Recruitment Leader Showcase – Clare Alderton

Before the Easter break, we caught up with Clare Alderton Owner and Managing Director of A1 Locum.

A1 Locums Ltd have a wealth of experience sourcing both locum and permanent staff solely within the veterinary industry.

Read below to find out now the Veterinary Industry has been affected by Brexit and how this recruitment agency is overcoming the issues.

IM Hi Clare, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today!
CA No problem, let me start by giving you a bit of background about me and the company. I’ve been in recruitment since I was 18 years old. I worked for 15 years in the construction industry down in east London. I’m more of a recruiter than a clinician in the veterinary industry. I then had a career break to have children and things that normal people do! Then went back into full time with one of our competitors. I went into the veterinary industry sort of by mistake. I’ve always had animals, I own horses and cats, I have a lot of friends within this industry, it was a lovely industry to come into. Very different to construction. Construction is a much bigger market with a lot more money to be made and also you’re dealing with big construction sites with gangs of people and teams. Whilst on the veterinary side you can be putting one vet into a one vet practice, it’s a much more personal industry.
IM When did you set up the agency?
CA I set up the agency 15 years ago, it will be our 15-year anniversary this June!
IM How exciting!
CA Yes, very exciting, it was just myself for the first 6 months then it started growing exponentially even back then, and I brought a friend of mine on board. We both had small children and we worked it from home around the kids. Back then I wouldn’t say it was a hobby but It was a bedroom company. Then it grew and grew!
IM When did you take on another member of staff?
CA We took on another staff member about three years after we started. She still works for us it will be 12 years in June that she has been with us.
IM When did you move into your first office?
CA I moved house 2 years after setting up the company. We stayed there for a couple of years in the garage, by then there was four or five of us! Three years later we decided to move to an office. That point really flipped us over, from a bunch of mums working around school hours to becoming, what I would call, a proper “grown-up” company!
IM When you started then, how did you manage your clients and candidates?
CA What we did, first of all, is put an advert in the two of the big industry journals. You probably couldn’t do it now. I put the adverts in both of them, which came out on a Friday and the phone started ringing on Monday! So from those adverts, we started getting candidates and we also got clients. My sister in law was a graphic designer so she put together a couple of generic adverts, which we sent to the publications. My best friends husband built me a very basic website, which went live at the same time, people could send emails through the website looking for work or looking for a locum. It really just went from there. We managed it all on spreadsheets for the first year, then realised we needed a CRM system which we got from a fairly local company but it was more of a permanent CRM. The CRMs we looked at only really came in two variants perm recruitment or temp recruitment. This was a problem for us because of our business model. We do temp recruitment but we invoice as perm. It’s a little bit unusual because we aren’t an employment agency, we don’t pay anybody, but we still need all the facilities. In 2008 we approached a company through contacts, who actually built us a bespoke CRM system which we are still running this day. We have bolted things on and we have a lovely guy who runs things for us. We spent two years looking at other CRMs. We actually signed up to one company but had to buy ourselves out because they promised it would do something when it didn’t. So we had given up with buying an off the shelf package CRM system because nothing fit our business model! With a lot of these CRMs a candidate will just upload a CV and receive 50 automated emails, we didn’t want any of that, we wanted to do the recruitment ourselves. A recent survey from the REC found that the most annoying thing recruiters do is sending inappropriate job vacancies. I think the one size fits all systems are guilty of this. Recruiters end up not really recruiting they are just pushing buttons and driving a CRM system. Particularly in our industry, personality does come into play with some of the positions that we are trying to fill. You do need to get to know your clients and candidates and make sure you’ve got the right candidates shortlisted. It’s no good just sending anybody into a job because they aren’t going to fit into the team.
IM How do you make sure that you appeal to your demographic?
CA We have had to adjust quite a lot in our time, we have a mixture of all ages working with us and also we have tried to balance out the gender of the recruiters, we predominantly had ladies working for us but we have tried to hire some more males.
IM I noticed you also offer WhatsApp services to your candidates, can you tell me a bit about how popular that it?
CA It’s fantastic, the majority of the work is on WhatsApp because people don’t pick the phone up anymore. I think people have forgotten that their phones are used to talk on! We WhatsApp we Facebook messenger, and these work incredibly well for us because a lot of our candidates are abroad and as long as they have Wi-Fi it’s free to phone us in the UK office. We have a lot of people phoning through WhatsApp.
IM You mentioned you have a lot of European candidates, how do you think Brexit will affect your business?
CA It’s almost like a swear word now! We have lost two of our really good locums who are living abroad, they travelled back and forth to the UK, they are no longer coming. They don’t feel welcome. We have more locums here that are Europeans. We have a German vet who travels backwards and forwards with her two cats and she will not book anything after the 29th of March because if we crash out with a no deal, she may not be able to get her cats back. There is no agreement for live and dead livestock in and out of the UK. The Spanish vet is not working with us past the 29th of March because he doesn’t know if he will be able to stay here as he is married to a British girl, he may have to apply for indefinite leave to remain. One of our biggest clients, 45% of their workforce is European so they just don’t know what’s going to happen! There has been a bit of noise made because if we go out without a deal the government is going to have to put a vet on every point of entry, all ports and airports because there is no agreement for any live or dead animals coming across the borders. A lot of vets are going to have to be commandeered to do official veterinarian work because they will have to patrol the borders. No one will be able to travel with their pets. Be it have competition horses, carcasses, live cattle, pigs and sheep, all that is going to stop.
IM So for you, this is a worrying time!
CA This is a massive deal. We currently have a shortage of veterinary staff in the UK at the moment because in 2011 the veterinary industry was taken off the skill migrant Visa. Which means we suddenly lost a huge amount of Vets particularly in the UK locum industry. The government will not put them back on which means the Australians and New Zealanders can come in on a tier 5 visa which is the equivalent to the tier 2 holiday visa, they can work for two years but they have to be 30 years or younger to actually apply for the visa, which rules out all the people in Australia and New Zealand that have perhaps sold practices. South African’s who are a big part of our industry can’t come at all because they don’t have a mobility visa. They have to come on sponsorship and take a permanent job in the UK.
IM I’d be interested to see how your industry has been affected after the Brexit date.
CA Yes, I think definitely it will be great to speak to you again and also to find out about how other industries have been affected by Brexit.
IM Great, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and I’ll speak to you in April!
CA Thanks, Isabel, speak to you soon!

If you would like to find out more about some of the issues discussed please comment below or email

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