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What's in name?

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

Plenty; especially if you’re considering making a career move.

For the majority of skilled individuals, choosing a potential employer is a critical decision that could make – or break – your future career. For many people however, it is accepted as the "norm” that recruiters don’t divulge the name of the client until an interview with the client has been set up. This is not correct and flies in the face, not only of the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice, but international best practice too.

Consider for a moment, the amount of personal information that is contained within your CV and the potential for disaster should it become widely known that you’re seeking alternative employment. Wouldn’t you rather know exactly where your CV is going, to whom, and for what?

The South African job market is in fact rather small, particularly for those individuals who have chosen to specialise and offer their skills within a niche market. It is critical therefore that you choose to engage with a professional recruiter who understands that you need all of the information, most importantly who the client is, to make a decision on whether to consider the job opportunity on offer.

As an individual who engages regularly with recruiters, I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun for not divulging the client’s name, from "my client doesn’t want their name bandied about in the market” to "what if the candidate goes behind my back direct to the client?” Each time, I gently remind these recruiters that candidates have a right to know where their personal information is being sent and that, if they offer the level of professional service we expect, they should not have any concerns about the integrity of their clients or candidates.

At this point, it should be remembered that the recruiter is also obliged to offer their client a measure of confidentiality. In maintaining this balancing act, the recruiter is only required to divulge the name of the client to a candidate who they have shortlisted and wish to send to the client for consideration. Simply put, this means that the recruiter does not have to tell every candidate who applies to them who the client is, only those who they plan to represent at the specific client for the specific vacancy.

For too long, candidates have simply accepted that recruiters are "in charge” and whilst they do wield a great deal of power within the recruitment cycle, individuals should know their rights and be unafraid to stand up for them. After all, your reputation could be at stake if your chosen representative (recruiter) does a shoddy job.In an extreme case, a candidate of mine (when I still ran a recruitment desk) was horrified by recruiters and refused to even consider working with me. After many conversations and the promise of a simple "cup of coffee and no strings” I finally discovered the reason for his apprehension. It turned out that a recruiter, who shall remain nameless, had sent his CV – without his permission – to a client that was actually a division of his existing employer. Needless to say, he was hard-pressed to explain himself when his boss called him in to ask why he thought it necessary to put his CV on the market. A completely idiotic mistake that should never have happened, had the recruiter done her homework; but definitely wouldn’t have occurred if the candidate was told the name of the potential employer at the outset. He would quickly have advised the recruiter of the link between the two companies and his CV would never have been sent.

Contrary to popular belief, it is never a good idea to have your CV out all over the place, especially if you’re currently employed or have a skill set that is in high demand. Potential employers are likely to be wary of someone who appears to be uncalculated in their career development process. What would you think if you heard that the candidate you were considering had sent their CV to every company in the sector simultaneously? Wouldn’t you question their motives or their ability?

Hedging their bets

Some individuals, in their eagerness to secure employment with a particular company, choose to give permission to more than one recruiter to submit their application to the same position, believing that this gives them a better chance of securing the interview, and ultimately the job. Whether this is because they doubt the ability of the recruiter, or think that if their CV arrives from two different sources, the HR person will automatically short-list them believing them perfect for the job, I’ll never know for sure.

What I can say for sure is that the opposite is more likely to happen. In many engagements with HR practitioners, I have heard the same thing over and over, "if a CV arrives more than once, I’m likely to avoid the candidate, worrying about the possible fee dispute that could ensue between the two recruitment agencies” or "unless the candidate was a needle in a haystack, I’d probably not choose to interview to avoid any unnecessary arguments”.

In one particular instance, an HR practitioner told me the story of their epic struggle to find a specialised technician. They’d been looking for nearly 6 months when the perfect candidate turned up... eight times, through eight different agencies! Despite their need to fill the vacancy the HR committee took the decision not to consider the applicant because they were concerned at his lack of control, planning and decision-making in respect to engaging the services of a recruiter, qualities they believed were critical for the role they were trying to recruit,

Whilst it often happens that an individual’s CV arrives more than once because they were unaware of it being sent in the first place, this can be boiled down to two simple situations. One, an unscrupulous ‘recruiter’ has simply lifted the CV from a job portal and submitted it to the client without ever engaging with the individual, or two, one or both of the recruiters has failed to divulge the name of the client to the candidate during their usual recruitment process.This situation could simply be avoided by ensuring that each time you engage with a recruiter, you make it clear that you wish to have all of the information, including the name of the client, before you consider being submitted as an applicant for the role. At the end of the day, you are providing the recruiter with permission to represent you in the particular recruitment instance, and they are not permitted to send your personal details without your express permission.

