23 November 2010

Interview with 2010 FEMA Recruiter of the Year: Neil Galvin from Talent2

Amongst the many awards available at the respective SARAs, FEMAs and REAs, there is only one individual award, and that's the FEMA Recruiter of the Year. Last year Melbourne-based executive recruiter for McArthur Management Services, Darren Condon-Green took home the prize and this year Sydney-based recruiter for Talent2, Neil Galvin was the winner.

Originally from the UK, Neil has been recruiting in the Sydney accounting and finance market for the past 5 years. In the 2009/10 financial year Neil billed $1.1 million, while working four days a week, taking Thursday's off to be an active father to his young daughter.

I managed to grab a few minutes of Neil's time recently and he kindly answered some questions about his experiences and philosophies for me.

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

I started my career working in the television industry in London selling airtime and then graduated to selling programming for Disney Television on a pan-European basis.

It was an exciting time as Eastern Europe was opening up and it was the birth of PayTV, so there was a scramble for revenue in places like Budapest, Czech Republic and Russia.

I got interested in recruitment through a conversation with the recruiter who had placed me into Disney and also a desire to work for many clients instead of representing just one. A few of my mates were in recruitment and the rest as they say is history!

2.  What aspects of recruitment did you find the most challenging when you started?

I'm trying to remember, as it was a while ago! But I think the thing I found most daunting was the high expectations from the client (as they don't know you have zero recruitment experience) and immediately being entrusted with highly sensitive information, which affected people's professional and therefore personal lives. Although having a background in sales helped because I really only needed to learn the recruitment process, not how to sell.

3.  What sort of training did you receive when you first started as a recruiter?

The first organisation I was with was a large listed UK IT recruitment firm who believed in aggressive sales techniques, aggressive high volume KPIs and a ‘boiler room' culture where high performance was rewarded highly and poor performance was vilified.

I remember not being allowed to sit down until certain KPIs were met and bells being rung in the office when a placement was made! Although it taught me the recruitment lifecycle, it also taught me as many things not to do. I stayed there a year and then moved to a boutique agency and was trained by an experienced search professional - he is still a mentor today.

4.  What niche do you recruit in and how did you decide to recruit in that niche?

I have been recruiting Accounting & Finance since Sept 12, 2001. I was previously recruiting Sales & Marketing and Technology. But I was working in New York when 9/11 happened and the bottom fell out of most markets except accounting.

After 9/11, we had the further shock of the Enron, Worldcom and other similar scandals in the US, so one of the only disciplines being recruited were accountants and CFOs. I liked the recession-proof nature of Accounting & Finance and have been recruiting it ever since.

5.  What do you do to keep up to date with developments in your market niche?

I speak to a lot of CFOs who have strong relationships with some of the ‘Big4' Audit Partners who are across any regulatory and legislative changes. In terms of understanding trends in the marketplace, I read the local business press, Wall Street Journal online and I stay in touch with the ‘transactors' in the marketplace to stay across any M&A activity and hence opportunities on the horizon.

The most important thing (I think) is to speak to as many people as possible. Being a recruiter gives us license to pick up the phone and speak to anyone - and it's amazing how much knowledge and information we are exposed to on a daily basis.

6.  What do you do to continue to build your recruitment and personal skills?

I learn from people who are much more experienced than me; who work across different sectors, different disciplines and even though the issues we face are fundamentally the same, there are sometimes subtle and different ways to solve a problem.

I also ask my clients if I could have done anything better at the conclusion of a search. I also have business mentors and from a personal perspective there is always your family and friends to tell you the truth about yourself.

7.  What assignment has been the most challenging you have undertaken and why was it so challenging?

Most ‘C' level assignments where you are confidentially replacing somebody is challenging, ensuring discretion is assured out of respect for the incumbent and then transitioning the person out and the new person in.

Any piece of recruitment where are a lot of stakeholders or a large and interested Board is involved is also an interesting dynamic - trying to satisfy lots of vested interests.

8.  Do you use statistics or KPIs to manage your performance? If so which ones and how?

I don't use any formal KPI reporting as at this level, it is not about volume, but I do monitor efficiencies such as conversion rates and listen (and act upon) client and candidate feedback on whether they enjoyed the experience. I like to have, at any given time, approximately 5-10 searches on and if I don't, I know it's time to business develop.

9.  What's your job fill rate (percentage) for this year?

It is close to 100% but sometimes jobs get put on hold, go to an internal applicant or a new structure is put in place which means I cannot complete the assignment. Even though we still get paid for the work done, if we don't make a placement, it frustrates me.

10. What do you attribute your win in FEMA Recruiter of the Year to?

Coming to Sydney in 2004 I had no network of contacts and was starting from scratch. Joining Talent2 was a critical factor for me because the strength of the Morgan & Banks brand that went before it, exposure to people like Geoff (Morgan) & Andrew (Banks), John Powell and others and the depth of networks and IP that exists here, definitely put me on the best platform in Australia for me to be successful.

11. What personal philosophies drive you each day in your job?

Carpe Diem - never put it off until tomorrow. Never send an email when you can pick up the phone and always return calls, no matter how time consuming.  Always remember how you felt when you were job hunting and waiting for a call back from a recruiter or client and always do what you have promised you will do. Give honest and constructive feedback - don't sugar coat it as this is not helpful to the candidate.

12. What advice would you give to anyone who is just starting their recruitment career?

Don't give it 6 months; give it 12 months as you will invariably hit the 6 month wall. Stay focused and don't worry about what your competition is doing, just worry about the food on your plate.

Be professional and deliver on your promises and you will stand out from the crowd very quickly because, sadly, many recruiters fail in these very basic areas.

Spend 2 to 4 years in one of the global firms to get trained and then go a boutique recruitment firm and earn some proper money!

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