Seasoned recruiters unveil the person behind the paper

By Rajitha Sivakumaran

St. Amour

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With the emergence of the digital world, applying for jobs has taken a turn towards online platforms like Workopolis, which are accessible to all and simple to use. The consequences for companies looking to hire can be rather overwhelming though when thousands of resumes flock them. The hiring process can become stagnant as companies peruse sheets and sheets of resumes without it always being fruitful — capturing the essence of a candidate with just the written word is no easy task. The best candidates may even lie somewhere near the bottom of the pile, never to be reached. But there is a tool available to help companies put a personality to a resume: St. Amour & Associates.

Established in 1975 by founder Leslie St. Amour, this recruiting agency caters to a number of industries, from communication and media to manufacturing and construction. The recruiters employed at St. Amour have firsthand experience in the fields for which they headhunt. Senior partners Sonia Riverin and Robert Favreau, for example, recruit in the pharmaceutical/medical department due to their backgrounds as sales director for Mead Johnson and therapeutic group leader for Aventis, respectively.

“The people within the St. Amour team are great people. They bring great value. We certainly rely on all of them to make the success of our company,” Favreau said.

The benefits of this specialization are numerous. Recruiters are aware of the dynamics of the industry, its demands and changes it has undergone over time. Former work experience also means a pre-established network of colleagues and professionals — finding the perfect candidate becomes less cumbersome and faster for St. Amour recruiters since they already have one foot in the door.

“Sometimes we forget to calculate the cost of hiring someone who isn’t right for the company,” Riverin said.

With offices in Montreal and Toronto, St. Amour employs 24 recruitment specialists who help their clients find the perfect candidate for all sorts of job titles, whether they be high-level executive positions or HR personnel. Furthermore, working under the name RecruCanada (created by St. Amour), the company has the capability of helping both large and small businesses on a national basis. Notable clients include Novartis, Medtronic, Energizer, Xerox, Manitoulin Transport, Coty and Rona.

40 years on the job

Recruitment tactics have undergone drastic changes in the past couple of decades and St. Amour, which has been around for 40 years, has seen it all. During its inaugural years, a time before the internet became a commonplace thing, recruitment and marketing took the form of newspaper ads — the company spent $300,000 annually in ads across Montreal and Toronto. Even when Riverin started at St. Amour 13 years ago, the internet was not very present in the recruiting world. Now with the popularity of social media and digital advertising, St. Amour has started investing in SEO, web-based marketing and LinkedIn to draw clients and candidates.

Acclimatizing to the modern era has been fruitful, but St. Amour draws its success essentially from the way it conducts business. Finding the perfect candidate begins with a sit-down with the hiring company, whereby St. Amour becomes an extension of the client.

“We want to understand the culture of the company, their work ethics and values. We want to understand the main challenges and the issues that the person [the new recruit] will have to face,” Riverin said.

Once this communication takes place, recruiters at St. Amour use various resources to match their client with a suitable employee. This includes the extensive database maintained by the company and publicly available profiles like LinkedIn. Since recruiters have connections in the industry, searching within these networks often yields fruitful results.

The company’s success can be attributed to being innovative and following and adapting to market trends. Building good client relations is key as well — St. Amour’s ability to create trust through transparency and honesty has fuelled well-founded interpersonal relationships with its clients.

Assembling competitive intelligence

St. Amour’s services are particularly beneficial for small businesses. Still in their infancy, these companies sometimes can’t afford specialized departments to carry out candidate selection and so the cost of hiring the wrong person is especially high for small businesses.
“We have a good view of what’s happening with their competitors and with the market. There’s a lot of information we’re able to provide,” Favreau said.

Unlike in the past, large companies nowadays have a smaller number of regional offices. The trend that Riverin and Favreau have noticed with bigger companies is a centralized HR department charged with hiring in a local environment about which they have little information. St. Amour helps bridge this gap. For example, if the HR department of multinational company X is based in the U.S. and is charged with the task of hiring individuals for its Toronto office, St. Amour helps by providing local and regional information that would otherwise be inaccessible.

“There is an overwhelming amount of information on people looking for a job. Our job is to make sure that we bring all of that together in a focused manner so that we can help our clients make the best selection,” Favreau said.

Time is of the essence

Speed is the biggest constraint of the job — if St. Amour could provide the client with a suitable candidate within 24 hours, that would make the client ecstatic, although it is not very feasible. Clients have added pressure in other ways too. In the past, companies would be satisfied with a candidate who nearly matched all of their criteria — now they require a 100 per cent match. Consequently, recruiters need to work meticulously and tirelessly to meet client demands. They want ‘the perfect candidate’, Riverin said.
“Regardless of whether you have the experience, the larger companies want to make sure you fit the values and the profile of the company. That was not as important 20 years ago,” Favreau said. So, part of the job lies with ensuring that the candidate aligns well with what Riverin termed ‘the culture of the company’.

The mutable tendencies of the modern employee present recruiting companies like St. Amour with lots of work. “Job change is more present now than it was 25 years ago. Somebody would stay within the company and grow there for his or her life. Now it’s not well perceived to stay at the same company for 25 years. That person will find it difficult to adapt to another culture. A candidate changing companies every seven to 10 years will be able to share a lot with a new employer,” Favreau said.

Expanding into the future

Presently in expansion mode, the company is actively hiring recruiters at the moment and expanding into industries like finance and IT. Companies are looking for more support and St. Amour plans to expand accordingly to satisfy these needs, such as offering consulting services. The company is also in the midst of developing an online recruitment portal.

“We are trying to bring a flexible recruitment, instead of a one-size-fits-all. In the past, you put an ad and attract candidates. Now we need to diversify that and adapt that to different environments and industries and different age groups,” Favreau said.