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The Wow Factor: Daniel Tonkin & Emily McLeod

The human element in the recruitment process is often the most rewarding. That’s why Co-Founders and Directors Daniel Tonkin and Emily McLeod made it the focus of their startup WOW Recruitment – a strategy that has brought the young company great success.

As the world grows more and more enchanted by the ways of AI, a very real casualty has become apparent: the human element. Humanity’s capacity to amaze persists, but in the face of ever-growing technological achievement, it’s no longer as valued as it once was.

For proof, look no further than the recruitment sector, where people have been diminished into pre-filled forms and written appeals, barely discernible from the average dating profile.

It’s a development the team at WOW Recruitment is actively fighting against, and has done since the company’s inception in 2017. In fact, Co-Founders and Directors Daniel Tonkin and Emily McLeod say bringing the human element back to recruitment is WOW Recruitment’s raison d’etre.

We’re reshaping recruitment.

– Emily McLeod

“We’re reshaping recruitment,” McLeod tells The CEO Magazine. “Making it more accessible, equitable and genuinely human.”

For Tonkin, this human touch goes both ways. “Business helped me find a calling and through business I have a chance to impact a lot of people,” he says.

WOW Recruitment’s steadfast commitment to understanding the long-term aspirations of its people, candidates and clients isn’t just a business mandate, but a way to inspire and propel everyone under the WOW umbrella toward enduring success.

“Through our business, we hope to produce a steady stream of qualified, well-trained consultants who have a long-term impact on the market and the future of recruitment,” McLeod says.

A Strong Vision

WOW Recruitment’s foundation began to take shape when McLeod and Tonkin met at a sales job and realized that their skills complemented each other.

McLeod recognized that their shared vision could create a competitive advantage in the recruitment industry. “I had an enormous amount of belief in what we were trying to do. I also knew that if I was working with Daniel, we’d make it a success.”

Despite not having a recruitment background, Tonkin says he understood the importance of the right people in the right position.

“Recruitment for me is the lifeblood of any company, as it’s where you find the people that will drive your success,” he says. “I felt there was a chance to bring the people element back into recruitment.”

Complicating matters was a recruitment landscape that was incredibly competitive. With this in mind, the duo set about making WOW Recruitment stand apart.

“With Daniel managing multiple businesses, I was the one consistently at the forefront of our operations,” she says. “This placed me in a unique position to not just execute tasks, but to shape our trajectory right from the outset.”

McLeod set about infusing the young company with industry best practices to provide a strong foundation and direction. Meanwhile, WOW Recruitment’s identity began to take shape.

“The company became a reflection of beliefs and ethos I was deeply passionate about,” she says. “I didn’t want WOW to be just another business, but a genuine embodiment of what I stand for.”

Recruitment for me is the lifeblood of any company, as it’s where you find the people that will drive your success.

– Daniel Tonkin

As a result, authenticity became one of WOW Recruitment’s first hallmarks. “We bring authenticity to every part of our work,” she says. “We stay true to who we are, what we do and who we champion.”

Meanwhile, Tonkin concentrated on WOW Recruitment’s business strategy and finances. “After the first year I started doing the recruitment consultant work and committed to understanding the whole process through actions,” he says.

“This gave me the insights I needed to own the role and support my business partner.”

The human element took the form of bright, vibrant brand colors, playful content and a fun industry presence on podcasts and at events, as well as WOW Recruitment’s own WOW Awards nights. “We had to deliver clients to uphold the name,” he says. “You can’t be WOW if you don’t ‘wow’.”

Which is why new recruits enjoy a 16-week training course that covers everything from customer service to client management to the WOW Recruitment brand identity.

“We believe this sets up our team to perform at their best from day one,” she says. “It’s one of the ways we provide a consistent, seamless experience for our candidates and clients.”

Constant Development

Over the past year, WOW Recruitment has implemented additional training programs focused on developing team members at specific stages of their careers.

“Our Rookie Training program covers how to interview and provide advice on building networks with the goal of nurturing talent new to the recruitment industry,” McLeod says. “At the other end of the spectrum, our Leadership Program provides emerging managers with the tools and skills they need to thrive.”

I didn’t want WOW to be just another business, but a genuine embodiment of what I stand for.

– Emily McLeod

Tonkin says it’s the kind of training that’s critical to building a high performance team. “We have regular one-on-ones and a six-month goal evaluation to see where they’re at and whether they need support,” she says.

A product of this process is the recent appointment of WOW Recruitment’s Candidate Manager and Talent Development Specialist, who is tasked with supporting consultants with sourcing an ongoing pipeline of talent across a range of industries for various clients.

“The role is also responsible for driving talent development for our recruitment consultants to cultivate a growth mindset and build skills and careers at WOW,” McLeod says. “It’s part of how we deliver the best service, as our team is constantly being upskilled to do better.”

Recruiting Right

The end result is a finely tuned team that’s ready and able to deliver WOW Recruitment’s ‘5 Steps to Recruitment Happiness’. “It’s the core process we follow to ensure both our candidates and clients come away happy,” she says.

The 5 Steps program prioritizes client relationships by working in close partnership to achieve business goals. The process emerged from WOW Recruitment’s own early years, when the two Co-Founders had to take a step back from revenue roles and go into strategic positions.

“We take the time to listen to our clients’ needs and truly understand the challenges they face as a business. From a candidate perspective, we’re fully dedicated to being their career ally,” she says.

We take the time to listen to our clients’ needs and truly understand the challenges they face as a business.

– Emily McLeod

The process means that WOW Recruitment’s clients have a consistent experience no matter who they talk to. These structured customer journeys are entirely by design.

“We’ve invested significant time and resources into that,” she says. “It’s part of our ongoing commitment to client and candidate care.”

So far, the system works. WOW Recruitment’s awards shelf is heaving, with the most recent addition being Best Recruitment Agency to Work For at the 2022 TALiNT Partners TIARA Awards.

“It was a proud testament to our commitment to creating an enriching workplace environment,” she says of the win. “Such recognition underscores the efforts we put into fostering a positive culture and a collaborative workspace.”

Exceeding Expectations

WOW Recruitment’s hard work is also reflected in the bottom line. The recruiters enjoyed a record-breaking first quarter in the 2023 financial year, despite challenging market conditions and a recent downsizing.

“Even though the market had shifted, we still smashed our record,” Tonkin says. “It says a lot about our resilience, and it’s also an affirmation of our team’s capabilities and dedication.”

At this point, WOW Recruitment has not only met but exceeded the original vision of both Co-Founders. For Tonkin, the company is nothing short of an incredible professional accomplishment.

You can’t be WOW if you don’t ‘wow’.

– Daniel Tonkin

“The feeling of turning an idea into a living, breathing entity that makes a positive impact on people’s lives is what I love most,” he says.

McLeod agrees, adding that although the job is hard work, “pressure is a privilege”.

“I get to work with phenomenal people and connect with the best,” she says. “I think Zig Ziglar said it best: ‘You don’t build a business, you build people and then people build the business’.”

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