starting Venator we were hit by the GFC, and then nine months into EMU we’re in the midst of an even bigger crisis. We came through the GFC alright, so we’ve learned a few lessons on the way. Hopefully we’ll get through COVID okay.

Leah Lambart 3:38
As an extra recruiter myself, I do find I am defending recruiters often because I guess candidates feel that recruiters sometimes are a little bit narrow minded when they’re selecting candidates or shortlisting. I guess I’m interested in getting your insight into how much input you have into the job brief. What happens if you don’t actually stick to the brief that’s been given to you by the client?

Ed Michelsberg 4:06
Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s a bit of ground to cover there. So let me start with the first part of your question. So we do have a certain degree of input into the job brief on some occasions more than others, but just to provide a bit of context here, I’ll give you my interpretation of a job brief because I think that covers a few different areas. So firstly, I need to understand the PD (the position description), in terms of general responsibilities, critical outputs of the role and objectives as well as whatever challenges and opportunities must be addressed in the first six to 12 months. But, you know, we’ll then discuss the client’s broader selection criteria. And that covers areas such as the kind of experience the person has, professional qualifications, like CA or an MBA. They might have a potential preference for people who’ve got an early career background in professional services or management consulting firms. Often they look for people who’ve got experience in particular industry sectors or certain sizes and types of companies, it could be private equity, ASX listed, startup, multinational, and the clients will determine this kind of mandatory set of competencies and capabilities. And, you know, examples of that could be the technical expertise. So for me in accounting and finance, they could be looking for somebody who’s got really deep specialization within external reporting or strategic planning and analysis or business partnering. But, you know, other competencies could include leadership and influencing skills how people communicate and present. And, you know, I think the final part that we explore in that job brief is the culture fit. The kind of behaviours they’re looking for. So things that come to mind, there might be people who embrace diversity and inclusion or have a collaborative approach, and are able to maybe challenge and push back respectfully, when needed. So that those are the broad areas where I think we have some degree of input to a job brief, where we can consult, we can challenge our clients, we can maybe provide some suggestions, and at times we can change their thinking. But generally speaking, the client will come to us because they’ve got a very particular recruitment need. And they already have an image in mind of the person they want. So yeah, they tell us what they want. We tell them if they can get it. And sometimes they might have unrealistic expectations. Mostly it’s fairly straightforward. But yeah, when we discuss that recruitment brief, our clients really do value our input. It kind of creates a healthy debate. It makes for better outcomes, and they want to hear insights on the market, so they don’t mind being challenged on the brief. And it’s really through that discussion where we both kind of land on “Well, alright, what is the agreed profile of person of a) who you can attract and b) who will really excel in the role.

Leah Lambart 7:17
So at times, you may meet someone who’s a little bit outside the brief, but I guess it depends on your relationship with the client, and whether they trust you to throw that person into the mix, even if they don’t meet all the criteria.

Ed Michelsberg 7:30
Yeah. And that’s the second part of your question, you know, if we don’t stick to the brief, and then if we deliver a shortlist of candidates who do not match those agreed selection criteria, we’ve stuffed up, it’s quite simple. We lose that client. Yeah, that’d be reputational damage and we wouldn’t be in business for very long. So there are times where it’s difficult to meet the brief and we just have to manage expectations. And, you know, sometimes there are candidates who might be a bit of a curveball. But generally speaking, you know, we’re tasked to find a person that we believe we can deliver. And if we don’t deliver it, we’ve stuffed up.

Leah Lambart 8:09
I’ve got another question and this is around qualifications. I know that a lot of your clients are probably more corporate. So I expect that qualifications, particularly in accounting, degree plus CPA or CA qualifications is usually mandatory. Occasionally I work with clients that are almost self taught. So they may have for instance, grown up working in a family business that’s quite large. And, you know, I’ve worked with clients who are doing a financial controller role, but often don’t have a degree, let alone CPA qualification. Do you find that people in that situation that can be quite limiting in terms of their opportunities, or would some clients overlook the need for qualifications if they had the right experience?

Ed Michelsberg 8:58
I think when an organization engages a recruiter, they recognize they’re going to pay a fee The minute they’re going to pay a fee, I think their expectations of what they want goes through the roof. So they would then have a laundry list and you know, professional qualifications is very high up that list. Maybe when they’re not working with a recruiter, and it’s their own network and somebody who’s referred that’s done a good job for an ex colleague, then they might be a little bit more open minded, but most of the clients that we work with, they really do see the value of having that professional qualification. It’s not a one size fits all and some organisations will hire people based on experience rather than just having the qualification. But yeah, it can close a lot of doors unfortunatley.

