“The relationship is a two way partnership built on trust.”

Bob Mulcahy – Uniting
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For more information:
Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]


After a long period of uncertainty our economy is finally showing early signs of recovery. As a consequence the optimist inside every business person starts thinking about growth and that often means more staff. So what does the recruitment scene look like in 2014?

Well it is different to what your might have experienced previously. While we have rising unemployment we also have skills shortages in a number of important sectors. Due the uncertainty of the last five years good candidates are reluctant to change jobs unless they are really confident about the strengths of their new employer.

What does this mean if you’re trying to attract good people? It is a new world out there and one of the keystones of recruitment success in this new world is your employment brand.

Just as your business brand defines you to your potential customers, your employment brand defines you to your potential employees. It answers these questions (amongst others):

• Why should I want to work for you?
• Why are you different from your competitors?
• What sort of work culture do you have?
• What can you do for my career?

Candidates get to understand your employer brand through a range of sources. One of the most important and influential is a trusted third party (usually an employment agency). If you work with a good employment agency one of the value added benefits is that they sell your employer brand to every candidate they talk to.

Challenge Consulting is a recruitment services company that works with organisations in the Banking and Finance, ICT and Not for Profit Industries to attract, select and on board great talent. Please call to discuss any of your recruiting questions.

Stephen Crowe
Challenge Consulting Australia
Managing Director


Money, money, money – we all work for it, but do you know how to negotiate the best salary for your skills and experience?

Whether negotiating with your current employer or as part of the job selection process, you need to be prepared to get the pay rise that you deserve.

From an employers’ perspective, there are many factors they consider, including:

  • the level of the job within the organisation
  • the scarcity of the skills and experience needed for the job in the job market
  • the career progress and experience of the individual selected
  • the fair market value for the job you are filling
  • the salary range for the job within the organisation
  • the salary range for the job within the geographic area,
  • the existing economic conditions within the job market
  • the existing economic conditions within the industry, and
  • company-specific factors that might affect the given salary such as comparative jobs, the culture, the pay philosophy, and promotion practices.

I remember when I was applying for a new role in a bad economy; I knew I had to be realistic with my expectations. I found a new role that was very similar to what I had been doing previously, however it would be a more fast-paced environment and the hours would be a little more demanding. I also knew, however, that this role would be sought after by many candidates who were also struggling to find work. So I agreed to start at a lower base salary.  I knew that, like with every new role, I had to work hard to prove myself. After six months I was able to negotiate a higher salary level.

Now I know that not all organisations work that way. If you agree to a salary it could take a year or two to negotiate any kind of increase. I also know that financial security is important for individuals, especially when they have financial responsibilities (e.g. a mortgage, a car, a family, bills, personal expenses etc.). So if you are considering a negotiation process, make sure that you are prepared to take the necessary steps.

I found an article by Randall S. Hansen on Quintessential Careers that covers 10 Salary Negotiation Mistakes, and I have summarised this to the ones that I think are most important to focus on:

1. Settling/Not Negotiating. Probably the biggest mistake you can make is simply deciding to settle and accept whatever offer you receive. But settling for an offer that you feel in your heart is too low will not only set you back financially, but also eat at you until you finally begin to seriously dislike your job and/or employer.

2. Focusing on Need/Greed Rather Than Value. A very common salary negotiation error is focusing on what you feel you need or deserve rather than on your value and the value you being to the prospective employer. If you plan to negotiate a job offer, do it based on solid research (see next mistake) and a clear demonstration of your value to the organisation. Don’t ever tell the employer that you need a certain salary.

3. Weak Research or Negotiation Preparation. With the number and variety of salary resources available online – there is no excuse for you as the job-seeker to not know your market value. Even if you decide you don’t want to negotiate salary, you’ll have a better understanding of the market for your services — and your value in that market.

