Having been on both sides of the fence, Denee is an expert on both internal (working for a single company) and external (balancing client and candidate) recruitment. What she has been on both sides, however, is a top performer and an organizational machine.
Denee was at Elite Associates at the time of this interview, has now moved to DeverellSmith, and remains a dear friend who I rely on to pick all of my clothes.
Jamie: Denee, just to start. What has been the most fulfilling thing about your career thus far?
Denee: Winning my own business, I think, being more set on the more clients on board on with 360 management, and winning recognition and award last year. I’d built my way up to managing a Recruitment Branch in Cheltenham, at the age of 24 – I was the youngest Branch Manager the company had ever had, and I was really proud of that.
Jamie: And what’s the best thing about being in sales specifically?
Denee: The money.
With the money, being able to save large amounts in one sum because I’m not very good long-term saver and so I need to get to put a lot away at the same time if I want to buy houses and other things. It keeps me driven in the short term, knowing I can make a large amount quite quickly.
Jamie: And why did you go to sales in the first place?
Denee: I actually got into it by accident.
I was 20 and working in a call centre, which was about to make redundancies. In Cheltenham, there were limited job options, I applied for the job, and I got it. At the time, I came from a customer service driven environment, and they saw me building the desk in that industry. It was really recruitment rather than hard sales, but similarly largely about the people skills. I really enjoyed day to day with clients or with a candidate; it’s all about matching the skills of the candidate to the clients’ requirements.
Jamie: And you worked in both internal equipment and external recruitment. What were the key differences you saw in those roles?
Denee: Internal for me was a lot easier because the job was already there. You don’t have to find the roles, and so I missed the chase. The most challenging thing about my role at the moment is actually getting the external roles, bringing new clients on board. Internal stakeholder management was great learning for me. You can’t change the people you are working within internal recruitment, the pace goes a lot slower, so there is less variety and different long-term objectives for the brands. I would go back to it one day, once I’ve had children or something like that.
For me, there wasn’t enough challenge; it was too easy day-to-day, and I feel like I’m too young to lack significant motivation in a role.
Jamie: What do you think of the different or additional skills that are needed to be a great external recruiter compared to an internal recruiter?
Denee: For external agency recruitment, you need to be able to spin multiple plates at one time, and you have to target the different audiences. You know each client is very different in each sector, and each client is a different personality, so how do you adapt your approach to some people.
Some clients want direct, straight to the point communication and some people like to hear “how the weekend is” and you have to be very strategic about it and understand why clients react better to certain things and then use this knowledge to your advantage.
Internal recruitment is still very strategic, but focused on things like your employer branding, talent pooling, candidate experience etc. whereas in external recruitment you have to be okay with being defined by your last month or quarter; “how am I going to the achieving next month, what does my quarter look like, which clients should I be contacting now?”
Jamie: And how do you go about improving your personal brand?
Denee: For me, it’s all about perception. I would never want a client or candidate to think I haven’t done a good job or that I am not capable. From the start, I set clear expectations. I make sure that all of my candidates/clients feel like I want to know them personally, not that they are just another candidate to me and for me, and that can be using small but noticeable things – asking how their weekend was, asking if they need anything else, to being available for them outside of the usual 8am-6pm. But I have to be organised as we are only human and weeks run away with us sometimes, so on a Friday I’ll update all of our candidates regardless of where we are in processes, that’s something I’ve put into place, but they appreciate it and just making sure that there is communication is really key for me.
Jamie: Is that common or is that something that you have implemented that differentiates you?
Denee: Something I’ve implemented. I’ve been on the other side applying for a job before, and I l know it’s frustrating when you don’t know what’s going on. So, it’s personal to me and how I see my business. On the client side, I’ve been an internal recruiter, who I often interact with, so I know what the processes are. I know that delays may be out of their control. There might have been no update for two weeks, but I need my candidates to know that. That also then affects how I communicate with candidates or clients as I have the understanding and empathy compared to another recruiter who may just be getting frustrated.
