Career pathways into tech #8: internal recruiter

24 October 2021

Sarah Woodhall is an internal recruiter at Opencast. In the latest of our career pathways into tech posts, Sarah tells us about her role and how she became a recruiter.

What does an internal recruiter do?

“Some companies or organisations will use external, third-party recruitment agencies to find and onboard new members of staff – others will use an internal team, which is what we have at Opencast. My responsibilities include working with managers to write job ads; advertising job opportunities; designing and implementing employee referral programmes; sourcing candidates; screening applications; helping interviews; evaluating candidates on interview performance and providing feedback if needed; updating job descriptions; helping new hires onboard.

“Obviously at the moment we’re recruiting and onboarding virtually, but to be honest, this works really well and we’ve had some great feedback from those we’ve had in the process.”

A woman wearing a light brown blazer and glasses and smiling
"We’re looking for people who know a lot, but still want to learn – people who aren’t afraid of hard work or a challenge"
How did you start your career in Opencast and could you describe your journey?

“Like others I know working in recruitment, I stumbled into it really. After leaving school I started working in the beauty industry, but after a while I realised progression or promotion was going to take some time. I decided to become a teacher so completed an education and training foundation degree at Newcastle College. I specialised in special educational needs (SEN) teaching and started agency work. I worked at several schools in Newcastle and Northumberland. After a couple of years I took a year off – I moved to New York and worked at Camp America for six months before travelling around the US for a few months.

“I then returned home and signed up for more agency work. However, work was hard to find and I was finding the hunt for work and the work itself very stressful and mentally and physically demanding. A friend was working at Nigel Frank International (a recruitment company) and I thought the work sounded interesting so applied, and got the job. It was a great place to start and the training was excellent.

“I went on to work with NRG and then the Ronald James Group, working in the digital and tech sector.

“I was made redundant from Ronald James, but on the same day I had a call from Lorna Madden, Head of Recruitment at Opencast. I’d been thinking for some time about working as an internal recruiter and the timing could not have been better, so I applied for the job – and got it!”

Is there a normal route into recruiting?

“It’s one of those careers which has all sorts of different entry points – although a lot of people have HR backgrounds.”

How have you found Opencast as an employer?

“I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. I feel valued, an equal and that my opinions count. I was very keen to study for my level 3 certificate in in-house recruitment, but couldn’t afford to do the qualification. Opencast paid for my training to take the certificate – and I passed! Opencast are on an exciting journey to become a much bigger company and I want to be part of that journey.”

What makes a good recruiter?

“I’d say three things: first of all patience, the process can be very slow at times; secondly good time management, there’s always so much going on you have to stay on top of everything and use your time well; and lastly, you need to take care of your mental and physical health – there is a lot of stress involved so you need to look after yourself.”

As a recruiter, how do you persuade candidates that Opencast is different to other companies?

“That’s easy – it’s the culture. We are an open, honest company that really values our people and trusts them to do their job. We have a flat management structure, everyone’s voice matters and it feels like a family-run company despite the fact we’re growing so quickly.

The tech sector is very competitive in terms of jobs and recruitment, particularly in the north east, but we have a really good name and reputation and that certainly helps.”

What are you looking for in an Opencast recruit?

“We’re looking for someone who is technically brilliant, but who also has fire in their belly. We’re looking for people who know a lot, but still want to learn; people who aren’t afraid of hard work or a challenge – and have the ability to tackle a challenge head-on. Lastly, we’re also looking for people who want to make a difference.”

What jobs are you recruiting for at the moment?

“A wide range of roles – all kinds of developers (Java, Scala, front-end developers) including .net developers who are looking to upskill; we’re also looking for business analysts; QAs; scrum masters; and people to join our user-centred design (UCD) team.”

A day in the life

“My day starts really early – I get up at 6am and have my black coffee before going to the gym for 6.30am. I’ll get home, have breakfast and then go for a walk and some fresh air before starting work at 8.30am.

“We have a set meeting every day at 9.45am when we have a daily update and then it will be head down with internal meetings, meetings with prospective candidates or planning.

“I break for lunch at noon and I think it’s important to take a proper break from my screen, so I’ll go for another walk before starting work again at 1pm.

“I’ll try to finish at 5pm, but one evening a week I’ll work late – through to 6.30pm or 7pm.

“We have a weekly meeting on a Friday to look back on the week and plan for the week ahead, and we also have regular health and wellbeing meetings too.”

What do you do outside of work?

“As well as going to the gym every day, I enjoy walking in the countryside and spending time with my partner. We’ve just got two kittens – Jasper and Toby – and we have leashes for them so we sometimes take them for a walk too.”

Recruiter reading
  1. I’ve recently listened to a Recruitment Now podcast which talked a lot about reducing stress within recruitment. It shared tips around making sure you’re having regular breaks, considering working in chunks and then getting up and going for a small walk and doing some meditation on your lunch break or getting out for some fresh air to have that separation. 
  2. I love the TalentLyft website which has interesting blogs about recruitment marketing, and useful email templates which have worked so well for me when engaging with candidates. I love this blog in particular as we’ve begun incorporating video interviews at initial stages to try and reduce candidates moving through the process who aren’t the right culture fit for us. 
  3. I read to find out industry trends and to see what other companies are doing around technology.