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Global Staffing Expertise Series: Robert Godden of Australia’s Essence Talent

Posted on July 26, 2010
Filed Under Global Staffing Perspectives, Interviews | 1 Comment

By Dave Mendoza

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• Website: www.essencetalent.com.au
• Your Personal Blogs : http://robertgodden.wordpress.com/ and http://devotea.blogspot.com
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• Office/Cell Number: +618 7129 4441 – +614 33 413 305
• Robert’s Email

Q&A with Robert Godden

Six Degrees: Does your staffing organization “DIRECT SOURCE” from competitor companies to hire talent?

Robert: In my previous role, which was effectively the creation of a new multi-market recruitment agency, and the one before that, it was a specific part of my duties to track every player at every major competitor. It was eye-opening; it certainly teaches you who treats their staff well and engenders loyalty, and who doesn’t, which is of course pretty stupid. As a newly appointed CEO, the market will be expecting me to do the same again, but we’ll see. I’m actually thinking of sourcing talent from the US or other markets where they can bring in new skills.
Once I paved the way for an entire executive recruitment team from a competitor to resign and come on board at one hit, so you can imagine that that gives one a reputation as being audacious and clever, but the simple truth is, if those people had not been feeling vulnerable, uninformed and unloved I wouldn’t have had a chance. If you lose staff to a competitor, and you blame the competitor, you are compounding your original stupidity.


I studied Candle ICT before I joined and turnover was zero percent locally and only a few percent nationally last year- these things don’t happen by accident – I’m the only person that has left there for years in Adelaide, and that was to take up the offer of a lifetime.

Six Degrees: how do Australia’s legal system affect your ability to recruit?

Robert: There’s been a fair bit of upheaval in Australian politics lately. We had a deep recession in the early ‘90’s, and a Liberal (that’s the conservative side here) did a pretty good job of running the place, and they added a lot of flexibility into the IT laws. Then they made a mistake and decided to bundle all their changes together, seek to go further on some issues and give it a name. By calling the package “Work Choices”, they gave the union movement a label to attack, and millions were sunk into defeating that government, whilst state governments (all Labor at the time) enacted various bits of legislation to get around some of the ideas. Then a Labor government (nominally leftist) was elected and they’ve pretty well dumped nearly every promise they made, though their program of IR reform seems to be proceeding via a million committees. The whole idea of a ‘minimum wage’ in other places is not so strong here, as we have ‘award wages’ for almost every occupation and these occupations will often have specific conditions. One of the key traps in the Australian market is that under some conditions a contractor – in other words someone who has been paid a higher rate in exchange for no sick pay, no annual paid leave, no job security – can be deemed to have been on staff long enough to actually become entitled to all the benefits they’ve been paid not to have. That makes no sense, of course. There’s also tax law that states that if a contractor receives more than 80% of their income from one source, then they are not really a contractor at all and should be taxed as an individual. The one that really upsets me though, is that we bring in skilled migrants and then tax them up to 50% of their income, to do the same work as the guy next to them paying a lot less tax. If you are brave enough to change countries for the sake of your family, you go through the frustrating and never-ending battle to get here, pass all the tests to prove you speak English to a high standard and that your qualifications are up to the standard we have here, and even prove you are coming here with some money behind you so as you don’t drain our public purse, then I don’t see why our Government should punish you.

Six Degrees: How is US recruitment culture (and overall) in Australia different? How are they similar?”

Robert: From here, America looks to have some great stuff, and some that just looks awful. We have universal health care and universal super annuation, so salary negotiations are pretty simple. We also have a Goods and Services Tax, which theoretically removes the incentive for “under the counter” payments, though that’s a theory that’s quite suspect.


The very worst thing about Australian recruitment culture, both internal and external, is the unwillingness to hire talent that is too good. I remember reading about previous senior execs in the US that are now serving at McDonalds and Burger King. That would never happen here, if you can’t get a job at the level you are used to, the conventional wisdom is that you would be ‘too bored” to last in a lesser job. I’ve spoken to a lot of heartbroken people over the last year that keep hearing “You’re amazing, way too good for us, best of luck” and such sentiments don’t put food on the table

Six Degrees: IMPT QUESTION: Which recruitment software tools do you use in your day to day recruitment activities & do they translate effectively within all of the different countries where you recruit?

