I have recently joined the Selective Group as a Commercial Recruitment Consultant and one of the things that I have noticed since entering the recruitment world is just how few Women are in positions of leadership in our industry. I understand that predominantly these roles have been male dominated, but women are now rising the ranks and balancing the scales.
I have the benefit of sitting in the same office as one of those women helping to shift the balance and I thought it would be a great opportunity to sit down with her and have a chat about her experience and career journey to become the Managing Director of Selective Group.
I have the pleasure of Introducing Emma Hunt, my MD and one of my mentors.
Hi Emma, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me today.
We have had various chats in the office together regarding our industry, woman in business and how to develop my own career, which really inspired me to take the conversation and set it into an interview style article.
I really admire your leadership style as well as the advice and guidance you have offered me so far during my time at Selective. I think that you and your story of how you have grown your own career to MD status as well as balancing your time as a working Mum, is something that would speak to a lot of other women who are aspiring to achieve the same goals.
Can I start by asking you how you began your career within the recruitment industry?
My first steps into recruitment were by pure coincidence. I am a qualified accountant and following the birth of my first daughter 16 years ago I found myself redundant whilst on maternity leave. It was a pretty daunting time for my family. There was no such thing as hybrid or remote working 16 years ago, so my only route was to seek a part time opportunity.
I was struggling to find the right job and unfortunately nothing was really standing out to me. So, for the first time in my working life, I approached an agency to help me.
The Agency I walked into register with was Secondcite, which we now know as Selective Group. Whilst registering with one of the consultants they asked me if I had ever considered the recruitment industry? It just so happened that they were recruiting internally for a credit controller to join the team and felt that I would be a good fit.
I was invited to interview with a lovely lady called Nic, who I am still in contact with today. Nic was so warm and welcoming and immediately put me at ease. It really felt like we were having a conversation, she was relatable, we were both working Mums and she made me think that I could do the job well. I was really impressed with the opportunity that Secondcite offered me and accepted the job.
I worked as their credit controller from 2008 until 2016, I started part time, and as my children grew up my hours increased, and I found myself taking on more responsibilities within the business.
The role was a great introduction to the recruitment industry, and I learnt a lot. It gave me a unique overview of how our business worked and enabled me to build direct relationships with every single client on our books. I learnt about every sector, from transport, to healthcare, commercial and industrial. I am a firm believer that building those business relationships, truly understanding their needs, and establishing trust with the decision makers and hiring manager then led to the growth of our business and has been the key to my own success within the recruitment industry.
How did you persevere through the tough times?
I try to remember that it’s a tough time not a tough life. I am very lucky to have a great support network, I learnt to manage my time effectively and I also understand the importance of asking for help when I need it. I firmly believe that trusting the team that you have built around you is vital to successfully negotiating your way through tough times.
During Covid we set up the covid testing sites up and down the country and we had no idea what that looked or felt like. I encouraged the team to get out there and be my eyes and ears. They worked in every role within the site as we needed to understand the set up and build a blueprint for other sites that we opened. This time was tough for our industry and the resilience the team showed me, their hard work and determination was what got us through proving that you are only as strong as the team around you.
What are your top tips for growing a company?
Network, Network and Network some more. Business relationships are key to any successful business.
Never over promise, always be honest and have integrity.
What are the three most important habits to be a successful?
Be yourself: People won’t trust you if you are faking it. You need to show genuine interest in their business and have enthusiasm for their success.
Be consistent: In everything you do, utilising the relevant technology to ensure that you are compliant, be an effective communicator, I strive to treat people how I wish to be treated.
Have resilience: Recruitment is a tough industry, and you need to understand that it is not always going to be easy. That’s why it’s so important to have the right team around you.
What’s your favourite aspect of working within our industry and what is your worst?
My favourite is working with a people. I get a buzz from winning that account, placing that candidate. I genuinely love seeing other people achieve whether it’s a client building a successful team, helping a candidate get their dream job or the best one watching my own team achieve and supersede their own goals and ambitions.
And the worst…
Umm possibly working with people… No, in all seriousness people are our industry and we must accept that everyone is human, however it can lead to frustrations and disappointment especially when people are dishonest and take advantage of others.
Do you ever experience resistance when you are leading men? How do you deal with it?
Truthfully in the past yes, but I’ve learnt that preparation is key. If you are setting a task, then don’t give that person an opportunity to say no. Also, I know my business and I find that if you can come to anyone with your facts and figures, it’s hard to argue with that or resist with your point of view.
