“Challenge Consulting have added considerable value to Energetics for our long term needs”

Matt Wilkin – Energetics
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For more information:
Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]


It’s 1998, I’ve graduated from university with an Honours degree and it’s time to step out into the real world to find my first real job. Now, fast forwarding 20 years to 2018, I take a look at how things have changed for jobseekers, to a process that is now barely recognisable.


Back in 1998, you would have to set time aside to look for your next role. Usually, after work one evening or at the weekend and the first step was to pick up the newspaper and trawl through the adverts. Quite often this was a once a week publication, if it was a local paper, or if it was a national print, certain days were popular for advertising the latest openings. And to make things worse, there were no classifications. All jobs, accounting, engineering, plumbing, IT, or whatever were all bundled together.


Secondly, most people only produced one version of their resume back then. What was better known as a Curriculum Vitae, or CV, it was mostly printed and sent in the mail or even handed over to reception for the attention of the “Personnel Officer”. CVs were often quite lengthy documents too, outlining every job you’d had since leaving school.


If you were selected for an interview back in the day, they were fairly straight forward. Often, you’d be invited in to answer a series of questions to an interview panel including the HR team, the hiring manager and somebody from the team. The questions would be fairly straight forward, with candidates needing to demonstrate they had the previous experience and qualifications to be able to do the job.


So, what do we do now?


Technology has changed every part of the process. And not just computers, but phones too. I last heard that something like 80% of jobseekers use the mobile apps to search for their next role. People are looking at opportunities at any time of day now, on the way to work, at lunch or when they’re heading home.


So that part is significantly easier. However, the actual application process is now much more detailed.


When applying for a role these days, it is often recommended that candidates tailor their resume to the requirements of the role, rather than keeping a generic resume for every job. You need to think about what skills and experiences you have, that can be specifically applied to the role you are applying for. Another reason for tailoring the document is that many firms are now using technology as the first part of the filtering process, so candidates need to ensure that their resumes contain key words that appear in the job advertisement.


When your resume gets in front of a human being though, it needs to be presented in a more professional style than in the past. It should highlight your achievements and demonstrate what you have done for your employer that was above and beyond what they expected from you when they offered you the job. I read recently that some recruiters take just six seconds to review a CV. I find this hard to believe myself, as I know that when I am reading resumes, it takes me longer than that to read your name, address and date of birth. I believe most recruiters take around 30 second to decide whether to call a candidate or not, so the presentation needs to grab the eye.


Once you are selected for an interview, the preparation process is far more detailed. With so much information online, candidates need to research the company’s website, read up on news releases, understand the industry and know who the competition are. You need to spend time looking at the backgrounds of the people that you’ll be meeting, by viewing their LinkedIn profiles. And once you have completed the face to face interviews, we are often faced with a range of testing. Many employers now use psychometric or personality assessments and many continue to test potential employees on the IT skills with online skills testing.



Having a strong leadership pipeline is a sensible strategy for any organisation. Identifying, nurturing and retaining high potential employees at the start of their careers is a strategy that pays off handsomely.

Wouldn’t it be nice to hire an enthusiastic young gun with the skills you need now, and then have them move up the ladder with your organisation? Ideally, you would spot a candidate with high leadership potential and then nurture them, helping them to grow into the leader whose aptitude you so astutely spotted way back. The long-term health of an organisation is much better when hiring managers can identify those with the potential to grow into a leadership role and excel at it.

The problem is, it can be difficult to know what skills will be needed next month, let alone further into the future. As Daniel Goleman has written, ‘the only certainty about tomorrow’s business reality is that it will be ‘VUCA’: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.’ Technological change, globalisation, economic uncertainty, demographic shifts and an increasingly data-driven business environment mean that we are less likely than ever to be able to predict the future of any industry, let alone our individual businesses.

With the help of the right recruitment tools, your organisation can identify people who have the right skills for the role and the organisation right now, and the ability to master new skills that may be needed later. Critically, you can also learn to spot the right attitudes and behaviours that identify a new hire as a potential leader.

