Meet Emma Couling, our brilliant new Head of Recruitment Services

Written by Lee Colbran - 23 Sep 2021

Recruitment Services | 5 MIN READ

We caught up with our new Head of Recruitment Services, Emma Couling, who recently joined us. During the chat, we asked Emma how she got into recruitment, what she likes about it and what she thinks will happen with the discipline in the future...

If you have a deeper understanding of what people want, you are better equipped to help them. I also pride myself on my honesty and integrity which I think stands me in good stead with both clients and candidates alike.

Emma Couling, Head of Recruitment Services

Describe your career path and how you got into recruitment?

I’ve worked in recruitment for the last 21 years, starting in a high street branch and learning the basics from the ground up. I’ve had various roles within the recruitment setting, most recently looking after NHS clients supporting them with their staffing needs on a permanent, contract and locum basis – and yes, all in a pandemic too.😊

Like many people, I think I “fell” into recruitment, having gone into a branch to look for work myself in 1999 and offered a Permanent Consultant role, and I’ve never looked back since.

What do you think makes an excellent recruiter?

For me, I think listening is vital. It’s essential to get to grips with what your clients and candidates are looking for; it’s not just about matching skills and ticking boxes.

If you want long-standing relationships, you need to understand what other elements are important to people outside of the standard. If you have a deeper understanding of what people want, you are better equipped to help them. I also pride myself on my honesty and integrity, which stands me in good stead with clients and candidates alike.

What excites you about coming to work at Fresh Egg as our new Head of Recruitment?

So many things! I’m excited to work with the various expert teams here at Fresh Egg. They’re an absolute font of knowledge, so I shall be picking lots of brains. I love the user-centred approach and the emphasis on collaboration. I’m a team player and love to be sociable, so the company culture was a real draw for me. 

What do your friends think you do for a job?

It’s cliché, I know, but a lot of my friendship group I’ve met over the years at work, so they all have a pretty accurate idea, having worked with me in recruitment themselves at some point.

What can our clients expect from working with you?

They will have my full attention from the first point of contact; I take immense pride in doing a good and thorough job, so I will take time to get to know them and understand their needs. I will also proactively be looking out for talent in the market.

We're lucky at Fresh Egg to have a team of technical experts who can support the recruitment process by assessing candidates' technical skills, so we're not just reliant on biographical information. It's the whole package as far as I'm concerned. I also like to work on a consultative approach, it's essential to manage expectations and deliver on what you promise, so if you don't feedback appropriately, it doesn't work for any party involved.

What one thing could you not do without to do your job?

My phone. I think it’s vital not to be wholly reliant on email. I know it can be time-consuming, but it’s important to pick the phone up and speak to people, candidates and clients alike. That’s how you get a true understanding of what everyone’s needs and requirements are.  

What disruption have you seen as a result of the change to IR35 in April ‘21?

In my previous role, our clients were public sector, so we went through the IR35 changes in legislation back in 2017 when it was introduced. It definitely drove the pay up in some areas initially where candidates didn’t understand how changes would impact them financially, creating additional cost pressures for our clients.  I hope that the private sector has better-informed information due to the implementation being rolled out elsewhere already. I know it’s affected larger organisations more adversely than small businesses, but as an SME, we can help in that area both for clients and candidates. 

How much of an advantage for a recruiter is it that you are able to provide contractors with the opportunity to work outside of IR35?

Well, my previous answer leads nicely into this.  I think for those workers who are still able to work outside of IR35, it means they can still work with larger clients on a contractor basis through their own business. It also means our clients can access talent across the board. As an SME, we can still provide a service enabling us to engage with workers outside of IR35, so nobody is excluded or unattainable.

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Looking forward, what do you think is likely to change in the recruitment industry?

In my opinion, companies will move to a more flexible working approach which is exciting for both candidates and clients. It opens up a whole new candidate pool that may not have been able to work for their preferred organisations and exciting new talent for clients.

Not being tied to an office location five days a week and the introduction of remote working and video conferencing being the “new norm” means you could be essentially anywhere and still be able to access the job or candidate of your dreams! Especially in the digital world, where everything is based around activity online.  

Can you see a time when AI takes over, or will the human touch always be a requirement in recruitment?

Technology is an excellent asset to the recruitment process. It makes things instantly accessible, gives a perfect audit trail, and lets you meet people “face-to-face” without the additional time and cost constraints involved in physical meetings. That said, I don’t think you will ever be able to replace the human interaction, the personal customer journey that you go through with each candidate and client or replace the relationships built through that human touch. 

What can you tell us about your biggest challenge in recruitment?

Trying to recruit and source medical professionals during a pandemic with international travel restrictions in place has to be up there with my biggest challenge to date. Understandably the NHS and key workers have been (and still are) under an immense amount of pressure.

Being understaffed is just an additional pressure that adds to their stress. The team and I had to think of ways to reassure and support our clients and candidates whilst proactively thinking outside of the box to provide skilled niche staff in such a tough market. I like to think it was character building :) 

Finally, do you have a favourite way to eat an egg?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say chocolate - they’re not just for Easter, right?  

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