“I went from working long hours and even having to sleep in the car because there was no point in going home, to travelling around the world working with the biggest and best brands.”
My early career and my first steps into recruitment
Before joining the recruitment world I had lots of jobs, I worked in a warehouse, a restaurant, a chicken factory, as a bin man – you name it. I am proud of having worked hard because it made me the person I am, but I knew I wanted a more dynamic and customer-driven job, so in 2008 I decided to join an industrial recruitment company.
In my first recruitment job, the client’s requirements were straightforward – “We need ten people at the factory tomorrow at 4am, with the lowest pay as possible”. We had to ensure we delivered even if it meant staying in the office until 9 pm and if the hires didn’t have transport to get to work, we also had to arrange this for them. As part of the job, I had to be on the working site very early to check in employees, take care of paperwork (timesheets etc) and deal with issues with people turning up late or not at all. Sometimes I had to sleep in the car because there was no point in going home.
The company itself was very strict and lineal, we would all wear a suit and a tie even if it was to go to the warehouses. As the hires had low pay, our commission was low too so we had to hire in large numbers. It was repetitive and there was no excitement, but I put the effort in and I did the job. I thought I was doing well and that I knew about recruitment, and then I joined Whitehall…
No suits and people playing foosball?
I came to Whitehall in 2013 with no experience of IT but with a will to learn. I put my head down and learned everything from scratch. It was so different to my previous roles and much more professional. A very different service offering, client approach and level of conversation with clients and candidates. You are still selling the most unpredictable product, which is people, but the job is so much more professional from all angles.
The environment was also very different, no one was wearing suits, there were people playing foosball and I was shocked when I saw the sales director shooting a nerf gun in the office! What was all this about?
It took me a while to understand it but once I got it – work hard, play hard – I liked it and I understood what real recruitment entails: quality, not quantity.
The culture at Whitehall is relaxed. Yes, recruitment can be a stressful environment because you cannot control the candidates’ or clients’ decisions but the company itself keeps a cool head. Our offices have a London feel, they’re open-plan, lively, and we have the managers and directors spread out sitting amongst the teams – we definitely don’t feel corporate. We are about team bonding, making friends and colleagues while pushing the business forward.
We have lots of incentives – friends from different industries get surprised when I tell them about the events we organise or that we had free pizza – and I also like the location as it is easier and quicker for me to access the office in Colchester than the town centre in Ipswich where I live. I don’t see myself commuting to London every day. In regards to the suit, I still wear it when going to meetings but most customers in the big companies we visit don’t wear one anyways!
Travelling the world as an international recruiter
Since working at Whitehall I have travelled the world to meet with the most recognised companies and the biggest brands, I’ve met people I never thought I would meet in my life and I have had the opportunity to visit different places, eat in nice restaurants and seen really cool buildings like Heineken’s finance office with their impressive employee’s bar on the ninth floor. It has changed how I see the world, and when I see a company we work with in the news, I feel proud of having contributed to that success. Sometimes they email me to say thank you for helping them get the right people, which is very rewarding.
In the international team I learned about business, big brands and consultancies. I’ve built very good relationships with clients and candidates around the world who I take the opportunity to meet every time I am in the area and I particularly enjoy going to Frankfurt to work with our team there, it is a fantastic city with a great atmosphere.
“Work hard until you no longer have to introduce yourself”
When I first joined the team, I was not focusing on becoming a manager. For me, it was about doing the job I was hired to do and make placements to be able to earn commission. If a client sent me a requirement, I would do everything I could to find the right person for them, I did not want to disappoint them. It is true that there is an element of luck because candidates or clients can be unpredictable, but it is also true that you make your own luck.
A phrase that I live by is “Work hard until you no longer have to introduce yourself” and my interpretation of it is that you have to be consistent and be present. When someone picks up the phone and says “Hello, Piotr”, I know I have succeeded because it means they know who I am, that I work at Whitehall and I am an expert in the SAP market. They saved my number and it means next time they need an SAP candidate, they will think of me and will call.
When did you decide you wanted to be a manager?
As mentioned before, I was focused on doing a good job rather than career progression, but I eventually wanted to break the routine and shift my experience to new recruiters. The good thing about Whitehall is that they recognise when you do well and promote you as you progress, so I progressed naturally and became a manager. I still enjoy making placements though, it gives me a very special buzz.
As we are expanding, it is much more rewarding for me to be part of growing the market and to make decisions that impact that growth. This is not only the case with me, with the expansion of the company, there will be lots of opportunities for other consultants to move into more senior positions, whether they want to go the Managing Consultant or the Business Manager route.
What do you enjoy about your job as a manager?
Seeing other people progress and seeing the growth of the international team. I like being able to pass my knowledge to other potential leaders and to other people who are willing to learn. Also, when we were informed that we ranked in the International Fast Track 200 (which lists the UK’s fastest-growing international companies) we were very pleased but also surprised, it was confirmation of the last few years pushing the business forward.
Becoming a manager is a reflection of my efforts and a confirmation that there is more to come so I am proud of my achievement. With our expansion plans, I think it will lead me to another level.
Opportunities in the international team
Our UK team is well established but we started to expand into Europe and the Middle East just a few years ago, which means there is a huge market to develop. There is lots of opportunity in our international team for professional development and because our recruiters all have an impact on that growth. We encourage our recruiters to go out and meet candidates and clients, if they present a business case with a client open to negotiations that involves travelling to meet up, we support them. That wouldn’t happen in every company, as some would find lots of reasons for you not to go, while for us, the more people you meet, the higher your chances are of finding new business. Just by meeting people internationally, your experience is doubled.
My next goal: Expanding in the German market
We currently have an office in Frankfurt and would like to mirror in Germany what we have achieved in the UK.
SAP itself is a company established in Germany, and the spend on SAP across Germany is bigger than the spent in the rest of Europe combined. SAP works with the most interesting brands and has great PR and customer service teams. You can now see SAP logos everywhere, from airports and train stations to the main football stadium in Manheim – the SAP arena.
If you are looking to become an international recruiter, the opportunity is here now, you can grow with us and we can grow with you. The benefit of joining an expanding business is that rather than become just another employee or a number, you can find your own path, progress and develop your career.