These are the personal characteristics to be on the look out for when you interview future leaders and when you decide what personality assessments to use in your hiring process.

Social and emotional intelligence

People with high social and emotional intelligence understand both themselves and others and how to manage emotions in each. They make others feel valued and can motivate them with their enthusiasm and positive attitude. They are consistent in their actions, able to show empathy and compassion, are honest and always act ethically and responsibly.

Motivation and a degree of selflessness

Potential leaders can inspire those around them to be their best selves. They are not egotistical or driven by self-interest, but by a genuine desire to inspire others to do their best. They know that their success always depends on the willing co-operation of others.

Openness to feedback new experience and information, learning

Potential leaders are curious about themselves as well as the world around them. They ask good questions and listen carefully to the answers. They look for feedback from others and learn from it and from their mistakes. They understand collaboration and can identify strengths in others that will contribute to great outcomes.


Willingness to work towards difficult goals without giving up when things are tough, resilience to continue in the face of setbacks an to learn from failure are hallmarks of good leaders. Those with high leadership potential are able to motivate others and to keep going even when times are tough. They enjoy challenging both themselves and those around them.

The precise mix of characteristics and how they combine with hard skills will be different for each organisation. Identifying what you need now and into the future is a complex tasks. Challenge Consulting’s suite of psychometric tests can help you to identify potential leaders to match your needs now and into the future.

Contact Challenge’s People Solutions Team on [email protected] or (02) 9221 6422.


We’re hearing more and more instances of candidates being offered more money or a better position when they tell their employer they have been offered a role with another organisation. Handling the counter offer is something hiring managers increasingly need to do.

It’s hard. You thought you had the person all set up to join your team. The contract was ready for their signature, but you get the call to say their manager had offered them a raise and/or a promotion to entice them to stay.

But you can make it less likely that the candidate will accept a counter offer. Here are some ways to deal with the situation.

The candidate’s present organisation will be enticing your would-be employee to stay with the promise of more money, a fancier title, or involvement in an interesting project. But that’s not all they will be weighing up; it’s also the security of staying in a familiar environment with familiar people, doing  job they have mastered. They may even feel guilty or disloyal for thinking of leaving. It’s human nature to feel this way.

You need to convince your would-be employee that moving is the right decision for them. These facts might help you persuade them to accept your offer.

  • Once they have you have signalled their intention to leave, their loyalty will always be questioned, and future promotion may be jeopardised.
  • Because most people who accept a counter offer leave within a year or less anyway, their manager is likely to be on the lookout for a replacement whether they stay or not.
  • It is easier for the manager to entice the candidate to stay than to hire a new person, particularly in the middle of a project or when there are other vacancies in the team. When the crisis is over, the incentive to keep them on is gone.
  • If the underlying reasons for their resignation have not been addressed, or if the changes have not been enough, they are likely to feel the need to leave in the not too distant future.

Stephen Crowe,  Managing Director of Challenge Consulting,  advises that during the recruitment process, you should try to find out precisely why the candidate is leaving their current job. ‘Discuss the possibility of a counter offer of more money with the candidate and reinforce that a counter offer won’t fix the underlying issues for them leaving,’ he says. If they are prepared for the possibility that there will be an attempt to ‘buy them back’ when they hand in their resignation, they are less likely to accept without thinking it through.

It also helps to make your first offer to the candidate your best offer, in terms of remuneration, opportunities, benefits and working conditions.  If there are non-monetary benefits from working with you, such as childcare facilities, a great location, the opportunity to work from home or an in-office barista, don’t forget to reinforce them to your candidates.

If you sense their only motivation is financial, or that they are using the threat of a new position to leverage a pay increase, you will be wise to weed them out in the early stages of the hiring process with a great structured interview process and psychometric testing. Keep the focus on what the candidate is looking forward to in the new role, and talk about it often. ‘You may even mention those things in the offer letter to the candidate,’ suggests Crowe.

