The second instalment of our series delving into the minds of Vector's longest serving team members, sees us speaking to Mark Casse who has been with Vector for 22 years. Mark has worked with some of the biggest names in the Property, Housing, Legal and Public sectors. We find out what it has been like working for the same company for so long and how important company culture is to career longevity.
What were you up to before you decided to join Vector?
My first role was in the property lettings space. I worked for a small firm in Sevenoaks, as a lettings negotiator. It was quite a junior role, it was enjoyable, but it was not a long term career option for me.
I decided to move into a role in the purchasing sector. I was a buyer of essential oils for about 3 years. I used to buy oils from all over the world, which was quite interesting, buying aroma chemicals and essential oils that were then used to make into perfumes. The company I worked for relocated from Tunbridge Wells up to the Northeast, and I didn't love the job enough to want to relocate with them. Although they were keen for me to do that.
Then immediately prior to starting at Vector, I was working over in Ashford, for a similar type of company. But they were a more well-known brand. They made cosmetics for Rimmel London, but I really didn’t enjoy the job. It was a long commute and there was a “big company” mentality where I was just slotted in, but I felt anonymous, and no one was really making use of my skills. I felt lost in that environment, you could just turn up and work, but no one really knew what you were doing. I didn't feel like I was making much of a difference. Thinking about it now, I was in a pretty bad place working there, it was getting me quite down and I was keen to find something that I could use my skills more. I've always liked being on the phone and using my communication skills so wanted to do more of that.
What attracted you to Vector?
I had been thinking about recruitment before Vector because I had applied to a couple of other companies. My sister was in recruitment at the time, but in different sector altogether, she was doing pretty well for herself though. I thought, well, that's something I could probably do, and I saw the role advertised in the Friday ad and just went for it.
I got the interview with Donna, and I obviously really liked the small company mentality but with big company ambitions. I preferred that because you felt you were making a difference, and your efforts were noticed more. I just seemed to click with Donna, and it was local opportunity, so when she offered me the job I jumped at the chance, I was really excited to start.
In the back of mind, I knew it was an opportunity to earn good money because my sister was doing well, and the fact I didn’t have to commute into London was quite a big thing for me. Some people like that scene, but to me having to commute on a train every day to London was not what I wanted at all.
You've been doing your job for a little while now… What do you like about the job?
I think it’s a mixture of things, I like the fact that I get a lot of autonomy, I like being in charge of my own domain and not having people managing me too closely. So being my own boss is one thing.
I still get a buzz from making placements. I really like my work colleagues, that's extremely important to me. I've been in other office environments before where there has been lots of office politics and I've never experienced that at Vector. Everyone is always there to try and do well for themselves, but there's always a good camaraderie in the office and people have a good time together.
The fact that we work in such a nice environment, that's a big factor as well, I love that we're in a rural location. Being able to walk into the village at lunch time that is something I couldn’t imagine not doing anymore, I'm a bit of a country boy at heart!
How do you think the working environment has changed over the years?
The physical change of moving offices was quite a big thing, it was amazing seeing the Hartfield office for the first time. Prior to that we were in a very small, shared office space. So to come to this nice open plan, purpose built converted barn, the impact was amazing.
Obviously there have been technology advances that we've been able to make use of compared to when I first started. We were still printing off CVS off for example, and we had the old handheld phones dialling out. Now having a custom-built CRM, company mobiles and “Vector Live” to deal with our back-office processes all makes my job far easier.
We've gone through various models of working as well. From the point when I first started, you did the whole process of building the relationship with the clients, picking up the roles and then resourcing them yourself. And then a few years later, we went down the different model of having a dedicated resourcing team.
So that took adjusting to. Just focusing on client relationships was strange, that's changed again now, and we are closer to our original operating model, and I’ve had to adapt again.
Out of the models that we've worked to, which has suited you best?
I think change sometimes takes a little while to get your head around, especially when you have been in the game for as long as I’ve been. Once I'd got into the resourcing team model, I quite liked it because you were able to focus on other activities. But equally, it took me a while to get used to it because you lose that sense of control. When you have oversight of the process you can really handpick your candidates that you personally know from your own conversations with them. Then all of a sudden, you've got to put your trust in other people which can take a little while to do. I think I adapted to both, but I like that now, I've got the option of asking for assistance from people with expertise in sourcing candidates but am ultimately responsible for finding people myself.
Do you think there's been a culture shift at Vector over the years?
I think in some ways it has. At the moment, the environment is a bit more relaxed than we have had at some points, in terms of things like the music playing in the office, which is really nice. I think especially on the sales floor, we wouldn't have had that few years ago. Having dogs in the office as well, adds to a nice, relaxed environment which I like.
In terms of our mentality as a company, I don't think that has changed much in terms of how we want to appeal to the outside audience. I think we've still got that small company mentality of wanting to be a quality value add provider. So, I don't think that our core ethos has changed at all in that sense.
Why do you think you’ve stuck it out with Vector all these years?
A combination of reasons. I think by nature, I’m a loyal person, paired with the fact that it's such a lovely environment with great people to work with.
Vector has looked after me over the years, it's given me lots of opportunities and supported me both professionally and personally. To the point where a few years ago, Donna offered me the opportunity to work on a four day per week basis, which has given me that sort of flexibility to balance my home and working life.
What would you say the biggest improvement to the recruitment industry has been since you started?
That's quite an interesting one. When I first started there were more fly by night sort of agencies, who were doing a lot of unscrupulous practices, like agents pretending to be candidates and all kinds of dubious practices. I've seen a drop in that, a lot of those companies have probably gone out of business and haven't been able to sustain. And the longstanding agencies such as ourselves have got a better reputation because of our longevity and our working practice as well.
How do you think client’s perception of recruiters and us as a company have changed over the years?
I think it depends on who you're speaking to. There’re always some clients who are fairly dismissive and not that respectful of what you do as a recruiter. But I have seen that improve over the years, especially given the current market where it's candidate short. I think clients realise it's not an easy job that we do. It is difficult to attract talent and certainly with the clients that I have long standing relationships with, I think you get more recognition and respect.
I think a lot of clients will try and just use their internal recruitment teams and not necessarily think that we are doing anything more than putting an advert on LinkedIn or something. But I think once they start to struggle filling roles, they then realise there's probably a lot more to it than that. And often they're frustrated that they're having to just use internal recruitment processes and I frequently get that feedback from managers saying I wish I could use you. I think it has definitely improved.