Consultant Journeys

Director Stories: Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Director of People & Operations

Feb 16, 2023

I’m here to debunk all the vicious rumours about Recruiters and tell you why working in recruitment is a career… and a pretty awesome one at that.

Let’s start at the beginning… no one grows up wanting to be a recruiter, I certainly didn’t. After studying a-levels I headed off to Leeds to study PR & Marketing. I liked university; I didn’t love it. And to be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated, so when I stumbled across an advert in my Cosmopolitan magazine to become a Holiday Rep for JMC (part of Thomas Cook back in the day) I knew I just had to apply and later that Summer, I headed to the Balearics as a Holiday Rep. I loved it. Customer service combined with hitting sales targets whilst having the time of my life in the sunshine.

It wasn’t until 7 seasons later (!), whilst sipping a pina colada on Baga Beach in Goa did I think that I should actually get a ‘real’ job and it was then that my manager mentioned Recruitment. I vividly remember going to the internet cafe and paying my 30 rupees to do some research. I was hooked.

Returning home later that Spring, I interviewed at a few local recruitment agencies and some not so local agencies. I interviewed at lots of different sized companies, from a family run business to international and extremely corporate agencies and although I was offered a number of them, my gut told me to accept the offer from Reed.

No one grows up wanting to be a recruiter, I certainly didn’t.

So, it was Reed that gave me my first glimpse of recruitment in 2007. I worked in a High Street branch where walk-ins were encouraged, and marketing drops were a key target. There were just four of us in a tiny office. It was great. I learnt lots, worked hard and more importantly, I never gave up.

When I transferred to London, I found out that recruitment was a whole different ball game, and it was tough. Competition was fierce and targets were high, but I persevered until 2009 when I was introduced to Oyster. I can only describe my finding Oyster as serendipity, as it was my house mate who told me to give them a ring.

I interviewed with Dan, our now Chairman, and it was a completely unique experience to any other agency I had ever met with. When I asked him, as any dutiful interviewee should ‘what do you look for in an employee?’ he looked at me and without hesitation said ‘Loyalty.’ From that moment I knew I wanted to work for him, and for Oyster.

My first year was average at best. I worked hard, played harder and made some incredible memories that will stay with me for life, but I wasn’t earning what I wanted to, and this soon became frustrating.

In a recent Diary of CEO podcast, Steven Bartlett refers to ‘lagged KPIs’ and this struck a chord with me. It refers to that fact the work that you do now, does not come to fruition for a delayed period of time. I worked hard on providing quality and even when I got a ‘no’ (of which I got hundreds), I dusted myself off and carried on… until one day, it just happened. I had my best ever phone call (I remember it vividly even now) with a potential client that I’d been working on for about a year. The phone call was textbook - objection handle, sell Oyster, book visit.

This is when my luck turned around and I won the client.

Yes, I won the business but I had also promised a lot … I was often in the office at 6am, I regularly left at 10pm but it was worth it. And I loved it. The pressure, the pride, the promotion.

From then onwards, things skyrocketed, one of my favourite clients was a client that said no to every call and email for 5 years. 5 years. I still have the email that the director sent me asking for my help. That client went on to be a great client for the business.

I’d been recruiting at Oyster just over 8 years when my personal life changed and I was itching for a new challenge; the best way to describe how I was feeling was I wanted something ‘same-same, but different.’ After an honest conversation with Sasza, the MD, I made the move internally to handle all of Oyster’s internal recruitment. I didn’t have a job description and knew that asking for a career path was out of the question - I knew I had to make the job my own and I had to trust the process. Which I did.

The role as Talent Manager was a huge challenge and exactly what I needed. Those who think internal recruitment is the easy way out are sorely mistaken. My client was now Sasza and my Hiring Managers were my mates. My targets were directly related to the how the business would grow. There was a great deal of pressure that came with the job.

I’d been recruiting at Oyster just over 8 years when my personal life changed and I was itching for a new challenge.

In 2019 I had my first child and I decided to study my CIPD Level 5 whilst on maternity. I’d always been interested in HR having previously recruited into the sector, and I felt that to progress at Oyster (and develop professionally) I'd be best to equip myself with knowledge and understanding on all things HR.

Over the years my role has evolved more than I ever would have dreamt; I took on all HR responsibility, leading to me being promoted to Head of People in 2020. I would help with Marketing when needed. I have written BIDs for the business as well as award submissions. I worked tirelessly on the Investors in People accreditation and have built long standing relationships with external suppliers. I have been fortunate enough to assist with the office move from an operational point of view, and more recently I was heavily involved in the rebranding of Oyster. Over the past year I have learnt more about our Finance function as well as IT. Both of which are subjects that do not come naturally to me.

In October 2022, after 13 brilliant years at Oyster, I was promoted to Director of People & Operations by Dan and Sasza. I guess that shows how loyalty works here at Oyster. I am now responsible for various different functions including our newly formed L&D, Marketing, and Operations teams.

I am still learning. It’s challenging, it’s busy and most importantly, it’s great fun.

2023 marks my 14 years at Oyster and I couldn’t be more of an advocate for a career in Recruitment. It’s definitely a career to be proud of.

If you'd like to explore a recruitment career with us, get in touch.

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Director of People & Operations

Hannah Clarke

With 15 years of Recruitment experience under her belt, 13 of which have been spent at Oyster, Hannah is (and always will be) an office legend. After reaching a staggering 80-something temps – the stuff of Oyster folklore – Hannah made the monumental decision to step into a whole new role. And thank goodness she did, or we wouldn’t have her as our Head of People, steering our often-chaotic ship, and playing a huge part in Oyster’s staggering growth plans.

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