Employee spotlight – Tom Thackrah

Joining Whitehall

I graduated from university in Accounting and Finance and spent a while working in various places as a chef, a life guard and bar work. I attended a Grad Day at a recruitment company and was offered the job, but declined as I did not want to commute to London every day. The experience did interest me though, so I applied to Whitehall and started soon after.

Learning about recruitment

Recruitment is not what I expected AT ALL. The first couple of weeks were really hard – I had never had an office job before and I was not confident in calling strangers on the phone. I used to spend too much time looking at CVs of people who then didn’t answer the phone… so I stopped doing that and started following the process I was taught during my training.

During my probation period I placed three candidates permanent roles. As we work with candidates in highly-paid positions, the commission can be very high too, which means I earned very good money during my probation. I was very proud of my early success but unfortunately it got to my head. I started cutting corners, trying to do things quickly and hearing what I wanted to hear rather than what candidates were actually telling me, which led me to make lots of mistakes. I wasn’t putting forward the right candidates, and they were either rejected or declined offers of interviews – they just weren’t a good match.

As a result, the colleagues whose roles I had been trusted to work on and their clients were not happy.  My manager had to have a chat with me and reined me in. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve always taken honest feedback well so I went back to basics and got back on my feet in the following three months. I’ve always worked hard, I was always the first one to arrive and the last one to leave and that never changed, but it was my attitude and understanding that had to change.

It worked. Once I was back on track, I began working hard on achieving my targets. After they were all completed, I was promoted to Senior Consultant.

Permanent recruitment in the IT sector

I work in the UK IT Permanent team. The IT market is very broad, every company has at least one person doing IT within their business. We work on any type of IT role but focus on two verticals: IT infrastructure and IT development. I particularly like working with IT project managers and business analysts, as there is a lot more than just a CV to consider . We need to take into account personality matches, aspirations for money or personal growth, are they a good fit for the company, could they inspire others as a leader? Each role brings its own complexities and challenges.

Working in the Permanent team is great fun. We all get on, we are always making jokes and we do lots of things together outside of work. I would put that above most other things.

What is your main motivation?

Although I do care about money, my main reason to work is progression and personal development. After becoming Senior Consultant I started to perform really well. I broke the record for the highest number of consecutive months successfully making placements. I am proud of that because it isn’t easy to achieve in the IT permanent market, especially at the level we work at. It can take three months to place a candidate in a job and there are lots of situations that are out of your control: counter offers from current employers, location issues, family reasons or even offers from other companies.

Planning my progression

I like the IT perm team because there is a lot of opportunity for growth. I also like that I can be open and honest with my manager about the challenges I face day to day, and I get the support I need. We are in continuous communication and I’m always pushing to achieve my next target. These are clear at Whitehall, you can easily work out where you are and what you must do to get to the next level.

As part of the promotion structure at Whitehall, the Learning and Development team recently introduced a leadership program. I have completed Level 1 and I am about to complete Level 2. What I’ve found most valuable about the leadership program is that it helps me understand the different mindsets and points of view from colleagues due to our career backgrounds, family situations or motivations, and how everyone learns in a different way. I take criticism well for example, but it doesn’t mean everyone does, so we learn to work with different personalities.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

By focusing on my targets and by working together with my team. I strive to be the best I can and seeing my name at the top, but I also want to do well for the team. If each of us performs, it benefits not just us but the whole team, including our manager, who also has targets for her own progression. We all motivate each other.

What do you like the most about recruitment?

The competitiveness of the industry. I’ve always been very competitive in sports – I play football, cricket and used to play rugby. I’ve always been competitive in any job I do, and this one is no different. I like to be the best and beat whoever is next to me. I like when we do team challenges at Whitehall, it drives people. I find it hard to understand when people don’t want to win or wait for someone else to do their job, especially in sales where you make your own money!

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

When I joined, understanding recruitment and being able to trust my new manager on what I had to do and following guidance – but I got there in the end. I didn’t listen initially, I didn’t want to make a call to a complete stranger about a technology I didn’t fully understand. I had never spoken to strangers before in this kind of context, let alone making 100 calls a day. Also, having to listen to the feedback, rein myself in and going back to basics.

I understand now that this is a common issue in the industry, as unless you have previous experience in recruitment, most people don’t know what recruitment is. My parents still think I have this nice fluffy career because I get people jobs. In reality, we get rejected by candidates 98 times out of a hundred in a day, so you have to have other motivations apart from finding jobs for people.

What do you like the most about Whitehall?

My team. Like most people, I spend more time with my colleagues than I do with my family, so we have to get along and enjoy our time. They are a big motivation to come to work each day, I wouldn’t stay somewhere I didn’t enjoy being. If I am having a bad day, there will always be someone joking trying to cheer me up. Getting along with my colleagues makes the stressful side of recruitment much easier to deal with.

What I most like about the company culture is how you still see Trem, the Managing Director, working in the same open-plan office alongside everyone else. It is quite a big thing for me and it is something I always refer back to when new colleagues have been here for a year and think they have done enough: If the CEO is still there making phone calls and working every day, why wouldn’t you?

I also like that we have lots of incentives. Some people love the ‘champagne deals’ but for me, the best is the annual Christmas party which is fully expensed by the company. I think it is brilliant!

What’s next?

I have recently been promoted to Principal Consultant after hitting higher targets and have started building my own team. I would like to become an independent Team Lead. There is still work to do to get there, but I expect to achieve it in the next year or so.

Any advice for people starting in recruitment?

Listen to whoever is teaching you, follow their instructions and work hard. These are the only things you need to do to be successful here. If you look at the top earners in the company, they are all from different backgrounds and have different personalities but what they have in common is that they followed someone’s lead and continued working hard. Trust that someone that has been here a few years will be able to guide you the right way.