Alan Furley Talks Recruitment In Tech
An interview with Lola Sherwin for High Profile Magazine
What was it that drove you to pursue a career in recruitment within the tech industry?
I was drawn to recruitment because I felt that it offered me the opportunity to progress based on my achievements. I did a placement year when I was at university, and although I was in the top 2 or 3 interns out of a cohort of 20, I was treated the same as everyone else and didn’t feel like I was rewarded for my achievements. I realise that that’s just the nature of placement years, but it made me realise that I wanted to do something where I could progress based on my achievements.
I’d always been interested in technology, and I figured that recruitment within the tech industry would give me a good balance between progressing based on my successes, having ownership of my working relationships, and working within a sector that had always fascinated me, so that’s how I came to be a recruiter, really.
What are your top tips for finding the right role in these uncertain times?
First of all, it’s important to be realistic with yourself, because you’re not going to land your dream job overnight, it’s going to take time. There’s a lot of people looking for jobs at the moment and far fewer companies that are looking to hire. That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom, it’s just a case of being honest and realistic with yourself and not letting it get to you if things don’t go as you planned straight away.
My second tip is to use your network. By that I don’t necessarily mean you should call people up and ask for a job directly, I mean you should identify a few people in your network who you feel could really offer you some helpful advice, and then contact them asking if they have any tips on securing a role in your desired field. Some of them might offer you advice, or if you’re really lucky, they might know someone who is looking for a candidate like you, and point you in their direction.
Thirdly, I think it’s key to know how to market yourself and your skills. A candidate’s CV is often just a pretty bland description of their recent experience and education, and it doesn’t really give a feel for their personality or their achievements in their previous job roles, so I think if you can highlight any skills or achievements that you think will make you a great fit for whatever role you’re applying for, then that will really help you to stand out.
As it’s so difficult to find a role in the current climate, do you think it’s worth people’s time to do online courses which relate to their chosen industry?
It’s definitely not detrimental, as it shows that you have put deliberate effort into your learning and development, which is something that a lot of employers really value. However, if you’re just doing those courses to get a certificate but you’re not actually taking anything from them, then there’s really no point.
The key is to be able to highlight what you’ve learned from doing that course, and how that can be of use to you in a job role. Also, remember that there are other ways of learning that are perhaps more valuable, such as speaking to people in your profession and asking them for their tips and then putting that advice into action.
What do you think the future looks like for tech start-ups in the wake of the pandemic, and do you think the industry has been negatively impacted by Coronavirus?
I think the pandemic has had a significant impact on the industry, albeit in some areas more than on others. The first few weeks of the pandemic were a harsh roll of the dice, because if you worked in healthcare technology, your business ended up flourishing, whereas if you worked in travel technology, a lot of your business would have disappeared overnight through no fault of your own.
What you have now is more based on the substance of the business, so we are now going to see the emergence of the most resilient businesses and the ones which are the most relevant to their market back onto the playing field. It’s a case of what businesses have been able to adapt to the needs of the new world, and those will be the ones that are able to come out the other side of this pandemic.
I think now we’re going to see tech as an industry doing amazingly well, because of the fact it’s now solving problems which are incredibly relevant in the new normal, like providing the tools for remote working, for example.
What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
It’s difficult to look past Coronavirus, but I hope this will be a challenge that I overcome! If I was trying to look beyond that, it would probably be making the move from being a good recruiter to being good at running a recruitment business. I did a great job of finding tricky skills for some really interesting companies, and then when I made that transition to running a recruitment business, I either naively or arrogantly assumed that if I was good at recruitment then I’d be good at running a recruitment business. I’ve since realised that the skill sets that are required are quite different!
In terms of how I overcame that challenge, I had some really good support from business coaches who helped me learn how to run a successful business, despite them not knowing much about recruitment. All businesses encounter pretty similar challenges, regardless of what industry they’re in, and these coaches understood how to tackle those challenges in order to grow a business. They helped us with the process of understanding decision-making and delegating, that kind of thing and I think that’s still part of my ongoing journey now. I deliberately spend time talking to other people who are running businesses, because it allows me to benefit from their different perspectives, and continue to learn how to grow my business.
What do the next 5 years look like for your career?
I don’t necessarily have a journey mapped out for the next 5 years, but I want to make sure that ISL is one of the best recruitment companies going, and that we have some really good client relationships. I’d rather have half the number of clients and twice the strength of relationships because I don’t want to be seen as a transactional service provider, I want us to be able to give people advice, and to help our clients with whatever we can. Having a business that provides an income is definitely an objective as well, but being able to see the results we’ve provided for our clients in terms of growth is massively important to me.
From a personal point of view, I want to continue my journey with ISL, and widen my reach into other businesses through mentoring, as I think there’s a lot of insight and knowledge that I’ve built up that I can use to help other people on their journey as well.
If you could be known for one thing, what would it be?
Something that is really important to me and Henry, my business partner, is that we want ISL to be a recruitment business we can be proud of. To us, that looks like a business which is great to work for as well as being financially successful. People over the years have told me I need to choose between one or the other, that I can’t have both, but I don’t believe that to be the case, so I guess I want ISL to demonstrate that you can be both a great place to work, as well as a financial success. We want to enjoy coming to work every day, and that’s something we try to reflect in everything we do at ISL.