I am fortunate that I haven’t come across this in Selective, both my bosses are male, and they trust my judgement, will allow me to steer the business and are great at taking onboard ideas.
How do you stay on top of industry trends?
I work with a group of fantastic Managers, and other Managing Directors who are very well informed. We regularly get together to share ideas and discuss trends within our market.
Describe your leadership style and how you “lead” others. Is it different from your male counterparts?
I don’t think I necessary do things differently to a man per say. I don’t like to micromanage, and I think that I strive to treat people fairly.
I am visible to the team and try and be approachable, give ideas and advise when asked for it or just be a sounding board for my team. I have found that active listening is an essential skill, which has given me a huge amount of prospective.
Ultimately, I trust my team to do their job. I encourage them to think outside of the box, ask questions and give them a forum to openly share their ideas. It makes a huge difference to their overall confidence when they realise that they have the answers and you’ve just helped them see it, made suggestions to improve it or share your benefit of experience.
When you began your career, did you ever imagine that you would have a leadership role in this profession and who inspired you to be a leader and why?
I didn’t join this industry or company to be a leader, I never imagined that I would be a Managing Director within the Recruitment Industry. I was very fortunate, and I had a lot of encouragement and support from my bosses. They really believed in me and felt that I could lead this team and business successfully.
In your opinion what factors impact a woman’s ability to lead others?
Lack of confidence in her own abilities or belief in herself.
In my opinion and experience men aren’t as afraid of vocalising their expertise or talking about their strengths and are great at self-marketing.
Most woman, not all I grant you, are naturally more modest about their abilities and cautious about vocalising their talents. They don’t want to appear as arrogant or difficult. In my experience the most successful woman leaders are balanced with their approach; they take on the mentally of being more vocal about their talent and abilities and dare I say it not caring or being self-conscious of what other people think, at least in public. It is challenging to overcome that stigma of woman boss, but I would always encourage other women to empower themselves as well as other women around them.
Teamwork to make the dream work?
Exactly that, a great team is vital to any successful business.
Have you ever felt the imposter syndrome, and if so, how did you navigate your way through it?
Of course, it’s impossible to avoid the inner monolog of how did I end up here? Am I good enough? I think it’s important to actively review your journey. Stop and take a moment to see how far you have come. It’s humbling but it’s also a great reminder to yourself that you wouldn’t be where you are now by accident. Your hard work and achievements have got you here and that’s what should help you get through those times.
How important is it to have a mentor to grow as a leader?
So important, I would not be where I am without the support of my Mentors. I highly value the time and guidance they have offered me. Their faith in me has been fundamental to my success.
What strategies can work well to promote inclusion in the workplace?
Unconscious bias is a real issue that as an industry we must try and overcome. Every organisation has different strategies to tackle this, and I think it depends on the size of your organisation on how best to promote inclusivity within the workplace.
Personally, I believe inclusivity can and should be a business greatest strength. Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter how you choose to live your life outside of work, how old you are, where you come from, if you are privileged or not.
What I pay attention to when looking for an ideal candidate, is do you have integrity, are you good at your job, what drives you and can you add value to the team and business.
What advice do you have for women looking to grow either their own business or women within this industry?
If you are starting in this industry, it can be an exciting and rewarding job. It’s important to find the right people/agency to work with that will give you great training and opportunities to thrive. Soft skills cannot be taught but the principles of great recruiting are vital to your success. Learning from the top biller, understanding the basics fully and performing them to the highest standard.
So, to borrow from Coco Chanel “Always keep your head, heels, and standards high”
In terms of starting your own business, this is a tough industry so I would find a mentor who will invest their knowledge and experience, which is a great way of up-skilling yourself and helping you stay on target to achieve your goals.
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Let go of negativity. Keep going you don’t know what opportunities are coming, don’t be afraid to take more chances and be less fearful.
What are the ways you stay grounded and take care of yourself?
I spend time with my kids, I ride my horse, she is very good at humbling me regularly especially if I don’t ask her to do something in the correct tone, she will quickly unseat me and put me on the ground. Nothing quite more grounding than being put flat on your back by a 14-hand moody mare.
What do you want to achieve next?
I try not to set out too many advance expectations on myself.
I have learnt to never over plan and set unachievable goals. Don’t get me wrong I am always happy to grow and develop but I think that by applying too much pressure to achieve, is just a recipe for burn out and failure.
I have never worked well under those circumstances, personally I think that you should be open to opportunities that present themselves, appreciate what you have and encourage your team to achieve, and you will grow and achieve with them.