Ina Westphal

Ina Westphal

is managing partner

at “Hellmund. Die Personalberater.“

What did you study?

I first studied to become a teacher (at elementary school level) and then completed a commercial apprenticeship.
 

How did you get into your job?

Not immediately and directly. Like many others, I am a typical career changer in this profession. Initially, I worked for 13 years in a large corporation in various operational (production) and staff functions (personnel development, recruiting, internal communication) as a manager and thus worked in different areas of a company. In 2006 I decided to start my own business (management consultancy). In 2012 I switched to personnel consulting. A former colleague asked me for support. Since then I have been co-owner and partner of a personnel consultancy based in Potsdam.
 

What were the last three things you did at work?

• be on the phone with candidates (every day)

• continued to work on the redesign of diagnostic procedures for a customer selection procedure

• prepared a customer appointment
 

What kind of companies and organizations do you advise?

We work nationwide for companies (medium-sized companies and corporations) but also for some associations. We are mainly active in the telecommunications / CRM / customer service, healthcare and service industries (professional services) sectors. In addition, we also accept mandates from other industries, for example when there are narrow applicant markets, as this is one of our areas of expertise.
 

Which services are in your portfolio?

We are mainly active in executive search, so we support companies in filling vacancies. In addition, we offer aptitude diagnostics (management and selection diagnostics), either to support recruitment (external market) or for internal personnel selection and talent development in a company. Finally, within the framework of career advice, we advise candidates who want to reorient themselves professionally. We advise both sides, but our focus is clearly on executive search ("headhunting").
 

How many potential candidates do you introduce to your customers per position?

With us, the quality, the job market and the general conditions determine how many candidates we introduce for a position. Usually there are 3 to 5 candidates. In very narrow applicant markets, where there are only a few specialists with a certain expertise, for example, there might only be one or two candidates. It is crucial that the candidates come as close as possible to the requirements for the position, which we ensure for our customers through a multi-stage process.
 

How long do you need to fill a position?

That depends on several factors that we cannot influence alone. It is quite possible that we introduce candidates after 2 to 6 weeks, our client makes a quick decision and makes a fixed contract proposal to the candidate. What actually often lengthens the process, however, are the internal decision-making processes, the time-consuming application process (number of appointments, etc.) with the client and sometimes simply the vacation time. For us, that means looking after the candidates intensively and keeping them “balanced” for the company. In addition, there are positions for which, for example, only 30 candidates (with exactly this expertise) are available on the market in Germany. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, several interviews and a lot of persuasion to get such candidates to change companies. That doesn't happen overnight.
 

How do you recognize a good job advertisement?

A well-made job advertisement provides brief and concise information about

• the company, the searching department

• the specific task

• the specific requirements

• and what the applicant can expect in return (framework conditions, contractual terms, benefits)

It avoids empty phrases: "You are a team player", "We focus on people", because candidates can actually no longer hear that. It can be presented and formulated in an unusual way so that it gets the attention of the applicant target group, because this is becoming more and more important for job advertisements today: to inform (truthfully and clearly) and to advertise a company.
 

And what about a good application?

I could now give a longer lecture about this, because we are always surprised that we receive documents from candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements, even for highly endowed management positions. I'll try briefly:

• Curriculum vitae: is the applicant's business card, which is why it contains all essential stations, all qualifications, all necessary information about the person, which enables a HR manager to have a first (but as comprehensive as possible) picture of the person. Neatly designed, flawless and truthful

• Certificates: all certificates for professional qualifications, university degrees and job references. Today, certificates are no longer sent to companies, the last Excel course is of no interest to HR professionals or personnel consultants. The curriculum vitae can list which additional qualifications someone has acquired and which seminars they have attended. Exception: Unless special qualifications or appointments have been acquired that were explicitly mentioned in the job profile (e.g. an auditor qualification).

• Cover letter / letter of motivation: Opinions differ, we do not demand this ourselves, we talk to our candidates in detail about their motivation to change. But if this is important to you, you can also present your "profile" and motivation on an extra page in your résumé.
 

