RMIT University’s Vietnam presence was established in 2000, as a satellite campus of the well-known Australian university of technology, design, and enterprise. As Vietnam’s first international university campus, it is important that RMIT provides its students with an international community that supports their growth in an increasingly globalised world. We spoke to RMIT’s Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition Esther Walker, to learn more about how the university attracts international academic staff. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is your position at the university?

I’m the Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition for RMIT’s campuses in Vietnam. It’s myself and a team of five staff who basically recruit for all the positions at the university campuses in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang. We hire academics, professionals, and English educators. We’re a busy team. If you consider recruitment related roles as having peaks and troughs, we experience mainly peaks.

Esther Walker, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition

Why are internationalism and researcher mobility so important for the university? 

It provides a diversity in culture in the university. We’re an Australian university, so we follow the Australian education framework which grants Australian accredited qualifications upon completion of undergraduate and postgraduate MBA and PhD studies. We think a diversity of staff and a really multicultural environment is very important. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on effective mobility and it’s quite an extensive process to recruit and onboard expatriates. There’s a lot of processes to go through with regards to work permits, visas, relocation and, over the past 12 months, quarantine requirements. 

When you look at the faculty, are there a lot of faculty that come from Australia, being already familiar with the education system?

We do have a significant number of Australian academics, faculty members, and professional staff from other universities in Australia. We also have many staff from the UK and the US. There’s a familiarity with the foreign education systems, contemporary approaches to learning and teaching, and an important focus on industry engagement to build and support the employability of students once they have graduated. 

I would say our workforce is 64% locals and 36% expatriates, and our expatriate staff come from over 30 different countries globally. I thought that I’d previously worked for a multicultural organisation when I worked in Australia, but then I came to RMIT’s Vietnam campuses, and it’s clear that we are a truly multicultural and diverse workforce.

Looking at your careers page it’s clear that some of the benefits you offer are organised in a way to be very enticing for international staff, like salary packaging of school fees, flexible working, location support, language classes, and great health insurance. What are some of the other ways that you recruit expatriates to the university? 

We advertise on international academic job boards. We also use social media and rely on connections and networks of our staff, because Vietnam is perhaps not as well-known as a popular location for expatriates to relocate to, and some of the disciplines that we want to attract for our academic and professional roles are rather niche.

Ultimately, what I’ve found through discussions with staff, is that their motivation to join us isn’t purely based on the salary and benefits. As staff retention is a big ‘must’ for us, we want our staff to see our university as a good career move. We have a number of staff, local and expat, who have been with us for a long time. It was our 20-year anniversary last year and through employee recognition awards, we celebrated staff who have been here for 10, 15 and 20 years. I think offering other benefits such as supporting people with dependents to study at the university, pathways to professional and personal development, and flexible working, strengthens the brand of the university and the image of our campuses as world class international branches.

If you were going to then offer advice to a university that’s looking to diversify their staff more, where would you say to start? What are some of the focus areas?

To draw international staff, I think you need to be able to hire an experienced and agile HR workforce, and appoint key specialised staff who can support the entire employee lifecycle. You need HR experts, strong leaders with people management skills, talent managers, and organisational development, employee relations and compensation and benefits specialists. 

In terms of retention, we are constantly looking at how we can be better and add more value. How can we strengthen our brand? How can we develop talent? How can we enhance the candidate experience? That’s our focus over the next five years because ultimately it will affect retention, which can have a knock-on effect in so many ways, across the organisation.  

Reputation also plays a vital role in international recruitment. There are other universities in Vietnam, other international universities that are said to be competitors but RMIT is so established, it will take quite some time to catch up. We’re in our 21st year now, with a strong reputation in Vietnam; we’ve built credibility in the country and connected with industry. It makes us so well-known and that it gives us a lot of a lot of strength in terms of the brand and attracting students and staff to come and work here. As such, building reputation and providing quality support is my advice.

Traditional in-house recruitment has been reliant on already established relationships, reputation, and location. However, the new age of recruitment is heavily driven by data, which can allow talent teams to devise intelligent ways to hire and enable them to save time, money and resources on future recruitment efforts. 

