By assessing over 35,000 university students and helping employers screen over 100,000 candidates for their graduate and apprenticeship roles, Sophie Milliken’s SRS Recruitment and Employability Experts has made its way to be known as the leading provider of student assessment centres and candidate screening.
Sophie Milliken is a determined and innovative businesswoman in the graduate recruitment landscape. She confidently asserts, “100% of clients we have worked with would recommend SRS to other organisations.”
Inspired by her intricate knowledge of the industry and level of experience, we at CIO LooK got into conversation with Sophie Milliken to learn more about her journey and her contribution to the enhancement of the HR space.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at SRS. What challenges you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I started my career at John Lewis on their graduate trainee scheme. This gave me a great grounding in business and led me into the world of HR. I spent some time in learning and development roles before taking on my favorite role, looking after graduate recruitment. In this role, I expanded the number of graduate and placement schemes and saw the brand move up the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers chart, securing a top 10 position.
In 2013, I left John Lewis and set up what is now SRS Recruitment and Employability Experts with a business partner. In 2017, I became MD and started the scale-up journey, growing the team and client base. A merger in late 2019 saw SRS become part of the Careerpass Network.
I would say the biggest challenge I faced during this time was going through my divorce only six months into the business. Overnight, I became a single parent to my then two-year-old and survived on a start-up income. I took a pragmatic approach and worked even harder to make the business work, which paid off!
Tell us something more about your company, its mission, and its vision.
SRS is a graduate recruitment and employability consultancy. We work with both graduate and apprenticeship employers and universities. We design and implement all recruitment and training materials needed by corporate clients and work with institutions to embed employability and careers training into their curriculum.
Our mission is to guide, educate and assess to help individuals and organisations make the right choices and realise their full potential.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the Human Resources niche through your expertise in the market.
The niche that we specialise in is graduate recruitment, and within that, we have a micro niche with much of the work we deliver being related to assessment centres. For employers, we design and run assessment centres, and for universities, we have become very well known for running large-scale assessment centre simulations. These assessment centre simulations are either in person at football stadiums throughout the UK or online via our assessment centre platform, assess.digital. No other supplier delivers assessment centre simulations on the large-scale that we do. The events have a huge impact on the confidence and employability skills of students and graduates, helping them to secure placements and graduate roles.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
When the pandemic hit, we had to adapt our services to be able to provide a fully virtual offer. We created our assessment centre platform, assess.digital, which enabled us to run all of our large-scale assessment centres virtually. The software has some great features and is now being used by employers.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in the Outsourced application industry?
I’d like to see more human touches come back into the process. Employers receive so many applications that they have had to automate as much of the process as they can to be able to get through all the candidates. It can often be the case that employers don’t have any human contact with candidates until the final interview or even when they join the business. I’d like to see employers take opportunities to personalise the recruitment process wherever possible so that candidates get a better insight into the culture they are joining.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in assessment centres? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
I think the biggest change to assessment centres in years has happened with the move to virtual delivery. Having to adapt to this change and create our own software has enabled us to be a key player in this change. I think the next change might be that employers will want to assess larger numbers when running virtual assessment centres. Due to the large-scale events we run for universities, we are well-positioned to offer this to employers, and also our software works well at scale.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for SRS?
In the long run, I think I have another business or two in me so I’m already considering my next move. I’m a big fan of personal development and am hoping to start a PhD in 2022 within the field of female entrepreneurship.
In terms of SRS, I hope it continues to offer an outstanding service that prioritises the needs of every client.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the HR sector?
The HR sector is a crowded space. If anyone is looking to set up a business within HR, my advice would be to consider a micro niche. By specialising in one thing, you can be the best and become known for this. It makes it easier to stand out. I would also advise any entrepreneur to build a strong support network and to think about their brand as well as that of the business – opportunities come to people when they have a strong personal brand.