TECHNOLOGY and its effects on the working world is moving on at such a rate that it’s sometimes hard to remember exactly what was going on yesterday – let alone 25 years ago.
But that’s just what recruitment expert Lisa Carew has been doing as she looks back on a career spanning a quarter-of-a-century, a time of change and challenge for an industry where – operating in a fast-paced environment – people still come first.
Lisa, operations manager at NMS Recruit, has seen the recruitment business from all angles, firstly as a raw recruit herself, then running her own business and now heading up an expanding company supplying permanent and temporary labour for the Commercial, Sales, Telecoms and Energy sectors.
As part of the Russell Taylor Holdings group of companies, which is the fastest-growing privately-owned recruitment operation in the UK, Lisa’s appointment just over two years ago was key to driving NMS forward in its expanding marketplace in the North West, North Wales area and working UK-wide within Sales, Telecoms and Energy.
She and her team of six, based at the company’s headquarters at Burton Manor, Cheshire, have had an exceptional period of growth during this period, providing specialist recruitment services within their Commercial, Sales and Telecoms Division.
But exactly 25 years on from her first day in the job, the values on which she built her reputation still hold good – that quality drives any recruitment operation and that what’s important is knowing what makes a perfect fit between client and candidate. It’s going that extra mile, working out-of-hours to ensure the needs of each client are understood, what they are looking for in terms of skillset and culture fit and then matching job candidates accurately.
Lisa, who was 21 when she started her first job in recruitment with Chester-based The Business Connection, learned her trade at a time when the big call centres began to make their mark on the office and commercial landscape in the North West – MBNA and M&S both setting up huge operations in Chester.
She said: “I was working as an Account Manager for MBNA and there were 100 temps on site every day. There were plenty of candidates available for work – here was a major company locating to Chester for the first time and bringing to the area thousands of jobs with great benefits and packages.
“Other companies just had to sit up and take note. The tone was set for greater expectations by employees over pay and conditions.”
Looking back to those early days, it seems hard to understand how a workforce with no conception of technology managed to get vacancies filled. Employers advertised vacancies in local or national newspapers, trade press or job directories and there were no job boards, no websites and no social media.
Lisa explained: “It was a world with no internet and hardly any mobile phones. The main direct contact we had with candidates being placed in jobs was via their home landline telephones.
“From taking a job from an employer through to sending them a candidate’s CV could take at least a week. We were totally reliant on the postal service but sometimes it was actually possible to get crucial documents delivered by hand. And then there were the fax machines which, at the time, seemed cutting edge but now are like museum pieces.”
After eight years at The Business Connection, Lisa set up her own company Brighter Choices, again in Chester, operating in office support recruitment.
She said: “By now, the internet was becoming an increasingly powerful tool in recruitment but the business was becoming tougher with more agencies coming onto the market.
“Emailing between agencies, employers and job-seekers was beginning to take away real relationship building opportunities, vital to the all-important match of skills, job culture and personality of the key players in the exercise. In this climate, there was also the added pressure of ensuring your credibility in an industry where personal contact with the clients hiring and the candidates applying for vacancies was diminishing.”
However, Lisa stuck to her guns and put personal contact at the top of the workplace agenda for herself and her team, simply by just picking up the phone or having face-to-face conversations rather than relying totally on internet working.
Recruiting, training, networking and running her own business stood Lisa in good stead for the move to her current role at NMS Recruit.
She said: “I’d had many successful years in the recruitment industry, starting from scratch and then building and developing my own agency. However, I wanted to be part of a much bigger organisation and, when this opportunity arose, it was perfect - and it was time for a new challenge.
“These challenges are enormous as even more recruitment agencies are now out there competing for business.
“It’s a time of major change in the industry when, with addressing the skills’ gap high on most businesses’ priority list, there’s nothing more important than sourcing the right workforce for employers so they can retain people and build their skills to achieve economic growth.
“Obviously, some of the greatest changes have come with new technology. Using social media for hiring purposes is now at an all-time high with 92 percent of companies using platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for recruitment.
“And today candidates are the ones often in the driving seat, able to command more than just the best salary they can get but the whole jobs package, such as flexible working and career development plans. Some are often receiving multiple job offers and, if an employer can’t offer what they are looking for, they’ll ultimately lose them to a competitor that can.
“However, even in this candidate-driven market where speed is as essential to getting candidates in place as providing companies with good quality, highly skilled people, one crucial factor remains constant – the personal touch by recruiters to make sure fast turnaround should never mean quality of candidate selection ever becomes compromised.
“Better to have the philosophy of providing employers with quality rather than quantity, even if it means not sending candidates if they are not the right fit. A short-term gain benefits no one.
“Twenty-five years on, embracing all the changes and challenges of new technology, economic uncertainty and evolving workplace practices, it’s still the people who come first whether it be the employers filling vacancies, those looking for employment or our own staff.”