– by Natasha Makhijani
A Dynamic Personality
Natasha Makhijani is the Founder and CEO of Oliver Sanderson Group PLC. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from City, University of London and a master’s from DePaul University in Chicago, she began her recruitment career on the Graduate Scheme at Hays. Fast-tracked into management roles, she achieved four promotions in four years and took a team from billing £10,000 to £80,000 a month.
She then moved to Michael Page, where she worked on a hybrid desk across permanent and interim senior leadership roles. She was given responsibility for growing Michael Page’s Public Sector division from its offices in London. She soon became the company’s number one biller in HR across the UK, but always wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial path.
Having already set up executive desks at both Hays and Michael Page, Natasha switched her focus to establishing a business of her own, and in 2011, Oliver Sanderson was born. What started as one woman on a laptop in her dining room has grown into an international business at the cutting edge of executive search, working with big clients, winning awards, and making a difference internationally!
Oliver Sanderson is an executive search firm with a difference, combining experience and expertise with innovation and fresh thinking. Their Values of Honesty, Integrity and Passion are at the heart of everything they do.
Their aim is to help clients achieve greatness by attracting, developing and retaining professionals of the highest calibre. They ensure that clients strengthen their organisations by identifying and recruiting the very best individuals, as well as supporting their progression into accomplished leaders.
Oliver Sanderson has built up a strong track record of senior and C-suite appointments at FTSE 100, FTSE 250, and Fortune 500 companies. They offer end-to-end recruitment and consultancy solutions, and their team of highly experienced consultants offer a bespoke service designed to satisfy all recruitment and consultancy requirements. Unlike other recruiters, they offer a genuinely consultative service that ensures they listen to the client’s needs and tailor the search process accordingly. This ensures that they can comprehensively search for candidates that are the best possible fit for the company and role.
Oliver Sanderson is a pioneer of digital innovation in executive search and recruitment. Natasha is also the co-founder of Snapp CV, the world’s first voice-technology-enabled mobile jobs platform with exclusive Amazon Alexa integration – if you ask your Alexa device to “find me a job,” the search will be powered by Snapp. The platform recently featured on the Mayor of London’s TechInvest programme; an initiative delivered in alliance with the UK Business Angels Association to showcase London’s most ground-breaking tech start-up businesses. It also won Recruitment Technology Innovation of the Year at the 2022 Recruiter Awards.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
As an Asian woman in the recruitment industry, Natasha has had to be extremely assertive to get to where she is today, and it has been far from an easy ride. Building an inclusive culture has been pivotal to Oliver Sanderson’s success, not just for themselves but also for their clients and candidates.
Natasha is passionate about tackling DE&I challenges with clients, and ensures it is far more than a box-ticking exercise. Having built a strong track record of high-profile appointments of candidates from minority backgrounds across a wide range of industries, more and more companies are approaching Oliver Sanderson for help finding top level candidates who can help them improve representation in their organisations. During briefing meetings, Natasha and her team are often asked: “how do you ensure a diverse shortlist?” There are a number of steps that Oliver Sanderson takes to provide an industry-leading diversity shortlisting process for their clients, including:
– Collaboration with diverse organisations and networks, such as BWHR (Black Women in HR) and HR Girlfriends. These networks and communities, often anchored and organised on LinkedIn, provide vital forums and support networks for minority candidates.
– The use of gender-neutral language in all job postings to avoid any gender bias in the selection process. They also remove any identifying information from CVs to ensure that candidates are selected based on their qualifications, experience, and skills rather than their gender, race, or ethnicity.
– Conducting structured interviews with all candidates to ensure fairness and minimise any unconscious bias. They use a standardized set of questions and assess all candidates on the same criteria, which helps to objectively evaluate their qualifications, experience, and skills.
– Providing diversity training to their team to raise their awareness of unconscious bias and encourage a more inclusive workplace culture. Their recruiters are trained to recognise and mitigate any potential bias that may affect the selection process.
– Tracking and monitoring diversity metrics throughout the recruitment process to ensure that they are meeting diversity goals. They measure success by tracking the percentage of
diverse candidates in their pipeline and the number of diverse candidates hired.
Advice for Female Entrepreneurs
Being specific with your market proposition is probably the most important part of the initial journey as an entrepreneur. I believe it is essential to know what your goal is, devise a strategy and a business plan, and continuously refer back to it. This way you never lose focus on what your goal is and where you want to go. Throughout your journey always be open and adaptive to how things can change. There will be stumbles and knockdowns, but you can’t let them define you. What matters is how you get back up and get back on track.
As a female leader, never be afraid to speak up in the boardroom and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other leaders, but at the same time, be open to listening and change. Nobody knows everything, and there is always room to learn from others in the industry.
I think it is vital to be aware of the needs of the sector, the job market, and the requirements of one’s company and people. I firmly believe that a leader should have passion, drive, energy, honesty, integrity, and humour, to name a few! A leader has to be open-minded and find solutions through difficult times. Leaders must be challenged, actively listen, constantly know that they are always learning, and be open to others guiding them. As a business grows, a leader should be apt at identifying and cultivating talent; proper succession planning can lead to great leaders.
The first two years are especially difficult when starting a new business – you need to get your systems and processes in place, build a good team, refine your market proposition, and begin to establish a reputation. Each of these steps is extremely challenging, and financial pressures can overwhelm some entrepreneurs at this stage.
Natasha and Oliver Sanderson overcame these challenges by hiring great colleagues, focusing on brand building, and working around the clock on their first assignments to make the best possible impression on their early clients. Several of those early clients have stayed with them ever since, and every successful assignment led to numerous referrals and new business leads. Things snowballed quickly, but it was all about making a strong start.
A female leader who has inspired Natasha
“Marija Simovic is an ambitious and dynamic COO with Transformation & Change experience. She was originally a client of mine, whom I recruited for and got to know well. She subsequently became a NED and investor of Oliver Sanderson. Marija is a corporate entrepreneur and businesswoman at heart who has inspired me to believe in myself and make the impossible possible. She has stood by me and the business through good times and bad times and has encouraged me as an Asian female leader to become a thought leader and an example in the marketplace. Being a head-hunter in executive search is second nature to me, but being a business owner and running a business was and still is my biggest learning curve. This is where Marija gave me the strength and insight to think outside of the box and empowered me to scale Oliver Sanderson.”
“I am lucky enough to have celebrated a number of achievements throughout my business journey. A major highlight has been watching Oliver Sanderson become established in the UK and begin to grow overseas – having set up the company from my dining-room table, it is so rewarding to see how far we’ve come! Other successes include winning exciting new client relationships with major businesses like British Airways, Aviva, and Engie, and winning many different awards.
Most recently, I was honoured to be invited to feature in the 2022 Platinum Jubilee Pageant Commemorative Album, as an organisation with aligned values. We were selected for “our transformational contribution” to the sphere of business. It is one of my proudest achievements. Being a British Asian, my life has been shaped by our Royal Family. In particular, I have always been inspired by the late Her Majesty the Queen – her values, her global presence, her exceptional work ethic, and the way that she always upheld service, even in the most challenging circumstances.”
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