From HR to the dark side – recruitment consultancy? Err, how about no!

March 30, 2018

If you would have said to me just over two years ago that I would leave my former HR professional career of seven years, to become a Recruitment Consultant, I would have said ‘you must be joking, right?’…

Well two years have since passed at Frazer Jones and I am still here!… It’s been a roller coaster, I’ve had highs and lows and have loved (almost) every minute of it.

I am now a Senior Consultant after a recent promotion at the start of this year, within an established and reputable global HR Recruitment Consultancy, (one of the biggest in the world in fact). I am client facing and I manage a variety of roles aimed at mid-level HR professionals across a variety of sectors. Along the way I have met some fantastic and highly talented HR professionals and have got to work with clients ranging from established global and well-known brands, through to start-ups and SMEs looking to find their first HR Manager or set up a new HR function.

I made the bold decision to leave what I knew and loved to join the unknown, despite heavy investment in a Masters in HR and grafting over a CIPD qualification, and having worked with some great brands like PwC, Marks and Spencer’s and Barclays. Why on earth did I make the move?

I’d had really mixed experiences myself from a candidate perspective when job hunting and it was on the whole quite a painful experience. I managed to find and latch on to two consultants in the market that I actually liked working with, knew me well, remembered who I was and stalked them whenever I needed market advice. One of which had luckily just joined our team which is fantastic!

A former colleague who moved from PwC into Frazer Jones referred me and I could see she was really enjoying the role so I was intrigued. I didn’t want to give up all of my experience and have a complete career change, so it seemed to offer a good balance of utilising my skills and broader HR network, remain client facing and consultative – but in a completely different way.

I will be honest with you – I sat on the decision to meet with Frazer Jones for three months. I didn’t want to turn into one of those terrible salesy target hungry people that I had sometimes experienced. Or, the dreaded ‘cold caller’ I had experienced as a potential client.

I met informally with Darren Wentworth, Partner, and Vicki Thacker, Director and was very pleasantly surprised. It was very relaxed, they were very honest and helped to paint a clear picture of the environment, culture and quality of consultants. They described some ‘utopia’ of a business where people cared about each other, where hard work was recognised, where you were set clear objectives (which were objective!) and you autonomously managed your work essentially like it was your own business. Not to mention the odd overnight trip to Brighton with the team, drinks over the road in our much loved local, summer parties, company wide pub quizzes, and the OCCASIONAL office treat….

For anyone thinking of changing careers – I would love to help dispel a few recruiter myths;

All they do is cold calling?…

To date I have made 0 cold calls. Fact.

It’s not me, it’s not my style – there are a multitude of ways to develop new business. Other people do it – and I am sure they have had successes. I much prefer a warmer conversation around a thought leadership event, creating a new network, or my favourite – providing an exceptional candidate experience. Any recruiter worth their gold knows that actually recruitment is all about candidates, if you have lots of roles but you don’t have a great network to tap into and share them with you’re not going to get very far. If you happen to be the one recruiter that provided impartial and useful advice, the one person that replied to their job application, the one person that reached out to understand their profile in more detail or the one person that actually wanted to meet in person, you will at some point down the line reap benefits. Even if it’s a new candidate referral, a recommendation to a friend or colleague, or that they want to work with you again on a role for their organisation.

It’s all about KPI’s and making money…
Recruitment, like any business is commercial and you need to make commercial decisions. Constantly. Being in a company that recognises the importance of fostering long term and lasting relationships was critical to me making a move. Like in any job, you have to prioritise, but you have to be in it for the long game. Building a personal brand and reputation takes a long time – it doesn’t happen overnight. You never know when a candidate might need you, or when you might need them. The KPI’s we work to are candidate and client satisfaction – that’s it!

Autonomy to get on with my job
I am left to build my desk with as much support and autonomy as I need. I have never received as much training as I have here – I think that’s how I spent the first month at least when I started! I have also worked with some exceptional recruiters who regularly take time to coach and develop me – both my seniors, peers and those even new to recruitment. We learn from each other and impart our knowledge pretty much every day. Luckily, I have a good work ethic from having worked in some really commercial and fast-paced deadline driven businesses. This isn’t a good role however for someone who needs to be told what to do, or prompted to meet candidates, or make calls or set up meetings. This all needs to be driven by you. No one here has ever asked me how many calls I have made and how many more calls I need to do. It’s about quality and focusing your time effectively and commercially.

I get to do a whole host of other fun things to keep me occupied
To date, I have organised several events ranging from cheese and wine tasting with clients (!), through to thought leadership and more informal networking events. I created a business plan last year and decided to start a couple of new networks which I launched in Q1 this year for example;

Future Talent Programme – A great way to keep in touch with our top talent and support their onward career journey and help create their own personal networks. For this, we teamed up with DMH Stallard and worked with a top Partner, Adam Williams, and together created a schedule to deliver a whole host of technical HR sessions for our network to learn from. We then started engaging some of the phenomenal clients we have loved working with such as; Ami Bartrip, HRBP at the Financial Times, to impart critical advice, wisdom, and support with the more softer skills. There is more to come for the programme and I can’t wait to see what it looks like! I have loved hearing how valuable these sessions have been for our network, it makes it all worth it!

HR Stand Together Network – Created for standalone HR professionals looking to expand their network. It provides a forum in which they can learn and share new skills with liked-minded people. We are rolling out the third meeting this July and have engaged some fantastic standalone professionals as well as external SME experts in the field. This has also received fantastic feedback from a group that is often forgotten, but should be truly valued given their remit is to pretty much do everything people related for their organisation.

