“I recruit on attitude more than aptitude”

March 13th 2018 / Victoria Woodhall / 0 comment


How do you recruit and retain brilliant staff? We asked the award-winning boss of Moneypenny Rachel Clacher, who has the magic touch when it comes to happy teams. Here are her 14 tips for foolproof hiring

How do you recruit a loyal, productive happy team? Rachel Clacher had no idea when she set up telephone and customer contact solutions service Moneypenny in 2000 with her brother Ed Reeves - her background was in arts marketing. All she knew was that she wanted to create an environment in which people performed their best and one which made them happy to come to work. The company now employs 600 people, has a staff retention rate 28 per cent higher than average and has been named by The Sunday Times as one of the Top 5 Best Companies to Work For.

You’ve probably spoken to a Moneypenny virtual PA without realising – they act as call answering Live Chat and switchboard services for hundreds of businesses across the world including Joe Wicks’s Body Coach business.

When I visited the offices in Wrexham, it felt almost like being Enid Blyton book with a treehouse meeting room, a pub, sheep (not real ones) hanging out with giraffes, Pilates classes and a healthy canteen. It's lighthearted, but with state-of-the-art tech and a serious work ethic.


Rachel’s recruitment mantra of ‘attitude over aptitude’ was learned from instinct. She didn’t always get it right. She tells the story of an early recruit with a sparkling CV, whose Diet Coke habit meant she kept burping down the phone to clients. She didn’t last long.

In 18 years of Moneypenny, Rachel clearly knows what works and now spends much of her time as a speaker sharing her wisdom with other businesses. Here she gives GTG her tips on recruiting and retaining a happy team.

1. Recruit on attitude and not just aptitude

Don’t let a sparkly CV distract you from your gut feel about someone. Are you going to enjoy sharing an office with them eight hours a day? Is there a ready smile? A desire to make each day better? The attention to detail that you need? Is the person in front of you a ‘drain’ or a ‘radiator’? It is really hard to ascertain exactly what you need in terms of attitude, but it’s really easy to know when the right attitude is missing – and a lot of that is down to gut feel. Don’t underestimate how important that gut feel is… All the skill in the world is worth nothing if it is used by people who don’t fit in your organisation.

2. Take the customer point of view

Make sure that your first interaction with your potential candidates mirrors that of your customers. For example: at Moneypenny we interview everyone over the phone first of all, because most of our work is phone-based. How someone reacts when you ring them up out of the blue is very telling… And make sure that the basics are right: that someone knows how to spell and add up, that they know the difference between ‘your’ and you’re’. If you are having to choose between two candidates, then always choose the better writer as good communication sits at the heart of most jobs.

3. Involve the rest of the team in the recruitment process

Everyone’s opinion matters – and your team will pick up on different things to you. Recruiting a new member of the team is a fabulous opportunity to review the existing strengths of the team and to discuss and decide what qualities new recruit requires to build on these.

4. Recruit in haste, repent at leisure

The right person is out there and if you haven’t found them today, you will find them tomorrow. Don’t compromise and be patient.

5. Invest time and money

Make sure that you have the time to find a number of candidates to compare and contrast, and the time to get to know them a bit before making a decision. If you are using a recruitment consultant, understanding what makes your business tick, what makes you tick, is their number one job before looking for candidates. The cost of a wrong hire in terms of time, emotion, energy and lost opportunities will far outweigh any investment in recruiting the right person.

6. Go to the pub, go for a walk

If you’ve done the formal interview bit and you’re interested, then make a plan to meet up in a different setting. We all know that we learn the important stuff about people away from the desk. Give yourself and your team the opportunity to get to know people better before making any final choices…

7. Recruit people who are better than you are

Entrepreneurs are great generalists (because they have to be!) and not necessarily great specialists. My brother and I listed our weaknesses in order of priority and then recruited to that list – so our first non-PA recruit was to help us with our finance as neither of us are great at small detail. We have now essentially managed to recruit ourselves out of our own business (I now spend a lot of time on speaking engagements to fund our charity, We Mind The Gap which helps underserved young women into work) and have learnt loads along the way: recruiting people with more specialised knowledge of specific areas has allowed the business to grow and develop, while we have been able to maintain that vital overview.

8. Show a genuine concern for your staff

The number one thing that people want from their ‘closest leader’ is ‘a genuine concern’. If your new recruit has responsibility for others, make sure that he/she does have genuine concern for others and not just for his/her own ego, career progression or bank balance. Be warned if your potential new recruit’s first questions are about sick pay or having Director’s car parking space! Standing shoulder to shoulder with our teams is much more powerful, and fun, than standing alone as a leader. Egos get in the way of success. Sharing learnings, lessons and approaches across the whole business benefits every bit of the business and every member of the team.

9. Provide a real welcome and an effective introduction to the business

We expect our team to give a brilliant first impression to our customers every minute of the day, so we have to do the same for them from the minute we start a conversation about working for us and this sets the tone.

10. Make sure everyone knows their value to the team

The recruitment process doesn’t finish the minute someone says ‘yes’. It continues every single day that that person walks through your door as an employee. Make sure every individual understands what value they bring to your business, what value they have in your business, and what value you place on their continued and consistent commitment. We recognise all staff achievements with flowers and various rewards and arrange regular socialising trips out to the races and in our own onsite pub.

11. Get out of the way

Give complete clarity about the role, your expectations, the support you give and vitally, what good looks like. Then get out of the way and allow people to show you what they are capable of. Give your team the right resources and the right time to do the right thing.

12. Remember that the small things matter as much, if not more, than the big things

Saying thank you, giving a hug, random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness: these have more impact on the wellbeing and engagement of your team than corporate gestures and fancy policies. Supporting our team whenever necessary means that that compliment is repaid: for example, where most employees use snowy weather as an excuse to stay at home in the warm, 99 per cent of Moneypenny employees make it into work somehow. One amazing person recently left home at 3am to walk six miles and get to her desk by 8am. This means that we carry on doing a brilliant job for our clients even when the rest of the country is at a standstill. Do the right thing by your team and they will do the right thing by you and your customers.

13. Treat other people as you want to be treated yourself

When was the last time you were happy to be treated as a number and not a name? When was the last time you were delighted to hear that ‘the computer/process/system says no’? Put yourself into your team’s shoes, and try and trust people to do the right thing rather than put in a process that highlights the wrong thing. When the issue of dress code came up, rather than firing off a memo, we asked everyone if they understood the difference between two pairs of Ed’s converse trainers – one shabby pair that he uses to mow the lawn in, and the other that were almost new. Of course everyone understood the difference between the two and we have no need for a rule. Treat other people as you would want to be treated yourself and your team will amaze you with what they can achieve.

14. Your team are your recruitment process

Look after your team, provide them with every opportunity and support, listen to them, have fun, take care, celebrate the successes and learn from the mistakes. They will then do amazing things, tell the world about your business, and the world will come knocking on your door. You then have an incredibly motivated team, as well as the privilege of choosing and welcoming the best customers and the best new recruits.


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