Pragnesh Karunakaran of Red Recruitment talks all things recruitment with sales coach Stephen Murtagh a.k.a. The Exhibition Guy
What characteristics do you look for when looking for candidates?
For me it’s all about real people and its great having all the qualifications in the world but attitude and creativity are the real success factors. The Exhibition industry is a very dynamic and demanding space so having people who really buy into the concept of what we do is really important. Training thousands of people each year, I find it is the ones who ask questions and are hungry for knowledge are the ones that are most successful.
What can companies do differently to attract potential staff?
Work and structures have changed a lot since I started my career over 30 years ago and as we move with the times, its important we as employers give our team more flexibility in the way they work be it remotely or the actual hours they do. Companies need to look more at individuals’ situations rather than adopt a blanket work practice across the board.
As a trainer what skill sets are lacking in the industry and what’s the current trend in what companies are asking for?
Training continues to play a big role in people development and more and more of the younger generation are seeing and buying into the real value of being better at what they do and as such are adopting training much better. As an industry I feel that sales people are relying too much on digital and not getting in front of their clients more. Its ironic that as an industry we are promoting a face to face medium via digital. In terms of skill set, I think we need to train people more on the real benefits of building stronger and more long-lasting relationship by doing more fact to face. I come across this a lot during my Exhibition Marketing where people just assume doing things digitally is the only way. To me there too much of a “get the sale and worry about it after approach” when we should be training our people on the value of building a client relationship where they come back for more.
What are the key attributes you look for in candidates and has this changed over the years?
Business as in life has changed and the day of the flash sales person is gone and for me its very simple, I look for people who are real and can build a strong relationship with our clients that is built on trust and delivering for them every time. I look for people who are not afraid to back themselves and take a chance but who will also admit when they are wrong. I look for candidates who are not afraid to question things if they are wrong. Our clients are real people and so are our employees.
How much importance do you place on CV’s? How long do you spend reading them and what are the key bits of information you look for?
There is an old expression that “Paper never refused ink” and the more glamorous the CV, the more sceptical I am. As in the digital example in question 1, I get a real feel for how good someone is face to face and it’s a gut reaction whereas the cv to me is purely text that you can walk away from. As an outline of the person the cv is important but I would offer someone a job based more on how we get on face to face rather than on paper. When I do get a CV, I would be looking for the progression in their work career and the lengths of time they spent with employers to get a real feel for how committed they are. I am also very interested in what their hobbies and outside work interests are as this can give you a great feel for their roundedness. Personally, college degrees and masters are no match for how well they can interact within my business.
What could the industry do to attract more talent?
As an industry we should be looking at promoting the dynamic side of the business and how as an industry you can work across multiple sectors and also how transferrable these skills are across other departments within the industry. On the negative side, I feel the event industry can be guilty of promoting it as a totally fun place to work all the time and this can lead to disillusionment when people work in it for a long time and that`s why they leave. Its important we paint the real picture but also one that offers a longevity of a career.
How can companies improve the development of staff?
Training is continuously important and its something more and more people are looking for so there should be more emphasis on developing their personal skills and it also helps staff morale and motivation. With more and more people looking to work remotely, we should be investing with employees to make this more of a reality as happier employee is a more productive one and this is a win-win for the business.
What’s the average length of service that employers should expect nowadays?Hard one to answer as things have changed and there is no such thing as a job for life. Younger people are happier to change careers after a short period these days and this should not always be discouraged. Its better to have a brilliant contribution for 6 months than a mediocre one for 2 years.
What was the worst interview you have conducted and how long did it last?
Very difficult one to answer, I think it probably lasted about 10 minutes…I think you know instinctively and quickly if a person is a right fit for the organisation or for them!
Which industries should we target for talent?
For the Exhibition Industry, the obvious ones are other media but there is a wealth of talent in the hotel and hospitality sector who understand the value of events and would be a great fit for Exhibitions.