Thanks for reading! This series is designed to shine a spotlight on Talent Acquisition professionals and highlight their career journeys and learnings so far. Today, we're joined by Nathan Simpson; if you'd like to be next, please reach out to a TTC Community Manager.
Hi, I’m Nathan! A talent acquisition leader with 13 years of diverse experience. I’ve held hands-on roles such as Head of Talent for the European fintech Ratepay, TA Lead for the series-B start-up Let’s Do This, and TA Manager for the UK challenger bank, LHV UK, which I helped to launch. I’m actively looking for a new role and can add value in scaling teams in tech, commercial and finance, as well as implementing TA best practice, L&D and employer brand!
Can you walk us through the key milestones in your career in the talent acquisition space? What were some pivotal moments or decisions that shaped your journey?
Like most recruiters, my career began in agency recruitment where I spent a solid 11 years of my career working with some great people gaining significant industry and client exposure. This allowed me to progress into a “Head of Recruitment” position where my passion for coaching, training and all things learning & development really took flight! I learned what it meant to get the best out of people, to understand different learning styles and witnessed first-hand just how impactful L&D is when you get it right. It’s what fuels the TA best practice training workshops that I currently run for my stakeholders and peers, and I enjoy it!
However, the biggest milestone remains my decision to move in-house and it’s the best thing I ever did.
Working as the Talent Lead for Let’s Do This during their series-B funding was a real eye-opener! I was fortunate enough to work with amazing senior leaders from Meta, Google, Deliveroo and Amazon and gained invaluable experience understanding how tech giants hire top talent at pace and with purpose, and how to build a scalable hiring framework to hire elite talent.
Equally, my time at LHV was fascinating because I did so many things for the first time and went far outside my comfort zone on a daily basis. It was my first internal role, my first time working 100% alone as a TA Manager and my first time reporting directly to a CPO. I was part of launching a new challenger bank and learned how to create a hiring process and TA assets from scratch, what it meant to align EVP, branding and go-to-market strategy and how the inner workings of a start-up really function, witnessing first-hand the impact each and every hire had on the company.
In this rapidly evolving industry, what strategies or practices have you adopted to continuously enhance your skills and stay ahead of the curve? Do you have any resources or learning methods you'd recommend to others?
My biggest advice is to understand your learning style and immerse yourself in content via the format that serves you best. For example, someone may recommend you watch a YouTube series, but if you’re a theorist learner then you’ll arguably get more from reading. Learning styles are something I observed through L&D and have helped me immensely, both professionally as a leader and personally as a learner. I’m a super inquisitive person and I research anything and everything.
I’ve learned to stay ahead of the curve by never assuming I know the answer and being resourceful in my quest for information. Even if I’ve done something 10 times before, sometimes I like to cross reference just to see if someone has done it in a slightly better way.
Communities such as The Talent Community are brimming with experts who can answer questions over Slack/WhatsApp channels to help increase your skills and awareness- I’m fairly new myself but it’s already having a positive impact on me.
YouTube is a personal favourite of mine because there will always be a video of someone explaining a concept in a way you can easily understand, and it never lets me down!
More recently, I’ve jumped on the AI bandwagon and can confirm ChatGPT is well worth investing time into- I would describe it as my sidekick and it enables me to problem solve so much faster - try it!
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career in talent acquisition, especially when you were actively seeking work? How did you overcome it, and what advice would you offer to others facing similar hurdles?
I never thought I'd be made redundant but it shows just how volatile and unstable the market has been over the last few years. With so many recruiters out of work and so few companies hiring, the thought of securing a new role is daunting, made worse by the high number of applications each role receives. The following 3 things have proved useful for me;
Attitude – it sounds simple, but having a positive attitude has really helped me, especially when it's felt like the world is against me and I’m one of hundreds of applicants for a dream role. I try to focus on the positive because the situation I’m in will ultimately lead to a better opportunity in the future and a chance to learn, grow, and reach my goals. My routine consists of searching, applying and networking in the morning and early afternoon, and the rest of the day I focus on my interests. During my first redundancy I looked for jobs 24/7 and it genuinely affected my health in a bad way, so now I try to avoid burnout!
