Interview With James Mowat, Team Manager International
James Mowat is one of the longest serving members of our team having joined Energi People in 2006 to grow our international desk. In this interview James talks about his role, what it’s like working at Energi People and also recruiting in the building services and construction engineering fields. Read on for his insights.
Jemma Kittle: What do you do at Energi People? Tell me a bit about your role
James Mowat: “I recruit building services design engineers internationally, across the globe, so from Europe all the way through to Singapore. The Middle East has been my prime hub for recruitment for the last 13 years, but we’re looking to grow and diversify that. So that’s my core focus. Along with that I lead the team that recruit for building services design engineers in the UK and also a Caribbean construction and facilities management desk as well!”
JK: Before Energi People where did you work and how did you arrive at where you are now?
JM: “Before Energi People I actually used to work in the Aldershot Job Centre, helping and guiding people to find work. This gave me a bit of a passion for recruitment, I enjoyed seeing people turn their lives around. I then approached Adecco and had just under a year’s worth of work with them, focused on commercial and industrial recruitment. A friend of mine used to work for Energi People and I arrived here as a consultant in 2006 to help grow the international desk.
“From thereon we grew the team but in 2008, the year of the economic crash, Alex [Managing Director Alex Christie] had to downsize the team. I went and did my own thing for 18 months, and then after Alex had remodelled the business I re-joined in 2013 as a Principal Consultant and progressed up to Team Manager after that.
“How I’ve got to where I am now in terms of development has been down to the support of the directors, growth, tenacity, commitment to my desk (and the team and the business) and the support of the people who surround me.”
JK: What is your vision for Energi People / your desk?
JM: “My vision for Energi People is to be the global choice for building services recruitment, structures recruitment, IT and project management, and to diversify into more sectors across the construction engineering field. For my desk, my vision and goals are to grow more within the Middle East and also to have other consultants working in the Far East, US and European markets.”
JK: Tell me a bit about Energi’s values, what they are and why.
JM: “Our values spell out the word ‘Pride’. Firstly, ‘professional’ – everyone in the office conducts themselves in a professional manner and in any situation where they are representing the company inside or out. ‘Relationships’ as that’s literally what recruitment is all about, building relationships with clients, candidates and internally as well. ‘Independent’, we are an independent business but also the consultants carry that to their desks; effectively they run their desks as independent businesses. ‘Dedicated’, every consultant is dedicated to the success of the business and their desk. ‘Excellent’, personally I think we are the best from a building services and structural engineering perspective, but we also need to communicate that to our clients and candidates too.”
JK: Since joining / starting Energi People how has the company evolved and why?
JM: “When I returned in 2013, the company had evolved hugely. We’ve gone from just structural engineering and building services design in the UK and internationally, to now covering project management and quantity surveying in the UK, there’s a CAD team, also a civils team, an IT desk, we have an accounts department and the ‘fabmin’ team as we call them!
“The progression of the business across every single sector has been amazing in the five years I’ve been back. There’s also more of an infrastructure within the business that helps people succeed, and so much investment from the directors in growing the business and keeping the team happy.”
JK: How has the recruitment industry changed since you started your career?
JM: “When I started in 2005 in recruitment, everything was done on the phone and relationships were probably more important. Back then the information you had on a client or candidate was crucial because no one else knew it. Of course now, all you need to do is search using a job title or a company and you can find the right person on LinkedIn and other sites.
“Digital transformation works to our advantage in other ways. We can Skype someone half way around the world, which we couldn’t really do back in 2005. So we can reach people around the globe and that’s made a big difference when you’re recruiting for international companies.
“Back in 2005 data protection laws weren’t really an issue. Since then we’ve had GDPR which has had a massive impact on how we work. Hopefully it will sift out some of the cowboys within the recruitment industry, who do tend to work in not such a professional manner.”
JK: What about the future, what innovations and developments do you expect to see in the next 5 years?
JM: “Lots of people are talking about artificial intelligence and how that’s going to change the whole recruitment industry, saying there’s not going to be a need for recruiters anymore. I don’t believe that. I think there’s quite a lot of benefits to AI in terms of CV searches and filtering, but you cannot take the personal touch out of recruitment.
“We build relationships with candidates and clients, and they trust us. They won’t have the same relationship with a bot, and they need someone to talk to about their career or recruitment challenges – they want that personal touch.”
JK: What is Energi’s company culture like? What aspects of it attract new recruits to the company?
JM: “It’s amazing, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been here for almost 13 years. There’s such a collaborative feel in the office, everyone wants everyone else to do well. There’s no one that backstabs or that top drawers candidates or jobs. Everyone asks how everyone is doing, we all celebrate together and, if there’s a fail, we all fail together.
“There’s a real team, almost like a family culture within the business. For new recruits that’s massive. In terms of the on boarding process, culture has been instrumental to the success of the business. Making people feel welcome from day one across the whole business. There’s also a clear picture from the get go of how new recruits can achieve a successful career, and we want them to and will support them throughout.”
JK: What about clients and candidates, how does Energi’s culture and values influence or impact them?
JM: “Our culture and values impacts everyone in the sense of how we conduct ourselves, whether on the phone, face-to-face etc. We’re not stereotypically recruitment consultants, we’re not hard salesmen at all. We believe in developing long standing relationships with businesses and partnering with them, as well as helping candidates develop their careers. Changing jobs can be a life changing event, so we need to support them, guide them and actually use that second word in our job title – consultant!
“We’re always very professional, helpful and always trustworthy. That’s why we’ve managed to retain business with some of the largest companies in the world for over 15 years.“
JK: What qualities do you look for in a recruitment consultant?
