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Planet shares hiring challenges for a project-based company

We sat down with Constantinos Calogirou, Senior Director at Planet, to discuss the hiring challenges for diverse roles tailored to the consulting projects they handle. How does it affect the hiring process? How do they build effective pipelines and make informed hiring decisions?

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.

hiring challenges for project-based company

Planet is a management consulting and project management company operating for more than 35 years  in Greece and internationally. 

They run projects that require a wide range of services. They work across all sectors of the economy and public administration. Some projects are even funded by international financial groups, including the European Union and the World Bank. 

“As a professional services company – where it’s not about smart hands but smart brains – the human factor is paramount. Finding the right talent at our scale, with an internal team of more than 250 people, is challenging,” Constantinos Calogirou, Senior Director, said.

“As a professional services company – where it’s not about smart hands but smart brains – the human factor is paramount. Finding the right talent at our scale, with an internal team of more than 250 people, is challenging.”

While their internal full-time staff numbers 250 people, their network of experts is truly growing.

“Currently, we maintain an extensive network of international expert partners that exceeds 7,000 people due to the variety of specialties and geographies,” Constantinos explains.

“Thus, our main asset – our people – needs constant cultivation, evolution, and the addition of new resources at all experience levels, from junior roles to the most experienced or deep experts in specific subjects.”

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The hiring challenges

Planet provides a diverse range of services, including strategic planning, financial advisory, transformation of organization and operations. That’s not all – human resources, information systems, national and economic, infrastructure development, and engineering consulting services are all included. 

Also, the company is organized into units, meaning different business leaders are involved in the hiring process for each.

“One factor contributing to our hiring challenges is the complexity and diversity of our work. The human factor is our main asset; it’s not merely about having people do something but ensuring they do what they’re meant to do.” Calogirou stated.

“Secondly, the current period presents a significant disparity between the demand for the right people and their availability. This is not exactly a shortage but rather a gap in matching qualifications. As a consulting company with a strong emphasis on soft skills, these are not qualities easily discernible from typical candidate characteristics like degrees or years of experience.”

“Curiosity is an important soft skill for every position in the company.”

As Calogirou said,”for example, curiosity is an important soft skill for every position in the company. Being interested in learning and staying informed allows us to remain at the cutting edge, providing value to our clients.”

Using Workable, they got assistance to accommodate this complexity enjoying the benefits of a “democratic” system.

“By democratic, I mean there’s no necessity to centralize all powers in a dominant HR role responsible for hiring and placement. Firstly, expecting HR to understand the diverse issues we face would be unrealistic.

“Secondly, this approach would necessitate a bloated HR department, which, for a company striving to deliver value to customers, cannot justify high overhead costs.”, he says.

 Planet is also now able to distribute the hiring and onboarding process to as many people as possible.

“You run in the cloud, you can have different and many people involved in different roles for different positions that you recruit. It has matched our business needs”.

Soft skills-first approach

While academic knowledge is essential for many of their roles, skills are the link between efficiency and revenue.

The challenge here is that the more skill-based tests a candidate takes, the easier it becomes to manipulate the results.

“With the specific tests that Workable has, such as the one with logical patterns, I found it quite innovative and in a way an offset to the trained mind.”

“With the specific tests that Workable has, such as the one with logical patterns, I found it quite innovative and in a way an offset to the trained mind of someone who has done many such tests; so it sort of balances out.”

For Calogirou, the interview is the primary process that helps them understand the candidate’s personality, followed by skill assessments.

“You can check the behavior, you see the body language, you get a lot of information. But at the same time, the combination of the legacy model interview, with the more innovative and more impersonal test, has helped us to do a fairly good screening of people.”

The engagement process

Clear communication is essential for Planet. This is a crucial part in engaging candidates and keeping them in the pipeline. However, this is a two-fold process. 

“Engagement starts in the first place from the fact that there is an immediate response when someone submits their resume, even if they didn’t submit it for the sake of a specific job ad. Certainly, there is a contact that can lead to an interview or a test. 

“In the following period, people who may not have been completely suitable for specific needs, while communication is maintained, we can always tell them that we would like to hear from them. Also, if anything changes in their status we advise them to let us know.”

