It’s not everyday that you hear a recruitment leader say "It’s not just about the numbers," but for Seow Thong, Director of TalentStork, a fast-growing boutique search firm focused on delivering Talent for the Asian market, you can definitely do well by focusing on people. "We are a people business afterall."
Read on to learn about TalentStork, the company’s vision and what a people-first strategy means.
Vincere: What makes TalentStork different?
Yeo Seow Thong: TalentStork started operations in 2012 so we’re still a fairly young company. I moved out from a corporate career into recruitment because I wanted to provide something more than what I thought that the market was offering at that moment. Throughout my career, I’ve hired people and worked with recruiters to staff our teams. In my last role as a Strategy Manager, I realised that regardless of how well-laid your strategies are, plans will fall through if you don’t have the right talent on board to execute them. Finding a good recruiter is critical in this equation. They should be your human capital business partners, first understanding your business drivers then finding the the right talent for those drivers. It will have to go beyond just matching CVs to Job Descriptions. I believe that there is never the best talent but the right talent for the right role at the right time. Many recruiters practising then might not have had the chance of a commercial nor actual industry experience to be able to intimately understand their clients’ business drivers, and this is where we try to offer a difference as well. TalentStork’s consultants typically come with years of experience in their various functions and industry. They might have ran businesses in a GM, sales or even operations capacity before. We believe that their own commercial experience puts our Consultants in a stronger position to really consult with their clients as well as the candidates under our charge, offering them a business point of view for every move. While part of the assessment can be scientific, I still maintain that recruitment is an Art. We get better at it with experience.
To enhance our team’s ability to consult, we also focus heavily on training our recruiters. A lot of recruitment agencies call their consultants ‘consultants’ - but what does being a ‘consultant’ entail?- Do they ask the right questions? How do they judge if a candidate fits a business need? - it’s not so much about hard-selling but consultancy. Recruitment is very process-driven but I make sure my recruiters fully understand the whole picture beyond just recruiting. We also send our consultants to industry conferences in e-commerce, logistics, fintech,consumer retail etc to keep our fingers on the pulse of trends of the verticals that we focus on. I want my consultants to have meaningful conversations in the field, beyond just ‘Can I please have your CV?’
V: What’s the vision for the company?
ST: My goal is for TalentStork to be a truly Asian brand - to be known for representing Talent in Asia, not just Asian Talent but global Talent that understands the nuances of Asian businesses.
My target is to remain boutique and be less statistically-driven and more service and consultancy-oriented. I don’t evaluate my consultants based on the number of calls they make per day or the number of client visits. It’s really about the quality of their conversations that I want to know about. Each consultant manages only a handful of roles at any one time so that they have a chance and time to get to know their clients and candidates more.
V: TalentStork gives back 10% of your profits to charity…quite unusual for a recruitment firm… Why is this important for you?
ST: There are some people who become recruiters for money. It’s definitely a potentially lucrative career but that’s not what recruitment should be about. This is a people-centric business where relationships and career matters. When you focus on the money, you might compromise on other things. That’s the main reason why I want to focus the company and our consultants to look beyond ourselves and our gains...to have a firm commitment to give back to the society and to know that we are really blessed to be a blessing. The causes that I am very passionate about are related to children and education. Children are our future generation and I firmly believe that education will bring people out of their status quo and out of poverty. In Singapore we support the National Children's Cancer Foundation of Singapore and ST School Pocket Money Fund. Our consultants are also contributing as mentors in the various industries through educational institutions in Singapore. Once we do things like these, I am sure we all start to see beyond our own portfolio and can contribute more concretely back to the societies that we live in.
V: How has Vincere improved the way you run your business? How does it compare to what you’ve used in the past?
ST: As mentioned, recruitment is a process-driven business. To help our consultants, we need them to have visibility of what’s happening along each step of the process very quickly and also quick overview of our talent pools. Vincere allows my team a good overview of what’s happening to all the roles and candidates with a user friendly interface. The cloud based system also means that they can log in at any time to access this information quickly and make updates that can be visible to the rest of the team, updated in an instant. A CRM system and database system combined will support our business processes and having data updated immediately is crucial for us to go-to-market with speed. A lot of the software I’ve assessed are either good database depository that allows you to store, search and access CVs very easily, or great CRM systems that didn’t have the database depository options. Vincere was able to combine both elements on one system.
You can just tell that Vincere is designed by ex-recruiters. You get a great combination of the true elements you really need for recruiting: visibility, process-focused and a good database. Over the years, Vincere has brought in a lot of improvements on its interface as well as features which I think are fantastic and are giving their competitors a run for their money.
One more thing that I appreciate is how hands-on the Vincere management team is and how they much they value customer feedback. We are given feedback channels even with the owners of the company and their programming team and are heard quickly about features enhancement suggestions. As an owner of a search business, I like that I can grow with a tech company that is doing things a little differently and understands our business and processes intimately.
V: How is it like being a female recruitment leader?
ST: I think being a leader in the recruitment field has got nothing to do with gender - it’s about business and strategy. Maybe it’s because I’m not originally from recruitment and neither HR, I have absolutely no preconceptions of how other recruitment run their house. Instead I am very clear about I want to and can offer to the industry, and perhaps because of my own commercial background, I’m able to see and do things a little differently as well. It is about the right people for the right business strategies. In the meantime, TalentStork continues to focus on partnering our clients and candidates to achieve our mission to develop and deliver leaders in this market.