4. Making a Salary Pitch Too Early. The longer you wait, the more power you have. Yet, there are many job-seekers who jump in too early in the process and ask about salaries and compensation. The ideal time for talking salary is when you are the final candidate standing — and you get the job offer. It’s at that point when you can ask more specifics about salary, bonuses, commissions, health insurance, and other perks.

5. Asking For Too Many Changes in Counteroffer. If you have a strong interest in the job and the employer is a good fit, but the offer is not what you expected, you can consider making a counteroffer proposal. If you decide to make a counteroffer proposal, remember that you should only pick the one or two most important elements; you can’t negotiate every aspect of the offer.

6. Taking Salary Negotiations Personally. Whatever you do in this process, always stay professional in handling the negotiations. If the employer has made you an offer — then you are their choice, the finalist for the position — so even if negotiations go nowhere, or worse, keep in mind that you did receive an offer, even if it is not what you expected or deserved. And if negotiations break down between you and the employer, move on graciously, thanking the employer again for the opportunity — because you never want to burn any bridges.

7. Not Asking for Final Offer in Writing. Once everything is said and done — and you have received a job offer that you find acceptable, the last thing you should do is ask for the final offer in writing. No legitimate employer will have issues with putting the offer in writing, so if yours balks at your request and accuses you of not having any trust and tries to bully you to accept the verbal agreement, take it as a MAJOR red flag that there is something seriously wrong.

Do not be afraid to negotiate. Be prepared, have clear and transparent communication, and work towards being paid what you are worth. And worst case scenario, if they turn down your offer to negotiate, see if there is a time to review this discussion at a later stage At the end of the day you need to find what works for you and only you can decide whether to take it or leave it.

Have you had a salary negotiation that worked in your favour? How did you approach management about it?


“Every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003” so said then CEO of Google Eric Schmidt in 2010 – are you keeping up?

As Challenge Consulting’s coordinator of all things social media, I constantly have to absorb new information and update my skills. From learning new ways to format the website, to taking a course to learn a new system or program, I personally find that the more I am learning, the more confidence I have in taking on even more new challenges in my role.

Regardless of whether you are currently in a senior management position or just entering your profession, we each have responsibility to grow our skills to keep ahead of the game. There are a few key benefits to developing and learning new skills:

Increased knowledge – for a long time when talking about the economy – you had two answers – either it was up or it was down. Now we are working in a multi-speed economy, what is up today could be down tomorrow. Do you have the knowledge you need to make informed decisions in your next career step?

Improved performance – a learning mindset can increase your productivity and performance. You can learn how to work smarter, so rather than overloading yourself, you can increase your own personal effectiveness, which is good for you and good for your employer.

Stronger network – learn the skills you need to build relationships, which will allow you to build a broader network that you can tap into to help you succeed in your career.

Promotability -If you are wanting to move up within your organisation, increased skills can help you to reach that promotion you have been looking for

Adaptability – If you are in a more senior level new skills can help you adapt easier to the changes within your industry – the longer you wait to learn new skills and qualifications, the harder it will be to catch up.

However, if you look at learning the same way you look at going to the dentist, than chances are you will avoid it and not take advantage of formal learning opportunities that come your way.

Remember that with any new skill it takes time for that skill to be developed, and time to master it.   There are some very simple and effective ways to keep your skills growing:

On the job training – Never be afraid to ask, after all, your manager will probably appreciate your initiative to want to learn new things

Keep up-to-date by reading daily – with newspapers readily available, not to mention LinkedIn news, industry magazines, blogs and various other social media content, there are so many ways to source news and information almost instantly.

Attend conferences, networking or workshops – by having mentors and experts within your industry providing you with the best methods on how to be the best that you can be within your industry. Not only that but you can share your views, questions and experiences with other like-minded individuals and establish closer connections.

Challenge yourself – You would be amazed at how many new skills can be self-taught. Sometimes it can just be a matter of challenging your brain daily with quizzes and crosswords to keep yourself more alert in the daily commute to work. If a new challenge presents itself, offer to be that person to take on the task, as sometimes we don’t even know we have skills in a particular area until we actually delve into it.

