Director of Talent at Currencycloud
I think all companies will say they've got a target of 100% direct hiring. If they say they've done it, they're lying, because it's impossible.
Adam comes from a Tech recruitment background and is currently Director of Talent at Currencycloud where he is responsible for global hiring. In the last few years, he has built the Talent function at Currencycloud and has overseen almost 500 hires in various parts of the organization (Compliance, Operations, Sales, Tech, etc). Currencycloud was acquired by Visa in late 2021 and Adam is excited for what the future holds.
In this episode, we have 17 years of recruiting experience coming right at you in the form of Adam Bolton, Director of Talent at Currencycloud.
Adam joins from his lovely home office in Ireland to talk all things recruiting - from first building a team around him, to switching their interview process during Covid, to following a direct hiring approach in their talent strategy.
He also shares how important knowing the culture of a company is for a successful hiring process, and shares some funny anecdotes about interviews gone wrong, including his own unfortunate experience with a pinstriped suit and a bubblegum on a train. Listen on for the whole story.
with Adam Bolton, Director of Talent at Currencycloud
Sandra Redlich 01:29
Thanks so much for taking the time to joining us today. Adam. I see a lovely couple of pictures behind you. I'm assuming you're working from home today?
Adam Bolton 01:37
I am yes, indeed. Although these pictures are a little bit outdated. They look like babies, but my oldest is 21. And my youngest is 15. They are very outdated photos.
Sandra Redlich 01:48
Yeah. So maybe a couple of new ones about to be hanging up in the future. So where exactly is it that your home office is located?
Adam Bolton 01:59
So I'm actually based in Ireland. I'm from Essex. I'm from Essex in England, but I've been living in Ireland for about the last five years, or working from Ireland the last five years. Even more so since the pandemic, I used to travel back and forward a lot. But since the pandemic it's pretty much been working here.
Sandra Redlich 02:16
Yeah, that kind of plays right into what we are here to talk about today, which is the hiring process and the direct hiring process that your employer Currencycloud has chosen to do. So just to set the scene a little bit, as I understand it, Currencycloud is a big company, 450 employees, I think that's the last kind of number I've heard.
Adam Bolton 02:36
No, it's actually more than that. 530.
Sandra Redlich 02:38
Now, there you go. That number has climbed since we researched that, and you've been acquired by Visa last year, at the end of last year. So obviously a big company in the background of all of this. And you're in charge of the hiring process for your company. So obviously, that poses the question, how do you approach hiring that many people for such a big company? What is your strategy for your everyday job?
Adam Bolton 03:06
Yeah, so yeah, so I'm Director of Talent here at Currencycloud. And that means that I'm responsible for our global hiring. So I looked at some numbers early on, actually, and I think we've done almost 500 hires in the last couple of years. So there's a bit of attrition in there. Lots of new heads. So we've, I think it's about 450, something like that. So in terms of like, what we do, or how we go about it. So I've built the talent function here at Currencycloud from scratch. So I was the first recruiter who came in, there was somebody here doing some sort of talent role, it was more reliant on inbound applications. So I came in and sort of pretty much set up the talent function in terms of like outbound talent attraction. And so we built it based around sort of - in recruitment agencies they call them vertical markets -which is like having a very specialized niche area. Incidentally, I call them pillars. So we've got people that specialize in various areas. And because of the volumes of hires that we've had to do in the specialized areas we've had to do, we've kind of built the team up with various pillars. So we have like a tech and product recruitment team, sales, compliance and operations. So it's kind of built as like a well oiled machine that services the needs of Currencycloud.
Sandra Redlich 04:30
You've said before that you've been with Currencycloud for a while, and you've set that whole team basically up from the get go. How has that changed? How is your approach to that changed, if it has changed? I'm assuming the last two years have done something to your hiring process. Give us an insight about your journey in that position.
Sandra Redlich 04:50
That's a perfect segue over to the main topic of our conversation today, which is the kind of spicy headline of direct hiring versus using an agency, a talent agency. And you've just answered that question just before saying that you were doing it in house, you were using a little bit of a hybrid model for in between periods of time, but you've chosen to do it in house and to do direct hiring. What's the reasoning for that?
