We recently spoke with Ollie Whiting, Director of Permanent and Regional Recruitment at La Fosse Associates, who gave his insight on what working in recruitment is really like.
Q:Firstly, how did you get into the recruitment industry?
A: After uni, I originally planned on joining IBM’s graduate scheme having worked there as an intern. However, a university friend of mine was working at a competitor and advised me to go for a few interviews in recruitment. After interviewing with some of the big names in the industry, I decided to accept a job offer with a small start-up (about 6 people). I was excited by both the growth of the company and the opportunities for personal development.
Over the next seven years, I worked across both Contract and Permanent recruitment, was promoted through to Director level, and helped grow the company to over 60 people.
Q: Before you knew anything about recruitment, what were your expectations of the career?
A: I knew it would be fast-paced and hard work, but highly rewarding if you stuck at it. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult the first 12 months would be (especially in 2009 when the market was not in a very strong place!).
Q: What’s your story been in recruitment so far?
A: I sort of mentioned my beginning above, but I joined the industry straight after uni to do both contract and permanent recruitment in UK & Europe. After 2 years, I hired my first two team members to focus on Permanent Architecture placements. I then achieved top consultant, and was promoted to divisional head.
After five years in the industry, I was leading the Permanent Division & Account Management Practice (25 consultants). While I truly enjoyed my time and appreciated the opportunities presented to me at my first agency, I was approached by La Fosse to direct Perm & Regional business. It wasn’t easy to leave my team, but I saw how La Fosse is working to change the industry, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Within my first year, we’ve increased headcount by over 50%, whilst completing a record number of placements.
Q: Can you describe a typical day in your life?
A: I start the day by taking my dog for a run, and then am into the office first thing. After this, every day is different. That’s what I think is great about recruitment, no day is the same - you’re constantly learning and progressing as you go.
So while my days and weeks vary, my responsibilities range between: directing & leading a team of managers; engaging with clients who seek to use La Fosse Associates as their preferred partner for talent acquisition; building our vertical specialisms to ensure we continue to have a unique value proposition; and ensuring we continue to grow across both profit and headcount in both divisions.
Q: What are some of the most satisfying aspects of the job?
A: Promotions within the team, receiving positive candidate and client feedback on my team, and helping to grow the company at pace.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face on a week-to-week basis?
A: Maintaining Sustainable Growth: the most important thing for us as a company is to maintain our culture as we grow, so one of my biggest areas of focus has been identifying top 10% talent to join the team, who also match our culture and values.
External Market Conditions: another challenge that I’ve faced in the past, and am sure we will again in the future, is battling and managing external market conditions which are often out of our control.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to switch careers into recruitment?
A: Whether you sell computers, TVs or telephones, you have to be passionate about the thing you are selling, or you will struggle to find the spark. In order to successfully switch careers into recruitment, you have to find what it is you are passionate about.
I believe in recruitment, it’s critical that you’re passionate about people. Changing company workforce's and enticing individuals to further their careers is no easy task, but it’s hugely satisfying if you are passionate about it.
Finally, to be really successful, you must be up for a marathon, not a sprint.
Q: Are there any perks you have in recruitment that you can’t easily get in other industries?
A: The first three that come to mind are:
Fast track career development
Opportunities to work with senior stakeholders across a vast array of industries
A dynamic workforce with plenty of perks aside from remuneration
Q: Lastly, do you think recruitment isn’t correctly pushed as a career option at universities?
A: I believe Universities and career advisors really struggle to see recruitment as a professional service outside of HR, and so many students who would thrive in recruitment are pushed into other industries they feel are more exciting or have more opportunities for career progression.