Finally, it is worth remembering that if a candidate accepts a counter offer they have broken their commitment to the new employer who made the job offer. That is not only unprofessional, it is ethically questionable, and burns bridges. Their current company will question their loyalty, and they are likely to be first in line when staff is cut. The prospective company is unlikely to consider them again. Word gets around the industry.

Prepare the candidate for the counter offer by coaching them to say, ‘I’m flattered, but I’ve made my decision. At this point, this is the right decision for me. I’m happy to make the transition as smooth as possible for you, and let’s stay in touch.’


Every so often, a hiring manager will have the problem of deciding between two great candidates. It seems like a great problem to have, but what if you get it wrong? What if the candidate you choose doesn’t work out, and leaves after a couple of months? 

Choosing between two equally qualified candidates who have impressed in their interviews and whose references are impeccable is difficult. Once you have made absolutely sure that both have the skills necessary to do the job through testing and a structured interview, there are a few more things about each candidate to consider. Here are our best tips to help you make the decision.

1. Consider cultural fit, based on shared values, motivation and drivers. Read all about this in our shared articles, Recruiting for cultural fit and How to spot the right cultural fit in a job interview.
2. Look to the future. One candidate may have skills or experience that are not essential to this position, but could allow them to add value later as they move up in the organisation. A candidate who has travelled extensively, for example, may one day be the right person to work in an overseas office.
3. Consider the team they will work with. Looking at the team’s culture, work style preferences and balance of skills and attitudes can help you to decide which candidate will do better in the team. Does the team need rounding out with a more diverse group of people? Or will a person with the same traits as the existing team do better?
4. Get back to basics. Ask yourself, ‘What is the number one priority in making this hire?’ After so many interviews, reference checks, skills test results and deliberations, it is easy to forget this most fundamental question. Step back and see if contemplating this makes the decision clearer.
5. Have another conversation with their referees. Be really awake to their tone of voice and degree of enthusiasm, and aware of what they might not be saying, or be slightly hesitant about.
6. Invite the candidates to spend a few hours with the prospective team, and get the team’s feedback. This is sometimes known as the ‘beer test’, but you can equally well have lunch together or even have them spend some time working in the team so that you can each assess the others’ working style. If both candidates have made it this far in the hiring process, they are most likely keen to take the position. What will it take to attract hem to the organisation? Have you already dealt with the question of pay, or will that make your decision for you? Is the start date critical, and if so, is one candidate available sooner than the other? Have you checked that both are qualified to work in Australia?

Finally, it may be down to gut feel. When you have done the science of recruitment, it comes to the art – what your instinct tells you about the two candidates after you have weighed skills, fit, and practical details of the offer. Given that you have two great candidates, it’s likely you will end up with a successful hire. Just don’t take too long in your decision, or somebody else might snap them up!


Reference checking is sometimes seen as a marginal part of the hiring process by both the candidate and the hiring manager. After all, referees are the last item on a resume, and checking references is the last step before making an offer – how important can it be?

The reality is that proper reference checking can lower the cost of hiring by minimising the changes of making a wrong hire, as well as confirming that the candidate is the right fit for your organisation and that their skills and attributes are suited to the role.

Reference checks are used to make sure that prospective employers have accurate information about a candidate’s work history, skills and personal attributes. While it’s true that a referee is unlikely to give a bad reference, a good recruiter is able to tune into what is not being said. ‘You need to be a detective’, says Melissa Lombardo, Senior Consultant at Challenge Consulting, ‘and ask the same question again in different ways’.  The referee’s tone of voice is the biggest clue, she explains, which is why a phone call works better than email. ‘If they are hesitant, you can hear it, and in the same way if they are really enthusiastic it comes across in their tone.’


Here are some of the commonly held assumptions about reference checking, and why they are wrong.

I can’t give my current manager as a reference because I don’t want them to know I’m looking for a new position.
This misconception is totally understandable. Remember, the reference check is the last step before you are made an offer, so by this stage you are pretty likely to be offered the role. The most reliable reference comes from the person to whom you currently report, but you can nominate others, such as a sports coach, somebody you interned for or a tutor, Lombardo suggests – particularly if you are new to the workforce.

