Personnel recruitment companies vie for reputation

While the centrally planned economy had, with its overstaffed offices and overemployed workforce, little need for specialized services in human resource services, the picture is different now. There are over 20 personnel consulting firms in Slovakia, mainly based in the capital. Most often they provide staff recruitment and placements at different managerial levels, as well as various consultation services. "Generally, personnel departments of companies do not have the capacity to deal with the whole complex issue of human resources," said Lívia Osvaldová, director of Management Partners. "Besides placing employees, our firm helps to implement evaluation schemes, assessment centers and training programs."

While the centrally planned economy had, with its overstaffed offices and overemployed workforce, little need for specialized services in human resource services, the picture is different now. There are over 20 personnel consulting firms in Slovakia, mainly based in the capital. Most often they provide staff recruitment and placements at different managerial levels, as well as various consultation services.

"Generally, personnel departments of companies do not have the capacity to deal with the whole complex issue of human resources," said Lívia Osvaldová, director of Management Partners. "Besides placing employees, our firm helps to implement evaluation schemes, assessment centers and training programs."

Since the firm was founded in 1991, the scope of its activities has expanded into two partner companies in order to provide other services, such as personnel leasing, marketing and public relations. It has also established a branch in Prague.

"As a local company, at the beginning it was not easy for us to persuade foreign companies that we could be as good as any internationally known name," said Osvaldová. "However, today our clients include major international firms as well as some of the biggest Slovak ones."

In the spring, Management Partners organized, in cooperation with the economic weekly Trend, its second annual conference on human resources, Personalistika '96. "I think that organizing such an event has reflected that we are a well-established firm," said Osvaldová. "We want to capitalize on this reputation."

Reputation is what personnel consulting companies strive to achieve. Not everybody makes a name for themselves. "Generally, we prefer to work with established companies," said Ladislav Chudý, personnel director of Henkel-Palma, an Austrian-Slovak joint venture. "There are too many people around who just read a book, and consider themselves specialists on human resources."

Some recruitment firms have dubious practices, according to Chudý, who has heard various stories from his applicants. In some agencies, the candidates are not interviewed individually but in groups. Some firms do not bother to tell the candidates the results of their interviews.

Chudý also points out that he was once forced to terminate collaboration with an Austrian firm that he was originally satisfied with. "There were some changes in the staff and the quality went down. Incidentally, this was a branch of a foreign company. So, having an international name is not automatically a guarantee of quality. The firm has to prove its value in the domestic market."

Pepsi, which started operating in Slovakia in late 1993, uses its training center in Vienna as well as its contacts with consulting firms on a global scale, to develop its employees. But they still rely on local human resource firms to fill upper management positions. "We use these consulting firms for special projects, and especially for executive search," said Pepsi's General Director Peter Lietkovský.

"With regard to using personnel recruiting firms, the people in the agencies are developing too and their expertise is continuing to grow," said Lietkovský. "However, it seems to me that sometimes these personnel recruiting firms are not fast enough either by their methods or by their services offered."

Ron Baštýř, the director of Personnel Select in Bratislava pointed out that recruiting agencies need help from the applicants. "Agencies are not a miracle solution," said Baštýř. "They can only assist the applicant."

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