Onrec: How did you get started in recruitment and how long ago was it?
I got started fifteen years ago when I was in my early twenties and had a bit more hair! I actually fell into recruitment rather than make a conscious choice to get into the industry. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was invited to join an agency after I impressed the owner of a recruitment agency with the number of raffle tickets I sold at a charity event. It was a fun place to work but heavily micromanaged, with all your typical KPIs, such as CVs read, calls made, new business meetings arranged etc. I don’t enjoy working in a regimented environment otherwise I would have joined the army. I believe autonomy brings out the best in people, so I decided to take the plunge and start my own consultancy. Alexander Lyons Solutions (ALS) was the result.
Onrec: The agency market is very inflated. What makes you different from your competitors?
The people we have working for us. ALS only employs experienced, professional recruiters, who have established sector relationships and understand the need for a high level of client service. Obviously, there’s a limited pool of high-calibre individuals to draw from, so I created a consultancy that aims to attract and retain the best people by prioritising their needs as both human beings and employees. That means building an internal culture where people want to come to work because they make good money, but also enjoy what they do and feel valued.
It sounds strange to some, but ALS has no set KPIs, and we offer flexibility, unlimited holidays, as well as “working from anywhere” (WFA). Don’t get me wrong. Some people do try and abuse the system, but what we have in place has proven to be very effective for the well-being of our employees, so they respect and safeguard it. They know they are unlikely to find the same conditions elsewhere.
Onrec: What exciting new trends are you noticing?
Nowadays, employees put themselves first rather than bending to the dictates of companies. That means recruiters want to feel empowered to do their job the way that works best for them, which plays right into our hands. I’ve also noticed the recruitment industry has also become a lot more specialised. When I started in recruitment the 360 model was standard. Recruiters won their own clients and filled their own roles. Now LinkedIn is every recruiter’s black book, and we have agencies filled to the brim with account executives, business development people, and delivery consultants - amongst others. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it does make me wonder if its producing well rounded professionals who can think outside of the box.
Onrec: What do you think will be the next big thing in online recruitment?
AI and automation. There are parts of recruiting that technology could easily replace, such as screening CVs. This would free up recruiters to build better client and candidate relationships, which is exciting, but it’s important to remember that people buy people. Getting a job is a personal experience and people don’t want to be treated as just another name on a database. They rightly want the human touch, and working in the people industry, we should never forget this.
Onrec: Biggest challenges we face going in to 2023?
The impact of business confidence around the risk of a recession. There are tough times ahead for sure, but no one seems to know how bad, due to the mixed messages we’re getting from the government and Bank of England. The truth of the matter is there’s still a shitload of jobs that need filling, so whatever happens, a good recruiter will not let it distract them from the task at hand - and that means making placements!
Onrec: Where do you see the recruitment industry in 5 years?
I truly believe that strict, office-based recruitment is dying out. Technology has freed us from the shackles of the office desk, and we should expect to see a more mobile, “on-the-go” recruiter in the future. Given the UK’s increasing reliance on technology and the ever-growing digital skills crisis, I think tech recruitment will be a lucrative area.
The UK is renowned for the quality of its labour force so we should also expect to see recruiters focused on filling demand for foreign-based roles. In all honesty though, we’re all going to be busy for some time to come. The post-COVID recruitment boom is not going away anytime soon and UK plc’s demand for talent will only continue to increase.
Onrec: COVID hit the industry hard. How did you manage and adapt?
We were fortunate to be ahead of the curve already, as our consultancy and its practices are built around the need for flexibility and working from anywhere. Coupled with the fact that the majority of our candidate base is also remote working, we actually saw more activity than we’ve ever had before.
Onrec: Do you have any other plans to expand? And if so, where?
In order to become the “go-to” recruitment consultancy in a highly competitive industry, we’re looking to expand our headcount massively. As part of this, we are delighted to have recently welcomed a new chairperson, Anthony Mowatt, to our team. He has decades of experience in the legal and insurance sectors and will be focused on accelerating ALS’s continued growth still further. Anthony understands that what we’re trying to achieve is very different from what our competitors are doing and that’s why he’s invested a substantial seven-figure sum into the business. This will be the catalyst that kickstarts our upcoming international expansion.
Onrec: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Don’t be an idiot, and don’t start spending money just because you’re making money! When I was younger, I was very materialistic. For me, it was all about having a nice watch or a new car. Thankfully fatherhood changed my priorities and made me focus on what’s important. Family, friends, mental health, and of course a job you love.
Onrec: What do you enjoy outside of work?
My party days were manic in every sense of the word. I’m a bit dull now actually. I do so much work during the week, that at the weekend I just like to “chill” and hang out with my wife and two kids.
Onrec: What is your career low and how did you overcome it? And what is your career high?
Before becoming a recruiter, I saw an opportunity to start a property company while at university. In the first three months I made more than enough to cover my course fees! Ha ha! Then the UK was hit by a recession and the property market collapsed alongside my burgeoning business. It devastated me at the time, but thankfully I got over it. Starting ALS and seeing it thrive is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done work wise. It’s the crystallisation of everything I expect recruitment to be.
Onrec: If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you?
A swizz army knife, a tarpaulin to collect water, and a receptacle to drink it. I want to survive, not read a book!
Onrec: If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why?
Hmmm. I like rhinos. They’re massive and when they get moving, there’s no stopping them.
Onrec: What was the last gift you gave someone?
A Rolex for my wife’s birthday which I waited six years to acquire because my name was on a very long list. It was certainly awkward explaining to her “It’s coming” every year…