The candidate chooses their own referee, so a referee will say only good things.
This is true to an extent, but a good recruiter will be able to ask probing questions to assess if the candidate is right for the role. ‘We also ask the candidate if we may speak to a more senior person in the organisation’, says Lombardo. Speaking to the manager’s manager can overcome the issue of a personal issue between the direct manager and the candidate.

The reason I’m leaving is because I don’t get on with my manager, so I can’t nominate them as a referee.
Often people leave a manger, rather than a company, it’s true. But a good recruiter will see through this and delve deeper to find out your competencies. ‘We ask to speak to the manager’s manger, or the HR manager’, says Lombardo. ‘We’ll ask if they would work with the person again. How they answer tells us a lot about the candidate.’

If a referee says something negative about me, I have no chance of getting the role.
‘It’s quite rare for a reference check to be bad news for a candidate’, says Lombardo. ‘If a referee raises a potential problem, it may be in an area not relevant to the new role. We flag it with the client, but often they find it irrelevant’.

If the person nominates me as their referee, I have to give the information.
There is no obligation to agree to provide a reference. ‘If you feel you’re not an appropriate referee, tell the candidate’, says Lombardo. ‘The reference must be meaningful. If you didn’t supervise the person, of feel you’re not appropriate for any reason, say so’. You must not give a reference that is misleading, deceptive or defamatory.



Make sure the reference is legitimate.
Call a landline if at all possible. ‘You want to hear them answer with the name of the organisation’, says Lombardo.  ‘If you have only a mobile number, ask for a work email address to send a confirmation of your call to.’ Fake references are rare, but they happen.  A 2012 survey by Balance Recruitment revealed 4% of employees have used a fake referee. Check that the company is real, and that the candidate has worked there. ‘If we only have a mobile number, we ask for a company address to follow up by email’, explains Lombardo. ‘We also look up the referee’s profile on LinkedIn.’

Have a template for checking references.
There are many examples of reference checking templates online. Use them to ask and record the answers to competency-based questions. Be careful not to ask anything that could be construed as discriminatory, such as relationship status, age, disability, or whether the candidate has children or is of a particular ethnicity. Keep a record, as the candidate is entitled to ask to see their references.

You must have the candidate’s permission to call a referee.
Confirm this with them right before you do the check. This also allows them to let the referee know they should expect your call.

Some companies have a ‘no references’ policy.
If a manger tells you they are unable to give a reference, this may be a blanket policy. Check whether this is the case before assuming they are simply unwilling to discuss the candidate.

Not all managers are great communicators.
‘If all you get are yes and no answers, this doesn’t mean the referee is being evasive,’ says Lombardo. They may just not be experienced at acting as a referee. 



Choose your referees wisely.
They should be able to confirm your suitability for the role, as well as your employment and responsibilities, strengths and development areas.

Prepare your referee.
Let them know you are nominating them as your referee before you mass on their details. It is not in your interest for them to get an unexpected phone call! Tell them about the job some detail, particularly about the skills and competencies required, and suggest they think of some examples of how you have demonstrated them. It’s really helpful to a recruiter if you can line up a time that they are available. ‘Sometimes it takes us weeks to contact a referee’, says Lombardo.  ‘If you can give us times to call your referee it cuts out a lot of frustration’.

Set your social media pages to private if you have any concerns.
Both recruiters and employers can, and probably will, run an online search. Make sure you would be happy for a prospective employer to see your groups, interests and what you got up to last weekend.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and professional.
‘Use a professional photograph’, says Lombardo. ‘First impressions count’. So don’t use the one of you with Fluffy the dog, no matter how charming, and don’t post a blurred selfie.




By Dawkins Brown, Managing Partner, UHY Dawgen Chartered Accountants

Dawkins Brown has over 15 years’ experience in the field of Audit, Accounting and Taxation. Starting his public accounting career in the audit department of a ‘big four’ firm (Ernst & Young), and gaining experience in local and international audits, Dawkins rose quickly through the senior ranks and held the position of Senior consultant prior to establishing  UHY Dawgen.