What new skills are you going to learn this year?


To follow on with a blog that I wrote earlier this month on ‘choosing between making money and following the career that you love’, have you reached that point of career where you are debating whether to leave your job?

It is first important to consider the reasons why you would want to move jobs and assess if this is enough reason to take the plunge and hand in your resignation. Common factors could be, but are not limited to the following:

  • You aren’t performing to the best of your ability – sometimes lack of motivation or challenges within the role can cause you to take a less attentive approach to your daily tasks.
  • You can’t picture your future with your current employer
  • The cons of the job outweigh the pros
  • Your skills are lagging and your position offers no opportunities to update them – this can apply to individuals who have been in the same role for many years without the prospect of progression
  • Your company or work situation has changed radically since you were hired
  • Your salary isn’t enough
  • You want to live somewhere else
  • Difficulty connecting with management or members of your team

Are all of these ringing true for you?  Well you are not alone. As individuals we crave knowledge and challenges as part of career growth. Even as a manager you have to face many different challenges and changes the more the industry or economy changes around you. So naturally if you are feeling like you are stuck in the same routine role with no recognition or chance for progression, will you still continue to be performing at your best? Or will your eyes glaze over and you find your passion for the role begins to diminish more and more?

The next thing to consider is what opportunities are available for you in the current employment market. According to Greg Savage, blogger for The Savage Truth, this is what he had to say about the current employment market in Sydney:

The Australian economy is in much worse shape than the politicians would have us believe, relying so heavily as it does on the resources sector (which clouds recession in other sectors) and facing the very real impact of the carbon tax. Hiring was subdued throughout 2011 and indeed, the latest surveys of hiring intent show sentiment to be at its lowest point since 2008. However it is also true that some companies are hiring specific skills sets. Indeed, we see many employers laying people off, while hiring at the same time, as they re-calibrate their skills balance sheet.

Even so, we describe the Sydney market as cautiously optimistic, and we are seeing more orders, albeit in very niche areas such as PR Account Managers with health care experience, UX designers and Social Media Community Managers.

While there may be a high level of competition out there at the moment for positions, I think it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of your current situation and ask yourself, does this make me happy? Does this job just get me through the day or do I go home feeling pleased with my accomplishments? Am I learning new things? Does it give me the balance I need on a day-to-day basis?

No one should compromise happiness for a job, nor should they let any aspect of their current role prevent them from performing at their best.

In order to make this change happen the decision has to be yours. And if you want to move on or are seeking something badly enough, then you will do your planning and preparations and work hard for it. Even in your current role, if you are finding lack of inspiration, have you stepped up to management and asked them for more responsibility? It’s always important to look at all avenues, and remember attitude can affect the outcomes of situations as well, so try to take every step and situation as optimistically as you can.

But often we see this as either or situation, but at any point in your career, you have up to 10 options – not just 2.

1) Remain in Current Role – No content change

Recognition that your current role provides you with your desired level of challenge and development at the moment.

2) Enrichment – Develop current job

Considering what job tasks you wish to do more of and negotiating with others to take over those which no longer motivate you.

3) Vertical – Seek promotion

Considering what would be the real gain for you in seeking increased responsibilities.

4) Exploration – Test out options

Seeking project work, or deputising in another job function to test out how you like it.

5) Lateral – Sideways move

Moving to a similar level of job task difficulty but with different job content.

6) Realignment – Moving down

Downshifting to less responsibility for a short- or long-term period.

7) Relocation – Change business unit

Deciding that work of a different nature from your current business unit is more appropriate for your career future.

8) Redirection – Change career field

Changing the career stream or field of work with your current employer.

9) Proposal – Create new job

Submitting a proposal for creating a new job which would meet the needs of your employer and you.

10) External – Change employer

Deciding that work of a nature different from your current employer is more appropriate for your needs and career future. (Source: Paul Stevens, Worklife).