We’re going to outline the importance of a data-driven recruitment strategy, as well as give you some tips on how to start using data in your recruitments even if you don’t have an applicant tracking system!

Why is a data-driven recruitment strategy important? 

It increases productivity and time-management

Hiring and retaining talent is a challenging task, and often recruitment teams are managing more than one role simultaneously. When we spoke to the University of Cologne’s Personnel Manager, Dr. Maria Schmitz-Hüser, she highlighted that, “Data is especially important for positions that need to be filled within a short period of time or that are difficult to fill. It’s also important in the cases where we are pressured to find someone.” Having this knowledge can allow you to delegate and prioritise tasks based on their importance, as evidenced by the data you acquire. 

It identifies weaknesses in your recruitment strategy

Each talent function will have weaknesses, and this shouldn’t be seen as negative. For example, your data may show you that a position that on average takes 4 weeks to fill is currently taking 9, in which case there is either a difficulty with candidate management or a training issue. 

It helps with attraction and retention of candidates

Data can clearly pinpoint how many candidates you are attracting at the initial stage, as well as how many you’ve hired. Data can also show you how many candidates are still within your institution in 3, 6, and 12 months time. You can then use this data to assess and improve your retention strategy. 

It allows you to forecast your recruitment drives 

Having data on when you last hired and how many people you hired can be a great metric to track, especially if you know when you can expect to receive the funding you’ll need to hire again. You can also forecast your recruitment drives based on headcount estimates and upcoming retirements. 

It helps with budget management and allocation

In 2020, the average agency cost can be between 10% to 30% of a candidate’s salary, which can be expensive depending on the seniority. The recruitment lifecycle is a costly one, and if measured incorrectly, it can eat into your budget quicker than you’d think. Having data can help you allocate enough budget at the right time for specific actions, rather than operating on guesswork.

 

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4 steps to designing a data-driven recruitment strategy, without an ATS

An ATS, also known as an Applicant Tracking System, can be a time-saving and easy-to-use piece of technology that uses qualitative and quantitative data to improve your recruitment efforts. 

However, for some, an ATS isn’t attainable, which leads many talent teams to believe that they can’t benefit from a data-driven recruitment strategy. They’re wrong! There are data points you can log and track yourself, without having to invest in an expensive ATS.

Here are 4 steps we’ve created to get you started.

Step 1: Start tracking your interview conversion rate

This will allow you to see the number of candidates you need to interview on average to make a hire, as well as segmenting how this differs based on role seniority. For example, PhD positions may have a higher interview to placement conversion rate than an associate professor.

Step 2: Collect feedback at the end of the interview process

Create a short form that has 5-7 questions about the interview process, with a 1-10 score rating, 1 being “poor” and 10 being “excellent”. This can assess multiple data points such as campus visit, interview questions, and overall candidate experience. This information will allow you to refine and improve your interview process based on facts from candidates who have been through the experience, rather than updating it based on a hunch. 

Step 3: Make a note of where your hires are coming from

Understanding the source of your hires can be a great indicator of where you’re getting the most success, but also where you may be wasting money. If a specific supplier or partner hasn’t given you any hires in the last 6 months, you can reassess how you work with them, thus saving you time and money. It’s also useful to implement a routine of asking candidates where they found your job advert for the same reason. 

Step 4: Create monthly reports of all the above

Organising your data is crucial, otherwise, it can be difficult to make any sense of it. Creating monthly reports analysing all the areas you’re measuring can give you clarity on what you want to achieve the following month, as well as indicate areas for improvement. You should also ask your recruitment partner to share their data with you as part of their service. The more data you have, the more streamlined and strategic your recruitment can be.

In conclusion, a data-driven recruitment strategy doesn’t have to be complicated or cost the earth. Instead, it can be a two or three-point analysis to ensure that you can operate in a sustainable and results-driven way.

Do you want the full guide on how to design a data-driven recruitment strategy? Click here to see our comprehensive guide. 

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