Protect your reputation

Understanding your rights will lead to a more constructive recruitment process and should ensure that your reputation, within the sector you’ve chosen to work in, is maintained. Always choose to work with a recruiter, ideally one who belongs to a professional body like APSO, who is committed to building a long-term relationship with you that is characterised by trust, integrity, open communication channels and above all, honesty.

By choosing to deal with an APSO member company, you know that their recruiters are bound by the Code of Ethical & Professional Practice that clearly outlines the minimum service levels expected to be given to candidates. Included therein is the obligation to complete a thorough recruitment process, including a formal interview; to understand your career requirements; to ensure that your current employment is not jeopardised; to gain your express permission to represent you at a specific client for a specific vacancy; and not to charge you for any of these services. And, if you feel that you have not received the required service, you have the opportunity for recourse via the APSO Ethics process, at no cost to you.

For more information, and to see the full APSO Code, visit

Tags:  candidate rights  employer  employment opportunity  job details  jobs  recruiter 

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To be searchable, or not to be?

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

That is the question all candidates should be asking themselves as the online job search environment changes. In today’s online environment there are many ways to promote yourself if you’re seeking better career prospects, and for potential employers to seek you out. Some are obvious, such as job boards or perhaps your LinkedIn profile, but some, like your FaceBook page or where your weekend sports results were posted, are not.

Today, many candidates are unaware of the changing landscape in South Africa and the fact that many of the job boards, that traditionally only serviced recruitment agencies, are now making their service offering accessible to corporate employers, and this could have dire consequences for your confidentiality and job security.

But, before you panic, let’s assess the risks. There are most certainly pros and cons to being found easily in cyberspace, and it depends entirely on your current circumstances.

Flying below the radar

If you want to be in direct control of who has access to your CV, then you’d be better off not registering on any portals and simply watching the career sections of newspapers or websites for positions that catch your eye. You can then make a conscious decision to forward your CV for consideration. However, this can be extremely time-consuming and you may miss out on the perfect job simply because you didn’t see the advert on that particular day.

Pro:        You are the only person who has access to your CV until you choose to apply directly

Con:       You could miss out on the ideal job

Targeted selection

As a skilled candidate, you may wish to rather begin a relationship with a specialist recruiter who works within your niche sector. By registering with a particular agency, or perhaps two, you could benefit from their expertise and network of clients with the right kind of opportunities. You would take the time to register with the agency once and then liaise with them from time-to-time as your needs changed, or they had suitable opportunities to discuss with you. This form of relationship allows you to control where, and to whom, your CV is sent because a professional recruiter, especially one that is registered with APSO and adheres to the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice, should always contact you to discuss any potential career move and get your express permission to send the CV to that specific client, for that specific role at that specific time.

Pro:       Your specialist consultant will be able to identify those opportunities that meet your specific skill set and requirements and market you effectively to the potential employer, including assisting you with the interview and offer stage.

Con:      You need to ensure that you’ve registered with the right recruiter who will be proactive in assisting you with your next career move otherwise you run the risk of missing out on other suitable opportunities. 

Leveraging your network

If you’re a social media fundi you may wish to leverage your own network when seeking better prospects. Keeping your job search solely to cyberspace associated with social networks can be risky as your network may not be big enough to uncover the right opportunity for you. Remember to manage your profiles carefully because social media is equally used to reference potential employees as it is to recruit them.

Pro:        You can control all engagements and work with people in your network.

Con:       Your profile/s may in fact cause potential employers to disregard you entirely.

