From engineering to recruitment

Amanda Lee

Benny Tan is a senior manager at Robert Walters Malaysia. He shares his story of career growth at Robert Walters and why he enjoys working in recruitment.

Tell us about your switch from engineering to recruitment

I finished university with a mechanical engineering degree and started my career as an engineer in the upstream Oil & Gas industry, taking on various technical and commercial roles. After about five years in the industry, I wanted to pursue something new and recruitment appealed to me. I am passionate about learning, so I was excited by the fact that as a recruiter, I would get the chance to interact with professionals from other industries and understand their nature of work.

I joined Robert Walters as a consultant in December 2011 to work in the newly formed industrial division where I recruited sales and marketing positions. A year later, I was tasked with setting up the engineering division at Robert Walters Malaysia. After three years of growing the team I was offered a managerial role in our Kuala Lumpur office.

Recently I took on a new challenge, relocating to Penang to grow our business there. I’m now the head of northern region for Robert Walters Malaysia and my role is to build the business and ensure that it is operationally successful.

What challenges did you face while pioneering new divisions in Kuala Lumpur and Penang?

Starting a new division or business is no easy task. To begin with, we had a very small pool of candidates to offer our clients so we had to work hard to extend our network and build relationships with quality candidates. It was also challenging because we were new to the sector and had to quickly grow our reputation.

How did you overcome these challenges?

The key elements were patience, perseverance and having a proper strategy. When we first started out in Penang it was tempting to approach lots of different industries and companies, without a clear focus. But instead we developed a robust strategy enabling us to prioritise the right roles and industries rather than spreading ourselves too thin. This meant interviewing candidates purposefully and only approaching companies from our target industries. We have grown the business step by step.

Did you receive any support from management during these projects?

Absolutely. I received a lot of support from the Robert Walters Malaysia management team while I was setting up the divisions. Through their wisdom, experience and constructive input I was able to prioritise and come up with necessary action plans. There were times where it was a ‘trial and error’ process, but I am glad that along the way I had the support and encouragement from management. 

How would you summarise entrepreneurship at Robert Walters?

Robert Walters provides the opportunity to work in a stable, global, multicultural business but at the same time you’re allowed to be entrepreneurial.

For example, consultants are given the freedom and autonomy to come up with local business plans and strategies for their divisions. The company provides us with excellent resources and training to do this.  These elements, combined with management support, are crucial in helping employees develop both personally and professionally. I think this is really unique for a large global company. 

What do you enjoy about the culture at Robert Walters?

I love the fact that we work in a fun and supportive environment, where we encourage and take care of each other. I have seen many examples of colleagues becoming friends and keeping in touch long after their career paths part ways. I also appreciate the clear lines of communication across all levels of the organisation and the lack of hierarchy which makes the management team very approachable.

What's the best part of the job?

I would say it is the multi-faceted nature of the job, we are involved in the end-to-end recruitment process, from business development and sourcing, to interacting with clients and candidates, offer management and so on. Working at Robert Walters is anything but boring because it is not a desk-bound job and consultants get the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life.

What has been your biggest achievement so far since you started working at Robert Walters?

I am particularly proud of being part of the successful set up of Robert Walters Penang, our second office in Malaysia. We literally started from nothing and 15 months on we are a very strong team and growing. 

What is the top skill someone needs to succeed as a recruiter at Robert Walters?

Success at Robert Walters boils down to the individual’s willingness to learn on the job and being able to embrace different ways of doing things. At Robert Walters, many of the consultants do not come from the recruitment industry, but rather, from the specialised functions that they recruit for. Therefore, the experience and contacts the individual brings to the business are very valuable. 


Interested in a career in recruitment? Get in touch by sending your up-to-date CV to

Set up a targeted
job alert

Read more »

Latest jobs