Why KPIs don’t always work

Hiring for diverse roles and complex tasks can make it challenging to achieve a critical mass to meet specific KPIs. This becomes more complex when HR acts as gatekeeper and senior staff are responsible for project-based hiring.

How do they keep consistent and fair in hiring? 

They use three practices that make the hiring process easier for them. 

“The first dimension is maturity. We need people that have great experience based on really specific tasks. The second one is the diversity of skills. We have a broad portfolio of services requiring individuals capable of offering a wide range of expertise. For instance, an engineer’s skill set differs from that of a finance expert or a strategist. 

“The third dimension pertains to desire for professional development. As you may know, the career path of a business consultant begins in a more hands-on role, participating as a project team member with varying levels of responsibility. 

“They then progress to higher responsibility roles, project management, and project directorship, eventually overseeing a portfolio of contracts.”

During this process, employees can evolve on the commercial side as well, especially in winning new projects.

Hiring employees and project contractors at the same time 

With all the employees primarily based in Greece and international project needs addressed by external experts, Planet needed software to keep the hiring rolling depending on their specific needs. 

“Most of our recruitment in Greece is for permanent roles tied to the company’s growth and employee development. The remaining targets individuals on a project basis and with specific skills. 

“For instance, we are currently seeking engineers with experience in construction management in the airports sectors for a specific long term project and at the same time we are seeking for internal hires to develop our Strategy and Finance team.

“While Workable serves both purposes, geographically speaking, Greece primarily focuses on permanent hires, whereas international recruitment leans towards project-based roles.”

The hiring challenges differ when recruiting for the company versus seeking experts, especially across borders.

Key takeaways for effective hiring

Here are some key takeaways from the interview with Constantinos Calogirou focusing on their hiring strategies and challenges:

1. Human capital as core asset

Planet emphasizes the importance of human talent over just technical skills, highlighting that their consulting services depend heavily on the intellectual and interpersonal abilities of their employees.

2. Diverse and decentralized hiring process

The company has decentralized its hiring process to better manage the complexity of its diverse needs across different sectors. This approach allows for a broader participation in the recruitment process, reducing the strain on a central HR department and aligning more closely with business needs.

3. Soft skills emphasis 

Planet prioritizes soft skills such as curiosity, communication, and adaptability, recognizing that these qualities are critical in the consulting industry where needs and projects can vary significantly. They use innovative testing methods to evaluate these skills during recruitment.

4. Hiring challenges in skill and role matching: 

There is a noted gap between the availability of the right talent and the specific demands of the roles they need to fill. This discrepancy is managed by using advanced recruitment tools and maintaining a flexible engagement strategy with potential hires.

5. Engagement and communication 

Effective communication is key in keeping potential candidates engaged throughout the hiring process. Prompt responses and ongoing updates about changes in their application status help maintain a good relationship with candidates, even if they are not immediately hired.

6. Balanced assessment approach 

Combining traditional interviews with modern skill assessments helps Planet better understand a candidate’s true potential and fit for the role, balancing subjective impressions with objective test results.

7. Strategic use of technology 

The adoption of Workable has facilitated a more efficient and scalable hiring process, accommodating the needs of both local and international recruitment, and for both permanent roles and project-based contracts.

These insights from Planet’s strategic approach to deal with hiring challenges and managing talent is crucial for a company that operates across diverse fields and geographical locations.

Constantinos Calogirou

Constantinos Calogirou is a BoD member and a Senior Director, leading the Enterprises Business Unit of PLANET. He is responsible for business development and provision of management consulting services to the private sector as well as to selected public sector entities & authorities in Greece and internationally.

He is working for PLANET since 1993 and possesses significant working experience in Strategy & Business Planning, Management Information Systems, Corporate & Project Finance, Business Process Modeling and Reengineering, Corporate Restructuring and HR Management Systems, having managed a wide range of projects in industries such as Financial Institutions, IT & Telecommunications, Energy, Transport, Trade and Tourism & Leisure.

He holds a B.Sc. in Business Administration from the American College of Greece and a MBA from Aston University in Birmingham, UK.

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