Adam Bolton 04:50
I suppose the main difference or the main thing that's changed is obviously that everything's now remote. So when I first joined, whenever you would be interviewing someone, it would be in person, like you might do a few phone screens with people, but there would be like an in person sort of thing. So at Currencycloud we made the decision very early on in the pandemic, that we would be remote first. And we would never go back to being an office based company. What we have done is like, we still only interview remotely, there's no coming into the office to meet people. We're quite geographically dispersed, particularly around the UK. So the main challenge has been taking that from like your in person interviews to doing things online. And I think it was an easy transition for us in terms of the configuration, because we use Google Hangouts, right, everyone actually used to work one day a week from home. So we were very well set up in that respect. From a candidate perspective, though, people weren't always used to doing interviews online. So what we did was we built out like some candidate packs. So we sent people basically like 'How to interview online'. And we have step by step, you know, with screenshots, and introductions and how to get online and that kind of thing. So I think that's been the main challenge, in terms of over the last few years, how we've grown, and then how the team has grown. And there's not been any major differences in terms of how we build it. So as I mentioned, the pillars. But what we did have to do was there was a lot of growth in North America, and Singapore for APAC expansion. So what we did was I hired people in those two geographic areas, but there wasn't enough hires to have full time recruiters. So what we did was, I hired people that had like a sort of dual hybrid HR and recruitment background. So they kind of run the whole people focus or people function in this area's because it would be too expensive to do all those hires through recruitment agencies. And there wasn't enough that someone would just focus on talent.
Adam Bolton 07:44
So we've got this target, right. And I think all companies will say they've got a target of 100% direct hiring. If they say they've done it, they're lying, because it's impossible. But we want to get as close as possible to 100%, right. And kind of the reasoning for that was, I joined originally, so my background is tech. I'm a tech recruiter. I've done it for many, many years since like 2005. And I came in because we had a big ramp up in tech hires that we needed in software engineering. So I came on to help them. When we saw the value of the internal model, it was just a no brainer, like we replicated it out into other parts of the business and we've been able to drive down the cost. So that for me, there's two things on direct hiring, right? Number one is, there is a massive cost saving, right? So I looked at my numbers earlier. In 2021, we saved on the bottom line, so after paying recruiters, salaries and all that kind of thing, or the tools we use, we saved 1.7 million. And this year, so far, we've actually saved 1.75 million already on a bottom line number. But what you also get is you have a team of people who work here, right? You know what life is like at Currencycloud when you're talking to candidates, you know the business, you know how things operate, you know the hiring managers, you know the sort of people that succeed at Currencycloud. And as a result, it leads to better hires. Last year, for example, in terms of probationary periods, I think we had out of nearly 200 hires, no 250 hires we made last year, and 3 people had their probation extended. So pretty much everyone would be passing their probation. So I just feel that it gives a... Because you know what you're looking for in the business and you know what succeeds. When you're on the agency side, you don't. You can, after a number of years working with a client, understand their business, but you don't live it, you don't go and sit in the office, during the pandemic no one was in the office. But like nowadays, you know, you can't go and sit with those colleagues and work together. So I think it makes a big difference in the caliber of candidates that you hire. And that's something that's been echoed throughout the business. Like since we started doing this, which is about two and a half years now, the caliber of candidate that comes through is strong. And it saves the managers time as well, right? Because the recruitment team are filtering out the candidates. So it means that the hiring managers are spending less time doing interviews and more time making hires and getting on with the jobs.
Sandra Redlich 10:48
How do your recruit recruiting managers then manage to build up a big enough talent pool to be able to bring in these better candidates that have this perfect fit for the company, because they can combine the knowledge of the culture with the company with the knowledge of the candidates, but for that they need to know the candidates. So I'm just wondering how can they make up for that big talent pool that recruitment agencies probably have?
Adam Bolton 11:13
Well, recruitment agencies do have a big talent pool, right. But you also have to remember that we live in times where the recruitment agencies don't have access to any other tools than we do, you know, we have the same access to the same tools. In fact, we have more, because we have portals and platforms that are designed specifically for internal use. So direct companies approaching people directly, who have their profiles set up with these things. So we actually have more options. We also live in times of GDPR, right, particularly in Europe, and GDPR, we only hold on to candidates data for as long as is necessary. For us that is six months. And recruitment agencies will probably be about the same. So they might have access to perhaps a big talent pool. But for us, we knew that we have access to the same tools. But our talent pool doesn't need to be massively vast, our talent pool needs to be specified on the roles that we hire for. So we only care about the candidates that we're interested in, not the entire market. So because we have the teams and the set up in the teams, they do a lot of outbound direct sourcing. So they're still able to build a pipeline of candidates to come through into the business for the hires that we need to make. Occasionally, you do draw a blank, and you do need to look to agencies for a little bit of assistance on certain positions. But generally, like we're at 9.5% agency use this year so far. So we've got under 10%. So we're able to do something right there. Because the pipeline has been built.
