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Coffee break with Louise Carling

When she left Nottingham Trent University in 2004 after studying for her Psychology degree, Louise felt she would do best within a role in either recruitment or HR. Luckily, the firm she joined after graduating had a Development Centre, which provided the opportunity to try recruitment, and she seized the chance and never looked back.

 

“My Director at the time said to me: We’ll see if you make it. And that was like a red rag to a bull to me, because I’m so competitive naturally. I just thought “I’ll show you”, and 17 years later, I’m still here.”

 

From 2004 onwards, Lou specialised in recruiting Finance and HR positions, working with organisations across the East Midlands, before joining Distinct in February 2019. Having worked with our leaders before, she felt it was an easy choice to make, and the right environment for her.


“I don’t want it to sound cheesy, but it really is the people - you can recruit anywhere, but being with these people, doing this job, it makes a world of difference.”

 

 

Spending her Fridays with family is important to Lou, and so she operates a four-day work week, to fit around her two children.


“It’s a real push to do a Recruitment role that is arguably full time in less hours, but again, because I have such a great team around me, and because Clients and Candidates are really understanding and also have their own priorities in life, we just make it work.”

 

Flexible hours and hybrid working is one aspect of the culture at Distinct, with a number of our consultants working to flexible hours to make the school run or working from home to save on the commute a couple of times a week.

 

“I don’t have ‘part-time’ on my email signature, or set an out-of-office notification, purposely because if I’m off on one day and someone needs my support, or we have a pre-arranged call, I will still be there for them."

 

After 17 years in the recruitment industry, what draws Lou to HR?

 

“I’m passionate about the content. Not only are the practitioners really interesting in terms of the projects that they’re involved in, it’s their agendas I find so compelling. Mental health at the minute is absolutely huge, and that sits predominantly in their world. Of course, it’s also with every manager - but in terms of the people-plan and being aligned to it, that stuff really excites me.”

 

 

Lou’s desire to study Psychology came from an ambition to understand what motivates people, and this has become even more pertinent in the current climate of covid and work culture post-lockdown.

 

“Given what’s happening with the ‘great resignation’ right now, and the way that people in HR had to pivot during covid…they really were, and continue to be at the cutting edge of that. Having to spin their policies, help people to work from home, protect their mental health, and educate their managers. It’s just amazing. The way that HR teams needed to deliver in that climate was to hold up their businesses and then hold up themselves; they’re absolute superheroes.”

 

So, what is the HR market like post-lockdown?

 

“In the market right now, so many people would love to add a great talent and attraction leader into their business. Many businesses had to batten down the hatches during covid, now they want to press GO again, and they need an internal recruiter to help with that. It doesn’t stop there though - we’ve had a full gambit from business partners really wanting to build business capability, right through to really niche roles like Compliance and HR Systems.”

 

It’s not only the market that’s changed - candidate perspective has also shifted.

 

“Candidate behaviour is just so different post-lockdown. I think there’s a natural mentality of people to go “I need to love what I’m doing. There’s so much else wrong in the world, I need to love what I do”. There’s so much choice, so if they don’t love what they’re doing, they are going to change it. That’s where the real difference in the market has come from - people are very quickly getting into jobs, deciding it’s not right for them, and leaving. “

 

“People are very particular about what they’re looking for, which has always been the case, but they’re so finite now in terms of what they want. If they’ve been working from home and they want to keep that, there’s no flexibility on it, whereas before that was kind of a nice additional perk. Now it’s a must-have.”

 

This shift in priorities has resulted in a change within companies, particularly their culture and how they support their employees…

 

“Before the pandemic, you used to hire on businesses having great environments, like here at Distinct, we’ve got beautiful offices, great facilities, we’ve got fresh fruit, free drinks. Well, if your employees are now remote working, those aspects no longer matter, so what are you doing about your culture to be that great employer of choice? It’s no longer about having a great office and great people, because you’re no longer around them. Communication and brand values have got to be so strong, they’ve got to be embedded, not just messages on a wall.”

 

 

What qualities does Lou look for in a candidate?

 

“I’m a real believer in character over credentials. So, if someone’s working towards a CIPD qualification, for me it’s more about the behaviours of that individual, whether they’ll be a fit for company they’re going to work for. For example, a client had interviewed four people, and not found the right one. They described someone in their team to me that essentially, they wanted to replicate, and I had worked with them before. I just knew their kind of behaviour and personality, and I said:
 

“There’s someone in that shortlist that you didn’t interview, and you need to see them.”
 

That’s where it isn’t just about the story of someone’s CV  - it wasn’t important at that point, it was about their character, their minerals as I describe it. ‘Good minerals’ is what I look for. Your value-system will see you further than the qualifications that you’ve got.”

 

Thanks for reading. Here at Distinct Recruitment, Lou looks after mid-level HR Management roles across the East Midlands, in the £30k-£50k salary range, including any kind of HR Resourcing and L&D recruitment. If you’re looking to take the next step in your career, why not visit our HR candidate hub where you can let us know exactly what you’re looking for. You can also check out some of the new roles Lou is working on by visiting our HR jobs board.

 

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Lou Carling

Lou Carling

Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant

07444 252 105
0116 870 0300