They say it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters and when it comes to the biggest influencers in the recruitment industry, there are few better known and respected than Geoff Slade.
In fact, he is so well known and so influential, there might as well be a saying “all roads lead to Geoff” such is the broad reach of his connections.
And, when you are affectionately known throughout the industry as “the godfather of recruitment”, it goes without saying that your opinion on the industry as a whole, as well as the mistakes of the past and opportunities and threats for the future, are ones worth listening to – or reading about.
It’s been more than 50 years since Geoff began his career in recruitment and while an awful lot has changed in that time, his successes and widespread influence are a testament to his ability to play to his strengths, adapt and make key decisions based on merits and not just the traditional “rules”.
Geoff remains grounded about his achievements and influence during his five decades in the industry – including being the first president of RCSA – acknowledging the support and guidance he has received as his career has evolved, as well as the abilities of the people he employed.
“I always liked to think outside the square,” he says. “I liked to employ not just people who have worked in the industry.
“In fact, some of the most notable people I have employed had never worked in recruitment before.
“Four standouts were Andrew Banks, Louise Craw, Peter Tanner and Nanette Carroll, none of whom had a background in recruitment.
“Louise managed our office support business for over 25 years and was a rock on which the company could rely. She is now on our board. Peter moved on after six years to found Tanner Menzies.
“Nanette worked for me for 10 years and ended up being awarded the 1996 Queensland & Australian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. Andrew’s background is of course well known.
“It’s satisfying to know that not only people who worked in our industry, but people we have influenced and found jobs for have gone on to bigger and better things than we could have dreamed.”
Geoff admits he may also be known in the industry as a “tough and unreasonable” operator, acknowledging there have been many changes in leadership styles from his formative years in the 1960s.
“I would like to think that I’m regarded as hard but fair,” he says.
“Recruitment is enormously satisfying, but it’s bloody hard work.
“It’s not an exact science and demands focus and self-management and what I call purposeful productivity, strong listening and comprehension skills. When I talk of comprehension, I’m talking about what is now tested as verbal and inductive reasoning.
“A good recruiter can probe and follow questions to the end with both clients and candidates. A good recruiter can dig beneath the surface.
“One of the biggest issues I have with the current day recruiters is they think they can build relationships by phone or email. They don’t get out to meet and know their customer.
“I think good recruiters build relationship with a client – like getting married. You have to be able to talk to them about other things than where is my next assignment coming from.”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Geoff started out in accounting before moving into human resources in 1964 and then, finally, recruitment in 1967, but it could all have been so different if his dream of being a VFL footballer had been realised.
Despite being told by Melbourne Football Club that he wasn’t quite good enough, three years after he moved to the city from the country to pursue a football career, Geoff feels he “really lucked out”, albeit in a slightly unconventional way, after being thrown in at the deep end twice, and for two very different reasons.
“I returned to the country at a time a major refinery was being built on the western portside of the Mornington Peninsula and I applied for a job with the major construc