Robert: I’m actually a bit of a basic guy when it comes to recruitment software. I have a toolbox that comprises things like my own home-made twitter bots and a bunch of useful search strings

I’ve assessed a stack of the great recruitment utilities and software which all comes form the US, and much of it suffers from the situation of only returning small amounts of Australian data nestled amongst great stuff that doesn’t mean anything to me. For example, I looked at Cardbrowser a few years back – such a simple idea – and it just needs to get more local content for me to get excited. I’ve road tested some of Arbita’s stuff and also Broadlook Diver; both of which are on my wish list when I can build a business case on the near future.

When it comes to Applicant Tracking Systems I love a little system out of Melbourne called Virgo. I like the fact that it is totally customizable to work flow, so that you can effectively force not-so-good consultants to follow the habits of good ones…

Six Degrees: How many applicants do you estimate are hired from your corporate website as compared to how many are hired through referrals?

Robert: As a sourcer, I don’t rely much on traditional applications through the web. Often I get a job that has already been thoroughly advertised. I always feel I find my candidates through science, hard work and luck. You need at least two of those three in any search.

Six Degrees: Where are your key sources of hires collected from? (In terms of Quantity #)

Robert: On-line advertising is definitely the greatest source of totally unsuitable candidates. Of course, there;s often good ones in amongst it. I always approach these resumés with a mixture of expectation and trepidation.

Six Degrees: What is the source of your “LOWEST COST OF HIRES” – (least amount of invested resources for the easiest hires, regardless of quality)


Robert: Run an on-line ad for peanuts and pick up the phone. From there, the cost is a reflection of how long it takes and how many calls I make.

One strategic decision I made a while back was to avoid politically-tinged appointments. Once the decision becomes not about who can do the best job but who is the best politically-credentialed, it’s a waste of time. I once put 500 candidates forward in batches of 20-30 because a public servant was crossing off anyone who he thought might not be acceptable to the Minister. In the end, the original person in the number one slot, who was thought to be unacceptable, was appointed by the Minister to another role, and the public servant who decided all of our candidates were unsuitable got the job. Now that’s a pretty significant cost-to-hire!

In fact, government hiring processes invariably seem to me to be designed to ensure that the best candidates get lost in the process. The best, though, are those clients who leave standing orders with me to forward people of a certain skill set when I come across them. They know I won’t waste their time with anyone that is not suitable, so often it’s a few days, a decent fee and a happy client and candidate.

Six Degrees: Whether you are hiring IT engineers, accounting, – whatever talent you are seeking, – is your country’s CULTURE a factor in the RESPONSE RATE you get when sending an email requesting a CV versus calling the candidate directly at their work?

Robert: I’ve split my time between sourcing and salary consulting, and nothing is more suspicious sounding than calling an executive and asking them what they get paid. Head-hunting by comparison is a much easier call. Most people love to get a head-hunt call, it validates them and enforces their sense of self-worth. If they have an interest, you’ll get a CV pronto. It’s the gate keepers that are suspicious and there you have to be careful and charming. Email is always a bit hit and miss.

Six Degrees: In terms of what is attractive to Australia’s workers what do you feel drives them in their choice of employer?


Robert: Australians have headed off around the globe in search of careers and can be found pretty well anywhere, so I guess we’re all looking for something different. I think a challenge, and a good team are probably pretty high up on the list for many. My home town of Adelaide has a great tradition of young people heading off to the East Coast (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) or the UK, US or Asia to establish a career and have an adventure. The big impetus to return is usually either birth of the first child or the start of schooling. Adelaide has world class schools – we’re spawned a host of Nobel prize winners – but the cost of education is incredibly low by world standards.

Six Degrees: In Australia, how does the actual selection process proceed once a candidate has been identified and what role does a recruiter in Australia play in the process?

Robert: Varies a bit, but normally I would interview them first, send a report with my thoughts and suggest a client interview. If that goes well, I’d run some strong reference checks and then I’d negotiate the salary, conditions and a start date between the parties. It’s also good practice to stay in touch with both and head off any teething troubles after commencement.