Provide advice and support to HR professionals from all walks of life at all stages of their career
It is truly a great feeling when someone you spoke to weeks or months ago calls to say thanks as they had better responses following their CV advice and have now secured a role. Yes, at times, it can sometimes feel like a thankless task (but it is what you get paid to do after all right?). Absolutely! As part of our service when we meet in person, or speak over the phone – we provide essential CV advice, coaching and interview preparation, market insight, or, have just taken a few minutes to speak to someone and give honest advice and feedback where others may have said ‘great we will call you…’. On the whole, people have appreciated candid and honest advice and we have been able to make an impact even where we haven’t placed them. That’s the stuff people remember and value and is a really positive part for me and my own values. We can’t always help everyone and as you expect we aren’t right 100% of the time.

Friendships and relationships
I have made some fantastic friends here. It’s a flat structure, all of the Partners sit within our teams and we speak every day. I have had catch-ups with our CEO who will come and congratulate us individually when we are awarded and shake our hands.

The people here are down to earth, it’s not corporate and it is acceptable to be authentically you. Everyone is welcome here, as long as we share the same passion for delivering a great candidate experience and have a commercial outlook. We are encouraged to just be ourselves. I haven’t actually laughed as much in any other job to date. The day flies by – I have never clock watched and I am always wishing there were a few more hours spare.

There is never a dull moment here. There are regular highs and lows, I am glad I am not a betting person as I would be pretty broke by now. When you are working in a very people centric business it can be unpredictable. But I have a fantastic team around me to share it all with. I go on holidays with them, meet up for drinks workdays or weekends, cook dinner for them and celebrate special occasions together. They are a (somewhat quirky) but incredible bunch. The culture suits my personality and lifestyle.

I may as well have not done HR at all…you don’t need it to be a recruitment consultant?
Not true! It has helped to create credibility. It is my USP in what is considered to be an already saturated UK market and has shaped my personal brand. My HR practitioner knowledge is leaned upon every day and is part of almost every conversation I have. I use it to bench candidate experience, identify a particular skillset or quality, coach candidates and prepare them for interviews, consult with clients and understand the details of a role brief and their organisational style and culture. Really knowing which questions to ask has been critical and has helped me enormously. I also coach colleagues who may need to know particular details and haven’t worked in HR themselves or, are new to HR recruitment.

REAL Global and local opportunities
I have always wanted to work and live abroad. Every time I interviewed with a global organisation I was always interested to hear in their global career moves and opportunities. I wasn’t fussy! I just wanted to experience a new culture and lifestyle within the safety of a company that valued me and within a job already I knew how to do. That opportunity for whatever reason never arose. I have been in London now for almost 10 years and my desire to work somewhere globally was still strong.

I am off to start a new career with Frazer Jones in sunny Singapore at the end of June!!
The company values global talent, we have a programme and we have already moved people to and from our global locations. Those locations are also growing – we landed in New York and Milan last year, Amsterdam this year – who knows where we will end up in next. There are some exciting locations being scoped as we speak so that we can leverage and connect our knowledge, people and market expertise within global teams to the benefit of our diverse candidates and clients and well – me now!

I will shortly be based in Singapore where many of our global clients are already head quartered and will serve a number of SE Asian territories including; Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Japan and South Korea. I will join an established, reputable, very personable and fun team. The move has been swift given the enormity of the task (i.e. packing my flat and life up into several boxes!) and the business has been incredibly supportive. They recognise that people who work hard to deliver results and are passionate about their role might want to utilise their skills somewhere else and grow our brand and reputation further.

I am not sure how I will get on there but will be sure to let you know… I am excited, nervous and everything in between. I can’t wait to learn more about the culture, meet new people, establish new relationships both in and outside of my role and create a reputation in a different market. I am still staying within HR (I’ll never give that up!) so will leverage my existing knowledge but apply it in a new (and sunny!) environment. I look forward to swapping weekends in Brighton for Bangkok, trying the many world-class food establishments and learning Singlish!

We are expanding our teams in the UK as well as overseas and we have also set up field-based consultants who cover UK regions. This is also incredibly beneficial, as if I had been keen on staying in the UK with Frazer Jones but needed to move outside of London, the company is recognising that talent doesn’t come easily and if there is a sound business case I could set myself up remotely pretty much anywhere.

There aren’t many companies that can offer a global and local reach to suit clients, candidates as well as us consultants.

All of this would not have been possible without the ongoing support and commitment from my manager, Nick Croucher. He has seen me at my worst, best and everything in between. His enthusiasm and positivity cannot be quashed (believe me I have tried!) and he has been instrumental in terms of making me a well-rounded consultant and in making my international move happen. This will probably make him blush as he is such a shy person normally…

If you are looking to make an international move or are considering an international hire, do reach out to us as we can put you in touch with one of our locations as we are currently based in; Singapore(!), Hong Kong, Australia, Dubai, New York, Germany, Amsterdam, Milan and of course London. Within London we have an international team that also specialises in roles for pretty much any location where we may not have an office base – so we can support any role location. That’s no mean feat.

How about a move to South East Asia?
I will be very open to connecting with anyone keen on hearing about our HR opportunities within South East Asia. Whether you are thinking of a move now or in the future or have hiring needs within those locations. Contact me on; or, Sean Tong, Head of Asia, HR Executive Search & Recruitment;

I can’t think of many other companies, or roles, that could provide similar me with similar opportunities. We are agile enough to avoid red tape, we make swift decisions and if it’s a great idea with a business benefit you will receive the backing to get on and make it happen.

If you are in HR and want to have an informal conversation about making a move into a recruitment consultancy for HR – reach out! We are always on the lookout for talented individuals to join our team and recognise the value that someone from a HR grounding and perspective can bring to the table.