Signing up to a job portal

For a long time, job portals in South Africa were only accessible to recruitment agencies and this meant that candidates could register and make themselves searchable confident that their details were not at risk of being found by their current employer or someone in their immediate network. However, several of the job boards, including some of the leading brands, have recently changed their service offering and now make it possible for their corporate clients to utilise the search functionality. Some portals provide candidates with the option to "opt in” or "opt out” from this extra layer of accessibility but it’s not always clearly laid out. As a result, candidates are recommended to investigate their rights and understand what they are signing up to, before simply assuming that their information will be handled only by recruitment agencies.

The job portals can be an excellent way to manage your career search as they provide resume creation services, direct online applications, application tracking and other tools. Many recruitment agencies, and increasingly corporate employers, are also making use of these portals so the number of job vacancies being posted is increasing. However, in light of the changes, we strongly recommend that candidates do their research and choose their job portal wisely, especially if they’re currently employed and don’t want to risk being discovered by their own boss.

Pro:        One stop shop with many vacancies and other useful career-seeking tools

Con:       You could end up with your details openly available and this may risk your current job.

All or nothing

If you’re currently unemployed or work as a freelancer or contractor, it may be in your interest to be as accessible as possible to anyone who is seeking your skill set – recruiters and employers alike. It makes sense in this case to register your CV on as many job portals as possible, including those that allow employers direct search access to the CV database. You should also invest in creating a detailed LinkedIn profile that clearly outlines your skill set and experience as this social media site is being used more and more often for recruitment purposes. Remember to always consider your online profile and consider limiting access to your FaceBook profile to friends and family – after all, seeing the "good time” you had on Tuesday night, is unlikely to be seen as an advantage by a potential employer.

Pro:       All potential opportunities are available to you.

Con:      You lose control of your personal information and there is always the potential for it to be used unethically or illegally. 

Whatever method you choose to use when seeking a step up in your career, remember to carefully weigh up your options. Remember too that your circumstances will change throughout your career, and what was suitable today may not be right for tomorrow. Maintain your online profiles, including registrations with recruitment agencies and job portals, to ensure that they’re up-to-date and have privacy settings that are appropriate for your current situation.

Tags:  candidate rights  CV  Facebook  job portal  job search  LinkedIn  networking  recruiter  reputation  social media  vacancies 

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Kickstart your Career!

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

This article first appeared in the ACCA magazine in 2010 and whilst it was targeted at newly qualified accountants, the advice will apply equally to other new entrants to the job market

You’ve made the decision to follow your dream of entering the accounting field, have successfully navigated your way through your studies and now you face the next challenge: finding a job.

Searching for a new job is just like a project; you need to spend time identifying your target and determining the action items required to reach the desired outcome. Planning is a crucial part of the process and should not be underestimated if you want to utilize your time and resources wisely.

Creating your CV

Your CV is the document that needs to "sell” you in your absence. It should speak of your strengths, skills and experience but nothing beats actual examples of performance to shown an employer what you can deliver for them. Use real-life examples of accomplishments to increase your chances of getting an interview. If you don’t yet have any formal work experience, look at highlighting other accomplishments from your studies like outside activities (sport, community work) or your part-time jobs. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to your accounting career you should look to highlight your leadership ability and transferable skills and attributes like planning, reliability, dedication and commitment.

CVs should be concise and additional documentation like certificates, ID, driver’s license and reference letters should always be kept separate and only sent on request. Recruiters get very frustrated receiving an application that has multiple attachments or 10-page documents.

The format of a CV should be neat, logically structured and easy to read. Avoid adding pictures or unnecessary "frippery” – keep it clean and concise. Make use of standard fonts, bullet points and appropriate headings. There are many websites that provide CV templates if you need guidance.

Developing a "Plan of Attack”

As the saying goes "if you want to catch a fish, make sure you have many lines in the water” – the same goes for looking for a job. A job certainly won’t come looking for you so you need to determine a plan of attack and then take the necessary action to get yourself into the job market. Identify your target market – which employers are most suited to your skill and experience.

You should determine what qualities would appeal most to them and work out how to approach them successfully. You are far more likely to make a successful connection with a company if you highlight those skills of yours that match their needs so remember to customize your CV and application for each individual job.

