'There are few better feelings than telling someone they have a job': director of Cheltenham recruitment consultancy talks talent

Talking all things talent and how the workplace has changed since the Covid-19 pandemic, SoGlos meets associate director Emma Hughes from specialist finance recruitment and strategic HR consultancy, Seymour John.

By Sarah Kent  |  Published
Emma Hughes is associate director at Tewkesbury-based specialist recruitment firm, Seymour John.
In partnership with Seymour John  |  seymourjohn.com
Seymour John

Seymour John is a specialist finance, HR and executive recruitment consultancy based in Gloucestershire. Working locally for over 20 years, its team is exceptionally well connected. Business partners to clients and mentors to its candidates, Seymour John utilises trusted networks, passive contacts and deep market insight, to secure top talent.

Emma Hughes has worked for Cheltenham-located recruitment firm, Seymour John, for over 10 years, with over 20 years' experience in the sector. She joined the then up-and-coming Seymour John when it had just been founded by former Hays colleagues, Mark Seymour and Emlyn John. In that time, she's seen a massive shift in the recruitment sector, with the most profound changes immediately after the pandemic.

SoGlos sat down with Emma to talk about the general election, giving candidates great news and how work has changed since the pandemic.

What do you do at Seymour John?

I specialise in mid-to-senior finance and HR recruitment across Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Having worked in the same market for over 20 years, I am in the privileged position of having built extensive candidate networks locally, which enables me to recruit for the best person for the role, not simply the best person available.

If you could sum up Seymour John in three words, what would they be and why?

Consultative — we are not there to be nodding dogs to our clients and candidates. We not only support them but also challenge them. Our longevity and expertise in the market mean we act as business partners to our clients and mentors to our candidates. I look after the best interests of both. The eureka moment is when the two come together.

Flexible — most of us have family and Seymour John is a family-friendly company. As long as the work is done, there is complete freedom and trust in how and when, which means we don’t miss out on attending our children’s events at school, for example.

Supportive — Seymour John is supportive of its staff, clients and the wider community. As a talent business, we understand people are an organisation’s key asset. As such, all our staff and their families are looked after, with private healthcare, life cover, birthdays off, gifts for employees’ kids, flexible working and more. As people and performance professionals, sports sponsorship suits our brand, too, so we support Cheltenham Town FC as a sponsor, as well as numerous schools and local grassroots teams. And we’re very pleased to be supporting the Gloucestershire Business Awards Employee of the Year award this year, too!

What do you love most about your role?

There are few better feelings than telling someone the great news they have a job offer and hearing their delight because they really wanted the role. And, when following up after they’ve started and hearing that the job is everything they’d hoped it would be, there is a genuine feeling of 'job done'. What I do is potentially life-changing for people. As such, it can be very rewarding.

I love placing finance directors and financial controllers. I love getting under the skin of an organisation and working with senior leaders to understand their vision to ensure the skills and personality of the people I source align with their ambitions and culture. I particularly love building long-term partnerships with them, where there is a sense of being on the growth and development journey together.

What are the biggest challenges you see in the recruitment sector at the moment?

It is still very candidate driven at the more junior end of the market, with candidates going very quickly. A lot of transactional recruitment is done in-house these days, which I understand, as it removes some of the associated costs. However, in a specialist market, such as finance, using an expert recruitment consultancy is worth its weight if they have built relationships with the candidates and know the market locally.

As someone who has built relationships with the leading candidates and knows the local market, often, I will immediately know the right person for the job. That access to a passive pool of talent only really comes with 20 years of sector and regional specialism. Ours is a headhunt approach to ensuring the right person gets the job, rather than the best person who is ‘available’.

Another challenge is hybrid working. A lot of people enjoyed the flexibility of working from home during the pandemic and don’t want to go back to the office; others struggled. Businesses need to find the right balance for the individual. Those that aren’t taking a flexible approach are struggling to recruit or retain staff. Things have changed and there’s no going back.

And what about the finance sector? What are your thoughts on it as a whole, especially with the general election coming up?

If the sector as a whole is reflective of our own experience over the last 6 months, then there are signs of steady improvement in hiring confidence. While some companies have been taking a wait-and-see approach to the election, others remain ambitious and continue to plan confidently for growth by ensuring they have the right leadership and resources in place for the next step of their development journeys. Once the ramifications of the election result have played out, we are expecting this upward trend in hiring to continue into next year.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your plans over the next couple of years?

Much of what I do is relationship building — with clients and candidates. The plan is to be more proactive and get out and about and talk to new businesses and continue to build my talent networks. This is one of the reasons I am looking forward to being a judge at the Gloucestershire Business Awards 2024.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone looking for a job at the moment, what would it be?

Be realistic! While competition for the very best talent remains competitive, the candidate market, in general, is cooling after its post-Covid bounce back. People need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

In partnership with Seymour John  |  seymourjohn.com

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