Which choice are you going to make with your career?


Whether you think it a myth or you have managed to make this work in your life, everyone has to create their own work-life balance. Stepping up in the corporate ladder will often involve further responsibilities, and the pressures and commitments outside of work will sometimes mean that decisions/sacrifices need to be made to find balance.

But is there ever really a balance? Or can it sometimes feel like an ultimatum?

In a generation that is so reliant on technology, do you often find that you are checking your emails outside of work, making late night phone calls and perhaps having trouble sleeping when you are focusing on a deadline?

Let’s face it; the result of overworking can often bring more negative outcomes than good in terms of personal life and health. Increased stress and anxiety on a regular basis, not allocating enough time for meal/coffee breaks and limiting face to face contact with loved ones will often leave you feeling like you have achieved less instead of more.

This of course depends on the individual and the field of work, but I can personally say that I can relate to this topic all too well.

Around December last year I made a complete career change. For the past six years leading up to this change, I was building a name for myself in events and hospitality, working around the clock to meet the demands of the job, which in turn cost me in terms of a personal life. Time for my friends and family would often need to be an appointment in the calendar, and while I gained so much in terms of experience and growth, and the industry provided many opportunities and perks, there came a time for me to make an independent choice to either continue this lifestyle or make a change.

And what a change it has been! Not only did I realise that one could do ‘normal’ hours, but I can now make more use of my free time in ways that I never had the opportunity to before. Not to mention exploring a new industry entirely and branching out!

If you currently find that your scale is leaning more towards to the work component over life, how can you balance it in your life?

Jeff Stibel of Harvard Business Review outlines seven ways that you can create more balance and be happier at work:

  1. Smile –  Turns out, smiling is directly linked to happiness. It may have started as a correlation but, over time, the brain linked the two. Don’t believe me? Try this: smile (a nice big smile) and attempt to think of something negative. Either you will stop smiling or you won’t be able to hold the negative thought.
  2. Stop worrying – Worrying happens to be one of humanity’s best traits. It is the underlying emotion behind foresight, planning, and forecasting. We worry because some future event is uncertain and that feeling is a cue for us to start thinking about how to address it. The problem is, we worry too much about things that are out of our control (like the economy, stupid). Stop sweating the small stuff!
  3. Take a break – Overworking people to exhaustion is a horrible way to extract knowledge from people. Taking a break provides an opportunity to reflect and often it is during such times when the best ideas, our deepest insights, emerge.
  4. Do things differently – Part of the problem at work for many people is boredom. We are stuck in a rut where we come in and do the same thing over and over and over again. Get your enthusiasm back by doing things differently.
  5. Stop managing and start leading – If you’re in management, you need to find ways to motivate and stimulate your employees. How? Stretch their minds. Empower your team by giving them more responsibility, more decision-making power, more autonomy. Equally important: be inclusive. Explain what is happening in the company as a whole and give your employees a broader perspective on how their jobs influence the overall business.
  6. Delegate – Being controlling is bad for business, not to mention bad for your physical and mental health. The best leaders always look for people better, smarter, and more capable than themselves.
  7. Have fun – Here is some tough advice: If you don’t like what you are doing, stop doing it. Life is too short to not have fun. I love what I do and when I stop loving it, I do something else. Even in this economy, you will be in high demand if you are good at what you do — and can do it with a smile on your face.

Not sure of where to start when it comes to work-life balance for your employees? Forbes outlines five easy steps to A+ work-life balance:

  1. Talk the talk – Put work-life balance in your Core Values, post it prominently and create opportunities to talk about what that means with your employees.
  2. Walk the walk – You have to model it. Avoid email on weekends and at night. Take vacations. Give employees rewards of experiences (dinner for two, an activity for kids) that show you care about their life outside the office.
  3. Ask! – How many employers have actually asked their employees what they would want to have a satisfactory work-life balance? It might not be as long a list as you think. Make time to find out what balance looks like for each employee and work together to make it happen.
  4. Get out of the 9-7 box – Give employees more flexible schedules! If you think they will take advantage then they are probably not employees you should trust to begin with. Judge on performance not hours of tushes in seats.
  5. Celebrate families – Let your employees know their kids and families are your concern and interest too.

