THE managing director of one of Phnom Penh’s leading recruitment companies says young Cambodians just starting out should take any job at a company they like – even if it is making coffee – because that’s what will get them the experience they need to make future gains in their careers.
Kevin Britten, Managing Director of TOP Recruitment Cambodia, says it doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for an IT, accounting or general management position. What matters is experience.
“Young Cambodians should find as good a company as possible and take any job in it. Go by the reputation of the company. Even if you’re only making coffee, you’re learning. You’ll be identified as someone who is inside the company who can grow with the company.
“Staff development is constant in a good company. Companies that don’t grow their staff lose them,” Britten said. Another important point is – be somebody who knows what they are doing around the office.
“People want to hire people who are good to have around the office. People hire people like themselves. Foreigner employers are looking for people who connect with that foreign wavelength – who aren’t obsessed with hierarchy and position and status – and who can ride through that and understand that, but can then go and behave in a foreign way and that’s required,” Britten said.
Interestingly, education is less important than experience in getting a job, according to Britten.
“One of the things that we are never asked is a list of education qualifications. If we present a candidate, very, very rarely will a client come back and say ‘this guy doesn’t have a degree so we can’t hire him’. That’s never happened.”
Britten says the best thing a young Cambodian can have to get a job is creativity, thinking for one’s self. He says that often in education, that’s not what’s asked of students – especially in traditional education systems.
“Sitting quietly and soaking up the answer from the teacher is what you’re taught,” Britten said. “No employer needs that.
“We can’t place anyone who doesn’t have a job – so get a job, even if it’s making coffee, because you are learning what it is to get up and go to work, what office behaviour is like, what office systems are like. “Even if you are only tasked with carrying a piece of paper from point A to point B, you quickly learn that you are part of a bigger system.”
One hundred percent of Britten’s clients already have jobs and nobody is placed unless they have a minimum of three years of experience.
“We don’t touch anyone with less than three years experience,” he said.
According to the three years’ minimum of experience, Britten and his team, located in the Phnom Penh Center, advise their clients to stay in their jobs until they have the three years. “People need to work their way through the system. We regularly say to people ‘you should stay where you are’ because nobody will give you more than you’re getting now.
Or we say: ‘You have changed jobs three times in four years. I’m not going to present your CV to my client because he won’t believe you’ll stay’.”
Ninety-five percent TOP Recruitment’s customers are Cambodians – many of whom start with salaries of between US$150 to $200 per month.
“Within three to five years they will be up to $500 to $700 per month if they’re good,” Britten said.
Britten and his team are very careful to send the employer the kind of candidate he thinks will be the most successful.
“I won’t send you to him unless you fit what he’s asking for, and I’m going to warranty you as well. If you leave in the first six months, I’m going to replace you for free.”
Britten says he wants TOP Recruitment to have a reputation as a clean company that walks in a straight line and provides an honest service.
“Candidates call my guys and say: ‘I’m thinking about changing my job. I heard from a friend you’ve got some good jobs. Can I send you my CV?’ My guys say, ‘sure, send it to me. We haven’t got anything for you right now, but we’ll keep you active. We have candidates approaching us constantly,” he said.
As far as the job market in Cambodia goes, Britten is very optimistic about the future.
“The economy is growing – better and more serious companies are coming in. They are offering Cambodians better jobs and I see improvement all around. When the agriculture starts into secondary processing, that is going to benefit the countryside massively,” he said.
“When the city starts producing manufacturing beyond garments, that will mean better and better jobs within the city. Every city in this region has been through the process that Cambodia is going through now. They rip down the old buildings. It involves gridlock for a while and losing old buildings – but they improve. Look at Bangkok.”
TOP Recruitment has about 10 employees in the office, but many more are outsourced.
“The people on my payroll are all in labour law compliant, standard jobs, all with a contract, all with a uniform – we provide a flexible, compliant workforce.”
For companies that need certain numbers of skilled workers on certain days for certain tasks, Britten can provide the labour pool.
“You can make a contract with us. Say you need 50 guys a day, or 80 on Sunday, you call my team, we look after it. We’ve got a pool of staff we pull in. They all get trained, they all get paid, they all get the national social security fund and they’re all working. The client only has to make one phone call.” A lot of Top Recruitment’s clients say they are looking to hire foreign-educated Cambodians.
“They know that the quality of education overseas is probably higher, and along with it comes the thing that they all want, which is dynamism. I think everyone is looking for dynamic people who are not afraid to go out and meet new people, thereby bringing in new business and closing sales. As for how candidates can be successful, Britten recommends confidence building, sales and presenting one’s self well.
“We give candidates guidance on how to handle the interview, how to prepare for the interview. Candidates should go to Google, look at the company, read it before they go to the interview. If you go to the interview without showing interest in the company, you are not going to get the job,” Britten said.