My greatest success in recruitment happened very early into my career. Simeon had been in the UK for about six months but his stay here was reliant on him having employment. The problem was that he was really struggling to get a job. His English was very limited but his attitude wasn’t. Also, he was intimidating. He was a mountain of a man, and loud with it. So his Pidgin English, combined with his size, at volume, made him a poor interviewer, and in many ways tough to ‘sell’ into a role from a temporary agency perspective. There was something about him though that was very likeable. He wanted to be here; he wanted to work, he wanted to learn, he wanted to contribute. I got to know him, as well as I could, and the company I worked for at the time put on some basic English classes, delivered by us; Recruiters! He learnt enough to be able to enrol on an English course and learn from a proper teacher.
A client of mine had a role that we viewed as one where we would put a couple of guys on it and expect them not to like it. It became that role, the one where recruiters say “just do this for a few days and we’ll move you to something better…” It was a horrid job. Lifting massive racks off the back of a fryer. It was hot, and when the racks were full of product they were heavy. Nobody wanted to do it.
Simeon however had enough English now to not be a health and safety risk in a factory. We gave him a go at it. He was able to do this job on his own; I remember thinking that he could probably lift the racks one handed such was his size and strength. I tentatively rang the client at the end of the day; “Simeon’s been great Rich, please send him back tomorrow. He’s saving us a fortune…!”
After 13 weeks the client back then had the facility to take people on permanently. They exercised it with Simeon as soon as they could.
Three months later I had a knock at the door. It was Simeon, he had found out my address. He was wearing a slightly mis-matched suit and had a crate of beer under each arm. “Mister Rich” he said. “Thank you for giving me a chance”. He had completed his probation, had a permanent contract, was continuing his English courses, and had completed his first ‘grading’ on the companies training scheme.
I know it’s a magic story, and one I take real pride in.
Recently we were asked to tender for a piece of business which we had supported for quite a few years. A good-sized client that we enjoy working with. The details of the tender were extensive; asking questions about how we operate and the levels of success we had enjoyed with the client previously. The first half of the response, while timely to put together, was quite easy to respond to as we could call on ‘real-life’ examples of people we had placed with them, and as we tend to maintain a relationship with our candidates post placement we could follow up the comments we made with “well it’s great that Terry landed that contract for you and put £x on the bottom line for the second year running.”
We take pride in maintaining contact; it keeps us in the relationship after placement is made. It makes good commercial sense too; “today’s candidate is so often tomorrow’s paying client”.
No more clichés; I promise.
The second half though was not so easy. It questioned our size, number of employees, turnover, technical infrastructure, number of clients in each industry sector etc. Now, I can understand the need to know this sort of stuff, but I felt on the back foot as we don’t have 20 years of trading history, and accounts of over 10 or 20 million pounds being audited each year which these documents so often ask for.
I remember the days of brown envelopes. I remember one client who had two agencies supplying them other than me being given a Ducati by one of my competitors (or so I was told…) A Ducati! The look he gave me was always interesting and I wondered how I could compete.
Whenever I complete tenders, RFIs, RFQs, whatever we want to call them I remember these situations above. I remember Simeon as much as I remember DucatiMan, and I think that maybe these are my points of difference and the ways in which I can compete with those with over £10,000,000 of turnover. With stories of how people’s lives have changed through working together, without the need for a motorbike, or whatever incentive to make the wheels turn in my favour.
I guess it’s hard to capture the spirit of partnership in a tender response, but surely its ‘partners’ that these processes look for. We may not be the biggest, and never will be, but we’ve got partners on both the employer and candidate side that it feels great to bring together. That’s why filling these documents in is often bittersweet for me; I know we can do great things with great companies and great candidates, but the boxes aren’t always big enough to get a magic story like Simeon’s in.
If you’re still reading, it was twelve years ago now that I first met Simeon and, predictably I guess for this purpose, he still works there. But, he is a manager now, two levels down from the site GM. 30 ish people work under him and he has completed the company training scheme to the point where training for him now is bespoke or from outside agencies. He is their longest serving employee.
He is still my greatest success, and the person I most love to bump into if I’m out shopping in the small town where he lives with his family. Hopefully the magic stories will keep on happening.