University to Recruitment – Charlie Calderbank
Life before Whitehall
I was only 22 when I finished my degree in Criminology and Sociology. I aspired to work in youth centres helping young offenders, but I was told I wouldn’t be seen as an authority figure as I was too young, so my options were to do another degree in social care for three years – meaning by the time I finished I would be 25 and have no work experience – or find something else. I decided to look for a job instead, and I started working as a waitress at a local restaurant. I eventually found the GradJobs website, and after filling in my profile, I got a call from Whitehall.
From Uni to recruitment
At the time, I didn’t know anything about IT recruitment and I didn’t even realise that the phone call was my first interview. I just chatted away (as I do), and they invited me to a face-to-face interview with the managers. I liked that everything about the job and the industry was explained at the level that I needed, as having no experience at all, I‘d had been lost otherwise. They also asked me to do a presentation (which was part of the process at the time). Luckily, I like presenting and I had lots of experience from university, so I was comfortable doing it and I got the job!
That’s the first time I realised how the skills I learned at Uni were transferrable into the workplace. Persistence is probably one of the most important ones. At Uni, I was always either taking lessons, studying or at the library. I also had to work to pay my rent, meaning I was never at my student house or had time to go to parties or hang out with my friends, I barely had time for a shower or to sleep. I knew that’s what I had to do if I wanted to succeed and get my final grade, so I learned to work hard and to be persistent. It’s that attitude that helps me in my job now: when things aren’t easy, when they don’t go the way I’d like them to go, when I struggle to find the answers, it is persistence, the mental drive and the ability to stay positive that keeps me going. University also showed me what hard work actually is, the 14 hours at the bar at weekends serving pints were not the difficult part, it was the sitting down, studying and putting the time and effort to work on my assignments. That was a good lesson to learn.
What makes a good resourcer?
In the Key Accounts Team we have existing clients who give us job roles to work on and we resource candidates to try to find the best match. Resourcing involves speaking with lots of candidates, finding out more about them to see if they match the job role, and if they are happy with the terms of the role. I’d say the most important things would be to be able to talk to people and ask the right questions and also to listen. It is imperative to understand what the candidate wants, as much as what the client wants. In this industry, you could have a candidate with the correct skill set, but if they don’t like the location or the pay, it won’t work. But if you ask the right questions on time, you will be able to understand whether you found a match or not, or the different challenges you can potentially work on. Listening is not only important when it comes to candidates and clients, it is important to listen to your team and senior team members and speak truthfully, it is only with true information that things will work.
What do you like the most about your job?
Every time I pick up the phone I speak with different people who all want different things. I like to talk to them and hear their stories, there is always something new. It can be hard at times too, because we deal with a lot of rejection or people not being in the best mood, but most of the time, it is very interesting.
Becoming a Team Lead
I’ve been here for five and a half years now. The first three months of my journey were a learning curve. I was scared of picking up the phone and saying the wrong thing, but my manager explained to me that unless I was being rude to candidates I had nothing to worry about, and that if I forgot to ask a question, I could always call them again. I applied myself and made two placements during my probation period. I then had a small period where I didn’t place anyone and then I had two full years placing candidates month after month, which is quite an achievement.
There were other challenges: Around Christmas time, businesses make changes, and this industry isn’t any different. The first Christmas I was here, I had around 17 contractors working for me and in a space of a few weeks I lost about 10 of them, either because they handed over their notice or they had been let go by the client. It was difficult, but I recognised that it was out of my control and I stayed positive, building the number of contractors again. I set myself a goal to get to 20 contractors the following year so I could be promoted to Senior Consultant. I did reach my target and got the promotion I was looking for. My manager then suggested that I should consider becoming a Team Lead – it took a while to hit all the targets for that but I was promoted again at the start of the year.
What do you like about being a Team Lead?
I like watching people grow and develop at work. Being a Team Lead isn’t easy because you have a group of people to guide, mentor and to look after, and they are often a priority over your own work. You must help them keep positive and motivated, even when you are not having a great day yourself. It is like having children in a way – you feel proud about their achievements. I like my team, I care about them and I know they care about me too. We are a team.
What has been your biggest challenge as a Team Lead?
Not taking everything to heart. Seeing people frustrated, demotivated or being negative is really hard to watch, but I had to understand that part of my team’s learning process is to fail. I try to motivate my team, but I always tell them that they have to be the ones with the drive to succeed and that only they can motivate themselves. It’s on them to look at their work and accept when they might require further training, for example. Learning isn’t embarrassing or a failure, it’s an opportunity to refresh knowledge or to develop something skills. I personally would get training every day if I could, why not? It’s something that you can take advantage of. Naturally, I want to protect them, but as I learned on our internal Leadership program, I need to take a step back and let them fall so they come back stronger.
What has been your biggest achievement?
After my two-year run of back-to-back placements, I was one of the top five billers of the year. I was also the top female biller in the company. I never thought that is something I could have achieved.
What do you like the most about Whitehall?
Everything. I like the training opportunities provided through our Learning & Development team but also how great the support system is in general. I can talk to the managers if I need help resolving and issue, or I can talk to HR if I need advice. Recruitment is a stressful industry, but Whitehall is an easy place to work. Everyone is different and unique, and everyone here accepts you for who you are. There is no mould or standard to fit, it is very inclusive, and they try to help everyone to their own needs. You can simply be yourself.
What is next for you?
Keep learning, keep enjoying my work, not losing hope or feeling I failed because I haven’t been able to help someone. Keep encouraging people who want to take their next career step. Be proud of that and enjoy it. I’d also like to become Senior Team Lead which will mean growing and developing a successful team even further.