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Career Journeys in Talent Acquisition: Thomas Holmes

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 Thomas Holmes; if you'd like to be next, please reach out to a TTC Community Manager.

Nathan Simpson

Introduce yourself:

Thomas Holmes is currently the outgoing director for global talent acquisition at Planet, a global connected payments scale-up. Prior to this, he had several years of both internal and agency side experience.

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?

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career to work for some incredible organisations and build some great teams. Much like a lot of us here, though, pivotal moments can be both positive and negative.

My first real ‘penny drop’ moment was in my last few months of agency recruitment, where I was arguing with a co-founder about terms of business over email at 2 in the morning. I remember sitting upright and thinking why am I doing this? This led to me spending many hours talking with my peers, investigating if internal life was the next move for me. Without that impossible stakeholder, I may not have made that jump to internal (something I’m very glad to have done and kudos to all you agency recruiters who continue to power on; it’s a tough game)

My second milestone was about midway through my tenure with Improbable. For the first time in my life, I had real career satisfaction. I was hiring truly incredible engineers and scientists who were building defence simulations and technology that we designed to save lives and reduce conflict. My work was meaningful, and I would feel giddy just telling people about the work we were up to in my pitch. I like to think that passion and energy rubbed off on my candidates and peers. It’s a feeling I’m still chasing!

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?

I’m always blown away by the sheer number of new tools and techniques that are on the market these days. It is extremely exciting to see some genuine practical applications of AI enter our world. For me, my approach has been two-fold. First is more traditional learning settings, the likes of Social Talent or formal qualifications from the likes of Edx/FutureLearn. Learning about practical theory is always worth the time.

The second has been with the peers I surrounded myself with. Whenever I’ve looked for new jobs, I try my best to be the most junior in the room or make sure that there is a lot I can learn from my peers. It was one of the main reasons I joined both Talentful and – you can learn so much from the creativity of your peers.

This community is also testament to this; so much knowledge sharing is fantastic. My other advice is to be intellectually curious. Read up on the industry you are recruiting in, grab some books or pop along to some networking events; you won’t regret it.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your career, especially when you were actively seeking work? How did you overcome it, and what advice would you offer to others facing similar hurdles?

I think like most of us here, the Pandemic was a real challenge to get through. Very rapidly, everything changed. I had a role lined up that was withdrawn, we could not see our colleagues, and we had to learn how to collaborate remotely and revise all our hiring processes to adapt. Job seeking in the early days was a real challenge and emotionally draining for everyone.

I appreciate that today is also a similar challenge. It doesn’t help that LinkedIn is an eco-chamber for the doom and gloom. Naturally, we are all a supportive bunch, and by sharing/ liking posts of those sadly impacted and struggling, we train the algorithms on our sorrow.

For those currently going through this currently, remember that the market will (and is) improving; keep the faith. Lean on your friends/ family and talk through your thoughts, don’t bottle them up. Take some time out of the eco-chamber, go get some fresh air. Realise that your self-worth is not purely dependent on work and that this will be a distant memory one day.

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?

Work life is always a hard one in TA, especially if you are working globally. I learned the hard way a few years ago that saying yes to everything can turn out very badly.

At one point I was online at 6 am for headhunting calls in Japan/ Singapore whilst working through until 9-10 pm at night dealing with San Fran/ Mexico. Ultimately, I burned out and was of no use to anyone.

Always make sure you set your boundaries and set expectations – a hiring manager will always say that their roles are urgent, but the truth is there is always time to ensure you can balance your work accordingly. Certain times are sacred and should be ringfenced, but if you can find a strategic hour to get back on top here and there, it can be a very powerful tool without interfering with family life.

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?

This is an interesting question, and allow me to be a tad controversial with my answer. Over the last 10 years we’ve seen all sorts, from talent mapping, LinkedIn Recruiter, more outreach tools and analytics platform that you can shake a stick at. That said, all they have really done is level the playing field for everyone. More recruiters can now reach more of the market; gone are the days when having a certain tool gives you the edge (not including AI in this equation just yet). All are super useful for creating an incredibly data-driven and informed process.

What all this technology has shown me over the years is that it remains the core fundamentals that have the most significant impact. Know the business you are selling. Take time to truly understand your hiring managers, your candidates, and their needs. In a world that will continually become more automated and digitalized, the human element will always be the most important.

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?

Talent acquisition is a huge and ever-evolving world. Although we live in strange times currently, there are and always will be ample opportunities out there for you.

My advice is to look for ‘mission fit’ – a phrase drilled into me from the cleverclogs at Improbable. Don’t settle for any TA role; find a company that adheres to your personal goals, morals and ethics.

If you join an org that ticks all of your personal boxes, the satisfaction you’ll feel day to day is immeasurably greater; it also gives you the ammunition to press on when times are hard.

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