Recruiting for international projects: challenges, achievements and recommendations (PART II)

By Catalina Russu

Recruiting for international projects: challenges, achievements and recommendations (PART II)

The perfect candidate is not a universal notion because the best candidate is the individual who fits most of a job’s requirements. This match is not easy to find but thanks to professional recruiters, the connection can be successfully made. Our DevelopmentAid Recruitment Solutions (DRS) has assisted large organizations involved in international development with their recruitment needs. Take a break to read an interview offered by one of the DRS recruiters, Stefania Gori.

What was one of the most challenging projects you have been involved in?

Recently, I worked on a project requiring a regional specialist in the breeding of a rare species of fish. Given the current security situation and the tensions in the region, I received negative responses from the few relevant candidates indicating that the consultants would “rather not help an enemy”.

Can you identify three challenges faced by the recruitment process during the time of the pandemic?

Obviously, the biggest impact from a business perspective of the COVID-19 outbreak is on the way we work. The pandemic meant either slowing or even freezing most recruitment activities. However, I believe recruiting in the development sector was less affected than internal classic recruitment. We continued working on projects that required relocation to other countries in the short and/or long term. Therefore, concerns about the health aspects and economics of traveling and switching jobs were the main challenges that I encountered. After clear guidelines were put in place, we faced another quite paradoxical challenge – now all the consultants became available and were interested in new opportunities, especially short-term missions. The competition has become more intense and it’s more difficult to place candidates under those circumstances.

What is the most time-consuming aspect of the recruitment process in the international development sector?

I guess it depends on the type of project and the sector. I remember I was looking for a school bus station pavement architect that should have had more than 10 years of experience in this quite specific field. In this case, the most time-consuming aspect was to identify suitable candidates. However, for most cases, the part that takes the most time and resources is the negotiation stage. If you are in touch with multiple Consortia for the same project – inform them! If you apply for a role while being in the last round of interviews for another position – let them know! If you have specific requests without which you cannot consider a role – inform the recruiter about these beforehand. This saves a lot of time on both sides and makes the entire process pleasant and stress-free.

What are the three key questions you ask yourself when analyzing CVs to fulfill the most challenging roles?

I ask myself how well the candidate fits the requirements. If I have the evaluation grid of the project, I can try to quantify his/her experience in points, therefore in percentage of compliance. Then, I screen the CV to find out what information is missing and what questions should be asked in order to increase the suitability of the candidacy. After analysing the level of seniority (for a management position) and the country knowledge (for a position requiring long experience in a specific country or region), I ask myself whether they can carry out the job in question.

What stage of the recruitment process do you prefer or find the most engaging?

Definitely the CV Tailoring part. Very often, the candidates lack the necessary set of skills to highlight their extensive experience. Since this is a core aspect of a successful application, we assist them in tailoring the document to respond to a project’s needs. As a result, the majority of them are very impressed and the hard work pays off, as it really increases one’s chances of being awarded a project or selected for a position.

What can influence the success of the recruitment process in the development and humanitarian sectors?

● People (responsive consultants with relevant experience willing to go the extra mile and work on their CV)

● Competition (besides having a strong technical offer, it’s important to have a viable financial offer as well. It’s not uncommon to lose a bid having the best candidate).

What differences are there in the recruitment process when it comes to short-term, long-term and permanent positions?

The recruitment process is quite similar and requires, generally, the same type of skills. For short-term assignments, it’s important to identify someone who would be a great fit and available at short notice. For this type of project, we work with very short deadlines and it frequently happens that a confirmation of interest email is received from a very suitable candidate after the deadline has passed. The challenges of long-term missions are related to the relocation aspect. Sometimes the candidates we approach are very interested but because of certain personal reasons cannot relocate to the project site. The recruitment for permanent roles is more complex and involves a deeper analysis of the candidate, of his professional profile, and how he/she could contribute to the success of the company.

What have been the top five development sectors with the most demands during COVID-19?

The crisis has reinforced the need for a more flexible approach to funding, with more determined and equity-focused humanitarian and project interventions in the health, education, social equality, and economic empowerment sectors that can help economies and societies to mobilize and mitigate the profound impact of the pandemic. Lately, the number of public expenditure assessments and audit missions of the COVID-19 response plans has increased as well.

What makes DevelopmentAid Recruitment Solutions – DRS – stand out in international development aid recruitment?

First, we have an extensive and exclusive database of international, regional, and local experts and consultants that we have built over the last 12 years. We have developed excellent relationships with the professionals that we have worked with which makes them eager to apply to us again or to recommend us to their colleagues. We have a team of dedicated professional, stress-resilient, positive vibes recruiters who are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure we identify the best candidate and meet all of our client’s expectations. We provide a wide range of services and we remain open to any recommendations thus, as a client you can be sure that we will select together the most suitable service to address your needs.

What proven tools do you use when looking for experts?

An internal DRS database, two DevelopmentAid databases and we also externalize the search on LinkedIn and other platforms.

Which top three pieces of practical advice would an international recruiter offer to those who are seeking a job?

The job description always depicts the perfect candidate but she/he doesn’t exist. Therefore, don’t hesitate to apply to the roles for which you are not 100% compliant keeping in mind, however, that this is a competitive sector. Take some time to carefully analyse your qualifications against the requirements and make sure you qualify for at least 80% of them. Help the recruiters understand why you are suitable for the selected role. Put all the relevant keywords (from JDs or ToRs) in bold and work your Profile section by emphasizing the qualifications that are relevant to the project/position. Depending on the organization, the evaluation process might be very lengthy. Continue looking for the most relevant opportunity even after you pass the first internal screening. This way, should you not reach an agreement with the current organization, you will have a plan B ready.

Find out more about the DevelopmentAid Recruitment Solutions (DRS) here.