How do you see the discussions about the shortage of skilled workers? Do you see an increased need in certain industries?

Since we now have a large number of mandates in so-called “narrow applicant markets”, we can confirm this - at least for parts of the labor market. The discussion is still very one-sided. I see large reserves in certain labor market target groups that are not yet sufficiently activated (e.g. women in certain phases of life, older employees, employees of different nationalities, etc.). With our customers, however, we feel an increasing openness to open up to such target groups and, if necessary, to invest in training, qualification and induction. From our point of view, certain positions are currently difficult to fill, e.g. specialized sales and field service functions, consulting functions, expert functions in the appraisal industry and finally medical professionals (in hospitals).
 

To what extent do new digital developments influence the recruiting or personnel selection of your customers and also your own work?

Our industry is currently heavily influenced by digital developments (not to say caught up ...). Especially in the HR area of ​​companies, digital transformation (which does not only include the implementation of new software) is a very big topic, and it is discussed a lot at events and conferences. Not a month goes by without a new provider introducing a new platform for applicants, for personnel consultants, for companies. The market has exploded in the last 2 to 3 years, but the "half-life" as well as the benefits and scope of these applications are sometimes low. The problem is that the applications are too similar to address the same target group. For us this means: The identification of candidates is increasingly supported by good software and large databases. We use various digital tools that make it easier for us to search. But algorithms are only as good as the people who program them. They make work much easier and make the search efficient. What algorithms cannot do in the near future, however, is to replace the conversation with people, and the final decision about a recruitment.
 

Are there general recommendations that you can give applicants from your experience? How do you approach the job search successfully?

Here, too, when preparing the documents, always refer to the specific position and the company to which you would like to apply. Today it is important to search for a job through many different channels. Company job portals and career pages are important sources for searching. In addition, you should consistently build your own network during your studies / training. Fellow students, former colleagues, sandpit friends, neighbors - these can all be important "gatekeepers" in order to get help when changing jobs. In addition, it is now “good form” for many professions to network with one another via business networks (XING, LinkedIn). The opportunity to network with one another there opens up further networks and contacts that might later play a role when changing jobs. In addition, there are also platforms on which interested applicants can be listed (for example: Experteer) and can thus be found more quickly by searching companies or personnel consultancies.
 

Do you spend more time at your desk or among people for the consultations?

I would like to have more time for discussions, exchanges and networking. As an entrepreneur, however, you have to take care of many other tasks and topics as well. It is quite balanced, around 50% at the desk, and 50% in conversations, interviews with candidates or in customer appointments.
 

What challenges you about this job, what do you find exciting about it?

As a personnel consultant, you get to know a lot of people better. I find the work and the discussions with the individual candidates very intensive. Whether in first contact, in telephone interviews, in personal conversations - I want to find out what s/he can do, what defines her/him and who s/he is. Then I am able to make a recommendation to my client. Sometimes you also learn a lot about people personally, including things that have nothing to do with the actual filling of a post. This challenges me on the one hand, and on the other hand I am happy to get to know people who have overcome strokes of fate, mastered professional crises or who have developed further in the course of their professional life and / or have found their profession. I find that incredibly exciting and personally very enriching!
 

Your tips for young professionals?

It is traditionally a bit more difficult for young professionals to get started than experienced professionals. Companies mostly expect "ready", mature and experienced employees, but how should a graduate gain experience? We are aware of the problem. That is why we also help our clients to install trainee programs, to get to know future employees better through internships and to give young professionals a chance through induction and mentoring programs. We can therefore advise graduates / young professionals to complete internships (accompanying their studies) in companies that can easily be imagined as a future employer. There are many good trainee programs that make it easier to start your career. Many conferences and events are designed for graduates to get to know potential employers. And what is also fundamentally true, is that the time spent studying or training should be used well to network with colleagues and fellow students and to stay in contact via social networks. And as an alumni of a university, it always makes sense to get involved in such networks, because there you always meet people who can be approached about job opportunities. This mix of many different measures is complex, but it is definitely worth it.