Life on set with TopRecruiter series 5


Amy, Bert, Mike, Rachel, myself, Hannah & Iain on location in Greenwich

The countdown was on for the 20th July and as it approached, I cast my mind back to Top Recruiter 2 in 2013 and remembered what a great day I had spent with the cast and crew filming two episodes as a judge. This time it was TopRecruiter 5, a competition between North America and Europe to find the recruiter with the best idea to help the business side of the talent industry. My role was to be a “Global Counsellor”, offering business advice and mentorship for each of the candidates. Being independent and not affiliated with either side meant that I was free to roam around set providing help and advice to all of the candidates, a role I knew I was going to cherish.


Jerona and I about to step on board our flight.

At first light, our Talenetic MD (and fellow cast member), Jerona Noonan and I rocked up to the check-in desk at Southampton Airport and before we knew it, we were landing in Nantes, France to join the cast & crew at Chateau de Challain, a magnificent French castle in the middle of the Loire valley. At the airport we bumped into my lovely friend Ann Swain, the Chief Exec of APSCO. I originally thought that Ann was joining for the judging on the last day so seeing her there on day 1 was a great pleasure knowing that we’d be spending a few quality days together on set debating our world of recruitment. We met up with one of the candidates, Adam Razzell, the top biller at Advanced Resource Managers (ARM) and then we were off in the rental car in search of the castle.


Adam from ARM – Day 1

During the journey my mind was filled with images of TopRecruiter series 2 – the faces, the smiles, the cameras, the microphones and the popping of Verve Cliqout corks – What was it going to be like this year? Who will we meet on set? and how will the show emerge day by day? It was all getting rather exciting and we were about to step right dead centre into the middle of it.


With my friend APSCO boss, Ann Swain

An hour later, down a tiny village road, we turned a sharp corner, went through a huge gatehouse and there it was in all its glory….Chateau de Challain, our home and film set for the next few days. Outside on the steps to welcome us home stood our very good friends, Chris & Mory Lavoie, who not only create the programme, but whose dreams inspired the entire TopRecruiter movement. In typical Lavoie style, it certainly wasn’t long until the chink of champagne glasses echoed throughout this magnificent castle and there I was again – part of the Top Recruiter TV Docu-Series cast with cameras and microphones potentially recording our every move. Glass in hand, time to get changed – excitement was about to happen!!


The imposing Chateau de Challain, our home for the next few days.

As an industry focussed TV Docu-Series, the Top Recruiter challenge is uniquely special due to the relevant relationships you build up along the way. Chris Lavoie is connected with the recruitment industry’s finest global talent leaders/entrepreneurs and it was a privilege meeting and getting to know the cast and hearing their unique and fascinating success stories. If Chris hasn’t introduced people beforehand  (and I’d already been introduced to Darren (Opus Recruitment), Tom (Lawrence Harvey), Hannah (EnergyJobLine), Amy (Recruitment Entrepreneur), Jo (Glassdoor) and Randy (Pocket Recruiter), there’s plenty of time to get to know everyone else in the cast and crew whether this is on or off camera – but unlike an expo where you are typically corralled into a series of brief meet ups with a quick exchange of business cards, TopRecruiter allows the space to really spend quality time together with awesome industry people over the days and nights of filming. The discussions are always embellished with the constant flow of champagne which the cast is encouraged to sip (or sometimes gulp) throughout the day. I’m sure that if Carlsberg made TV programmes, then this would probably be how they’d do it. I’m not sure if the champagne is for steadying the nerves or facilitating conversation flow but who cares, it works – Chris, the creator/executive producer/executive director has the formula just right.


