An co-founded Ulysses Consulting in 1999 and has helped grow the business to a $1.6 million USD enterprise, increasing her organization from 2 consultants to as many as 16. She has served as CEO since 2003. Ulysses Consulting is a Belgian executive search agency for the ICT industry. The company has quickly gained stature as a full service provider on the IT recruitment market, with services such as headhunting, outsourcing of IT recruiters, outsourcing of specialized IT consultants (through its sister company Titans) and M&A for the IT industry (through Optimerge). It was nominated for the Hermes award (dynamic Subject Matter Expertise) in 2004. The company primarily serves the Benelux region (Belgium-the Netherlands-Luxembourg) with An’s headquarters is located in Dilbeek (near Brussels), and additional offices in Antwerp and Ghent (soon to be opened, and a subsidiary in Luxembourg.
An started her career in the IT market as a contingency recruiter in 1997 at “Dart Resourcing” an English recruitment & selection agency specialized in technical ICT profiles providing permanent recruitment and outsourcing consultant to clients. After two years she left to found Ulysses together with a former colleague, Ian Morsomme. Starting with technical positions, they quickly moved into sales and middle management as well. Today, Ulysses Consulting equally fills C-level missions. With the expansion of the company, An is responsible for business development (new client acquisition) in Belgium and abroad, recruitment and people management of new employees, public relations & networking and general administration of the company. Above all, An’s focus is in expansion of the company by planning the future growth through the opening of new subsidiaries, new product or service offerings etc.
How is culture a factor in the hiring practice different from other countries you recruit from?
“Belgium has two subcultures since it has a Flemish (Dutch speaking) and a Walloon (French speaking) community. In general, Flemish speakers are pragmatic but somewhat reserved making it harder to convince them on the phone, while Walloon people are easier approachable by phone but sometimes tend to oversell their language skills on their CV.”
Where is Europe ahead of the USA in certain recruitment tactics?
“Europe has certainly understood the need to individualize the recruitment process in terms of cultural and linguistic qualities, e.g. offer multiple languages for job forms. Also, since the laws are less strict in Europe concerning privacy and political correctness, head hunters can more easily check the references of a candidate, thus in my view improving the quality of the search.”
What networking groups are available and influential within Europe as a whole and within your country in particular?
“Too many to list here, but let’s say that networking groups in Western-Europe and also in Belgium are well-developed and still the number one way to a new job. Most of them are off-line, but recently we see a surge in online networks as well, e.g. Linkedin (US origin but probably the number one professional network for Belgium), Ecademy (UK origin but widespread in Belgium as well, especially in the Dutch speaking part), Xing (German origin but probably the most European of them all) and Viadeo (French origin but also used in Belgium, especially the French speaking region). If you’re looking to contact young people (15-25) on a social (not professional) network in the Netherlands, then Hyves is probably a good bet.
What types of training in sourcing/recruitment are available to you and have you taken advantage of?
“I tend to follow quite a few recruitment and sourcing blogs and Internet sites on the topic and still learn a lot from clients and candidates and their experience with other headhunters. One of the sites I like is ERE for example.”
How do government laws affect your ability to recruit?
“Obviously there are laws forbidding totally ‘draining’ a company of its key personnel but as stated before, they are not that easy to enforce. I believe that headhunters in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg still have a lot of room to operate. However (!) in Belgium you need to be accredited by the government in order to operate your license, and this 3 times with each time different papers to fill out (one for Flanders, one for Brussels and one for Wallonia). In the Netherlands you do not need to be licensed in anything to open up an agency.”
How are US and European recruitment culture different? How are they similar?”
“Political correctness and minority hiring are two topics which are hot in the States but almost non-existent in Europe. In both market places it is difficult to find the right, qualified candidate so in that respect I don’t think there is a major difference.”
What recruitment software tools do you use in your day to day recruitment activities & do they translate effectively within all of the different countries where you recruit?
“We use Otys as a database and CRM system. It is a Dutch ASP which works very well. On top of that we use all kinds of social networks to contact new candidates and obviously it depends on the popularity of certain networks whether they can be used in all countries or not.”
How many applicants do you estimate are hired from your corporate website as compared to how many are hired through referrals?
“I’m taking a wild guess here but one out of ten”
Where are the “most hires” collected from? (In terms of Quantity #)
What is the source of your “Lowest Cost of Hires” - (least amount of invested resources for the easiest hires, regardless of quality)
“Online Social networking platforms.”
Whether you are hiring IT engineers, accounting, etc. - is your country’s culture a factor in the response rate when sending an email requesting a CV versus calling the candidate directly at their work? Are they open/eager to sending their CV, are they more shy/cautious or even suspicious depending on the method you use to contact them?
“I don’t think so; it all depends on the way you approach people: polite, friendly, and professional and with a touch of humor. Obviously a well placed call will always remain more personal and therefore more successful than an email, but it also takes more time. Something I have noticed though is that candidates in the Benelux are wary of (mostly) English recruiters from agencies who tend to be too aggressive on the phone.”
What methods produce the fastest amount of time in producing hires?
“Simply calling the candidates in your database with whom you’ve previously established contact. The basics still work ”
What specific technology tools do you use that produce FASTEST amount of time in producing hires?
“Online Social networking platforms.”
Is it acceptable, or common, in your country’s culture to offer a referral fee for a successful hire to someone who recommended the candidate?
“No this is not really ingrained in Belgium’s culture. There are some initiatives of course such as the Bluechip Experts (USA) or Expertise (Belgium) or Freep (the Netherlands), but I don’t believe they will gain much traction. It is a different story for end-user companies (mostly multi-nationals) who sometimes offer an Introduce-a-Friend fee to their employees.”
What are the best job boards specific to each of the countries you recruit for, both overall and specific each industry”
What major Belgian media services, associations & conferences and industry-specific website portals would you recommend?
“I don’t advertise so I’m not a good source on newspapers but I would recommend BJIT (a once a year cocktail social event for the IT industry in Belgium) and Hrminfo.net for HR professionals in Belgium and HRone in Luxembourg.”
What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career? What inspires You as a Recruiter?
“I think my first placement did. I was barely out of school and about to lose a candidate because the client wasn’t offering enough and I got so mad I would lose this first placement I called them both to our office and said they couldn’t leave before they came to an agreement. They did. That’s how I learned that even at 21 a headhunter could leverage a lot of power.”
Sept 07 : Universidad de Paraná, Entre Ríos (Argentina)
3/29/2007 : Dream Day in the Technical Institute of Aalst (Belgium)
3/21/2007 : HRM Info/iRamblas , Gent (Belgium)
2/20/2007 : Ecademy Belgium , Mechelen (Belgium)