I’m Luke Hextall, the recruitment lead here at giffgaff money. My role is to identify talented folk to become future giffgaffers. I recruit every discipline in the business, from the CFO to the tea lady!
Did you attend university? If so, where did you attend and which degree did you study?
I did – the University of Abertay, Dundee. I studied Business Management with Marketing.
Did you take part in any societies during your studies and, if so, did you learn any valuable skills from your time?
I played for the university’s Gaelic football team, after an Irish mate of mine convinced me to make the switch from rugby. Not only was this one of the best things I did in my years at university, it taught me a lot of skills that translate into the working world (although I didn’t realise it at the time). There were the usual things like problem solving and working as a team, but I think the skill that has proven most valuable is relationship building. We had a team made up of people from all over the world, and Gaelic football taught me how to build lasting, meaningful relationships with people from different walks of life. This translates well into any people centric job when you leave university, especially recruitment.
How important is practical work experience when applying in today’s job market?
I certainly think it helps open the door for you. Practical work experience can be a difference maker when you are up against a hundred other graduate CVs. With that being said, not everyone is able to attain it and I certainly wouldn’t rule out candidates solely based on that. I tend to look at other factors. Did you have a job when you were at school or university? Were you part of any clubs or play any sports competitively? This can give you a great insight into the person’s characteristics and culture fit at giffgaff, which are as important to us as experience.
What work experience did you gain before attaining your current role?
Before joining giffgaff in January of this year, I spent almost four years working on the other side of the fence in agency recruitment. This was a lot different to what I do now, focusing on headhunting and sourcing candidates for my clients, as well as developing new business. With my role at giffgaff, I’ve had the chance to mould my own recruitment process that works for everyone, and as a true partner to key stakeholders in their hiring plans.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your role?
Although giffgaff are a part of Telefonica, their vision and way of working are completely different in almost every aspect. When I joined giffgaff in January of this year, the company had just moved under the O2 UK division of Telefonica and it was clear that what worked for a large organisation like O2 wouldn’t necessarily work for giffgaff. The challenge was to find harmony in the recruitment function that would suit a multi-national organisation like Telefonica from a process perspective, whilst having the flexibility that a high growth company like giffgaff required.
What key skills do you need to get into the industry? What does giffgaff look for in prospective employees?
Here at giffgaff we aren’t as much of a tick-box employer. It’s not always the case that the candidate with what would appear to be the most relevant experience gets the job. Obviously there needs to be some relevance in the candidate’s skill set versus the job description, but we tend to look more into culture fit. Are they open and collaborative? Do they have a friendly and welcoming personality? Do they leave their egos at the door? Skills can be taught easier than character and attitude.
How should applicants bring personality to their CVs?
Be genuine, warts and all. I’ve never been a fan of overly flamboyant CVs that are multi coloured or filled with pictures. Keep it simple and put only the key information and achievements in your work experience. If you have work experience already, we don’t need half a page on your education, detailing every module you took at university. It just makes it look like you’re filling space.
Everyone claims to be hard working, diligent, and a team player (who also works well individually) so that isn’t going to help you stand out. Tell us about your interests. Think of your Twitter or Instagram bio, what does it say about you? Are you a whiskey connoisseur who races motorbikes at the weekend? That’s what we want to know!
And, of course, a cardinal rule that must not be broken: when typing a CV, no comic sans.
Can you give one piece of advice you know now which you wish you had known when you started?
This is going to sound obvious, but be yourself. I think people tend to display a version of themselves that they think needs to be shown when they start a new job, there is no need for that here at giffgaff. We hired you for your personality, even your weird and wonderful traits!
What makes giffgaff stand out in the financial industry compared to similar companies?
I think it’s our community approach that has been so successful and makes us stand out. For years I think there has been a feeling that the financial industry has been unfair on a large number of people, with payday loan companies charging high interest rates to those desperately in need.
We’re taking the principles that helped giffgaff revolutionise the mobile industry and doing the same to the financial world. We’re about shaking up the way people think about their finances and building a genuine community platform to enable people peer-to-peer conversations on all things money, as well as providing cutting edge products.
How is your workplace culture (brand image) reflected in your recruitment?
We take a very informal approach to recruitment here, compared to most. First rule: no suits.
We don’t have a set interview process here, we let hiring managers roll with what they want to do. For example, the software team like to have a game of pool at the start of the interview to help get to know candidates better, whereas the Business Intelligence team like to take some candidates to the pub for a drink at the end of an interview, to see how they’d fit into the team.
Finally, all our interviews are very much two-way conversations. It’s as much about you finding out what you need to decide if this is the right place to work as it is us assessing you, no matter how trivial some things may seem. If it’s important to you that there is milk in the coffee machine at 4pm on a Friday, ask about it!
What can people do in their spare time to make themselves more employable?
Show a passion for your career. If you’re a software developer, we like to see people who live it! Working on projects on GitHub or building apps for fun – this display of passion will put you above the rest in our eyes.
What are definite mistakes others can learn from for future interviews?
Know your CV. There is nothing worse than someone who has embellished their CV and forgotten what they’ve written. Also, always prepare questions for us at the end! You don’t want an awkward silence after an interviewer asks “have you got any questions for us?” It shows you’re either not passionate or not interested in our company and you won’t be getting an invite back for a second interview. Finally, I’d say don’t complain about your current or previous employer. You may have genuine reasons for your feelings towards them, but displaying them in an interview shows us that you hold grudges and may not be a team player. If you’re asked why you’re leaving, handle it with class!
What is the worst thing someone has ever done during an interview?
Wow, good question. I think the worst thing I’ve witnessed so far is someone answering a phone during an interview. This is fine for an emergency, of course, but when he came back into the room and we asked if he needed to leave, he replied with “Nah, carry on. It was just my mate.” Unbelievable! Safe to say, he didn’t get hired.
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