Network – As recruiters, we’re fortunate enough to have large networks and dozens of connections and this is honestly a godsend that you MUST utilize! I overlooked this last year and ironically, it was an ex-colleague who referred me to my last employer – in fact, it was an ex-colleague that I didn’t know that well. The lesson I learned? You have allies in places you least expect it.This time around I’m doing things differently, I’m proactively interacting with current and ex-colleagues, previous stakeholders, friends, and anyone who might lead me to my next venture. You’ll be surprised how valuable this can be! Engage - It’s key to connect and engage with your future employer and your audience. Don’t stop at applying - connect, message, create dialogue and make yourself stand out! I’ve found that creating content helps drive traffic to my profile and in some cases, leads to conversations I might otherwise not have had. Start talking about the success you’ve had and the challenges you’ve overcome and SHARE this with your network to grab people’s attention.
The recruiting world can be fast-paced and demanding. How do you strike a balance between your professional commitments and personal life? Are there specific routines or rituals you follow?
With 13 years in the industry, I’ve learned to avoid recruiter burnout because I’ve seen how damaging it can be. Like so many others, in my early career I’d work stupidly crazy hours, avoid long holidays and never switch off from thinking about work. Even when I was on holiday, I would be looking at emails, checking on candidates, and asking colleagues to book interviews.
Fast forward to today and I have much more appreciation for my time and energy, two things you can’t get back. I meticulously prioritize my workload and deadlines and if something falls outside of this, then it can be done tomorrow, it’s that simple. Last year was my first holiday where I disconnected from work emails completely and I'd recommend it to anyone because you’ll come back even more energized and focused on what you want to achieve.
I’ve found that listening to podcasts helps to give me different perspectives on how to listen, engage and act in so many situations. How to emphasize, how to listen better, how to deliver a narrative, how to interpret different emotions - the list goes on!
Talent acquisition is demanding, challenging and at times exhausting. Not simply because of the many actions that need to happen in order for things to run smoothly, but often due to the dozens and dozens of micro-situations that require in-depth levels of emotional intelligence. As recruiters we are like chess players, we never stop thinking about our next move because every piece on the TA lifecycle chess board is connected to us in some way.
As someone involved in talent acquisition, you've likely witnessed various technology and trend shifts. Which technologies or trends do you believe have had the most significant impact on the industry, and how have they influenced your role?
AI, specifically ChatGPT, is arguably the latest technological advancement I’ve seen that’s had a positive impact on talent acquisition. As I said before, the ability to problem solve at pace using AI is 10-fold over not using it, and it helps increase my confidence in many of my projects. Whether you’re trying to understand a new position that you’ve not hired before, the difference between certain technologies/skills, even the tone of your content or the ability to instantly translate it into another language, it is an incredibly fast and powerful tool that no recruiter should be without.
For those entering the talent acquisition space or those looking to pivot within it, what's the one piece of practical advice you'd give to help them thrive, especially if they are actively job-seeking?
I've long felt that recruitment is a balancing act between capability vs emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence won’t help you construct a great hiring process, or put together the smartest search string to find top talent, but your capability will. On the other hand, capability does little to help you navigate the matrix of improving candidate experience or empathizing with stakeholders to increase their satisfaction, but your emotional intelligence will absolutely guide you through.
If you’re looking to enter the talent acquisition space you cannot overlook these two merits because to be successful in TA, you need both in almost equal measure.
For those already in the talent acquisition space and looking to pivot, your network is your greatest ally. Increasing it, engage it, and capitalize on it whenever and wherever you can. I would strongly recommend joining talent communities and groups to increase your exposure, and learning opportunities and attending events to start getting a feel for increasing trends in the industry.