Leah Lambart 9:58
Another complaint that comes up a lot when I talk to people about their relationships with recruiters is that recruiters may not keep in contact with them. So they may have a great conversation, a phone screening or even a coffee with a recruiter, but then they don’t hear from them again. As an ex recruiter myself, I know that usually you would love to keep in touch with most of your candidates, but you’re focused on working on those job briefs. And if those people don’t fit in those briefs, then it is difficult to maintain that contact. Do you believe it is the recruiter or the candidate’s responsibility to stay in contact?

Ed Michelsberg 10:41
Yeah, it’s an interesting topic. I think it’s great that you can see this from a recruiters perspective and share your thoughts with your clients. And I agree 100% with what you say about how hard it is to keep in regular contact with every candidate, there’s just not enough time to do so. I think the important thing here, and I touched on this before is, it’s about managing expectations around frequency of contact. So I wouldn’t say it’s neither the recruiter or the candidate’s responsibility, but the shared responsibility. So I try and be clear on how and when I’ll communicate moving forwards. And that’s a personal preference. If a recruiter does that clearly, then the candidate should not have a different expectation. And, look, some recruiters like to call candidates very regularly. Maybe they’ve just got a great relationship, even if it’s to say hello, but some recruiters have KPIs, you know, they have to make a certain number of candidate calls each week and that can often lead to quite meaningless conversations. Personally, I’ll contact a candidate when I have something of value to discuss and that could be discussing a career opportunity or just sharing a relevant market insight. It may even be sharing a position that I’ve seen advertised by an employer where I know I can’t make the actual introduction. But in terms of how the candidate manages, and regulates contact with the recruiter, you know, that’s equally their preference. And I think they need to set the expectation and make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

Leah Lambart 12:19
Further to that there is a fine line between staying in contact and becoming a serial pest. How much is too much contact and how do you prefer candidates to follow up and keep in touch?

Ed Michelsberg 12:32
I think there are probably pests on both sides of the fence here. In terms of how much contact there is, I think it depends on the situation. You know, if it’s a candidate who I’m engaging with through a search process, then it wouldn’t be unusual for us to be in daily or weekly contact for quite a period of time. If it’s a more passive job seeker, then I’m only going to contact them when I actually have a suitable role to play. It could be months between having any form of contact. If I can’t help somebody immediately, you know, it’s nice when people ask me how frequently they’d like to hear from them, which is great. So, look, if someone calls me too frequently, and they’re doing it with no real purpose, I’ll just suggest maybe reaching out once a month instead or when things change. But you know, in terms of the forms of communication that you talk about be it email or phone call or LinkedIn, I think that depends on the context of what they want to discuss.

Leah Lambart 13:33
Okay, great. And in regards to LinkedIn, I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions. So we work with our clients very closely to help them keyword optimize their LinkedIn profiles to improve their chances of being found by recruiters or potential hiring managers. How important is it for candidates to have a LinkedIn profile in the current market? And are you able to explain how recruiters use LinkedIn in the back end to find candidates.

Ed Michelsberg 14:04
Yeah, sure. Look, I think it’s incredibly important to have a LinkedIn profile in any market. You know, irrespective of whether or not somebody is looking for a position. Anybody who’s career focused, should spend a great deal of effort, making sure they’ve got a good LinkedIn profile. I’m happy to give you a plug because I know that you and the team at Relaunch Me do a phenomenal job with that. All of the people that we’ve actually referred to you they’ve now got seriously good looking resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and they feel really confident with how that represents them professionally. So look, yeah, it’s an absolute no brainer, you need a good LinkedIn profile. And in terms of how I use it, I think like many recruiters, we have a different product. It’s called LinkedIn Recruiter, very different to the kind of LinkedIn product that jobseekers would use. And that tool gives us access to every LinkedIn profile globally, and it allows us to search for people using very specific criteria. It could be job titles, locations, companies, they’ve worked at particular skills they put down, industries that they’ve worked in. We can look at years of experience, we can go into education and do certain keyword searches. So, you know, when I’m looking for candidate, I can utilize all of that capability to very quickly find people who meet certain selection criteria. It’s obviously easier if they’ve spent the time to keyword optimize their profile. You know, I might run a search, I could get 700 results who matched my selection criteria, but I guarantee I’m not going to contact all of them. So a lot of people clearly need to optimize their profiles, but the way that I would typically work and I’ll go through the results, I’ll select the most relevant profiles. Look at everybody’s profile in quite detail. And you know, reach out with the LinkedIn email, usually getting in touch with maybe 20 to 50 people from a pool of maybe 300 or 400.

