Stefan Lepkowski
Stefan Lepkowski

Member Article

Bdaily talks to Stefan Lepkowski about recruitment

Bdaily caught up with Stefan Lepkowski, MD of award-winning PR agency Karol Marketing to discuss the changing recruitment landscape

  • How has the recruitment landscape changed since you set up Karol Marketing?

It has changed enormously. When we first started twenty years ago no one knew who we were and no one applied speculatively. Now we’ve won loads of awards and work with a diverse and brilliant client base we get lots of enquiries – some excellent and some not so good.

What are the advantages of the multitude of recruitment platforms which are now available?

Actually, I’m not sure there are many advantages. In the past all you needed to do was to advertise in the local paper and you’d get literally hundreds of applications. The diversity of platforms and agencies currently all fighting for the same piece of cake means, as a recruiter, it is far more difficult to know where to advertise. It is also harder for the prospective employee to know where to look. This is the reason we have gravitated to working with media like BDaily, which we know people in our industry and region use.

What makes a CV stand out and has this changed over time?

I think the letter which accompanies the CV actually tells you more about the person. In the past, applicants would do loads of homework, they’d address you by name and they would carefully craft their letter. Today, people are lazy; they rely on the web and if what they are looking for isn’t there they give up. Mail merge has also meant we often get speculative letters addressed to ourselves but making reference to a competitor they’d “love to work for!” If prospective employees haven’t got an eye for detail and can’t get it right when they’re hungry for a job, why would we want them to work with our clients!

What hasn’t changed – what are the enduring ’golden rules’ of the recruitment and interview process, both for interviewees and interviewers?

For me it’s gut instinct. I like to balance a candidate’s knowledge and skills with their personality. I always ask myself if they will get on with the team at Karol and more importantly, how good will they be at getting their point across and communicating respectfully with our clients? It has to be said that there is no substitute for basic manners; standing up, opening doors, shaking hands, smiling and greeting people warmly – these are the things that matter but surprisingly they are becoming less commonplace.

Has the recession brought some benefits to employers in terms of applicants for jobs ’going the extra mile’ to add value to their application – researching the company thoroughly and putting themselves through training etc to ensure they stand out?

I think things are changing for the better, all be it slowly. Sadly, I still feel that universities and colleges place more emphasis on their pupils achieving qualifications than they do on instilling hunger and a positive ‘go get it’ attitude in young people. I am always more likely to offer a job to someone who is willing to learn, hungry to succeed than someone who waves a qualification arrogantly in my face.

Has what we would look for on the CV of say, a PR manager changed dramatically in the last 5 years?

Yes, increasingly we’ll be looking for experience of social media and their ability to be commercial in their approach to it. For some who have grown up with social media (it can be very addictive) there is the belief that this is the future and traditional media is dead. I do not agree with this approach and we place great importance on someone’s ability to appreciate where, when and how much social media is relevant to any client.

What, in your opinion, are the best channels for recruitment?

Your own PR and advertising are key to the recruitment process. If you feel the need to go to a recruitment consultancy especially if you are a small business something is wrong. For starters, if a PR and marketing person can’t approach you directly, they’re either lazy, incompetent or career hopping. At Karol we have used agencies – every time it was expensive, both in terms of agency fees and disruption to the business. Build your profile and image in the media and you’ll get enquiries all year round – and when you do advertise you’ll get a much higher calibre of people applying.

Is the traditional interview still working, or is it a tired model that should be changed?

The interview is essential. My advice is, if you’ve built your own business, keep interviewing. The moment I handed the responsibility down to someone else our appointments weren’t as good. Nowadays, I work closely with Emily, my co-director and we personally interview everyone. Gut instinct rules the day!

Does having a wider pool to choose from improve the chances of finding the ’perfect’ person for the job? Or does it simply make the recruitment process more of a minefield?

A wider pool is a good thing. One is less inclined to compromise, knowing there has to be someone out there who is a perfect fit. In the past, I’ve made the mistake – owing to a shortage of candidates – of trying to make the job fit the person, rather than the person fit the job.

What could be done to make recruitment easy for small to medium sized firms?

I wish I knew the answer! For starters an accepted central place for job hunting would be good – the marketplace is too fragmented at the moment. BDaily would be a good start. As for other things… making candidates realise they should be proactive and approach employers. Too many potential employees leave it to agencies or wait for the company to advertise. At Karol we are always looking - and if someone is good we’ll snap them up jolly quickly.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Stefan Lepkowski .

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