JM: “I look for confidence and honesty. Integrity is a massive thing if you want to be in recruitment for a long time. You will not get anywhere if you lie to everyone, if you have no integrity at all, and if you’re just in it for a quick buck. We want long term relationships with clients and candidates, so there’s no room for people who don’t share our values.“
JK: What career progression can a trainee or new recruit expect at Energi?
JM: “Whether they’ve come with a couple of months or absolutely zero recruitment experience at all, the career progression at Energi is phenomenal. We’ve seen people develop all the way to Senior Consultant in 12 months, and consultants getting up to a Principal level in 2 years. Part of that is due to the training and on boarding that everyone gets, and the genuine support that every consultant receives from the whole management team.”
JK: How does the leadership team at Energi support the team and help them be successful?
JM: “The leadership team are absolutely amazing in terms of supporting the whole business. That comes from investment for training, through to the open door policy from the managers to the directors, Managing Director and our Non-Exec Director as well. If you need to talk you can, whether you’re doing well or not so good. You’ll always be supported in every sense.
“Communication throughout the business is fantastic from top to bottom. Everyone knows where they stand, there’s clear sales figures for everyone to see, and in terms of client development the directors go out with consultants and give them insight at a higher level. Personally, my team and I get a huge amount of support – allowing us to fly around the world visiting out clients and candidates.
“The leadership team are more than happy to invest in everyone, so we can all do well.”
JK: What is the market like in technical recruitment and the industries Energi specialises in? Is it a good time to be in recruitment?
JM: “It’s absolutely booming in the UK, Europe and internationally. If someone’s looking to move from a high street agency, or a recruitment agency that’s not so specialist and niche, I think it’s an amazing move.
“I first starting doing high street commercial recruitment and didn’t really have a focus, now I’ve got a niche and that’s far more rewarding.
“The thing I love about it is our involvement (however small) in a project. When I visit Dubai, there are massive projects that I’ve been involved in, albeit on a small scale. It’s great to have placed a number of people on that project, and who knows maybe it wouldn’t have delivered on time if it wasn’t for them. That’s what gives me fulfilment, contributing to projects all around the world whether it be data centres, airports or high rise buildings. I think you’ll get a greater sense of fulfilment from that than, with all due respect, placing someone in a retail environment or something like that.”
JK: What are the key challenges companies face when recruiting candidates in your area of expertise? What’s your top piece of advice for companies in this position?
JM: “In the UK building services industry the main challenge is actually finding candidates! There’s a huge shortage of candidates within the industry and we see a lot of placements fall through when the recruitment process is prolonged. When interviews aren’t arranged quickly enough, or decisions take too long, companies lose candidates. There’s an old saying in recruitment that ‘time kills all deals’ and that’s the biggest challenge for me – to get companies to move quickly to secure candidates.
“They’ve also got to be competitive, but it’s not just about money. For a lot of candidates it’s also about development and opportunities. However, it’s not just our job to sell an job opportunity to the candidate, companies also need to sell it too. It’s as essential for the interviewer to sell the job and company to the interviewee, as it is for the interviewee to sell themselves and their experience to the interviewer.”
JK: What is the biggest challenge candidates face when looking for a new role? What’s your top tip for candidates in the current job market?
JM: “In the Middle East, at the minute, it’s all about business development and recruiting candidates that can go out and win work. So candidates need to sell themselves and their achievements. What projects have you won, what can you do for the business in terms of their growth and development?
“At the moment in the Middle East it’s not really booming, but it looks like it will be next year, which is why companies are investing quite a bit of money in bringing in senior individuals who can actually go out and win work to help their businesses grow.”
JK: How do you take your tea / coffee, and are you a dunker? If so what’s the best biscuit to dunk?
JM: “Coffee is an absolute must, I need 1 or 2 before I can actually function for the day. Strong with one sugar and milk. It has to be strong and sometimes – people think I’m a bit of a weirdo – I have honey instead of sugar – it tastes really nice! I’m not much of a biscuit eater, not because I’m an athlete or anything! But if I were to choose it would have to be a double chocolate cookie.”
JK: What gives you job satisfaction, what makes you leap out of bed every morning?
JM: “The people around me, my team but also the wider business. Involvement in projects goes beyond satisfaction and gives me fulfilment, walking passed a building or tower and knowing that we’ve had some involvement in that project.
“Also, the impact we can have on people’s lives in terms of developing their career. That includes staff within the business as well, seeing them grow, but also seeing candidates flourish in their career because of the help we’ve provided them. I’ve had candidates who I’ve placed in Dubai be nominated or win awards and that feels incredible to be part of.”
JK: What do you like to do outside of work?
JM: “I love the gym – although recently I haven’t been going as much because of a shoulder injury. I’m also a typical Manchester United fan from Hampshire, I love football. Don’t judge me but I have actually been to Old Trafford! Travelling too, I absolutely love seeing the world and experiencing different cultures and learning more about people around the world.”
JK: What are your plans for future? Where do you (and Energi) plan to be in 5 or 10 years time?
JM: “Personally I would love to see Energi opening international offices. It’s looking very likely that we will have a Caribbean office in the next 5 to 10 years, also an office in Dubai and in the Far East to support our global clients.
“I would love to see the business get up to 50 staff in the next few years to support our growth plans and diversify into different sectors within the construction engineering fields. We want to be the global choice for building services, structural engineering and IT recruitment.”
JK: Tell us a secret – share something surprising about yourself!
JM: “I’m an amazing cook! I love cooking and trying new cuisines. My speciality is Thai, but I’ll try my hand at anything apart from baking. Disclaimer – no cakes will be made in my kitchen!”
I hope you found these insights from James interesting. If you are looking for a role in building services, to work overseas or for support with your company’s recruitment, get in touch with James here.
As James revealed in his interview Energi People are expanding, so if you would like to join our growing team please get in touch. In the first instance send your CV with a covering letter / email to me to this address – [email protected]