Consultants Re-Rate Skills In A Keen Market


Competitive recruits are expected to become part of the client's network — the person they turn to for advice — in order to win new business and generate ongoing projects.

Soft skills and the ability to win more business are among the qualities most in demand among consultants. The financial crisis led employers to re-rate the skills they need, and to place greater emphasis on characteristics that were once simply "nice to have".

The weakening economy has increased companies' need for staff that can increase efficiency and effectiveness — both internal staff and consultants. But as some client companies have less money to spend on consultant services, there is greater competition among consultants to win that business.

A knowledge of finance and economics, and the desire to work hard is no longer enough to compete in the consultancy world, said Artem Malkov, Director of the Manufacturing and Defense practice, at Strategy Partners Group. Companies now demand a more analytical mind, energy, and both being a good team-player and having the vigor to lead a team.

†"Many ambitious young people who read this description will think, "Yes, that's me!" We will be happy to meet you but getting into consulting is not easy. From our own statistics, we interview no more than 10 candidates out of 100 resumes, and only one gets the job offer." The company looks for both graduate and experienced candidates.

Soft skills could have more weight than professional experience for some candidates.

Effort, a willing attitude and the ability to create business is increasingly important, said Elena Naumenko, HR Director, People, KPMG. "The consulting industry has always strived to attract talent that is results-oriented and good at multi-tasking, apart from being highly professional in their respective spheres. In some departments like corporate finance good technical skills and specific theoretical knowledge is the essential part of a candidate's profile.

"However, since the crisis it has become much harder to identify 'effort' — which itself is a nice-to-have attribute. So over the past three to four years some most-wanted soft skills among consultants have become agility and the ability to work well in constantly changing circumstances. That and being very market-focused, knowing their respective market so well that they can spot a new project opportunity immediately when this opportunity arises."

Regional governments are also active users of consultancy services as they seek to expand their industrial base. These include the attempt to build regional business clusters and to share what Strategy Partners calls the "new generation of regional strategies".

Malkov of Strategy Partners said the key was to link strategy and the business objectives of the client company to its operating activities. "We are implementing projects to improve operational efficiency, often following the strategic and organizational paths. In this regard, we are also looking for professionals with experience to develop and implement the operational improvements, run the diagnostic processes and calculate the efficiency of the changes."

KPMG's Naumenko said it was crucial to be able to maintain productive relations with the client, so that the client would turn to consultants for more and more services.

"These soft skills are what is needed in all consulting service lines. Depending on the level of a potential hire, they could weigh even more than deep professional experience in a particular area when the employer makes the hiring decision."

There are two different ways for candidates to start their career in the consultancy sector, said Marina Simonova, General Director of Ventra Employment.

"The first way is to join a consulting company, which as a rule, offers different services in various fields of business such as law, finance and IT. The top five consulting companies on the market grow their own specialists from scratch. They are constantly searching for talent among young specialists and graduates, who are interested in building a career as a consultant. These companies are the so-called source of manpower in the field of business consulting.

"The other situation is when experienced professionals in a particular field act as a consultant †for an outside company. These professionals generally work on a project basis in the various companies. This form of cooperation with the employer gives them the opportunity to acquire diversified experience."

The financial crisis has affected the consultancy sector as the spending of client companies on consultant services has been significantly reduced, Simonova said. Nevertheless companies use the services of business consultants in search of greater efficiency.

As for the professional areas, KPMG's Naumenko said there is much less need for transaction services and mergers and acquisitions consultants at the moment compared with 2009 to 2011. Management consultants, business effectiveness specialists and financial management consultants are in high demand. Corporate finance professionals, forensic specialists, financial risk management specialists and SAP consultants as well as treasury consultants are in constant demand.

Andrey Chulakhvarov, Head of Permanent Staffing, Coleman Services, said there is a marked shortage of ambitious, driven young specialists. "Skills can be acquired, ambition is innate. If you aspire to be the best in your profession and are willing to share your knowledge through fostering relationships and adding real value, then consulting is perhaps the best shot at getting it done. Reward will be more than monetary."

Consulting is not for everyone, Chulakhvarov said. "It's not only because of an unfit personality or inappropriate work experience. Consulting is for very dynamic, client- and result-oriented, team player people who are ready to work under pressure and in multi-task environment."

Hiring Plans Remain Positive

Skilled trades workers, engineers, technicians and sales staff are the hardest jobs categories to fill, according to a survey by ManpowerGroup.

Hiring intentions improved in the fourth quarter, according to Manpower, which surveyed 200 human resources managers and related professionals. That's 16 percent higher than in the fourth quarter of last year.

That puts Russia among the minority of countries where hiring intentions are stronger than a year ago. Manpower's Global Employment Outlook found that outlooks were stronger in 16 countries out of 42. Overall hiring intentions were weaker in Europe but remained positive in each of the 10 countries surveyed in the Americas.

Forty-three percent of Russian employers report that they have difficulty filling jobs, up 3 percentage points from the same quarter of last year.

Although accounting and finance staff were the fifth-hardest job category to fill, Ernst and Young (trading as EY) warns of pain to come in the banking sector in the Euro zone, from which Russian may struggle to remain immune. Euro zone banks will see lending fall to new lows, as recession, unemployment and lower real incomes challenge the financial services industry.

Number Of Jobless Declines†

Russian unemployment declined or the third month running in August, to 5.2 percent, down a tenth of a percent from the month before.

The rate is still higher than at the start of the year, having reached 6 percent in January. The numbers disguise a wide variation across the country, with the North Caucasus typically seeing over 13 percent while the rate in Moscow and St Petersburg hovers around one percent, according to the Federal State Statistics Service.

High living costs mean it is not possible to survive in Moscow on monthly unemployment benefits of a up to 4,900 rubles (just over $150). However in regions where living costs and salaries are lower, a growing proportion of people of working age is opting to live on benefits, Dmitry Lipatov, partner with the company Tax Inspector, told Rossiskaya Gazeta.

The economically active population increased to 76.4 million people.