Trish Cook, HR manager at Messe Frankfurt UK, organiser of Automechanika Birmingham, talks hiring practices and company culture with Red Recruitment’s Pragnesh Karunakaran
Can you describe the phases of recruitment you went through, from launching the show to the acquisition by Messe Frankfurt?
We launched the first show with a team of three permanent staff: Simon Albert (who is now the MD of Messe Frankfurt UK), a sales executive and a coordinator. None of them had any exhibition experience, but they all brought a mixture of exuberance and experience from other industries. This was perfectly complemented by vast exhibition experience from the company owner at the time, and freelance marketing and operations managers. We have subsequently increased the number of permanent sales and marketing staff to eight to manage the growing event. Since we became a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt last year we have also increased the back-office staff to manage the increased level of administration.
What are the key attributes you look for in candidates?
The right attitude is fundamental, meeting the experience and skills for the role, culture fit and a sense of humour!
How much importance do you place on CVs?
We put a lot of importance on CVs. Firstly, the way they are written. For example, if they are a sales or marketing applicant, I can get a feeling of how proficient they are with written communication, which is fundamental to both disciplines. If I can see the document has been rushed, with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, it doesn’t reflect well. Obviously, substance is also key, and we look for the pre-requisite skills and experience.
What are your views on a candidate being late for an interview?
Things happen, and we are all late from time to time! The key thing is for a candidate to call as soon as they fear they may be late. Arriving late without pre-warning is a no-no in my book. What is the shortest interview you have conducted? Once after five minutes we realised the candidate had come to the wrong interview! It just so happened the company next door was interviewing a candidate with the same first name. It was very funny. Our interviewee was 10 minutes late. That too was a short interview.
How do you attract candidates?
We use all the normal methods and channels, but we are relying more and more on recommendations. Our point of difference is that we are now part of the world’s third largest exhibition organiser, but have a small company feel in the UK subsidiary, with a lot of autonomy – the best of both worlds. As a result, we have definitely had more candidates approach us directly.
What are your views on remote working?
We are certainly open to remote working. In fact, we have freelancers now who predominantly work remotely. Sometimes to get the best people you have to be open to flexible working (be it hours or location), and we certainly are – as long as it doesn’t compromise team communication, performance or delivery. We believe in trust in these kinds of permanent working arrangements and the most important thing is the results. Two of the team, for example, work part-time hours to fit around family.
How do you keep an eye on the talent in the industry?
We are always looking for talent, even when we don’t have vacancies. Should we have a vacancy for any reason, I prefer to have already identified talent to bring into the company, rather than going into panic-mode and hiring the wrong person or having an unfilled position, neither of which is good in a team of 10. We are therefore regularly meeting people. Simon also has an excellent eye for talent and is always on the lookout. He speaks to as many people as possible during industry events and works hard to maintain a robust network of talent.
What makes Messe Frankfurt UK a good place to work?
Firstly, being a part of Messe Frankfurt global means that we now have access to a very impressive global presence and resources. Messe Frankfurt enable us to collaborate with some of the best minds in the global industry, while still allowing us to keep our small-company values. We try to maintain balance in all that we do: Simon expects results but equally wants everyone to have fun and really enjoy what we do. We have a very formal performance management programme, but we also have a fantastic employee engagement programme (last year, for example, we all went to an aqua park and threw ourselves into a lake); as well as great benefits such as working ‘summer hours’ during August. We also have a big emphasis on management training, and we take the time to develop our managers. We foster a collaborative spirit, and have weekly quizzes hosted by each team, testing the others’ knowledge of what’s happening in their respective teams. This is used as a fun way to keep energy levels and spirits up.
What makes all the difference for you when it comes to HR and recruitment management?
For me the answer to this question has always been the same: having management’s support is fundamental to the success of HR management in any organisation. At Messe Frankfurt UK we are very fortunate to have that support. In particular, we have the support of Simon who absolutely supports that principle, and who takes the time to focus on the people that work for him. As a result, we are a company who genuinely support and care for one another – underpinned by robust people management policies and processes.