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New Zealand RCSA members enjoyed what Australian members have not been able to, either this year or last year, when they gathered for their 2021 Winter Ball and Awards Night in Auckland on 8 July.

Among the 11 category winners was the 2021 Recruitment Professional of the Year, Brian Bernard.

Brian has been responsible for managing and growing the Hamilton, Bay of Plenty & Taranaki office of Absolute IT since it opened in 2012.

Like many outstanding recruiters, Brian has a diverse background. He was educated in the UK, lived in the US for 12 years then moved to New Zealand in 2008. Brian is also an ordained Christian Minister.

I first got to know Brian when he participated in one of the earliest seasons of my webinar-based Leadership Coaching for High Performance program, around 8 years ago.

When I contacted Brian recently he was happy to answer my questions about his award win, career and recruitment philosophies. 

Ross: What was your background prior to becoming a recruiter and how did you come to choose recruitment as a career?

Brian: I commenced working at the age of 16 for a technology provider of hardware in the UK and was given the opportunity at age 18 to work in sales at the IT services provider.  Within 18 months I achieved top sales producer for 4 consecutive quarters.  I moved to the USA in 1996 and it was there that I entered the world of recruitment starting as an IT recruiter and eventually becoming Senior Vice President.

Ross: What aspects of recruitment did you find the most challenging when you started?

Brian: In IT recruitment each day is a new challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed (and still do) as each day is different.  I think the most challenging initially was the reluctance of hiring managers to initially engage but I soon overcome that with persistence.

Ross: You are a well-travelled man. What was your motivation for moving to New Zealand after having lived in both the US and UK for many years?

Brian: To be honest it was a lifestyle choice, a new challenge and a great place to raise our young children who were 3 and 10 when we moved to Aotearoa.

Ross: What have you found to be the biggest differences between your experience of selling into the New Zealand business community compared to selling into the corporate markets in the US and the UK?

Brian: For me, it has been the opportunity to engage at the C-Level and down, build really close and meaningful relationships due to the size of companies in NZ are generally much smaller than the UK and USA.

Ross: What niche do you recruit in, what have you found to be the biggest challenge of recruiting in that niche and how have you overcome that challenge?

Brian: I recruit across the ICT space – all disciplines.  At the moment biggest challenge is the continued shortage of talent especially with the borders been closed as here in NZ we rely heavily on migrants moving to NZ to fill the skills shortage.

Ross: What do you do to continue the development of both your recruitment and personal skills?  

Brian: I often read the blogs from Greg Savage and his book The Savage Truth is an amazing read.  I’ve always been inspired by so many other great leaders in the technology field – legends like Ross Perot and his book The Principles for Success.  People like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison and the late Steve Jobs from Apple.  Walter Chenault ex-Chairman and CEO of American Express who sat on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble amongst others.  I’ve always been inspired by those who push through everything against the odd like Ben Carson and his book Gifted Hands and all he accomplished.

Ross: Do you use statistics or KPIs to manage your performance? If so which ones and how do you use them?

Brian: I’ve always set my own KPI’s so I make a minimum amount phone calls and client visits each day which have always been none negotiable.

Ross: Who have been important influences in your recruitment career and what have those people specifically contributed to you?

Brian: My first manager in the USA who taught me that persistence is the key, building relationships, becoming a trusted advisor, honesty and integrity and if you make a mistake admit and be transparent.

Ross: What do you attribute your win in RCSA (NZ) 2021 Recruitment Professional of the Year to?

Brian: Persistence, honesty, integrity, hard work, give back and always willing to give yourself to others.

Ross: What are the most important things that an individual recruiter can do to maintain his or her relevance and credibility in their market?

Brian: Do what you say you are going to do and if you can’t always communicate, be open and honest.  Build your brand in the market and be always willing to learn and grow.

Ross: What personal philosophies drive you each day in your job?

Brian: Make a priority list before you finish your day and stick to it. If things happen then prioritise and move to later in the day or the next.  Client calls and conversations must be key and should be non-negotiable.  Along with persistence and integrity in all that I do.

Ross: What advice would you give to a recruiter just starting their recruitment career?

Brian: Make sure it’s what you really want to do and stick to it.  Choose a good brand and don’t move around as building consistency and your brand is the key.

Related blogs 

Interview with 2021 RCSA (Aus) Recruiter of the Year: Hannah Deady of MAYDAY Recruitment

Interview with 2020 RCSA Recruitment Leader of the Year (NZ): Kymberly Tupai of Stellar Recruitment  

Interview with 2019 RCSA (NZ) Recruitment Leader of the Year: Angela Cameron of Consult

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