Sandra Redlich 12:54
What are your if you are allowed to, or you want to share, what are your main channels or pathways to finding these candidates? What's your secret?
Adam Bolton 13:06
I don't actually think necessarily there's a big secret in recruitment personally, right? I think it's the best recruiters that I've ever worked with, do the same thing time and time again, right? They have a formula that works. And they just continue, they rinse and repeat that formula, right? For me, it's about, you know, things like LinkedIn. Right? LinkedIn is the number one tool for this sort of stuff, right? I've been using LinkedIn since about 2006, when it wasn't that, so it started out as like this business networking thing and then realized the power of it was in like jobs and stuff from recruiters and recruitment agencies. So I don't think there's necessarily a secret. It's just hard work, being switched on. And having that formula that you repeat, right. So for me, it's reaching out to candidates in a timely manner, with relevant information that gets their interest, right. And you send like a couple of messages, see if you can try and get people on board. But one of our bosses used to say: it's a numbers game. It is, right. It's making sure that you're approaching enough people, if you know that it takes you 25 reach outs to get one response and you need to hire 4 people - you need to do the math, right. And then make sure that you come through with enough people. So yeah, we do use other platforms. There's good tech hiring platforms, like hacker job is one that we use. So we do use those platforms. But yeah, just having your process for me is what makes sense.
Sandra Redlich 14:43
Yeah. How big of a role in your opinion plays knowing the culture of the company you're hiring for in the hiring process, because I know you've mentioned it is super important to actually know what's going on and to actually know who you're hiring for, not just in terms of who the company is but also how the corporation operates and which candidate would fit in. Will that make a massive difference, in your opinion, to a hiring agent that can't provide that insight?
Adam Bolton 15:10
Yeah, I mean, it's not that they can't, right. But there's an extra step in the process of the candidates, right. And we know there's a war on talent, it's a candidate driven market, you're adding extra steps in because they won't know all those answers. When people jump on my team screen, every single candidate that comes through, they don't get to the hiring managers unless we've screened them. So when we're doing that screening process, 99 times out of 100, we know the answers to the questions they're going to ask because we work here. We know what our benefits look like, we know what an average day looks like, you know, and people can ask us like how you feel about Currencycloud. And, you know, we've got not massive amounts of longevity, because I've only had the team in place for a couple of years, but they can see that people are sticking around. And you know, you can talk about those things, you can talk about those sort of figures around people staying and things like that. So I think from an agency perspective, it just adds an extra layer, an extra step that they need to jump from.
Sandra Redlich 16:13
Now, the big topic of global hiring. I know you've said that you are hiring remote position, for remote positions anyways, all throughout the UK. Is that still focused on UK or Europe, though? Or are you globally hiring now?
Adam Bolton 16:31
So we are FCA regulated. So we're a bit restricted on where we can hire, you know, we can't just pull people from any country and just employ them, because of the FCA regulations for us. But we hire people in the UK, Netherlands, the US and Singapore. So there where we have entities that we operate, and we have multiple people in those locations.
Sandra Redlich 17:01
And how do you manage to know your talent or to have your focus groups in these specific markets because I'm assuming that opening your hiring process up to hiring not just locally, but also some sort of internationally in these different markets, means, obviously, you have to find the talent there, which is easy using the tools that you described. But there's also a different maybe cultural background that you kind of need to be aware of when you're hiring in certain other areas. How do you manage these specific challenges?
Adam Bolton 17:31
So for me, I think it's just important that we have people on the ground in those locations, who are from those locations, or at least have lived in those locations for a few years. Because, like you say, there certainly are a lot of cultural differences. Singapore is a perfect example of this, there's a lot of different cultural things that we wouldn't have been aware of previously. And it's having somebody there that kind of acts as an advisor around those things, you know, that helps us to ensure that we are being as inclusive as possible when it comes to our hiring. And when it comes to, you know, onboarding, pre boarding, you know, when we're bringing people on post onboarding, when they've started with the company, you know, what do we need to take into consideration for these different locations. And when you try to do it, before I joined Currencycloud, we opened the US office, and it was all managed from the UK. And as a result, a lot of like the UK or the US benefits, for example, were quite UK centric, because we've kind of set them up just with how we would do things. And then when we hired someone in the US, they were like, Yeah, we don't really do that. And, you know, we had to sort of adjust quite a lot of things. So I think it's super important to have people on the ground. I think if you don't have enough work for somebody to do full time, then I would 100% use local recruiting, local staffing agencies in those industries because they understand the local market.
