12 Months in Recruitment: Tom & Liz Share Their Journey

Last month, we celebrated Tom Haskell and Liz Strachan’s first year anniversary with HorizonOne!
Both came to us from Sydney with impressive university degrees under their belts, keen to forge a career in recruitment and learn the ropes from our senior recruiters.

Time has absolutely flown by, so I sat down with Tom and Liz to find out how they found their first 12 months, and the highlights and challenges they’ve faced along the way.

So you’re both originally from Sydney – why did you choose to come to Canberra?

Liz: My partner was accepted into the graduate program for a federal government department. We’d been together for 10 years, so there was no question that I would move with him.

Tom: I grew up in Parkes, which is a country town near Orange in NSW. When I was 18, I moved to Sydney to go to university. After completing my degree, my partner was asked to move to Canberra for work. So I moved too!

And is your experience of Canberra different to what you had expected?

Liz: Coming from Cronulla, I love the beach and used to go every day in summer. So that’s been hard. But there are some great swimming spots here like Kambah Pool, and we try to go as much as we can in summer.

I think Canberra is very underrated by people in other cities. When I told my family I was moving here they said I’d have nothing to do. But because there are fewer places to go, everywhere you do go is always busy and happening. You always have an atmosphere in Canberra.

Tom: My family supported me moving to Canberra, but a few of my mates from Sydney were saying there’s not as much to do. Since moving here I really like that it’s a mix of the country and the city. It’s quiet in a good way, with plenty to do when you get involved.

What work were you doing before you joined HorizonOne?

Liz: After I finished my degree in business and international studies, I joined the Coles Graduate Program. I quickly realised operational management wasn’t for me, but they asked if I would like to work on a bulk recruitment round for a new store and I said yes.

2,000 applications and 100 successful candidates later, I knew recruitment was where I wanted to be. When we moved to Canberra, it spurred me on to apply for a permanent position in recruitment. I knew Canberra would have a great recruitment market.

Tom: After I finished my degree in international relations and geography, we moved to Canberra. Initially, I worked as a lifeguard at Dickson Pool, and then in a café. I also went travelling, and that’s when I decided to get serious about a career.

A friend of mine worked in recruitment and was always saying how much he enjoyed it. I love people and want the work I do to have a social impact, so I decided to try it.

Why did you apply to work at HorizonOne?

Liz: I didn’t want to just apply for lots of places, so I really did my research. I was attracted to HorizonOne because their social content really resonated with me. After I submitted my CV, Andy Batstone called me the next day and we spent an hour talking on the phone. After interviewing, I was offered a position and accepted!

Tom: I applied to work at HorizonOne because their social content and videos really appealed to me. I also wanted to work somewhere that had a small business family vibe where I felt I could make a difference.

How has your role and experience of recruitment evolved in the past year?

Liz: I’ve been working directly with Andy on primarily government recruitment (policy, program and procurement). He’s been a great mentor, and I’ve been running my own desk pretty much since the beginning.

I love that the training has been so comprehensive, but I’m never micromanaged. If I need help I ask for it. But I’m essentially responsible for my own business inside the business. I really enjoy working with clients and a great mix of roles and candidates. I’ve recruited for APS 4s and 5s right through to executive levels.

I also love that HorizonOne does 360 degree recruitment. In other firms, some recruiters work with clients and others manage candidates. I can’t imagine how this would work. And I really enjoy meeting candidates and conducting interviews, doing reference checks, and representing them to clients. I don’t think I would enjoy seeing only one side of the process.

Tom: I’ve been working with Sarah Tamasi on administrative recruitment. When I first started they were particularly busy in that area so they wanted to train someone who could support Sarah.

I’ve been gaining experience in client and candidate management, including sourcing and interviewing candidates. I do many placements for executive assistants and other similar roles. Now I’m starting to work on property management roles too.

I really enjoy being across the full gamut. In some recruitment training courses I’ve been to, I’ve seen that other recruitment agencies only allow juniors to work with candidates. They have to train for at least a year before they get to work with clients. Here we learn both at the same time, which is great because I enjoy both sides equally.

Have you experienced any challenges?

Liz: Andy always said from the beginning that the first year in recruitment is the hardest, especially if you don’t have existing networks in Canberra. So coming from Sydney that’s been my main challenge. But I find if you do a great job, you always get repeat work and your network naturally expands.

Another challenge has been recruiting for procurement because it’s particularly difficult to find experienced candidates in this area. When I meet someone who is strong in procurement, it’s especially rewarding to be able to represent them.

Tom: When I first started, my main challenge was information overload. In recruitment, you not only have to understand your job – you have to understand every job you recruit for (and there are always many at the same time!).

Initially, I also found client meetings and calls a little nerve racking. But being able to work with clients directly has allowed me to build that confidence quite quickly.

What’s been your best highlight?

Liz: I was promoted from recruitment advisor to consultant after 3 months. That was a very proud moment for me. Also, seeing HorizonOne grow and develop across the past year. We’ve expanded so much, so even though I’m relatively new I’ve been able to help mentor those who started after me.

Tom: Making my first placement and ringing the office gong was definitely a memorable moment. For the candidate, it was her first full-time job in Australia so it was very tangible for me to make that kind of difference in someone’s life.

I also had a candidate bring a small gift to the office because I’d landed him an interview he really wanted. He didn’t know that he’d actually landed the job, so I was able to tell him when he came here. It was so awesome to see how happy he was!

Last but definitely not least, I was also promoted to recruitment consultant recently which was a great moment.

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about a career in recruitment?

Liz: Jump in and do it! It’s a highly rewarding career if you enjoy fast-paced and outcomes-driven work. I would say do your research on the company you are considering to ensure there is a strong cultural fit and that your values align with theirs.

Tom: Go for it! You pick up so many skills that are beneficial for your career and personal development, such as gaining more confidence and developing great communication skills.

And what should they expect in their first 6 months?

Liz: Expect to be faced with a huge learning curve! The first 3 months for me felt like information overload. But I think there was a point when everything just started to click – a bit of a light bulb moment. That’s when I really felt like I had developed a strong knowledge of my sector and the candidate and client market I was working in.

Tom: You will be put out of your comfort zone, so expect to be challenged! Especially if this is your first professional job, you will need to learn to do things you’ve never done before. But remember you’re helping people find a job which has a very real impact on their life. It’s also a highly personable career to be in.