Talent spotting

As the reality of the industry’s recruitment crisis takes hold, Paul Crow, MD of Ripples, offers some words of advice on how to find the hidden talent and ensure your business is top of their list to work for.

Recruitment can be one of the most challenging elements of any business, especially during periods of uncertainty and it looks like there are no good candidates available. That doesn’t always mean there is a shortage of good people to employ, it could just mean they’re not easy to find. Unless, that is, you have the right approach.

For us, the starting point is making sure we are worth working for in the first instance. Do we have a good culture? Are we honest, humble, and rewarding to work for? Our approach is to list the qualities required to fill the role that we would not want to compromise on. 

The right candidate for Ripples must be passionate about design; they must be able to communicate with different people; they must be personable, capable of delving into highly technical areas, and they must be optimistic and opportunistic, to name a few. They will also need a little courage. These are all easy words to list, but not always easy to measure. That’s why I am not a huge fan of CVs, as I mostly spend my time reading between the lines as invariably the rest of the information included is not as relevant to us. 

Some of our best-performing employees have come into the business with no bathroom design experience whatsoever. They’ve written to us, walked in off the street, or we might have met them when we were canvassing the local colleges. Our philosophy is recruit good people and to look at ways to make them better.  We don’t ignore those with bathrooms experience, we just don’t put it top of the list.

Let’s remember, the training offered by suppliers and service providers in the bathroom industry is superb.  The skill, therefore, is finding people who will respond well to that training and avoiding people who think they don’t need it. It really does widen your options when you are not looking for the finished product, but it does help if you are good enough and prepared to help someone get closer to it.

I’m mindful that as a group of showrooms we have the benefit of doing more in-house training and that is a luxury we exploit frequently. But in the right environment, with the right mentor and patient approach, it is possible to provide good on-the-job training – providing you have a learning culture within the business in the first place.


If you want a quick fix for recruitment, advertise a high salary on a recruitment site, like Indeed.com. Use the keywords that will help you attract lots of CVs, and then be prepared to spend the next two weeks in front of the computer swiping left or right through the huge number of candidates that will apply. In these situations, it’s easy to get worn down by the very process and, with the pressure of the workload building, take a punt on the first person that looks like they could hit the ground running. This strategy, though, rarely works.

Independent businesses, which are often family-owned, can allow personalities to breathe a bit more than larger corporations and that is a huge asset to any employer that must be exploited. Whether someone is 21 or 51, the right culture and personal development plans will bring out the best in people as what we – as a business – might lack in formal management training, we more than make up for with our experience, personalities, and infinitely varied workplaces.  

That’s why we are never afraid to invite someone in to spend the day with us. We want them to see us for who we are and, naturally, it helps us see them in the same light too. If their colleagues can’t take to them, you’ve got a problem straight away and if they don’t take to you, then the process has worked.

Likewise, if I am struggling for time, and don’t have the expertise to identify the technical skills required for certain roles, then I will always use a recruitment agent – and not one that is just going to send me more CVs. The good recruitment companies have evolved hugely over the years and invest time in understanding you and your business and really getting to know the clients before they put them in front of you. They can save you a lot of money in the end.

So yes, candidates may be hard to find at the moment and likewise, there are plenty of good people saying that good employers are just as rare. If you are a good enough employer and truly worth working for, then I would be confident – as you expand your team – that the right candidates will find you.

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