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Публикации в СМИ

Recruiters See Mixed Blessing in Economic Crises

During the Soviet period, job placement was a fairly simple matter: The state assigned jobs or provided the choice of a few postings to prospective employees.

During the Soviet period, job placement was a fairly simple matter: The state assigned jobs or provided the choice of a few postings to prospective employees.

Some people stayed in those jobs for their entire working lives. Others changed jobs, often using their connections, and still other highly skilled specialists were sought out by enterprises.

But job mobility - particularly moving to another city - was constrained, with salaries for positions set by the state and largely invariable, company perks limited and housing always problematic.

All that changed when Russia went capitalist in the early 1990s. New companies, new professions and new foreign bosses made the old system of state job placement obsolete.

And so a new profession was born in Russia: recruitment.

Recruitment is by nature highly dependent on the booms and busts of the economic cycle, and the nascent industry was hit hard by the default of 1998. Luc Jones, partner at Antal Russia, said in an interview that his company cut 75 percent of his Moscow staff. He sat out the slump in Poland. Other companies folded or reduced staff to a minimum. The hardest hit in the crisis were the expat specialists. Jones estimates that 90 percent of them left Russia.

This precipitous expat exodus was another trial for Russia-based recruitment agencies, whose pool of experienced managers had suddenly emptied.

But the exodus had an upside for Russian business executives. "When expats left, people who were the second in command had to take on more responsibility and had to learn hands-on and very quickly. Some rose to the challenge," said Olga Goryunova, head of client relations at Unity Staffing Co.

Ultimately, the departure of foreign specialists in the wake of the 1998 and 2008 crises accelerated the process of localization - the practice of hiring Russian staff. But the market has not completely rejected expats.

"The drain of expats during both crises was a short-term measure to cut costs, not a development strategy," said Alexei Mironov, director for strategic development at Ancor. "When the economic situation stabilized, expats were brought back. Western companies still depend on them."

Jones also doesn't see expats deserting Russia any time soon. "There are always going to be expats because it's the biggest city in Europe with a lot of companies," he said. "When a company sets up - even if it's an American company in the U.K. - they still send over an American to kick it off. It's not just in Russia, it's worldwide." The two major crises had a dramatic effect on both hiring companies and job seekers.

"For two years before the crisis of 2008, the situation was absurd," Goryunova recalled. "Candidates were demanding outrageously high salaries, companies were buying up good managers from other firms and top managers were essentially auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder - whoever would give them the best compensation package and bonuses. It was a seller's market."

At the middle level, Western companies often had unrealistic expectations. "In 2003 to 2005, a company might have said, 'We want someone with fluent English, we're not ready to make a compromise,'" Jones said. "I spent a lot of time on the phone with clients abroad explaining that in Russia you're usually not going to find someone who ticks every box." Post-crisis, companies are more cautious, but also more flexible. Goryunova noted that they've "begun to pay more attention to how their company is structured and to productivity. They think twice before starting a new division or new project."

"And candidates are more cautious, too," she said. "They are more loyal to their employers. After these crises, they see that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush."

Demographics have also played a role in company staffing practices. "In 1998, there were enough people of work age, but by 2008 the situation had changed - companies began to realize that the number of qualified employees had shrunk," Mironov said. "Hiring new qualified employees is more complicated and expensive than keeping key personnel."

All these changes precipitated by the economic crises forced recruitment agencies to change the way they do business. Many have diversified to provide other services, like payroll and outsourcing, and have moved application procedures online to cast a larger net for candidates.

Mironov believes that the impact of the two major economic crises was ultimately beneficial for the recruitment industry in Russia. "Both crises accelerated development of this sector in Russia," he said. "Overall, in the past 15 years the quality of service provided by staffing companies has improved significantly. It has become a standardized, highly technological profession.

Tips from Experts
If You Want a Job If You're Hiring

For expats:

Expat is not a profession. At an interview, you should be able to explain what you can do that a well-qualified and experienced Russian can't.

Learn Russian well enough to be able to conduct negotiations.

For Russians:

Talk up your achievements, but make them relevant to the job offered.

Look for a job while you still have a job.

For everyone:

Before a job interview, learn as much as possible about the company and the vacancy. Nothing pleases a company recruiter more than a candidate who knows the company and wants to work there.

Prepare for the interview. Be on time and look the part. Learn how to present your knowledge, work experiences and job goals.

Consider using a recruitment agency - really. They know more about the hiring companies than you can find out, and they can ask the uncomfortable questions for you.

Remember that looking for work is also work. Be patient and stay motivated.

Go for the good candidate with average English over the great English-speaker with average skills and expertise.

Don't expect Russians to oversell - or even sell - themselves at interviews.

Be ready to sell the job and your company to the candidate.

Check the candidate's resume for accuracy and ask for recommendations.

Don't rely too heavily on psychological tests - they can't predict how a candidate will do in a particular job.

If you find a good candidate, make an offer right away.

Expect counter-offers. Given the dearth of good managers in Russia, when one wants to quit, his or her company usually fights to keep him or her.

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