Graham Whelan is the best recruiter I’ve ever met.
And he has been that way since before most of you reading this article got to high school.
Last week I went to lunch with Graham, and 2 other long-standing recruiting colleagues, all now competitors, all significant achievers in our industry.
After the usual banter, and a sombre reflection on the fact that between us we had 120 years experience in the recruitment industry, my longtime friend, sometime business partner, Graham Whelan, could not contain himself.
You see, Graham had come to the lunch via a client meeting where three of his candidates had been selected for final interviews for a CFO job. I sat back and allowed his excitement and enthusiasm to wash over me. It was so refreshing. So invigorating. I could not help but reflect that his energy and sincere gusto for the looming placement was as vigourous and heartfelt as many similar conversations we had over the last 25 years.
No matter that he had been placing people in finance jobs since 1978. No worn-out apathy or cynicism here. His love of the chase, his desire to make the match, and his interest in the welfare of his client and the candidates, has not waned in 3 decades.
I worked with Graham for more than 15 years, including 12 as partners in building a business called Recruitment Solutions, which went from start-up to an IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange.
To me, Graham epitomises what a great recruiter should be. And as I came away from the lunch, I was in awe of his longevity in this most demanding of businesses, but also his passion and commitment to service. So what is it that makes Graham special? He has all the technical recruiting skills, of course. But he has more too. Let me count the ways.
- He cares. About his clients of course, but also about each and every candidate he deals with. Sure, he is looking to make the placement, and the fee, but Graham has never lost sight of the human element of our business, and he treats every person he deals with, with kindness and attention to detail.
- He has incredible energy. I don’t want to break any privacy laws, but the man is closer to 60 than 50, (I on the other hand, am not, by the way…) and he still works at the pace of the energiser bunny. Graham is a shorter man than me, but when we went on client visits together, I had to almost run to keep up with him. He strides around the office, he often stands when speaking on the phone during important conversations, he moves quickly from one call, one meeting, to the next. He is a little whirlwind of action, and he inspires action around him. Typically, he works 8 am to 6 pm, starting with a booming “bore da*” across the office as he strides in, lunch is a sandwich at the desk, and every other minute is spent engaging in conversations with clients, candidates and colleagues.
- He is honest. Of course he has impeccable business integrity, but he is honest at a deeper level. He tells clients when he can’t help, he tells candidates their exact status. If the news is bad, he still gives it, directly, but with compassion.
- He does what he says he is going to do. This alone separates Graham from the vast majority of other recruiters. If he says he will call you back, he does. If he tells you that he will keep you in mind for a specific kind of role, he will, and you can expect a call, maybe 4 months later.
- He listens. Again, so many recruiters can learn from this. Graham asks lots of questions, he digs, he listens, and he is purposely ‘slow to understand’. He does not make assumptions. As a result, he inevitably develops a better search brief with the client than anyone else. He always gets to the core reason a candidate is looking to move jobs, which every good recruiter knows is often not the reason they initially give.
- He has an elephant-like memory. If he interviewed you as an accounts clerk 20 years ago, Graham will remember not only you, but also your company and probably your salary and the person you reported to. There is a good chance he will remember your family too. Seriously. Sit in a restaurant with Graham, and he will be nodding to, and shaking hands with, every second person, not only because of his longevity as a recruiter in this city, but also because he remembers everybody, and because he has never burned anyone in business, he has no enemies I could possibly imagine.
- He is the embodiment of PMA. Positive Mental Attitude that is. Graham believes and behaves as though good things will happen. Then he works hard to make sure they do. I believe so much in this trait. To Graham, his candidates WILL get the job, and as a result, they usually do.
- He makes you feel special. And he does this without even knowing or trying. He is interested. In you. You are his focus when you are talking to him. He remembers your wife’s name. Your kids. He asks how they are. And you can tell he is actually interested. He sends handwritten thank you notes, and he calls on your birthday. He cries when a friend is having a bad time or is seriously ill. What a great man.
Don’t get me wrong, the man is not perfect. He is Welsh for a start, and goes on about their rugby team of the ‘70s endlessly. He is not the quickest on the technology uptake, and he just smiles and pours another glass of Pinot when I talk about social media.
But he is the best hard-core recruiter I have ever worked with or against, and he has made an immeasurable contribution to countless lives, and to our industry as a whole.
He sent me a note last week after our lunch, where I had been banging on about social recruiting and change in our industry. Greg, he said, “you are an inspiration”. Typical of the man. But the truth is, Graham has inspired me for decades, and I know for a fact he has inspired many, many others too.
So to my old mate “Wheels”… I salute you!
* “Bore da” – Welsh for “Good Morning”
I am Keynote Speaker at the Global Recruiter Asian Recruitment Summit in Singapore in September. The line up of other speakers looks brilliant. ‘The Savage Truth’ readers get a 10% discount, but go via this link.