Work out where to market yourself. Consider uploading your CV onto the various job portals. You can register online at no cost and by being on the portal you will be accessible to recruiters who are able to search the online database whenever they’ve got a vacancy. Most job portals also have an alert function that will let you know (via email) whenever a new job is posted that matches your skill set or predefined requirements.

Monitor the career pages in your local newspaper to see if any employers (or recruiters) are advertising positions that you qualify for. Remember that you should also frequently check the websites of your identified employers (companies you’d like to work for) to see if they’re advertising vacancies. Most of South Africa’s top companies have job sections on their website where they advertise vacancies, including graduate programmes.

You should also seriously consider registering with a few recruitment companies who specialise in financial placements. Whilst it is a good idea to be registered with a few, you should rather focus on developing relationships with one or two recruiters than with every recruiter in town.

Know your rights as a work seeker

Recruitment agencies have their own specific requirements when it comes to what they expect of the candidates who are interviewed by them. However it is important to note that you have rights as a candidate, and that you should choose to deal with an APSO-registered agency that practices recruitment in a legal and ethical manner. APSO registered agencies operate according to a strict Code of Ethical & Professional Practice and this refers specifically to the services that should be extended to candidates.

You can expect the following:

Respect & Confidentiality – APSO members are required to treat their candidates with respect and to ensure that their personal information is treated confidentially.

Professionalism – you are entitled to be interviewed by a consultant of appropriate seniority and training who fully understands the search assignment s/he is working on and who can take adequate notes during the course of the interview and who can then present you to the client in an accurate and professional manner.

Efficiency – APSO members are responsible for ensuring that they gather all appropriate information. If any doubt exists as to the authenticity of these documents, the member is required to undertake investigation to verify the relevance of this information.

Permission for submission – it is never acceptable for an agency to forward your CV or personal details to a company without first getting your express permission to be submitted for that particular job. The member is required to provide you with all relevant details including name of the company, job title, salary on offer, location and any other pertinent information.

Communication – members should provide candidates with ongoing feedback concerning the recruitment process. Candidates should always be informed of their success or failure in each vacancy.

Not all agencies are registered with APSO so we recommend that you make a point of dealing only with APSO registered agencies that pride themselves on providing a professional service with high ethical standards. Should you not receive this level of service you should make a point of expressing your concern with the recruitment consultant, agency management or with APSO directly. For more information on APSO, the ethics complaint process and a series of other articles aimed at educating work seekers, visit our website

Tags:  candidate rights  CV  dress code  employers want  job search  professionalism  skills  volunteering 

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Unexpected dangers of job seeking

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

This article first appeared in The Workplace in September 2011

It is shocking to hear the awful tales of unsuspecting work seekers who have fallen prey to con artists, scammers and dangerous criminals posing as employment agents. As an industry fighting for recognition as a profession, it is disheartening to see the havoc that can be caused by unscrupulous individuals who simply see an opportunity to take advantage of desperate people.

In an attempt to provide guidance to those currently seeking employment, APSO (the Federation of African Professional Staffing Organisations) has provided a few tips that should assist you in successfully securing a job whilst avoiding falling into the trap laid by calculated criminals.

Virtual smoke and mirrors

We commonly engage with one another today in the virtual world, whether by email, SMS, instant messaging or social media. Access to technology and the ease in which professional-looking websites and virtual businesses can be created allows an individual who wishes to appear in a certain way, as an employment agent for example, to do so quickly, cheaply and effectively.

More frightening is the speed at which these virtual businesses can be altered or disappear entirely, leaving no trace behind. APSO has recently received reports about a con artist who appears to target free sites like Best and and who regularly sets up (and closes down) "employment agencies” using free email addresses and 086 fax numbers.

Their modus operandi is to get work seekers to respond to an attractive job advert, often communicating seemingly professionally via email and then requesting that the candidate sends their CV and certified copies of all personal documentation including ID, driver’s license, Matric certificates etc.

Once the information has been sent the work seeker never hears from the "agent” again. In some cases the work seeker has subsequently discovered that their personal information has been used fraudulently to secure loans and contracts, for example, and this is tantamount to identity theft.

