In our Consultant Spotlight Q&A series, we take a magnifying glass to the day-to-day responsibilities, opportunities and challenges that our consultants experience while working at Kerry Consulting.
In this edition of the series, Huang Ailing, Executive Director and Head of Kerry Consulting’s Energy & Commodities Practice, sits down to discuss her reasons for entering the industry, the day in a life of a recruitment consultant, and what it takes to become successful in recruitment.
Huang Ailing, Executive Director, Kerry Consulting’s Energy & Commodities Practice
“I always believe in continuous learning, being the better version of myself today than yesterday, that’s my mantra. The exceptionally high-quality team in Kerry Consulting serves as my role model.”
Q: What made you want to join the recruitment industry?
A: I have been in recruitment for close to 13 years. Prior to my career in executive search, I worked in a Big Four accounting firm, specialising in financial services as an Audit Manager. As with most Chartered Accountants from the Big Four, I was looking to make a switch out of practice and was in fact, a job seeker before stumbling upon recruitment. With the support of my loved ones, I made the bold move to completely switch careers from Finance to Search, and have never looked back.
Q: What do you best enjoy about being a recruitment consultant?
A: Being a recruiter allows me to learn more about the stories of candidates and their career growth plan, while better understanding the corporate DNA of my various clients in the industry that I’m operating in. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what I enjoy best as there are just so many aspects that contribute to this fulfilment. It is a role with great purpose and meaning to both the organisations and talents we work with. What’s equally satisfying is the highly entrepreneurial nature of the job. Possibilities are endless and there is never a ‘typical day’ in the life of a recruitment consultant.
Q: What made you transition from the Financial Services sector to Energy and Commodities?
A: While I was a consistent top performer recruiting in Financial Services before transitioning to Energy and Commodities, I always had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and was starting to feel stagnated. The Energy & Commodities sector, while bearing some resemblance to financial services, turned out to be way more complex, diverse, and filled with some of the most intelligent individuals I have met in my life. Although the journey has been challenging at times, I can proudly look back on the past 10 years in the sector with a huge sense of accomplishment.
Q: What made you want to work at Kerry Consulting?
A: Kerry Consulting is and has been Singapore’s leading search and selection firm for many years. I wanted to be able to learn from experienced recruiters who could call out my blind spots and allow me to grow and become a better version of myself. The experienced directors in Kerry Consulting, despite their years, are superbly hands-on, always out there in the field with boundless amounts of energy.
Q: How would you describe the people at Kerry Consulting?
A: Kerry Consulting believes that hiring the best attracts the best, and the consultants here are truly top class. There are not many recruitment firms like ours. The consultancy is staffed with high calibre, consistent performers who always put their best foot forward. Everyone is fiercely focused, with excellent work ethics. The culture at Kerry is competitive yet collaborative, and our oft-mentioned mantra, ‘Returning the Human to Resourcing’, is a key guidepost for the way we work. Consultants have a great mix of IQ and EQ, where they are not only academically smart but also street smart with their hearts in the right place.
“What sets a successful recruiter apart is the ability to engage with niche talent, candidates who are passive jobseekers that may not necessarily be active online. The trust of handling confidential information and long-term relationships are crucial for success in the recruitment industry.”
Q: Could you briefly explain your day-to-day responsibilities?
A: My day is varied, with a healthy mix of internal and external activities. As the practice leader for one of the busiest desks in the firm, I do a lot of business origination and development, whether it be through coffee, lunches, or occasional dinners for both clients and candidates. Just like all the consultants, I continue to execute assignments, perform searches, present shortlists, and manage offers. I am also managing a team, and am hands-on with on-the-job coaching, performance management, and mentoring. As a practice leader, I drive strategic planning initiatives for the sector, along with actively engaging fellow practice leaders through regular huddles, which fosters cross collaboration and creativity.
Q: Is there a ‘secret recipe’ for becoming a successful recruiter?
A: A healthy balance between IQ and EQ is critical, the IQ being understanding your client and knowing your candidate and the job while also having the ability to empathise and read the room. It is also important to stay curious about the business and industry in order to be on top of things. There are a million permutations of scenarios in recruitment, which makes being an effective problem solver and communicator crucial in order to be a creative solutions provider for both the client and candidate.
Above all, becoming a successful recruiter means putting in the hard work. One must have the grit and perseverance in order to go far in this industry. The nature of the job requires recruiters to be emotionally resilient and have some level of detachment in order to stay clear-headed and efficient.
Q: What are the biggest opportunities/challenges facing the recruitment industry right now?
A: Technology is both the biggest asset and threat to our job as recruiters. Advancements in technology including social media, messaging apps have allowed for accelerated information flow, hence always keep recruiters constantly on our toes. In recruitment, it is always about gaining first mover advantage and quick access to the best talent. However, we can certainly utilise technology to our advantage as a tool for data and insights analysis, long-term strategic planning and reaching out to a wider network in the shortest amount of time.
Q: What advice would you give to those who are potentially looking at a career in recruitment?
A: Recruitment as a career is highly rewarding yet punishing at the same time. It is a marathon, not a sprint. You must be highly patient, not seek instant gratification and prepare to weather the storm, all while executing activities with the right level of rigour and intensity. While a supportive environment such as that of Kerry Consulting’s will be important for your success, you are ultimately your own competition.