I think my colleague here at Challenge Consulting summed up this topic best, as a result of the combination of Australia’s low birth rate, low unemployment rates and ageing population, Australia is going to have to really embrace flexibility in the workforce. In my opinion work/life balance is still very much paid “lip service” and very few organisations truly embrace the concept. I think the simple adage of “work to live, not live to work” sums it up. We all just need to learn to live it.

How do you learn to live it? How have you created a work-life balance in your life?



The top two responses to our latest online poll – “Where do you go first when you’re looking for a job?” –  were Internet Job Boards and My Contact Network

Whilst there is no doubt that internet job boards provide an easy, user-friendly way to apply for advertised roles, job seekers must always beware of becoming lazy in their application approach, ie sending the same old cover letter and CV again and again for roles that might actually require you to do a bit of “tailoring” first, or resort to a scattergun mentality, ie, “If I send my CV to enough job advertisers, then one will surely produce a result.” 

I can assure you, as someone who has worked in the recruitment industry for eleven years, recruiters who know their stuff, whether they work for an agency or within a company, can spot a thoughtlessly-sent CV at twenty paces. For example, a candidate might have a newly-minted accounting qualification. They are seeking an entry-level accounting role. They do a key-word search using “accounting” and send their CV in response to the 25 job ads that appear, despite the fact that only two of the advertised roles are suitable for entry-level candidates. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of time for everyone concerned, it does the candidate absolutely no favours, instantly creating an impression of a total lack of attention to detail and no real interest in the actual role or company. 

You must remain in charge of your job search. It is your responsibility and yours alone to secure your next role. 

Here is a prime example of what I mean from an article on Forbes.com entitled Get a Job Using the Hidden Job Market

“The technology executive had been out of work for more than a year, but he didn’t tell any of his friends he was unemployed. Instead, he made up a story about how he was consulting on some confidential projects, the details of which he would reveal when it was time to go public. Meantime, he applied for dozens of posted job openings he saw online, with zero success. He also spent time golfing at the country club, where his locker was next to a CEO in his field. Still, he guarded his secret carefully, staying mum with his golf buddies about his job hunt. Finally, his distraught wife set up some sessions with Donald Asher, an executive career coach and author of 11 books, including Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in any Economy. Asher convinced his new client to open up about his job hunt, and start talking to everyone he knew about how he was on the market. Sure enough, one of his golfing friends gave him a tip that led to a job at a startup.”

What do you know?

I asked Challenge Consulting’s Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, what she regarded as the best overall way to find work. 

Without hesitation, her response was, “Your network.” 

She continued: “You must be organised and methodical in your approach to seeking work. When you’re in your car travelling to a new destination, you use a road map, you don’t just start driving. Ask yourself what you actually want to do, what skills and experience you wish to utilise. Then, work out who you know who can give you entrée into industries or companies where these are attractive. It might be a friend, it might be a LinkedIn contact, it might be someone you meet at an industry function, it might be someone you get talking to waiting for a bus.” 

They key things to remember are: you have to make it known that you are seeking work (no one can read your mind, after all), and you cannot expect a high success rate flailing wildly in the dark (see Elizabeth’s above comment re using a map!). 

Comments from three of our poll respondents re using their networks:

– “The people in my network know me best, so they’re the ones most likely to present a suitable opportunity. They’re also less likely to point me in the wrong direction.”

– “My first port of call would be tapping in to my networks.”

– “Recently, for the first time ever, I was approached for a job based on my LinkedIn Profile.”

What do you think? What success have you had finding that next great role using your networks? Let us know in the comments below!


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