Boasting more than 14 years’ worth of recruiting expertise, Michael Brennan is all about building lasting relationships and ensuring that everyone’s experience of working with MERJE is as positive as possible.
Placing a focus on diversity and inclusion, Michael is extremely well-versed in the creation, implementation and delivery of a variety of permanent and interim recruitment solutions. He is known for providing an exceptional level of service, combined with a professional and honest approach.
Here, he tells us all about relocating from across the pond, reaching his first anniversary of working at MERJE and his experiences of navigating the rigours of a new role throughout the pandemic.
Having taken on a newly created Head of Business Development role just before the pandemic hit last year, how have you found settling in during lockdown?
It really has been quite a whirlwind! It was only a couple of months from when I landed back in Manchester from New York with my life in boxes, to accepting a new role with MERJE and then a few weeks later, entering a national lockdown because of a global pandemic. It’s safe to say that this was far from the ideal introduction to the business, but a year on I genuinely feel at home, which is testament to the people I work with.
I firmly believe that another reason why I feel so settled already is the culture. It really could not be more different (in a good way) to anywhere else I’ve previously encountered. The management team encourages autonomy and this allows us all to focus on using knowledge and relationships to deliver results, rather than driving meaningless KPIs. This results in a grown up working environment which is both cohesive and passionate in equal measures.
Why did you want to join MERJE and what is your perception of the business 12 months in?
After relocating back to the UK from the US, I decided that I wanted to make a move away from the corporate world of recruitment and transition into a role which utilises my recruitment skills in a different capacity. The role with MERJE definitely ticked all of those boxes. I also wanted to join an ambitious, thriving business with a like-minded and entrepreneurial leadership team. This came across in bucket loads during my research and throughout the interview process, so more boxes were ticked and my decision was made.
Twelve months in and I can safely say that every perception I had prior to joining has been comfortably met or exceeded. I find this even more impressive given all things considered in relation to Covid-19.
You’ve had a very interesting career in recruitment, having worked for some exceptionally well-known players in the market. What has been your biggest learning experience throughout?
Time is the most valuable commodity you have, so don’t waste it. The amount of occasions during my early career when I would get to a Friday afternoon thinking where on earth has the week gone and what have I really achieved this week, month or quarter? It was eye opening. I had to learn to be methodical with my goal setting and time allocation for specific activities to ensure I can achieve the outcomes that I desire.
Another important component is removing time sappers; you have to be disciplined around not wasting time with candidates, clients or colleagues who are not as committed to processes in the way that you are. While this may sound direct, I’d encourage any recruitment professional to add up the time wasted over a quarter with said time sappers and just have a think about where that time could have been invested instead.
In your role as Head of Business Development, how have you found navigating around the direct hiring model that many firms are now utilising given the increased use of social media, specifically LinkedIn?
Clearly the direct hiring model has been around for quite some time now, but has become an increased topic of conversation over the past 12 months, with companies wanting to utilise the model more to save costs. The main benefit to internal recruitment teams is the instant access to volumes of applications from the active candidate market. The question mark remains over the quality and relevance of the responses.
Personally, I’ve found it refreshing to see a number of MERJE customers taking a more proactive approach, by engaging with us alongside their internal recruitment teams. They have seen the benefit in our ability to tap into passive talent pools and agility to turnaround suitable resumes that they simply wouldn’t have otherwise had visibility of.
By taking this two pronged approach to the market, they are ensuring that they hire the best possible talent available, as opposed to merely relying on direct applications.
What are the things you have enjoyed most in your career in recruitment, both as a consultant and more widely in any operational capacity?
Being a consultant feels like a long time ago but I instantly remember the enjoyment I had in developing long-standing client relationships. From initially working hard to get a foot in the door, to really getting under the skin of the business and its long-term plans when it came to ushering in the key hires they require to support them on that journey, and obviously the healthy bonus payments that go with it. I also found it equally rewarding, over time, to watch the careers of the candidates I supported and placed into those businesses develop and progress.
Strangely enough, my operational enjoyment is very much on a similar thread in the respect of seeing others develop. Situations that spring to mind are taking a new hire on day one who knows very little after graduation and the satisfaction of seeing them be promoted to director a few years later. Also, the organised chaos which comes as a result of aggressive hiring and training stints is a lot of fun.
What do you miss most about New York?
Where do I start answering this question? A slice from Joe’s, the steakhouses, sunset watching in rooftop bars, people watching around Times Square, walking through Central Park during the turn of the seasons, watching the Yankees and Knicks, dive bars on thirsty Thursdays, the magical feeling that Christmas brings in the city, sitting at a bar watching sport and within a few hours making a new friend. Yes, the Yanks really do love the British accent.
2020 was a year like no other. How has Covid-19 and the events of this year changed your outlook on a personal and/or professional level?
I think if it hasn’t changed your perspective in either capacity then there’s probably something wrong with you! Without trying to sound overly deep, for me it has allowed me the time to really contemplate and reflect on the values I attribute to certain aspects of my life.
For example, the thought of turning 40 during the first lockdown didn’t fill me with joy for obvious reasons. I really did want to mark my halfway to 80th year on the planet with quite the party! Yet my friends, family and work colleagues went to extraordinary lengths to make it one of the most memorable birthdays I’ve ever had. I felt extremely humbled and fortunate to have such valuable people around me who would go to such efforts with everything going on around the coronavirus. It turned out to be quite an extraordinary day.
What do you think the current hiring landscape is looking like for 2021?
I think it’s looking extremely positive, which I fully appreciate might sound bold to some people reading this so I’ll elaborate on why. Firstly, as a business, we have seen a consistent upturn in activity for over a six-month period now, resulting in more jobs, interviews and offers, meaning it's’ looking like the best Q1 in MERJE’s 10-year history.
The second factor I’m basing this on is feedback from our client base. We have an externally diverse footprint of partners who we have long-standing relationships with across the Financial Services sector. From the conversations I’ve had with these businesses, and from being privy to colleagues who have had similar discussions, it's safe to say they have similar thoughts around the 2021 hiring landscape.
What three things are you hoping for in 2021 that you missed out on in 2020?
More trips abroad. I really do need to increase the levels of vitamin D in my life.
Socialising and seeing friends and family for meals out, beers, barbecues and weekends away.
Spending more time on the golf course. I’m seriously out of practice so any invitations for games are definitely encouraged.
Finally, what would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m related to Steven Morrissey, lead singer of seminal Mancunian band The Smiths.
If you would like to talk about your 2021 business development strategy in more detail, please feel free to get in touch with Michael for a chat: firstname.lastname@example.org