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Wise words from “Wise Man Say” – Part one

Hung Lee is a BIG name in the recruitment industry. I met him this year at Reconverse, where Zebra People were appearing as London’s representative Digital Recruitment Agency.

I was so impressed by his presentation on the pitfalls of hiring developers and using alternative methods to secure tech talent that I thought “I need to steal some of this guy’s ideas!”

He was kind enough to share them – and more – with me in an interview. His insights, as a technology recruiter turned hired gun via his consultancy “Wise Man Say’ turned entrepreneur with his new matching service workshape.io, are gold dust.

Rather than keep them to ourselves, we thought we’d share them here in two parts.

In this first half you’ll learn how to overcome hiring challenges, how to position yourself as a leader in 2016 and how important specialising really is…

ZP: Over the last 15 years you’ve seen the UK technology recruitment market develop and grow. What have the biggest changes been?

HL: When I started back in 2000, we had gone from having few computers in companies to suddenly having whole companies of technical individuals. Technology was in fashion. At the time I was primarily hiring for ColdFusion Developers and subsequently Java Developers. Soon after, the Dot-Com Boom ended and the market slowed down.

Perhaps the biggest change is that technology is no longer optional, most businesses now can’t afford to not have a website and companies are being forced to rethink what they are. If they can’t adapt they will fall into obscurity and fail with the likes of Woolworths and Blockbuster Video.

ZP: At Reconverse 2016 you were talking about some of the biggest challenges faced by hiring managers in the technology market. What are they and how can we overcome them?

HL: The overwhelming demand for technical professionals has led to fierce competition for recruiters. We’ve also seen a change in the way we access information which has essentially made it much easier.

With the ability of every decent recruiter to speak to almost all candidates, exclusive candidates have become a thing of the past.

In these challenging times recruiters need to be resourceful to be successful. A deep knowledge of the talent pool you’re recruiting from is the best weapon for any modern recruiter.

These hyper-specialist recruiters will still do very well as they have more perception as to who will be receptive to their approaches, and doing so these days is sometimes as difficult as getting pandas to mate.

ZP: Your most recent project Workshape.io is looking great. What’s your vision for the company and how do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

HL: Right now our focus is on delivering a brilliant experience for all of the developers on our system and an equally brilliant experience for companies that are on it. Certainly I see the concept we’re rolling out can be independent of the tech world, the idea is simply to try and describe people in a different way based on time distribution over skills and abilities.

ZP: With new recruitment agency alternatives appearing all the time, what do you see as the role of recruitment agencies in 2016?

HL: I think it’s a cliché to be hammering agents all the time, it annoys me even though I haven’t been an agent for several years as I came from that industry and lots of good people are doing fantastic work for their customers.

The problem agents have is that with no barrier to becoming a recruiter there are lots of cowboys out there.

I think the technology innovation that’s happening will take a slice of the pie away from third party agents but I think the ones that will suffer are the cowboys. The businesses that do offer high quality, have a great depth of knowledge in their target sector and really understand where the expertise is will do well.

ZP: Technology is arguably the fastest moving and broadest market in recruitment. What do you think is the best way for recruiters to tackle the huge variation of requirements and candidates? Is specialism important?

HL: I think it’s vital, I really do. It’s vital probably for the engagement side of it. I think if you go broad you can waste a lot of time – you could be using that time to build your network and deepen your understanding of a specialist market vertical.

What’s important is using your common sense to pick a market that has the support of the wider community and has sustainability, something that’s not just a fad. You should also be prepared to be flexible and try to stay ahead of the curve with your market intelligence staying aware of new trends and emerging markets.

In part two: how to make events work for you, how to spot a fraud and the trick to winning in a market suffering from a skills shortage.

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