Six Degrees: What methods/resources produce the FASTEST amount of time in producing hires (what types of talent?)

Robert: For me the quickest method is to write and post it somewhere – it doesn’t matter where, but seek.com is the most popular site in Australia, so I tend to use careerone.com – it helps judge the effects of a social media campaign. Once you’ve got the ad posted, a few strategic tweets drive traffic to it. I’ve got a few industry mailing lists, so an email to inform people who might know someone of the ad. Add the advert to suitable LinkedIn groups – a great example is the Pick Users Group if you are looking for a Pick/Universe specialist, (and most of those have retired). Then get on the phone. By now I’ve spent maybe half an hour, and the ad is out there working for me, while I call a few appropriate candidates from the database or my head.

I don’t think you can drive the second half of the recruitment process much past a certain speed without damaging quality, so any speed has to occur in the identification portion of the process.

Six Degrees: What SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY TOOLS do you use that produce FASTEST amount of time in producing hires. Please state the software, databases you use in detail.


Robert: I’ve used plenty of ATS systems that have all sorts of features, and I find that they all have good and bad points. Clarius Recruitment Group (an Australian Public Company) have an in-house system that has superb integration with Outlook and the rest of MS office, which basically avoids all double-handling and double-entry. If you can save time on admin, you can have a far more effective ATS (and often integrated CMS) systems. I’ve spent a fair bit of time working with a small software company in Australia who produce the VIRGO recruitment system which I find speeds the process as the workflow is built into the product – basically there’s little decision making, a consultant just works through the process:

I also quite like the mycareer.com Australian jobsites “Head Hunter” module, great software that really just needs another year to really fill out the database.

Six Degrees: Is it acceptable, or common, in your country’s culture to offer a referral fee for a successful hire to someone who recommended the candidate? Yes or No? What is the formula, method or basis for developing a money reward for a referral?

Robert: It’s not uncommon but has never really taken off. I think it has some issues, particularly the pressure it puts on staff – for example, someone is very keen to have HR hire their friend and pocket some dollars. Also, they tend to not pay out until after the probationary period, which means that someone who joins the company and doesn’t like it might feel obligate to stay until their friend collects the bonus.

Six Degrees: Do you use blogs specific to each country’s talent within target industries/competing companies?

Robert: Much of my life I’ve recruited recruiters, and Recruiter Daily is invaluable for knowing what goes on in our industry in Australia: I also do a bit of work in recruiting Social media types, and I often look to see who has posted replies on blogs such as Silkcharm, a blog out of Sydney. But as a general principal, if you find yourself recruiting in an unfamilair arena, the first two things to find are a good blog and a local news RSS Feed.

Six Degrees: What are the BEST JOB BOARDS ** SPECIFIC WEBSITES** to each of the countries you recruit for, BOTH overall and SPECIFIC TO each industry

Robert: The situation is Australia is that the industry leader is Seek – http://www.seek.com.au . Far and away the strongest site, well well branded and advertised. The other two big players have their pro’s and con’s . Career One – http://www.careerone.com.au – come out of Rupert Murdoch’s news limited. It has far and away the best content to assist employers and candidates – I should mention I’ve just been appointed as an expert to one of their on-line career forums. It’s the second strongest site in states where the main newspaper is a News Limited paper, such as my home town. Other places where the Fairfax papers are strong – that’s another big Australian media group – seem to have MyCareer (http://www.mycareer.com.au) as their number two. The link between the print media and on-line in this case is very strong

Six Degrees: What Search Engines in addition to common ones like Google, do you use that are native to the countries you are responsible for? Please Detail with links.

Robert: Both Google and Yahoo have local flavours here in Australia, and I rarely go outside of those search engines. LinkedIn is usually my first port of call, though, as the information is always presented in a format that I can use.

Six Degrees: Which 3rd party agency/ recruitment search firms have you successfully used and would recommend to others for the types of positions (IT, accounting etc) you recruit for?

Robert: I’ve worked for a few, and also done some research. Fairness compels me to identify Hudson, an ex-employer, as the only large agency that had a 100% response rate in some research I did.: Candle ICT have impressed me with their intense knowledge of the IT market.

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