Meet Sam Barrett

The fact is the best recruitment companies can be a seriously valuable commodity to any client if used properly. The problem is that most companies have no clue what these uses are: meet Sam Barrett, Senior Consultant.

Hi Sam. You’re a Senior Consultant at Ad Idem. Can you tell us a bit more about it?  What that entails, day to day? Who your clients are? What your main goals are?

Essentially, my role is two-fold in terms of my day-to-day. Firstly, I still support Jim (Gervais-Brazier, Head of Financial Recruitment) in sourcing candidates for the roles he brings in. That involves all elements of your standard candidate management from sourcing through to offer, liaising with both candidate and client throughout the process.

The second part of my role is all about business development, i.e. bringing in new clients and new roles, which is the bulk of my day-to-day. This starts with targeted research followed by a lot of calls and emails. It can be a lengthy process but the rewards are certainly worth the effort. In terms of my clients, I focus solely on investment/wealth managers, hedge funds and quantitative trading firms, helping them secure talent across Operations, Risk, Compliance, Marketing, Client Services, Sales Support and Performance.

My goal? That’s an easy one! To run my own division alongside the wider financial services division that Jim oversees, with the hope of bringing in some juniors to work alongside me. 

I see you used to live in Hong Kong. What brought that move on? And what was it like to live there?

I decided that I wanted to take a year out and go travelling across Asia, with Hong Kong being my first port of call as I have family that live there. I was only meant to be there for a few weeks before moving on to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam etc. and finally finishing up in Australia where I also have family (we are a nomadic bunch). When the time came to continue my travels, I had completely fallen in love with HK – the people, lifestyle, culture and diversity was like nothing I’d ever experienced and I couldn’t bring myself to leave – so I didn’t. HK is a really special place and to live there is an experience I’m glad I had the opportunity to partake in. It’s difficult to explain but anyone who has been there will know what I mean.

You recently wrote an excellent thought-piece about the challenges of communicating with your candidates, especially recent graduates. I often think it must be quite a tough world for graduates nowadays, especially with the array of options available career-wise, plus all the glitter of Instagrammed lives that look perfect with (apparently) very little work needed to achieve it. 

What do you see as the main challenges that graduates face nowadays? Do you think people still commit to a career path and see it through?

I think the biggest problem that graduates face nowadays is changing employer standards and sheer numbers. Every year there are more and more graduates that leave university with a degree in Economics. Less than 10 years ago, that would have been more than enough to get you in front of potential employers, especially if you’d gotten a First. The candidate pool was smaller, so employers weren’t able to be as selective. But as companies have developed and the numbers of graduates have increased year on year, employers have shifted focus in what they now look for and can be far more selective. It’s no longer a case of competing purely with Economics graduates, and with the development of things like Machine Learning, a lot of employers now want to see more mathematically-minded graduates, extending the candidate pool to include those with degrees in disciplines such as Physics, Engineering, Computer Science and Pure Mathematics, to name just a few. I’m not trying to put anyone off trying to get into the industry, of course. It’s just a fact that it is harder than it used to be in their parents’ day.

In terms of the career path, there are some that have a goal in mind, following traditional routes and taking the time to get there. But there does seem to be a culture of trying to fast-track success, with many graduates only staying in their first role for a year before looking for the next big opportunity. Whilst I have no quarrels with this (it keeps me busy), I feel like the days of the traditional career path and ‘working your way up the ladder’ are on their last legs. It’s a competitive industry and those in it are hungry for success.

Can you give us your top tips on how more mature candidates that perhaps find themselves unexpectedly looking for a new job can compete with younger candidates?

To be honest, I wouldn’t try and compete with younger candidates. Two very different skill sets and very different experiences. You wouldn’t market a Saga holiday to a teenage audience or a boozy Ministry of Sound Ibiza blowout to a mature audience and it’s essentially the same principle. More mature candidates have to realise that they are not competing with youngsters; they are bringing something completely different to the table that a younger candidate simply won’t have. Maturity can be used to their advantage. Experience is not something that you can teach. It’s something you acquire over time.

If they do find themselves unexpectedly looking for a new role, there are a few things that mature candidates can do. Learning new skills is always an option. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But why not? Anything technical will always help, such as VBA, SQL and coding, as more and more employers look for this these days. Also, don’t price yourself out of the market. I appreciate that more mature candidates will have far more financial worries than most graduates. But always be flexible on salary. And go direct where possible. Sounds weird coming from a recruiter but using their own networks will often yield better results for more senior candidates who are perhaps on hefty salaries. That’s fundamentally it.

If you could change the recruitment industry in 3 ways, what would those be?

The biggest change I would like to see would be the general attitude within recruitment firms that because there are so many average companies out there, when an organisation decides to work with them or gives them a job to source for, they are doing them a favour. And this perceived value (or lack of value) seems to dictate how we, as an industry, operates. Most recruitment companies will be all too happy to be added to a PSL at 10% and work on a contingency perm basis, competing with 20 other agencies. The fact is the best recruitment companies can be a seriously valuable commodity to any client if used properly. The problem is that most companies have no clue what these uses are, and this has can make it seem (to them) that we’re all the same. I can assure you, we are not all the same!

That was quite a serious one there. So for two and three, let’s say… less hours and much, much fewer chequered suits and brown shoes.

So, what do you do when you’re not hard at work?

I spend pretty much all of my free time doing one of three things. I’m either playing sport (cricket or golf – I don’t have the engine for football anymore these days), down the pub or catching up on the many hours of sleep I miss out on through various excursions during the week. Oh, and occasionally I make time for the missus too!

Lastly, a classic. Who would you have to dinner if you could have anyone living or deceased (or fictional)? And who would you have cook the meal?

I could reel off a list of so many people that it would start to look less like a dinner party and more like a party party! If I really had to narrow it down though, one of the guests on the list would have to be Jim Jeffries – he is by far and away my favourite comedian, and you can’t have a good dinner party without some top quality banter and laughing until your stomach hurts. Looking after the music, it would have to be MJ (questionable life choices but as a musician, he’s up there with the best and a true entertainer). To talk sports, I’d have Seve Ballesteros covering golf, Iron Mike on boxing, Joe Rogan for MMA (also he’s a comedy genius – we agree, Sam, he’s very funny), Ian Botham on cricket, and Gianfranco Zola for football chat.

And of course, in the kitchen it would absolutely have to be Gordon Ramsay. Not only is he an amazing chef, he knows his footy, is hilarious, and you know he’d add a controversial spark to any situation. My money would be on Iron Mike being the first to bite…

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