In mid-November last year, SEEK announced the winners of the Australian SARAs for 2017. The winner of the Recruitment Leader of the Year for “demonstrating an excellent ability to foster relationships, solve problems, communicate effectively, and adapt to change” was Fircroft’s, Claire Woodhouse.
After completing her undergraduate degree at Lancaster University (UK) in 2002, Claire spent nearly five years in Manchester working for Progressive – Sthree as a Recruitment Manager (Project Management Specialist). After three further roles in Manchester, including the co-founding of a rec-to-rec agency, Claire left the UK in early 2013 and headed to Perth, originally for a holiday, but before long she joined the local office of the global resource sector recruitment agency, Fircroft, as a Project Management Recruitment Specialist. After a year Claire was promoted into a leadership role where she now has regional responsibility for Fircroft’s operations in Western Australia and Northern Territory.
Claire kindly agreed to answer my interview questions about her career and her leadership development.
Ross: What was your background prior to becoming a recruiter and how did you come to choose recruitment as a career?
Claire: I got into recruitment straight after graduating from university. I didn’t have a career before recruitment and, like so many people, I “fell” into recruitment.
What aspects of recruitment did you find the most challenging when you started?
I never realised recruitment was actually a sales job – my degree was in HR so I guess I thought it was simply about filling jobs! How wrong was I – so in essence recruitment was my first step into sales and this was a challenge. But with time comes experience and after a tough first year I really started to see the results come through.
How long did it take working as a recruiter before you were offered your first leadership role? Tell me a little about that role.
I stepped up in to being a team leader within my first three years – the company I worked for at the time purely focused on grad hires so I had to build my team from scratch and take each new hire from zero knowledge to consistent performance.
What did you find to be the biggest challenges in moving from a consulting role into a leadership role?
Becoming a billing manager is always the hardest step. Maintaining a high performance as well as driving the performance in others takes a great deal of juggling.
What brought you to Perth from Manchester (UK) in 2013?
I came to Perth on holiday with my partner who was hell bent on persuading me to move! Looks like he won! The Perth market is such a great place to work – there are so many great projects, the recruitment style suits me because it’s all about networking and meeting people than making hundreds of calls a day to people you rarely get to meet. To top it off the weather and lifestyle beats the UK any day for me.
What sort of formal and informal leadership development have you experienced in your time at Fircroft?
Most of the training I have completed has been in house schemes for the companies I have worked for. I did complete the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner course myself having completed an introductory course with my employer. There are also so many great tools out there and self teaching is part of your own development too, as a leader. A majority of my learning has come from key managers who have helped mentor and develop me.
What books, blogs, podcasts, websites or other external resources have you gained the most from in terms of developing your leadership skills?
EQ targeted books – various
I listen to so many varied podcasts and watch heaps of documentaries… I don’t really have favourite
What sort of statistics or KPIs do you rely on, and how do you use them, to effectively manage the people who report to you?
Revenue is the biggest focus – having set KPIs I feel doesn’t work – we have a “guideline” but we use KPIs more to reflect on people’s development areas and where they can make improvements to get better results. When you get a high performing recruiter the KPIs are naturally hit so it’s all about focusing on results rather than KPIs for activity.
Who have been important influences in your recruitment career and what have those people specifically contributed to you?
I have had only a few managers that have really inspired and influenced me – the greatest thing they did for me was to build my confidence, help me step outside of my comfort zones and believe in my abilities. They were inspirational people to work for and knew how to get the best out of me. Unfortunately there are far too many managers rather than leaders in most companies and I feel lucky to have met some great leaders.
What do you attribute your win in SARA 2017 Recruitment Leader of the Year to?
Hard work and a passion for my team – I wouldn’t have won the award without the amazing team I work with every day – they after all are the ones that bring in the results – they know I will always have their back and trust and honesty is a big thing – I also don’t believe in having a standard approach, everyone is an individual with different needs and I make sure that’s always accommodated – if my team are happy I don’t need to worry – the rest will take care of itself. This (Richard Branson quote, below) is one of my favourite quotes.
What are the most important things that a recruitment agency leader should focus on to build a team with strong morale, excellent skills and outstanding results?
Listening, understanding and taking the right action. Being there to provide consistent support and guidance and ensuring you meet both the needs of the individual and the team – it can be a fine balancing act and no one is bigger than the team.
What personal philosophies drive you each day in your job?
Treat other people as you want to be treated
What’s something about yourself that very few people, who know you professionally, would know about you? People are often surprised to know I’m a farmer’s daughter – maybe I don’t fit the stereotype haha!
What advice would you give to a recruiter who has leadership ambitions?
Learn to focus a large part of your time on listening to your team – they are a great source of inspiration and direction.
Thanks Claire, and all the best for the year ahead.
No problem, Ross, happy to help.