Tips for dealing with "virtual” businesses:

  • Be wary of dealing with any business that operates using a free email service address like @hotmail, @gmail, @yahoo. If the website address appears to be unusual do an Internet search to find out whether it is a free service or not – you’d be surprised at the vast number, and unusual names, of the free services available in cyber space.
  • Legitimate businesses will most often have personalised email addresses linked to their company website or will make use of recognised service providers like Telkom etc.Look for a contact telephone number ideally a landline and attempt to verify the business by calling them. Don’t simply engage via email or fax. If there isn’t a number then I’d recommend not continuing with them.
  • Free job sites usually don’t verify to see that the adverts that have been loaded or the individuals/companies utilizing their services are legitimate. Free and unlimited access to advertising is a perfect platform for con artists to attract victims. There is no paper trail and so they can appear and disappear quickly, drastically reducing their chances of being caught. 

The issue of fees

More and more we get reports about "employment agents” charging work seekers for their services. APSO would like to point out to candidates that the law is very clear about what can, and can’t be charged. Currently in South Africa a registered employment agent could charge a candidate a registration fee of no more than R1.00 and a placement fee of up to 7.5% of their first month’s salary in the event that the agency secures the candidate employment. However, this is something that is currently being reviewed in line with the Employment Services Bill expected to be passed in the near future. Going forward, it will be illegal for employment agencies to charge any fees whatsoever to work seekers in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies.

APSO members are forbidden from charging any fees to work seekers, a condition of membership that has been included in the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice since the early 1990s. This is one of the many reasons that we recommend that work seekers actively choose to work with an APSO member.

Professional staffing companies make their money by charging fees to their clients (companies seeking staff) for their recruitment services.Individuals seeking to secure employment are strongly advised not to engage with companies who charge fees, whether for registration, application, administration or placement.

In the event that you come across a company asking for money, especially as a pre-requisite for applying for the role, stop! Further, we recommend that you report this company to the Department of Labour who can investigate further and close down any illegal operators.

Verifying if they’re legitimate

Unfortunately there is little regulation for the South African staffing industry and so it can be difficult for individuals to ascertain whether the company they wish to engage with is legitimate or not. Currently, all staffing companies are required to register with the Department of Labour as a Private Employment Agency.

When you’re dealing with an "employment agency” for the first time, ask them to provide you with their PEA certificate issued by the Department of Labour. If they don’t have one or are reluctant to provide you with this information, be wary. Rather walk away and find another agency to assist you.

All APSO registered agencies are required to meet compliance criteria before they are admitted as members of the organisation to ensure that they are legally and operationally compliant. Members are also held accountable to the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice that sets the minimum standards for the industry, including a section on candidate service. If you choose to work with an APSO member and experience any problems, you have free recourse via the APSO ethics and compliance mechanisms.

To find an APSO member, simply visit and search our member directory.

Be cautious when arranging to meet

It is common to attend an interview with an employment agent before being considered for the vacancy. Although telephonic interviews are becoming more commonplace, it is likely that you will be asked to meet the employment agent in person. Despite dealing with a business, you are essentially meeting a stranger and so you should always proceed with caution.

Tips for safe meetings:

  • Some employment agents may wish to meet you at a coffee shop, rather than in their office, especially if they are recruiting in a geographical area away from their usual place of business. Arrange to meet them in a busy venue, like a shopping centre, so that you can be confident that there will be other people around and you can access help if necessary.
  • After hours interviews can be convenient, particularly if you’re currently working and would find it difficult to get away from the office, but remember to conduct these meetings in a safe environment (public area) and ideally take someone with you, especially if you’re a woman on your own.
  • NEVER accept a lift from a stranger! Always arrange to get to and from the meeting or interview under your own steam.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back. You may even want to get them to call you at an appointed time so that, if necessary, you have an excuse to cut the meeting short and leave. 

Finding a job is stressful but your stress should never include worries about the security of your personal information, the likelihood of being conned or placed in physical danger. Heeding the tips provided above will assist you in making informed choices about who to deal with during this process and hopefully result in you securing a great job. Remember too that you should always listen to your "gut”. If something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Rather walk away disappointed that you didn’t get a shot at the job than find yourself a victim.

For more information about APSO visit

Tags:  candidate rights  dangers  Department of Labour  employers  hints  identity fraud  job search  recruiters  scams  tips  virtual recruiters 

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