Digitalization makes personnel consulting fast and efficient
"My core tasks as a personnel consultant: I have to understand the re-quirements, read between the lines and feel what my client wants. I have to check the personality of the candidate to see if they fit together," says Joy Edwin Thanarajah, the new managing partner of DEININGER CONSULTING, explaining how he understands his profession. How important digitiza-tion is in his industry today, and why the DEININGER Research Center is groundbreaking for her, you can read in the interview:
You were among the people who built up your in-house research center. What exactly does the center do?
At our research center, we try to analyze data continuously instead of waiting until the order has been placed. We also observe our clients’ industries. What is the structure among competitors like? Who is moving, and where are they going? This isn’t just done via the Internet, of course. It’s important for us to close these gaps through investigative research, what industry insiders call “ident.” Data is vital to us. The more current our information, the better we do.
Why is your research center a trailblazer in the industry?
We established our research center 20 years ago. That means we’ve also been maintaining our contacts all this time, from sales engineers right up to the CEO level. Right now, we have more than 780,000 profiles to tap into. That’s huge potential. Our USP is being able to reach potential candidates fast. We work closely with insiders on an ongoing basis. To do that, you have to build trust and longstanding relationships. We also have a system that visualizes information so we can access it again at any time. We developed our own software to do that. It can also show the organizational structures of competitors.
How many employees work there?
We have 27 people working in our research center right now. We train them ourselves. We have very high standards for the quality of our research, which is why we share our expertise with the next generation. We work with students, whom we hire for permanent positions, and we often hire them on when they finish their degrees. This kind of system is costly, but our company founder, Thomas Deininger, realized early on that building a research center would be essential. You don’t have to have one, but it is crucial in terms of maintaining quality.
How much do you use digital tools in your candidate search activities?
Eighty percent of the process has to be digital, and we are no exception there. We’ve already shifted everything that can be done digitally. We’ve been doing all of our administrative tasks entirely digitally for about ten years now, including invoicing. But we are also always asking ourselves what else we can change and how we can be even more efficient.
So how, exactly, does the candidate search process work?
At least four to six employees of the research center work on every search, whether it’s for a board member or a sales engineer. The center has three elements: identification, which is the investigative research part, Web search, and the info base. Web search has to do with all the research we do on business networks, like Xing, LinkedIn, job portals, and other social media sites, like Instagram and Facebook. Our goal is to assess a candidate’s professional qualifications while also gauging their personality and whether they are a good fit for the company. The third area deals with administrative processes. All of the information on the process is stored digitally in our database, and it always has to be up to date. All of this is transparent. These three pillars are our success factor.
There is debate surrounding purely digital processes, since they have a hard time capturing an applicant’s personality. What’s your view on that?
The shift to new and digital technologies is vitally important to us when it comes to being fast and efficient. A computer can select candidates according to specific parameters, but after all the digital research, you still have to reach out to the candidate directly. At the end of the day, we need people who can read other people. That’s essential. Even going forward, there will be no other solution for that. That’s the value we add. It’s why clients come to us.
What is the main factor when you look for a candidate?
My core tasks as a personnel consultant are to understand the requirements and feel out what the client wants. I need to get a sense of the candidate’s personality to see whether it’s a good match. If so, my job is done. We’re very process-oriented throughout. If we have two interesting candidates right at the start, we still go through the entire process, just so nothing is left to chance.
How much has digitalization changed the market?
It used to take us three to six months for a consulting process, and that was considered fast. These days, we have to deliver in four to six weeks, closer to four. We go to great efforts to meet these requirements. That’s why I think research is the future of personnel consulting. Thirty or 40 years ago, a personnel consultant’s excellent personal contacts were the most important thing. These days, that is no longer a crucial factor. I can write to a CEO on LinkedIn, and if they respond, I have that contact. So we have to ask ourselves what the added value in our service is. The value we add is that we deliver fast and vet candidates thoroughly. The client wants transparency. They want to be more involved in the process. That’s why we’re currently working on a software program that will let the client see where the process stands at any time and potentially even have an influence.
Will digitalization be an even bigger factor in the future, with the expanding possibilities of big data? How far can digital searching for candidates be developed?
Right now we are developing a tool in which a self-learning system (machine learning) identifies a pattern from one profile to make inferences about others. Say you have someone who lives in Niederrad in Frankfurt, is a member of the local tennis club, and works at Fraport. If that combination shows up in the database five times, the machine says there is a high probability that someone who lives in Niederrad and is a member of the tennis club would like to work at Fraport. So it shows me a candidate that neither Fraport nor we ourselves might have considered. The computer requires a lot of data to do that. And with our 780,000 profiles, we have that kind of data.
That sounds like artificial intelligence. What role does AI play in all this?
I’m always careful about using the term artificial intelligence. A lot of providers advertise artificial intelligence, but when you dig deeper, they’re really talking about automation. A lot of things are being automated, and we are no exception there. AI is when a computer independently gives me two profiles that fit my client. We don't have that right now. But the machine learning I was talking about is similar. You could go even farther and use the tool to identify people who have certain qualifications and conclude that they could grow and develop in a certain direction because others in the database have done so. Think of a graphic designer who ended up in personnel consulting, for example. That would definitely involve using artificial intelligence.