One of the most competitive gongs in the local recruitment industry is the coveted RCSA Recruitment Professional of the Year.
Three years ago Seamus joined Davidson after spending the previous five years recruiting construction project managers in two different agencies.
Within two years he was recruiting some of the States most senior Chief Infrastructure roles within the commercial and public sector and in the 2018/19 financial year he exceeded $1 million in billings.
When I contacted Davidson Group GM – Executive & Boards (and 2016 SARA Recruiter of the Year), Clare McCartin about Seamus, she was very happy to expand on the qualities that have made him such an effective recruiter in his sector and a deserving winner of the 2019 RCSA Recruitment Professional of the Year.
“When you ask clients about Seamus the word authentic is always used. Seamus grew up on a farm in Nar Nar Goon, the second youngest of six children, the fifth of five boys!
He genuinely cares about making an impact on communities so when we came up with the Top 50 Public Sector Women Awards he really pushed the concept within his client base ensuring the infrastructure & transport community had good representation both on the judging panel and also within the applicant pool. Seamus also sits on the indigenous community of practice that supports the indigenous community within the public sector.”
Seamus generously spared me some time to answer my questions about his career in recruitment and his win in the awards.
Ross: What was your background prior to becoming a recruiter and how did you come to choose recruitment as a career?
Seamus: Like a lot of recruiters I fell into the industry. I always knew that I wanted to work with people and following a psychology degree started my career as a youth worker. Without knowing it at the time, this was my first taste of the industry as one of our key objectives was to get disadvantaged young people back into education or employment.
I travelled to the UK in my twenties and spent a few years working overseas with a marketing company that gave me a taste of sales, business development and consulting with business owners.
I moved back to Melbourne in 2011 and looked for an opportunity to use the skills I had in an industry that was fast paced, exciting and had plenty of variety and managed to secure a role as a trainee recruitment consultant.
What sort of recruitment did you do when you first joined a recruitment agency and what did you find most challenging about the first few months?
I have always had an infrastructure focus and started on a technical desk recruiting for major projects. The challenge for anyone entering the industry is to build up your knowledge so that you can add value to candidates and clients every time. I worked closely with the founder of the business and although I was impatient from day one, I was given time to learn the market and the recruitment craft.
I’m really thankful for this support early in my career and now understand that in our profession it does take years to build up your knowledge, networks and skills.
Unfortunately, I think too often people are set up to fail in this industry by not being given the training and support they need in their early years.
What niche do you recruit in now?
I focus on executive appointments across service delivery organisations including transport, utilities, education, health and government. This market is busy, whether it’s building new infrastructure, a digital transformation changing the way they operate or growing the services that they offering to better meet the needs of their customer base.
What do you do to keep up-to-date with issues in your market niche?
If you want to be well regarded as an expert you need to be across what’s happening in the sector. In recent years I have changed my activity focus and now aim to fill my diary every week with 10 meeting with clients and senior leaders (that aren’t interviews for jobs). I find when you are meeting people and not interviewing them for a job you learn so much about what’s happening in the sector.
What do you do to continue the development of both your recruitment and personal skills?
I never stop learning in my role, especially in the environment at Davidson. Davidson’s HR consulting division have facilitated our internal leadership development, 360 degree survey feedback and engagement surveys.
I also regularly network with other recruiters (internal and external) and find that this has been great for sharing and learning from what others are doing. In doing so, I have developed a number of mutually beneficial relationships throughout the recruitment industry.
Do you use statistics or KPIs to manage your performance? If so which ones and how do you use them?
Customer experience is so important to our business. At Davidson we measure ourselves on a Net Promoter Score (NPS) which gives us the opportunity to obtain direct feedback from clients and candidates. As a team, we review our performance each week to identify where we can continue to improve.
It has taken me almost a decade but I’m now in a position where almost all of my work is retained. I measure my client activity each week and break down how many assignments I need to win each month to achieve my billing target. This is to continue to bill above a million dollars individually each year whilst growing the capability of my team in Victoria.
Who have been important influences in your recruitment career and what have those people specifically contributed to you?
I’ve worked with so many great people over the years but Clare McCartin (Davidson Group GM – Executive & Boards and 2016 SARA Recruiter of the Year) and Jarrod McLauchlan (Davidson Executive GM, Vic – Executive & Boards) are the two that stand out. Clare and Jarrod’s respective ability to lead, coach and grow teams whilst individually billing seven figures has been incredible.
What is just as inspiring is their ability to juggle these demands whilst playing active roles as parents to their young children. Given my current family situation of having a 15 month old daughter and a second child due in December, Clare and Jarrod have been great role models for balancing work and life. I have appreciated the flexibility and support provided so that my wife Chloe and I can both continue our careers while sharing the responsibility at home (Chloe still does the lion’s share but I’m working on it!).
What hobbies, sports or leisure pursuits do you most enjoy?
I love watching and playing competitive sports and only recently stopped playing footy. I still try and keep active and find that it’s a good way to unwind. These days spending time chasing around my daughter is what I enjoy the most followed by golf, surfing and snowboarding.
What do you attribute your win in RCSA 2019 Recruitment Professional of the Year to?
I’ve been incredibly lucky in my recruitment career and it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding journey. I have worked with great people and learnt from industry leaders along the way who have been prepared to invest their time and money in my development (which includes some Ross Clennett leadership training about 5 years ago!).
I think it’s much easier to do well when you love what you do. I am passionate about supporting people and ultimately playing a role in their career journey. I enjoy learning about the sector that I recruit for and getting to know the stories of my candidates and clients.
What are the most important things that an individual recruiter can do to ensure they thrive in a rapidly changing recruitment landscape?
Become a true industry expert – read, actively network and share. As a business advisor, constantly arm yourself with new ways to add value to your clients and you will always be in demand.
The recruitment landscape is changing but we have the opportunity to be the disrupter not the disrupted. Embrace innovation and technology to raise the possibilities of what the recruitment experience can look like for both the candidate and client.
What personal philosophies drive you each day in your job?
The candidates of today are the clients of tomorrow. Around 75% of the work we win is either a previous candidate (whether placed by us, or not) or a previous client.
Every now and again when I think I am having a tough day at the office I remind myself what life on the land is like (I grew up on a dairy farm in Gippsland) and how easy I actually have it!
What advice would you give to anyone who is just starting their recruitment career?
My four pieces of advice are:
1) Do the basics well – always five points of contact, get in front of clients, add value, provide a service that they can’t do themselves and treat clients and candidates the same.
2) Take a 30-year, instead of a 30-day perspective. It’s not just about filling a job, it’s about finding the right person for the right role as there is no better business than repeat business from a satisfied customer.
3) Promote and embrace all aspects of equality and diversity and challenge the industry when hiring talent. We have the opportunity to make a real difference.
4) Enjoy it – we are incredibly lucky to get paid to hear people tell their stories each day. Ride the ups and downs and be prepared to evolve your desk and embrace change.
Congratulations once again, Seamus and thanks for your time.
No problem, Ross, thanks for the opportunity.