Work-life balance. Flexible work hours. Corporate mission. What is the point of focusing on these non-traditional hiring topics? Two letters: X and Y. Generation X (born between 1963 and 1980) and Generation Y (born after 1980) are establishing a more prominent position in the employment landscape as Baby Boomers prepare to exit the workforce. The shift to these younger generations is prompting a new focus in hiring tactics.

The Baby Boomer generation was cut from the cloth of work first and foremost, climb the corporate ladder and retire with a healthy pension plan. Those days are all but gone. Today, younger workers are creating a paradigm shift in employee hiring based on their priorities. We have observed this accelerating transition first-hand over the past two years.

We work with companies in many market spaces, industries and geographic locations. The hiring landscape has already changed and companies that do not frequently hire may be unaware of the new focus. Certain patterns exist today that are universally consistent when hiring Gen X and Gen Y employees.

Work-life balance

Perhaps there is no more profound shift in values than this topic. Gen X, and even more so Gen Y, is focused on a position’s time requirements. This isn’t to say the younger generations are not hard workers. On the contrary, they put tremendous effort into their work, but they also place a high value on their personal time away from the office. This balanced approach has been mistakenly interpreted by the Baby Boomers as a ‘slacker mentality.’

The younger generations search for opportunities where they can grow their skill set without having to sacrifice every other area of their life. As an employer, it is imperative to understand this desired balance. Positions that lack the needed support, tools or technology often will be a red flag to the Gen X or Y candidate. The reward for accepting such a position clearly has to outweigh the perceived imbalance it may cause in their life.

Skills path

Most people are familiar with the term ‘career path.’ The Baby Boomer generation experienced a marketplace where preordained opportunities existed to climb the corporate ladder within the same company. Today’s younger generations generally do not have such consistent opportunities before them. More importantly, many of the younger generation do not subscribe to the same loyalty as the Baby Boomers.

Gen X and Y candidates are looking for a ‘skills path.’ They desire to understand what skills are needed to be successful in the position today. The long-term incentive is to understand what skills they will personally develop or acquire within the company. They prefer a horizontal management structure and respond to personal skill development. Titles are out. Responsibilities are in. It is imperative to share with the candidates the responsibilities they will inherit as their skills become more advanced over their tenure with the company.

Sherpa managers

As mentioned, the younger generations have a fairly horizontal view of the org chart – whether accurate or not. We have seen this approach wreak havoc in an office dominated by Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers expect an almost military-style chain of command while the younger generations have a more fluid approach to positions of authority.

Gen X and Y highly value the manager–employee relationship. They view their manager as a guide – an experienced Sherpa to make sure they are on the right path. In debriefing Gen X and Y employees after they are hired, the vast majority consistently mention the impression of their manager as having the most influence on their decision to join the company. The hiring manager needs to connect with the Gen X and Y candidate on a personal level during the interview process. Clearly the manager–employee relationship is a two-way street so this approach affords the hiring manager a beneficial insight into the candidate also.

Work smarter, not harder

These generations are plugged-in to technology, from Bluetooth to Blackberry. They have spent much of their working career, even entire lives for some, having internet information available to them at a moment’s notice. This fact can work against employers in that these younger candidates are savvy about internet job boards and have a tendency to always have an eye out for new opportunities.

However, the upside of this technological ability is far greater. A subtle item we have observed among Gen X and Y candidates is their strategic thinking. Their youthful age belies the fact that they have sharp minds for understanding macro markets. We have seen these younger candidates ask amazingly insightful questions that make the hiring managers pause during the interview. We have also seen strong candidates pass on opportunities because they were sceptical of the hiring company’s shallow business plans.

The Gen X workforce will be ascending into prominent management positions at a brisk pace over the next five years. The next wave of change will occur in the management ranks as they shift the hiring process away from the Baby Boomer approach. The aforementioned topics will move to the forefront of the hiring process as the newly crowned Gen X managers hire the Gen Y employees. Until that happens, progressive companies will perceive these current shifts and adjust their hiring tactics in advance.