With a strong background in Compliance and Financial Crime, Emilia Thomashas built an extensive network of established relationships, priding herself on making sure that her clients get to know her as a friend, as well as a consultant.
Emilia joined team MERJE during lockdown 1.0 and here she describes what her role encompasses, her highs over the past 12 months and the challenges she has faced in the wake of the pandemic.
What is your current role and remit at MERJE?
I’m currently a Compliance & Financial Crime consultant, focusing on Financial Services vacancies across London and the south east.
You are coming up to your one-year anniversary with the business; what has been your biggest highlight during the last 12 months?
There have been a lot of highlights over the last 12 months but the main one has been successfully placing candidates who have all been so deserving of their roles, particularly in such a difficult market. I particularly love receiving progress updates from candidates who I have placed when they are just a couple of weeks or months into their new roles.
I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know and understand such a vast client base over the past year. It’s been really interesting working across different sectors and finding out just how every business operates. I work within a fantastic team and that has been so rewarding.
You joined MERJE during the first national lockdown. How have you found settling into the business, getting to know new colleagues and largely working from home throughout your first year?
Settling into MERJE has been amazing! Everyone was so welcoming from day one, I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues to help me out when starting remotely. Everyone has been so supportive, always happy to help and just a great bunch of people. Something that really surprised me was how collaborative the business actually is and I don’t think you get that in other recruitment agencies! Don’t get me wrong, working from home was a challenge in the first few weeks, especially starting out in a new business, but once you get into a routine, it does make life a lot easier.
What attracted you to recruitment and why Compliance and Financial Crime?
I think a lot of people say they “fall” into recruitment and I have to agree! Recruitment was never something I’d thought about as a career until I worked in a specialist Compliance and Financial Crime recruitment firm as a summer job while studying at university. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up staying there for another two years! It was an area that was new to me and something I found that I really enjoyed so it seemed like a perfect fit. I’m also a very chatty person and I don’t stop talking a lot of the time, so spending my days talking to both clients and candidates seemed like the perfect option.
The majority of people haven’t stepped foot into their company office for almost 12 months now. How have your clients and candidates adjusted to this “new normal” and do you think home working is now starting to take its toll on people and their mental well-being?
I think people adjusted surprisingly well, especially when things changed so dramatically over such a short space of time. Now that we’ve been in lockdown for quite a long time, I think it is getting harder for everyone, myself included. Everything has, of course, gone digital, and while there have been a few technical difficulties along the way, I do believe that everyone has adapted really well to this new environment. Pre-pandemic I can honestly say that I had never used Zoom and now it has become a part of my daily life, much like everyone else!
As for mental well-being, I think having the good weather and longer days during the first lockdown really helped us get through the difficult times. Lockdown 3.0 feels a little different. It doesn’t help that the weather is pretty grim and it’s dark by the time we finish the working day! I think it’s really important to have a supportive network around you, both at work and outside of it, as well as trying to keep positive. Life won’t be like this forever!
Covid-19 has changed the recruitment experience significantly for both employers and employees, with pretty much all interviews and inductions carried out online now. In your opinion, has the hiring process been transformed forever and are face-to-face interviews now a thing of the past?
I really hope that face-to-face interviews will return at some point. While everyone is coping well with online interviews and inductions, the conversations I’m having with both clients and candidates show that in-person interviews are still very much the preferred process.
There are some great benefits to online interviews, such as a quicker process and a wider talent pool as remote working is now more accessible and cost-effective. However, I think that people do need human contact. It’s also great when candidates go for an interview and they really get a feel for the business and the offices, something which will always be important. I don’t think it has been transformed forever, a lot of companies will be keen to schedule face-to-face interviews again, but there is no denying that online interviews do have their benefits!
In your experience, have the events of the past 12 months impacted people's desire to change roles? When they do, have you noticed a change in their key priorities when considering a new position, such as salary, benefits, flexibility and culture?
Definitely! I think being stuck at home has made people think about what they have, what is important to them and their mental well-being. In terms of priorities, all of the above elements have always been important, but now with the impact of working from home, many people will have reconsidered what they feel is most important to them.
For some people flexibility is now a huge part of their job requirements as they don’t need to be in the office five days a week. Working from home effectively for the last 12 months has certainly proved this. For others, the unpredictability of the current market means that they need to focus on higher salaries and a wide range of benefits so they can feel secure in their current position. Now, during a lot of the conversations I am having, culture fit is the most important factor. People need to feel supported in their role and part of a team, especially at a time when human contact isn’t possible.
During the pandemic, what have you missed most about normal London life?
Where do I start! I’ve missed after work drinks, going out with my friends, rooftop bars, lunches out and seeing my family. The list goes on and on, I honestly can’t wait for life to return to normal.
Finally, what would people be surprised to learn about you?
Everyone who knows me will agree that I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I love skiing. My family live in the Alps and I’ve been skiing since I was three-years-old. If I wasn’t working in recruitment, I’d be running a ski school!