Sandra Redlich 19:16
Well, I can't not ask this because you mentioned in the introduction that we did that you have 17 years of experience in the hiring, HR world. Do you have any funny, weird stories from your interview processes, anything that you probably shouldn't say, but I want you to say?
Adam Bolton 19:36
Oh, I wish you'd sent me an email first and made me think about it, you're putting me on the spot. I remember a few years, I'm actually going back a lot of years now, when I was working in an agency. We had a guy go for an interview, and they rang me afterwards and said, you know, we're not going to proceed with this guy. Because he turned up to the interview in shorts and a T shirt, which is probably more acceptable now, right? We could do it in Currencycloud and no one would care because we have a casual dress policy. Turned up in shorts and a T shirt. And when the interviewer asked him to come in, he said he was playing on his Gameboy. And he said, I just need to finish this level, I'll be in in a minute. I remember I actually had one, I wrote a blog article actually thinking about it now. If I could try and find it. There's like five interview mishaps or something?
Sandra Redlich 20:25
We have to link that in our show notes.
Adam Bolton 20:27
And there's one about me in there as well. So when I was much, much younger than I am now, and I was going interviewing for my first jobs in recruitment, I managed to sit on bubble gum on the train. And I was wearing like a pinstripe suit. And I ended up because I couldn't get the chewing gum off, I end up going into a shop and buying a pen and drawing the line through the chewing gum.
Sandra Redlich 20:54
I hope you have a photo of that somewhere.
Sandra Redlich 20:56
I don't have a photo, but it definitely happened.
Sandra Redlich 21:00
We have to make sure to link that article so people can read up on these other mishaps.
Adam Bolton 21:06
Yeah, I used to do like guest articles for the undercover recruiter. It definitely still exist there somewhere. Because occasionally I'll get like a bit of traffic coming through to my Twitter and things like that.
Sandra Redlich 21:17
Yeah. That's amazing. Well, with all of that experience that you can look back onto, there's also a lot of future still ahead of us. Exciting things are happening for Currencycloud, and exciting things are happening in the world of work. We've especially seen that over the last two years. So in your opinion, what is next? What are the new next challenges that the HR world or the recruiting world will face? And what is next for Currencycloud in particular?
Adam Bolton 21:48
Yeah, I think after thinking about this recently, I think there'll be more automation, as the AI tools get smarter. I think for bulk hiring, that AI tools can do a job at the moment, right? Because you can have multiple choice questions, and it will filter out the people that just aren't relevant. So I think the bulk hiring, that works. Pretty much all of our roles are specialist roles. So for the specialist positions, that AI, it's not quite there yet. I think it will get there, I think that it will play a much bigger part in our daily lives, in terms of recruitment. And I think that we'll also look at people staying in jobs for shorter periods of time. And, you know, I think gone are the days when people dedicate their lives, like my dad worked for Ford Motor Company, I think, for 37 years, you know, and all of his friends work in their companies for so many years. I think, you know, nowadays, get two years out of someone you've done quite well. I think that will come more and more acceptable, particularly coming out of the pandemic, where people are like, you know, I'm not going to sit doing something that makes me unhappy. Life's too short, I'm going to make sure I do something that keeps me happy. So I think that's a challenge for employers, to keep their employees engaged and to keep the longevity because, you know, when people leave, they take a lot of knowledge with them, you know, that you've built, you've spent a lot of time building that knowledge up. So I think that'll be a challenge. And I think, flexibility as well, I think a lot of companies will move away from the 9 to 5, I think there'll be a lot more flexibility in terms of when you work and where you work. I think that the 9 to 5 is outdated, you know, with my team, I say to them, when you're productive work, I don't mind. Don't burn the candle at both ends. But when you're most productive, that's when you feel free to work. I'm a morning person, I get up at half 5 in the morning and go to the gym, I come home, you know, I start working and I'm very productive in the mornings and early afternoon. You can ask my wife in the evenings, I fall asleep watching TV at about7 or 8 o'clock. Some of my team are the opposite way round, and they're very productive in the evenings and find that that's a really good time to reach out to candidates because candidates aren't at work. So I think we'll see a bit of a shift in terms of working practices and working patterns as well. Those 3 are my next 10 years, I think those things will come more prominent.
Sandra Redlich 24:34
Well, sounds like it's gonna stay interesting. And there's probably a lot more to talk about in the future with these new practices coming in. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. It was an absolute pleasure. And yeah, enjoy the rest of your day. Enjoy your morning. As you said, it's morning for you right now. So enjoy your productivity and have a good rest of your day.
Adam Bolton 25:00
No worries. Thank you Sandra, appreciate you taking the time to have a chat with me.
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