Choosing a career in recruitment was the best thing I ever did

Like many other 23 year olds with a business degree from an average university, I was a bit lost when it came to choosing a career path.  Fresh back from a year travelling around Australia and New Zealand, I was stumped when it came to deciding what to do next.  I’d already tried my hand as an Estate Agent which was great fun but the idea of working weekends did not appeal.  The big Consultancies and grad schemes were out due to A Levels not being good enough (D in Geography, D in History and E in English Literature).  Banking was a big ‘no’ as I was in set 5 for Maths at school.  I wanted something that could give me a genuine career and earn me lots of money.  I had a dream of owning my own house, nice car and I really wanted to impress my dad and do better than my brothers.


I cast my mind back to a conversation I’d had in Byron Bay with my brother’s friend who was visiting for a few weeks.  He was carving a niche in IT Recruitment back in London, working for Hays at the time but was considering a move to a smaller agency.  He was also someone I’d describe as not overly academic but very witty and confident….like myself of course.  He described the role as great fun, highly rewarding, and quote “I couldn’t think of any other type of role where you had the potential to earn a banker’s salary”.


“Right, that’s it!” I said “recruitment is the one for me.”  I did my research, spoke to a few friends and started applying for jobs.   After only a handful of interviews, I’d decided on a company, Harvey Nash.  I had to go through 3 interviews culminating with a presentation to senior management.  I have never forgotten what I was told at this final interview; “recruitment is like a swan on take off, graceful above the water but underneath the water, frantic kicking, flapping and running to get air-born”. I had no idea what this meant exactly… but he was right and I’ll tell you why shortly.


So, the new suit was bought (with help from my Dad), cherry red shoes (it was nearly 15 years ago)  and standard white shirt.  Day 1, lots of looking around (scoping out the talent and competition) not really knowing exactly what to do; read a few manuals; basically doing anything not to pick up the phone. Day 2, was told it would get exciting, I’d be making some phone calls, I literally was sweating just thinking about, my intro being rehearsed over and over in my head; “Hi, my names Will Excell, I’m calling from Harvey Nash, just seeing if you are looking for a new contract at the moment…”. After a few stumbled words, by call number five I’d got into the rhythm. Actually I quite like this I thought, IT nerds are alright really, they just love to talk – I think that’s because no-one dares ask them about their job once they know what they do (to all my contractors, don’t hate me everyone, things have changed now, you are now considered Cool). By the end of the first week I was loving it, I was busy on the phone asking them what JavaScript was and what was a Design Pattern, and best of all secured a couple of interviews. By the end of the month I’d made my first placement. To ensure it wasn’t a lucky first timers effort, I kept the calls going, CV’s out the door and interviews secured. My manager told me that was all you needed to do; “Recruitment is just a numbers game” he said, “keep making the calls, getting CV’s out and you’ll make placements”. He was right (He’s also my business partner)!


Fast forward 5 years, a couple of top biller performances, and I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to lead the team; we were placing Software Developers all over London. I wasn’t sure I was cut out for management, I was not a born leader but leading by example is something I could always do, so I took up the challenge.  I had grown a strong client list, had over 40 contractors working for me and a team of 3 generating override (extra commission).  Life was pretty good!


Recruitment was, as my friend said, great fun and I was starting to see that big money could be made.  Back to the swan analogy, I get it now.  Lots of fellow work colleagues and ex-colleagues must not have heard this swan story. They thought coming into recruitment was easy, they thought they could earn lots of money (that was the “graceful” bit he referred to) but they forgot the “fleet flapping bit”, this was the hard graft bit; the tenacity to keep going when things were not going your way, keep picking up the phone after numerous rejections.


Let’s not forget the Work Hard, Play Hard element of recruitment.  (you’ll hear this a lot in interviews for recruitment). Thursday night out with the team, often grabbing only a few hours’ sleep on a colleague’s floor before back into work and eventually getting excited about the Friday meeting.  A couple of new recruits have just joined so we toast them before getting the low down on how well everyone has done; queue the shots of Sambuca. And out again for more at the local.


And then there were the work incentives for high achievers, often a winter ski trip and a summer trip; some of the best were St Anton (The Mooserwirt  Apres-ski bar for great Euro pop and a Director thinking he was a Rock Star throwing his TV out of his bedroom); Ibiza (boss said never again – I probably shouldn’t say too much), and Barcelona (hired a sailing boat and coasted South for a spot of lunch). Great fun.


Fast forward another 5 years and it was time to move on and start my own recruitment business. Thank you Harvey Nash for 10 great years but it was now time to do things the way I wanted.  Taking the best bits I’d learnt and leaving the worst parts behind, I set up Tiro Partners alongside my colleague at Harvey Nash, Paul Conaghan. We wanted a more mature environment, where it was less about how many phone calls you make (how many times people could call their mate or the talking clock) and more about how much business you write.  The consultancy side of Harvey Nash and the importance of building lasting relationships we of course took with us which has proved invaluable; the strict lunch hour between 1 and 2pm and wearing suits every day we left behind.  Paul and I are now running a small recruitment team that is competing against the major players in the industry and winning.  We have a great team that love coming to work every day and are looking forward to sharing the spoils as we grow. Although we are a startup and not in the centre of town, we still offer the incentives like the big agencies and the exciting days out.


I now think back to my younger years, the years that moulded me.  I remember my older brother, a straight-A student, who joked with my other brothers and I that “one day we would all be working for him”.  4 years into Tiro Partners and I’m pretty confident I will never be working for my brother.


The beauty of recruitment is that you don’t need a top class degree, you don’t need a big company behind you, you don’t need a product to sell, you simply need a hard working attitude and the ability to sell yourself.  You build up your own brand and you carry that with you for the rest of your life.  My friend in Byron Bay didn’t tell me this, probably because he hadn’t been in the job long enough to know, but he has also gone on to start his own specialist IT recruitment company.  It doesn’t matter whether you are smart or not, privileged or underprivileged, a career in recruitment is open to anyone who wants to work hard and who is good with people.  Ultimately, you are putting people into employment and finding them their dream jobs, there can’t be many other careers where you get this much job satisfaction on a daily basis.

August 22, 2016

William Excell

Director & Co-founder

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