Jamie: You mentioned before the whole adapting to different people’s personalities and how they like to communicate. Do you feel like that’s something that comes to you naturally that you’ve learned at that time?
Denee: It definitely didn’t come to me naturally. I’ve been in recruitment now for 9 years, and there have been lots of trial and error situations, I just make sure at the end of any situation I think “could I have done something differently, or what did I do that made that go so well”. I’ve also done a lot of personality tests. Which colour are you: blue, yellow, green, red etc. “Blue” is someone who is organised, a devil for detail, and I am highly “Blue.” It’s really interesting then to understand how a “Blue” and a “Yellow” can clash – so how do you resolve that and manage to achieve a positive end result. I incorporate this into every day; if I write an email, I’ll go over and review my email again, usually having to add something fluffy on the top for Yellows, or making sure it’s to the point for a Red or Blue. It doesn’t come to me naturally because of my personality type, but I have worked that into my routine.
Jamie: What difference have you seen in the way people respond to you adapting your communication?
Denee: I see a lot more response. [chuckles]
I have established long-time relationships and loyalty from clients and internally in my teams. It’s very difficult for me sometimes – if I am being “blue” I don’t necessarily ask, “How’s the weekend been?” Just by doing that has improved my relationships and I get a lot more term business from that because people see me as a person as well rather than just being another recruiter.
Jamie: Please can you talk a little about the relative compensation for internal vs external recruitment?
Denee: Definitely, it’s double at least for external recruitment
Jamie: And why do you think it pays so much more?
Denee: I think it’s definitely tougher and the fees that we charge are a lot higher – the percentage that I charge to the client could be between 10% and 30%. It’s a challenging role; people in recruitment turn over often, and if you can get a stable recruitment career, then you’re unusual. At first, it wasn’t easy, and that’s when most people leave recruitment.
External recruitment is all about relationship building and strategizing and spreadsheets – which I’m going contact, how I’m going convert them, eight-week plans of what I’m going do each week and making sure I keep refreshing them.
You have to handle that first year of pain, questioning “can I really do this”, going through all that because then after that the second year, third year or fourth year, it only gets better.
Jamie: What advice do you have for young aspiring salespeople looking at the recruitment? How do you survive that first year?
Denee: Depending on your industry, I would say don’t expect quick wins and if you do get a quick win, be very humble about them, because sometimes it could be luck – you have to keep focused on long term objectives, so you can continue to be successful.
Jamie: If you had a career again, what would you do differently?
Denee: I would probably go into IT recruitment.
Jamie: Does that require a technical background?
Denee: No. You can learn the industry when you’re in it. For example, I did government recruitment and industrial recruitment for the first five years of my career and decided I wanted to change because I didn’t enjoy the government side anymore; because it’s so much about administration and compliance.
So I would say, going to recruitments or sales, really think about putting time into the industry that you’re in, and because the longer you’re in the same industry the more money you will make versus than having to start over like I did and create all those contacts again.
Jamie: Do you have any advice on how to go about building that contact base as quickly as possible?
Denee: Networking and thinking outside the box. Make sure you create a list because you can’t remember to contact everyone. I’ve got hundreds of clients on a spreadsheet, and I call through them every two weeks to make sure that you have contact with them and keep fresh in their mind. Have a plan, don’t just call/email them – bring them something extra to the table. It could be you’ve seen their most recent LinkedIn news, newsletter, industry update, etc., mutual contacts – they will remember that.
Jamie: Is there any advice you could give to a sort of a young salesperson generally based on what you’ve seen?
Denee: Think about why you are going into sales, and what skills do you have to ensure you are good salesperson? Use those skills and then work hard to develop the rest. Sales isn’t easy, think about how you’ll bring yourself back up when things haven’t gone the way you expected. Have a focus, be organised and be individual.
I would say think about the industry that you want to work in and think about what works best for you. There’s a lot more of out there than just office jobs or industrial jobs which is what they taught me at school. Do your research. Ask friends about what they’ve done and when they’ve changed jobs and think about your interests.
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