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25 years of service

16th February 2018

Today we talk to our own James Tucker, our Operations and Projects Manager who has been here at Towngate for a whopping 25 years.


Did you have previous recruitment experience prior to joining Towngate Personnel?

No, I had worked in the Hospitality Industry for about ten years, working in hotels in Canterbury, Hythe and Christchurch before managing a busy pub/ restaurant in Exeter. I had also worked for several years for a company selling properties in France to British buyers.

How long had Towngate Personnel been in business when you joined?

Nearly five years, the company started in 1988 so we are now celebrating our 30th year in business.

How big was the company when you started?

Five in total plus a part time bookkeeper. There were two other consultants, an administrator and two directors who also recruited full time. Today we employ over 30 people.

When you started were there any specific divisions as there are today and did you recruit both temp and perm?

No when I joined we primarily placed people on a permanent or seasonal basis and a consultant was responsible for all recruitment for their clients. It was not until the late 90s that we created the various divisions that we now have which allows a consultant to specialise in a particular discipline.

 Today you have a senior position in the company, was that always the case?

No definitely not. I joined as an inexperienced recruitment consultant and gradually took on more responsibilities. I was promoted after a few years and since then my role has evolved massively. Initially I was responsible for a couple of consultants in addition to my own recruitment duties. I then took responsibility for all the divisions as well as internal recruitment, training, advertising, marketing and compliance. As we have expanded our management team my role continues to change and I now work closely with Richard our MD on several ongoing projects, as well as marketing and advertising and of course making sure that we are fully compliant with all aspects of the law.

Are you still in the same offices?

No, we outgrew the first office in 2000 and moved to bigger premises for the next eight years, eventually moving to our current modern offices ten years ago.

You must have seen many staff come and go over your 25 years?

Yes of course, very few people stay with one company for the length of time that I have and people’s circumstances are always changing. However, I would say that we seem to have more of our fair share of long serving employees with several starting over ten years ago and the majority of consultants also have at least five years’ experience at Towngate.

What are the biggest changes you have noticed over the years?

The basic premise of recruitment of matching the right candidate with the right vacancy still remains the same, however the way that we work has changed massively.

When I started hardly anyone had a mobile phone, no one had an email address, job boards, texting and social media had not even been thought of. The internet was in its infancy but we did not have any computers in the office anyway!

To get hold of candidates we were constantly leaving messages on home phones, trying to subtly speak to people at work or calling people back in phone boxes.

To gather information and knowledge we read the ‘Caterer & Hotelkeeper’ every week, and used the various guidebooks as our bibles and had several filing cabinets full of hotel brochures and restaurant menus. We also shared a vast amount of knowledge between ourselves in the office.

Nowadays everyone has a CV ready on their phone to send over at the touch of a button, but back then it was very different. Remember hardly anyone had a computer, so unless you had a friend or relative who had a typewriter (with no spell check), then you had to pay a specialist CV writing company who would create and supply you with maybe six CVs for you to send out. Faxing was the speedy way of communicating in those days, however if someone tried faxing a photocopied CV it would often be illegible when it came out the other end.

Although technology has changed the speed in which we work and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the future will continue this trend, there is still plenty of room for personal interaction. We are in a people business and the more that we talk to both clients and candidate, the more we understand their requirements and the more effective we become as recruiters.


What are the main changes you have seen in the marketplace over the last 25 years?

We have come full circle since I joined, initially the country was in recession and unlikely as it sounds now, chefs were being made redundant from large brigades. Through the end of the 90’s to the mid 00’s the situation changed to a candidate led market as staff shortages occurred, only to change back again due to the financial crisis of the late 00’s, and finally moving back to candidate shortages over the last few years.

There seem to be a lot of hospitality recruitment agencies around now, were there as many back in 93?

Ever since I started in recruitment it has been a competitive business and there has always been a lot of recruitment agencies. Some of the companies who were our competitors then are still around but many others are no longer in business. With the power and availability of modem technology it is probably easier and cheaper than ever to start up a recruitment agency so there may well be smaller one or two person agencies around now.


You have been with Towngate for 25 years, how come you have stayed so long?

I have never seen the point of moving just for the sake of it and I have been in a lucky position where there have always been opportunities for me to progress within the company.  I have always liked the way that everyone here is treated as an individual rather than a company clone, and that from the word go we have always strived to have long and fruitful ongoing relationships with both clients and candidates.















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