Recruiting for membership bodies: (5) client and candidate experience

Susie Schofield writes: At FJ Wilson Talent Services (FJWTS) we work closely with professional membership organisations, awarding bodies, and learning providers. In the process, we have been fortunate to gain a number of insights into talent acquisition and management in these sectors.

In this final part of the series, we interview Lucy Carmichael, Director of Practice, and Carys Rowlands, Head of Professional Standards, about their experience as clients.


The hiring manager: Lucy Carmichael, Director of Practice, RIBA

Lucy Carmichael was clear that it was her initiative to work with FJWilson Talent Services (FJWTS). When her long-standing Head of Professional Standards, Adam Williamson, handed in his notice she exclaimed, ‘Who stole you? I want to work with them!’

Adam explained that he had been head-hunted by FJWTS and, according to Lucy, it ‘was obvious that he was impressed by them’.

Lucy was impressed by how it had worked out – in that FJWTS found Adam and that he could progress his career outside RIBA. Adam hadn’t been actively looking for a job and she knew that she didn’t want someone who was looking for a job simply because they were ‘at the end of their tether’ in their current position. Lucy recognised that to attract as many people as possible from a small pool she was going to need specialist help.

Typically, RIBA uses an open recruitment process when hiring, so Lucy had to make a case to use a recruitment agency for the post of Head of Professional Standards. She said that the role was ‘critical to the business’ and that she was ‘quite confident that we were not going to get the right candidate through the open recruitment process because it is such a specialist role and that there is a limited pool of candidates. We needed someone who was already in an equivalent specialist role as you can’t transfer skills to it.’

Lucy justified the expense by saying that ‘with this particular role, we had to have continuity [of service] as the risk to the business was too great. We had to ensure a smooth transition.’

Once she had the green light to use FJWTS, Lucy met Fiona Wilson who explained how FJWTS works. Fiona took the time to understand what was behind the job description and ‘asked me in great detail about the sector, what qualities and skills we were looking for in this role’. Fiona ‘asked the right questions’. FJWTS did a good job working within the budget. ‘FJWTS understood that the type of candidates who would apply would be attracted to work for RIBA (rather than be driven by salary). FJWTS understands the candidate-drivers’.

Their meeting built ‘my confidence in Fiona and her business. FJWTS got on with the recruitment process very quickly – much more quickly than had RIBA relied on an open recruitment process’.

All the candidates that FJWTS put forward were on a one-two months’ notice period. There were ten candidates in total and Lucy found it difficult to shortlist as there were lots of good ones – ‘they were all interview-able’.

In the final shortlist, Lucy confessed to struggling to decide which candidate to appoint, whilst admitting that ‘it was a very, very good position to have such good candidates. In the past, we have not always had a field to choose from’.

‘The cost of not getting the right person is high. If they are not a good fit they are much more likely to leave. Fiona helps find people to whom this would be a good move. She understands what candidates are looking for in a role too.’ It means you’re ‘not recruiting in a panic’.

How does FJWTS compare with other agencies?

 For this recruitment search, another consultancy also put forward a candidate who made the final shortlist for the role. Lucy said she felt she had ‘a much more personal service’ from FJWTS; for example, ‘I felt FJWTS candidates were a closer match. FJWTS also kept me updated on progress and gave me feedback.’

The consultant at the other recruitment agency was away on holiday and the person overseeing her clients wasn’t as well-briefed as she could have been. ‘They were pretty shambolic. They missed deadlines – they kept sending me CVs to the point I had to ask them not to send any more!’

Lucy added ‘what I valued most from FJWTS was the conversation I had with Fiona where I talked through my thought-process for selecting the right candidate. She didn’t lead me but she gave me insight into the candidates. Fiona was a good sounding board. I really valued Fiona’s help in the decision-making process… I really felt that Fiona knew her candidates’.


Lucy Carmichael (left) and Carys Rowlands

The candidate: Carys Rowlands, Head of Professional Standards, RIBA

 Experience of FJWilson

Carys  wasn’t actively looking for a new job but was on the look-out ‘without doing anything about it’.

She was first contacted by Dilly Clack on LinkedIn to see whether she would be interested in a role she had in mind.

Carys was interested and Fiona followed up by emailing more information. Carys thought the job ‘looked great’ and was ‘pretty keen’.

After speaking to Fiona Wilson and Gill Wilson for further details and a pre-interview, Fiona then put Carys forward for the role. Carys was impressed by the different ways FJWTS would contact her – ‘via LinkedIn, emails, at whatever time of day was convenient to me’.

After receiving pointers from Gill and Fiona, Carys re-wrote her CV to tailor it to the RIBA job and to improve it overall. Very quickly, she was invited to a first interview. Fiona gave Carys lots of information on the RIBA and ‘gave as much and as little information as I wanted’. Carys felt that FJWTS ‘were really strong in their understanding about this role and the department’.

After the interview, Carys followed up with a call to Fiona where Carys gave her feedback. ‘It’s a really big part of the process – at that point things can come adrift with neither side knowing what the other thinks.’ Carys was invited back for a second interview within a week.

Dilly rang to let Carys know she had been successful. Her contact with FJWTS continued – ‘FJWTS was there throughout, answering any questions, asking if I had any concerns. They checked to see if my references had gone and that the contract had gone through.’

How does FJWTS compare with other agencies?

 Carys used to work for a recruitment agency and said that ‘FJWTS is streets ahead of most agencies I’ve come across. The client care, level of interest and knowledge of selection techniques, the candidate, the employer – they’re a long way ahead of most places I’ve seen before. I felt well looked after, and well-informed.’

Carys was very impressed by the seamless sharing of information about her between Gill and Fiona. ‘FJWTS alleviate stress. At any point you had doubt, something from FJWilson came to put you back on track.’

Carys didn’t know if there were any other FJWTS candidates being put forward saying ‘I felt that it was me was who [FJWTS] wanted to succeed. It was a very personal service. I was very grateful to them for the way they worked, taking time.’

FJWTS are straightforward to deal with: ‘No games were being played.’

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