INTERVIEW TO CRISTINA SPAGNA, Managing Director Kilpatrick

There are those who, unemployed, had undergone the last selection interview in mid-February and everything pointed to an imminent hiring, but then the recruiting company vanished. There are those who had found a new path in their careers, were ready to embrace the new challenge, resignations already sealed, but then they second guessed and decided to keep the boring job, but with economic stability in return. Finally, there are those who have seen the demand for their professional figure explode, but do not have the courage to rejoice because they ask themselves “will it last?”. 

Since the beginning of March, the labor market first froze, almost in shock, then jumbled up, now we are going through a limbo that promises waves of layoffs. At the same time, recruiting methods have also changed a lot and, perhaps, is not for everyone to casually hold an interview via video call or, even worse, simply by telephone. We tried to clarify the sector with Cristina Spagna, managing director of Kilpatrick Group. With an eye to managers and the skills most requested by them.

How has the job market changed and how has it evolved as we went through the various phases of the emergency, from February to today?

“2019 ended positively, according to official Istat statistics, with an employment rate in Italy at its all-time high and therefore also the year 2020 began with a positive wave, but the containment measures against the virus have shaken up on one hand the supply, due to the suspension of the activities of many companies, and on the other hand, the demand due to the contraction in consumption and income. Unfortunately, the opinion of companies and forecasts about the future and employment expectations for the coming months are not positive for most sectors, especially manufacturing and services. The occupational hemorrhage in Italy in recent months has been contained by the current social safety nets, but we expect an important flow of layoffs as soon as the restrictions are lifted”.

What managerial figures will be the most requested post-Covid?

«The recipe for companies for the next few months is “change”. Companies that do not have adequate managers to steer them out of this economic emergency will find themselves at a crossroads: continue to place trust in the old management or venture into a new one and look for managers more suitable to tackle issues of change, internationalization and digitalization. At Kilpatrick we are seeing requests that go in this direction, as well as a growth of the demand for advanced and suitable HR managers. Those who have had to face this period without a good HR leadership have suffered and will suffer a lot. The growth trend relating to the professions of the new digital age remains. Regarding middle management, the figures of data scientists, digital innovation specialists, data analytics specialists and everything that has to do with the digital transformation of businesses and companies is constantly growing. Retail is becoming more and more e-commerce and therefore the figures with these skills, in addition to those who work in the supply chain, are particularly in demand, because companies are gearing up by reviewing supplier policy and distribution logistics”.

What are the most requested skills on the market?

“Managers do not have an instruction manual to manage this moment, but they are called to decide quickly on the basis of intuition, rather than on objective analysis and data. The market right now needs people who are able to research and pursue business solutions aimed at bringing concrete and lasting results. Managers are often asked to take unusual paths to find or create new opportunities. It is important to be able to read the market signals and interpret them to guide the company towards safer and more productive choices and often managers have to leave their comfort zone. Digital transformation, then, is no longer just a slogan or a thought, but is the present and requires adequate skills. Managers are also required to have skills like flexibility and mental elasticity, resilience, responsibility, courage and proactivity. Finally, the hot topic of the moment is cashflow management and therefore the sensitivity to numbers is fundamental to support entrepreneurs and boards».

How have recruiting methods changed?

“The Covid emergency has shaken up the selection processes in Italy. Kilpatrick has been working on international searches around the world for years and most countries had already implemented completely virtual processes. In Italy, companies that until now poorly digested the non-physical nature of the processes were forced to operate in this way and were pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the method. In recent months we have successfully managed totally virtual selection processes. Candidates were and are freer and more willing to answer our calls and embrace new opportunities. What is certain is that, when it comes to the making the final decision, many are afraid and some are unable to make the leap. Furthermore, the novelty is that most of the candidates request smart working days in the package offered by the company for the future as well”.

Remote selections: pros and cons for the candidate and the recruiter.

“We now have data deriving from many searches carried out over the years abroad (and now also in Italy) to declare that there is no contraindication to making the selection process virtual. Of course, it is necessary that both the recruiter and the candidate dedicate the right amount of time to the interview, that they present themselves professionally and with a good connection. In recent months, people have had the opportunity totrain and practice how to move professionally in the world of videoconferencing and have learned to better grasp the nuances. It is always nice to be able to shake a person’s hand, but you can create a lasting relationship of trust even in digital mode”.

Based on your experience, companies that were hiring before the emergency have stopped? Are they continuing the selections as they had planned? Or, are they continuing them after changing something in the parameters of the search?

«It depends a lot on the type of figure. For example, as for professionalism with a strong impact on the business, called to bring skills and changes in organizations, then companies are still continuing their research as planned and, indeed, in some cases with more urgency. On the other hand, all the selections that are not strictly necessary have stopped».

From your international point of view, are there differences between the market trend in Italy, Europe and the rest of the world?

“There are huge differences. Some countries, such as Spain and the UK, are suffering and in a more similar situation to Italy while, in most cases, our foreign offices record a more fluid labor market trend. Northern Europe, for example, is actively moving towards personnel selection and America maintains its characteristic fluid labor market, for better or for worse. Most countries have not blocked the economy and, despite the health difficulties, they have less rigidity in the bureaucratic mechanisms of the labor market than our country”.

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