Leah Lambart 16:12
Okay, and so do you prefer to actually contact and reach out using LinkedIn inmail as opposed to if they had a mobile or a email address on their About section or in their contact details? Would you pick up the phone and call them? Or would you normally make the approach through LinkedIn?

Ed Michelsberg 16:33
If it’s somebody that I already know that appears through that search result, I’ll call them if I have the details and there is an existing relationship. If it’s somebody who I’ve never had contact with before, and I don’t have the mobile definitely I’ll send them a LinkedIn email. I actually like to send an initial email through LinkedIn just to provide some high level information on the search assignment, my client, what we’re looking, what appealed to me about their profile, and that’s tailored to everybody. So it’s not really just, you know, putting out an email blanket, but you tend to get a pretty good response. The next phase of dialogue is usually over the telephone. So once they’ve reviewed the information, they’re then happy to pick up the phone and give me a call and we can have a conversation about it. But yeah, look, if I have their mobile number, and there’s some connection there, I will absolutely call instead of just sending that email.

Leah Lambart 17:32
Is it important that someone has a really well written About section in their LinkedIn profile so you can really get a good sense of what they can offer and what skills that they have? Or is it not so important?

Ed Michelsberg 17:43
Again, look, I think if they don’t have an About section, they’re missing a trick. That’s where you can really keyword optimize the profile and be found. On the flip side, if you go all out and you try and be too creative, you do run the risk of seeming a little playful or maybe arrogant. But for me, it’s not all about the About section. You know, when I look at a LinkedIn profile, I think the key things I look for. The first thing I notice is that the picture, you know, a professional profile picture always makes for a good first impression. But I tend to focus more on the career history. And it’s seeing the companies that people have worked at, seeing the job titles that they’ve held. And I really must stress the importance of job titles here. So people will get found in the searches and you can have profile headlines as well. But, you know, if you just simply put your job title down as being an influencer, or a thought leader or some kind of digital warrior that that is not going to land you on page one of the CFO search. But yeah, look, when I see that profile, I like to see a bit of detail in the positions that they’ve held, but high level – core responsibilities, some selected achievements not a full blown CV. I think recommendations are great. That’s a real point of difference you know if I can read a few glowing recommendations by former managers or colleagues or other business stakeholders who are happy to go on record and backup the content in their profile then that really stands out.

Leah Lambart 19:26
You’re right about the LinkedIn headline. I feel that people really waste that opportunity. For instance, it might be someone who has their own business and they might be a graphic designer or interior designer, but they give themselves the title ‘Owner’ and then they’re going to miss out on searches that people might do for a designer.

Ed Michelsberg 19:56
Yeah, no, I agree. 100%

Leah Lambart 20:00
Are there any other things that turn you off someone when you look at a LinkedIn profile?

Ed Michelsberg 20:07
An unprofessional photo can be quite off putting but it’s not a deal breaker. I think you know, the wearing of sunnies on the head is probably not the best of looks. And I’ve got a friend of mine who actually has a pair of sunnies on. I think I’ll send him your way after this. It’s not about the number of connections, it’s more about the quality of connections rather than the quantity. Look, I think, you know, if somebody has gotten a bad summary, and that’s poorly written, then it’s really concerning. You know, that’s, probably going to put me off the most if they can’t demonstrate good written communication skills, grammar, sentence structure, spelling. Now, all of that is critical. So that would be very off putting

Leah Lambart 20:59
Covid-19 has had a huge effect on our economy and the job market. How has that affected the accounting and finance area?

Ed Michelsberg 21:09
Yeah, it’s taken a hit. We’re down. I think any recruiter that you speak to will put their hand up. A lot of companies have gone into hiring freeze. It’s more those mission critical roles that are still going ahead. You know, anecdotally, the recruitment owners that I’ve spoken to, they’re all saying they’re probably operating at 20% of normal capacity. And unemployment is going to hit nine or 10%. So, you know, we’re feeling it, but we’re certainly seeing some work. You know, one of my business partners, yesterday evening just came to me one of his clients needs a GM finance, which is phenomenal. Yeah, in a market like this to have a great brand and for them to ask us to help them find that kind of person is fantastic, but the volumes have definitely tipped off.

