• 16 January 2019
  • Life at HJ

A year in recruitment at Harvey John

What is the process like from your first day working in a recruitment firm to your first year? You may think that you’re thrown in as a recruitment consultant without much help, expected to make 30 calls a day and land your first client within a week. We do things a bit differently here at Harvey John and we’d like to say the results speak for themselves. Most people who start on with us grow through a tailored training plan but it’s interesting to see how they take that experience and run as the months go on.

We wanted to interview our recently promoted Senior Consultant on the Accountancy Desk, Alex Baxter Smith who has successfully completed his first year with Harvey John. Let’s see how his experiences in the past year have shaped the work that he’s doing now.


Alex Baxter Smith

Just to find out a bit about your background, what was it that drew you to this industry in the first place?

When I finished University I was open on what I wanted to do which was a help and a hindrance at the same time! I ended up finding a sales role back in Brighton, dealing directly with clients and managing internal relationships on a day to day basis. With a year under my belt I decided to look for graduate roles with better progression prospects and was presented with an opportunity to join Harvey John. Whilst I hadn’t previously considered the recruitment sector, after some research it seemed like a natural fit. Throughout my previous roles I’ve really enjoyed the people facing nature of my work, building relationships and helping others. Recruitment could offer me all of this, plus the opportunity to build my commercial awareness at the same time in an exciting and fast-moving environment. After interviewing at Harvey John, my initial (mostly negative) pre-conceptions about the industry were eased and it was a no brainer!

What were your first few weeks like at Harvey John? How did the initial training affect the way you worked from the beginning?

My first few weeks were such a blur, in a good way! I like to be busy and so it was nice to start in a role where I could be busy but under my own steam. The learning curve was so steep, but I was given the opportunity to get comfortable in what I was doing before being thrown in at the deep end which was really helpful. After a few days in the role I was already on the phone and out networking which was daunting to say the least but a great experience. The main lesson I learnt from my first few weeks in training was that in this industry, you just have to throw yourself in and try things. The minute you start over-thinking or worrying, that’s where things go wrong.

As you got more comfortable with the role, were there ways your approach/work changed over the months? Say, in how you spoke with candidates or the way you handled sourcing them?

As I got to know my specialist area better over time, I found my calls and sourcing consistently improve. They say that in recruitment you can specialise in anything, which is true to an extent, but it quickly became evident that to be successful and add real value you need that market / sector specific knowledge. To be credible with both candidates and clients, you need to demonstrate a solid understanding of the market you’re in. What I’ve learnt is that in such a crowded market, it’s small things that can help differentiate you from the competition and to build up a positive reputation with various stakeholders which is so important.

Speed is also a key factor, whereby as I became used to my role, I found I quickly deciphered between the huge amount of candidates that we engage with on a daily basis. In recruitment speed can often be a deal maker or breaker, but I quickly learnt that this should never be done whilst sacrificing quality. The value comes in combining the two, which can only really be achieved once you know your market and what you’re talking about!

Did you have any goals to meet to get to where you are now as Senior Consultant?

Yes my goals were clearly set out as soon as I completed probation which was really nice. As I’m constantly looking for what’s next, it was nice to immediately have the next step laid out in front of me. The best thing with the goals I was set is that they were a mix of financial and commercial targets. Rather than pointless, KPI driven targets, they were aims which had real relevance both to the success of the wider business and also in developing my own network and desk. These really helped me start considering the bigger picture in my work and to see how I could continue developing and growing.

Did you go through any transitions in your work during this time? And, if so, do you feel like this was beneficial to your growth in the company?

After about 9 months or so I was given the opportunity to make an internal move into a 360 role within the Commercial Finance division. The idea of growing my own desk was daunting but a challenge I was really excited to accept. I was unsure as to whether I was making the switch too early as I was still fairly new to the industry but I was also delighted to be offered the chance to begin developing my own section of the business.

On reflection, it was a great decision to make the switch as I achieved promotion to Senior Consultant after 3 months. Having the space to look after my own desk allowed me to reach my goals at a much faster pace than I was expecting. I was told that every day in recruitment is a ‘school day’, which is so true and the learning curve 12 months down the line is as steep as ever. However, with the supportive culture in the company, I was in no doubt that it would be a mistake not to take the opportunity and the balance between internal training alongside leaving me to develop on my own two feet was spot on.

What was one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had over this past year that you feel helped you get to this point?

There are so many to choose from that it’s hard to pick out one. However, one of the most rewarding moments of my year was helping a candidate find a training contract with a local firm. They’d been applying for trainee positions for months after finishing University but hadn’t had any luck and were at the point of considering giving up on working within finance. We worked together on the perfect role which came up right at the perfect moment. To have a graduate in tears after finding the role they never thought would come is certainly not what I thought I’d be doing a year ago but was so rewarding at the same time!

If you had any advice for those just getting started in recruitment, what would you say to them?

I would say that at first, you should come into the industry with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. From the outside, there are definitely some negative connotations of recruitment but from working here for a year it’s clear that those are definitely not universal. Admittedly there are plenty of areas and aspects of the industry that get bad press, but no one pays attention to those that do things the right way! There is plenty to learn so approach each day, as I said before, like a school day and be ready to pick things up as you go along. You’ll also need to start on the front foot, with enthusiasm and drive. Energy is the single most important factor in being successful in recruitment so you need to come in every day raring to go, otherwise you’ll get bitten in the long run.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us a bit about your first year in recruitment. We’ll leave you on one last question. What is the future looking like for you now that you’ve moved up to Senior Consultant?

I’m taking one step at a time as I’m aware that I’ve only been working my own desk for a few months and there is still a lot to learn! However, I’ve set my sights on reaching Principle Consultant and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year brings. With the second office location opening up in for 2019, I’m aiming to have an established desk running by the time the move happens so who knows what the future has in store!


Alex Baxter Smith is a Senior Consultant in the Accountancy Division at Harvey John.

Search our latest accountancy and finance jobs here.

If you would like to see our company updates and industry insights, follow our LinkedIn page here.

© Copyright 2020 Harvey John. All rights reserved.

Designed & Built by Venn Digital