Can you tell us a bit about your professional background?
I’ve been sourcing Creative Support talent in the architecture and design industry for more than a decade, recruiting people at all levels for a range of organisations, from small independent studios to large international practices.
I’ve been lucky enough to have lived and worked in six different countries, which has given me great insight into a variety of global job markets and a strong cultural awareness and I’ve had the privilege of recruiting for some of the top architecture and design practices worldwide. I specialise in recruiting operational, administrative, marketing and all non-design roles for a practice or studio.
Tell us about your agency. How many people are you working with? Do you work only for London practices or do you cover the whole UK?
The Crowd is a specialist recruitment agency for the Architecture, Design and Creative industries. We recruit for some of the most celebrated names around – from large international architecture and design practices to small independent studios. We predominantly recruit for London, however, we also cover the rest of the UK and are also currently recruiting for roles in Asia and Europe.
The Crowd was established in 2019 by myself and Louise Constantine. We have collectively spent 20+ years working in senior roles for top design recruitment agencies in Europe, Asia, Australia and the USA. We are currently 6 people.
How do you work with a new client? For instance, do you help them to form the business descriptions of the advertised positions? Can you describe your methods that make your agency different from others?
We take time to understand our client(s) as a business, in addition to the position(s) they are recruiting for. We arrange an in-depth call/video or face-to-face meeting where possible with the client to ascertain their needs. We offer advice around the roles, advising on salaries and titles and the content of a role and we aren’t afraid to challenge this – sometimes our clients come to realise they want something different to what they originally thought through the conversation with us – someone more or less senior for instance. It’s important for us to give honest feedback and advice and our clients respect us for this. We also advise on the job market, as we’re in a great position to view it from both the client and candidate’s perspective. So it’s important we keep the client (and candidate) in the loop of what is going on out there.
Last year must have been really hard for your company. How did you cope with this condition?
Yes, it was very tough, especially for a company that had just started out 6 months before the pandemic. Firstly, we wanted our staff to feel secure about their role at The Crowd and that we would do everything in our powers to ensure they had a job and a company to come back to. We wanted to take as much stress away from them as possible – people remember how they were treated in such times and I hope we did a good job. The furlough scheme helped us as recruitment in our sector fell off a cliff edge. Fortunately, we have a fantastic network, loyal clients, a great team and my business partner Louise is very commercially minded due to her financial background, all of which helped us to navigate our way through it. This year, the job market has really started moving again, so we’re busier than ever.
I need to ask the inevitable question. What had changed after Brexit in architectural practices’ recruitment agendas?
People are hiring again, clients are busy and many seem to have strong pipelines – we are seeing a shortage of talent in the UK at the moment across the sector but I don’t think we can comment on if this is directly related to Brexit or not.
You have a very valuable insight about the way architectural and design practices work. What’s your idea about the future of their working conditions? Is remote working will be a standard option for some cases?
It varies practice to practice, some are already back working full time and aren’t offering WFH options, some are part in and part out and others are still figuring it out. It feels like companies will and are returning to the office however, some with more flexible options.
Currently, creative support positions seem to be more than architectural positions in your portfolio. What is the reason for this? Are people in these positions changing their jobs more often?
We are still very early in our years at The Crowd. To clarify, Creative Support is an umbrella term for all operational roles in a design studio from marketing and comms to finance and administration (all non-design roles which support a studio). I have always been a Creative Support recruiter, so it was natural for us to build this division first. We are growing organically and in addition to our creative support team, (myself, Corrine and Tess) we now have Meghan who specialises in interior design. Meghan has been recruiting in the industry for as long as I have and has a big network. And Juliana has recently started with us at The Crowd to recruit architects. She has a background in architecture which I think is helpful. Watch this space!
What was the most challenging position you had filled so far?
It was a Head of Finance role for an architectural studio. This is because there are a lot of technicalities to get your head around to understand the role. The client also required someone who has experience working in the industry. However, as I previously mentioned, my business partner Louise, comes from a finance background and has been super helpful when recruiting these roles, both to the candidates and the clients.
Are there any interesting memories you remember in your job?
I’m very curious about people and I like making meaningful connections. I studied psychotherapy and think this has been helpful in developing good listening skills. Often, candidates will come to me for advice on the job market or to discuss their current positions. I might present them with a few job opportunities and throughout the process they realise they’re actually quite happy where they are and they’re not ready to move jobs yet. They often just need a bit of a sound board and then they’re OK. So even if I’m not placing someone, I’m totally ok with having these kinds of conversations if it helps people, because I know they will come to me later when they’re ready. The door is always open.
In London, there is a candidate who I placed 11 years ago in their first junior marketing role. Since then, I’ve placed them 3 times and they’re now Head of Communications for a high-profile architecture studio. I’ve enjoyed watching their career progression over the years and this has been a rewarding part of my job.
I also have fond memories of living in Hong Kong and recruiting in Asia. Cantonese people are very hospitable and enjoy gifting. I was often being taken out for meals or given gifts of appreciation.
After the position has been filled, do you check if the employees or your client are satisfied?
Absolutely! We provide aftercare to both the candidate and the client – we are there for the full journey and beyond – we still speak to candidates that we placed years ago.
Before announcing a new position on various channels, do you inform the previous applicants in your CRM that have applied to you for similar positions?
When a new position comes in, we will put an update on LinkedIn firstly to get the ball rolling and this gives our network and anyone who is looking an opportunity to get in touch. As soon as that’s done, we go straight to our CRM.
Do you have any advice for creative support professionals in architecture and design who might be considering their next move?
Yes, get in touch with us for a chat. The market has picked up again and companies are hiring. So, if you’re ready for a change, now is a great time to level-up your career as there are a lot of exciting opportunities out there.