Leah Lambart 22:03
The job market is going to be more competitive than ever. What would be your advice to candidates if they want to stand out from the competition going forward?

Ed Michelsberg 22:17
Yeah, look, I think it’s all the things that (shameless plug here for you again), but it’s all the things that you and the team at Relaunch Me can help people with. So you’ve got to have a well crafted LinkedIn profile. And I think you’ve also got to be be aware of the content that you post on other social media platforms, like Facebook or Instagram. Hiring managers often look at that. But you know, you need the quality LinkedIn profile, you need a quality CV. It’s not just about the content, but it’s the look and the feel of that CV/resume. It has to be well written. It has to be clearly formatted. It’s got to get get across your skills and experience. and accomplishments in a very succinct way. And, you know, I’ve seen a few before and after versions from the people who have referred to you, and the difference is astounding, and the feedback that I actually get. I see that people have more confidence going to market with a good CV behind them. So you can’t change your experience, but the way you present it can make a real difference.

Leah Lambart 23:23
I totally agree the confidence is a huge thing that I noticed after people do invest in resume or LinkedIn writing. I also think that actually going through the process of working with a writer to rewrite your resume and your LinkedIn sort of warms you up for when you get out there and start interviewing because you’ve already started thinking deeply about your strengths, your transferable skills, your achievements. So a lot of that work has already been done before you actually get to the interview and I find that that makes a big difference.

Ed Michelsberg 24:00
You’re absolutely right. I think you know, that’s probably the final thing that’s worth mentioning, which is interview coaching. Your LinkedIn profile and CV can get you the seat at the table but then you’ve got to bring it to life and that’s to be done at the interview. And it’s a whole new game, and there’s a lot to go into there. But I think there are so many good people that have got a great CV, they’ve got great experience, and they fall over that last hurdle because they don’t get it across as effectively at the interview table. Obviously it helps when they go through that with you, but until you’ve actually been through an interview a few times and know how to approach it.

Like everything, practice, practice, you get better.

Leah Lambart 24:48
I do have a final question and in regard to the interview coaching if you don’t mind. I know when I worked in recruitment often the first interview with a recruiter was more of a preference interview. So ‘what sort of role are you looking for? What sort of industries? Do you want to work for a small company? Do you want to work for a large company? What sort of team how many people?’ So it was more just preferences. And obviously, our focus at Relaunch Me when coaching people is for behavioural interview questions. You know, “Tell us about a time when you used your influencing skills in the past….?”. When I worked in recruitment that was done more at the client level. As a recruiter at a recruitment agency, are you asking behavioural questions in that first interview when you assess or screen candidates?

Ed Michelsberg 25:35
It depends on the situation. If, for example, it’s somebody who’s been referred to me, I have nothing for them at the moment, it will be a meet and greet preference interview. What are you looking for? Give me a brief when something lands we’ll have a chat. If it’s a search that I’m running, then I’ll have spent a great deal of time going through that job brief understanding what are the behaviours required by the client. So then when I interview candidates for that particular role, I have to ask those behavioural interview questions. Because I need to hear their responses and see if that matches what they are looking for. If I’m not doing that, I’ll run the risk of putting the wrong people in front of my client. If I do that, and they don’t respond well, then I’ll be confident in putting them on the shortlist. So absolutely, we do that. But we do that when we’re actually interviewing more for a search related assignment rather than for just a general meet and greet.

Leah Lambart 26:37
That makes perfect sense. Well look, I think I’ve run out of questions for today. But thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It’s been great to chat and I’ve learned a lot and I’m sure the listeners have as well. Thanks for sharing some great insights into how recruiters work and how best to work with you so you don’t get annoyed with us.

Ed Michelsberg 26:57
Thanks. I really enjoyed speaking with you today. So I do hope your listeners find it useful.

Leah Lambart 27:03
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Relaunch Your Career. If you did, please subscribe, share with your friends leave a review or connect with us on social media @relaunchmecareerconsulting. If you have any questions about the episode or the work that we do, then contact us via the website www.relaunchme.com.au

Thanks for listening. Have a great day.