Life on set with Creator & Executive Producer/Director Chris Lavoie 

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On set with Kelly and Stef

The basic show concept was for “Bosses” and “Advisors” to choose one of their two candidates to go to the final in London on day 6 and support them along the way. This was a pitch to “BBC’s Apprentice” judge, Baroness Karen Brady, Dragon Den star James Caan, Top Recruiter 2 runner up Jer Langans and SAP’s Global head of sourcing, Matthew Jeffrey who would decide on the winner. I really enjoyed getting to know each of the candidates well. Some had progressed their ideas further than others at the early stage but through discussion, mentoring and offering advice we strived to bring them all up to speed ready for the first round of judging and so they could present their idea in the very best light.


Fun and the bar with Tom and Darren


Jojo and Jerona at the door of the castle

Over the many days the cast and crew were together, we ate, drank, filmed, talked, danced and partied our way through the recording of the show. Great relationships were formed by everyone and I particularly enjoyed spending time talking tech with my friend, Randy Moore from Pocket Recruiter. Through Chris, we’d met up already at the TATech conference in Orlando where Randy took us through his incredible neural network based candidate matching engine. We spent days on set discussing ideas and ways we could use the product within Talenetic’s job board offering and how efficient we could make the recruitment sourcing process by combining our offerings

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Esther, Salma and I hanging out with some of the crew in London

Meeting Human capital strategist and diversity ambassador, Torin Ellis was another highlight for me and an absolute pleasure. It was great to hear the important work he is doing to promote diversity in the work place through working with leaders. His thoughts were genuinely inspiring and it reminded me of what a great industry recruitment really is.  I wasn’t surprised that Torin was the reigning TopRecruiter.


Last day of filming. Randy and Jer in the “Painted Hall”.


Sound check with Torin, Rim, Bryan, Randy and Matt.

There were many inspiring conversations over the several days of the film shoot, probably too many to list here but I will never forget the great chats I had with recruitment legend Mr Jack Felice, CFO of AGS. I remember once seeing a film of Jack describing the early history of recruiting which really hit home how our industry all started in those early pioneering days. It was a great pleasure getting to know Jack. ( My main takeaway though was the recruitment banter that constantly flowed morning, noon and night – so many different topics, ideas and debates with everyone. Getting to bed was always a problem and we frequently found ourselves up until the early hours chatting to our new friends.


Jack and Randy checking out Adam’s photos on set


On set with Salma and Amy

No write up of the TopRecruiter experience would be anywhere complete without a mention of the fine dining and fine wine involved. Turning up to lunch to witness a complete pig roasting over a huge wood fire should not really have been much of a surprise – but it was. The obligatory giant paella was something I’d experienced on TR2 but it made a welcome return at the castle for TR5 and was extremely well received by the cast and crew alike. The wine tasting evening was just superb and was hosted by Bryan’s lovely wife, Sara Moll. Sara gave us some fascinating insight into the wine region of the Loire valley and shared some superb wines, oysters, cheese and information with us all.


A Giraffe photobombing Rachel & I at the bar

On Monday, the final day arrived. We all flew to London for the last part of the film – the grand finale in the “Painted Hall” at Greenwich – the last resting place of Lord Nelson after his victory at the battle of Trafalgar. For me and my role, together with Jonny from SocialTalent, there was a twist in the tale though which certainly gave me a surprise and definitely raised my blood pressure for sure. It’s just not TopRecruiter without the odd twist and turn and curve ball along the way – Chris certainly makes sure of that. I won’t spoil the surprise as the show is out in 2017 but let’s just say my role somewhat changed – overnight!!

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Jerona and Hannah behind the open bar at the Chateau


Gavin, Bruce, Rick, Johnny, Jerona, Hannah and myself giving Stef some tips.

It was a great week together working with Chris, Mory and the crew and I took a lot away from the experience not least some fresh thoughts on the recruitment industry. I’ve always been involved with the technology side of recruitment and not the actual sourcing side itself but being surrounded by some of the worlds recruitment experts was extremely inspiring, very insightful and very rewarding to me. What it did show me is the depth and breadth of the industry we work in and how many different ways people are tackling the various issues. Whether it’s Rachel Petero with her focus on indigenous women leadership, Torin Ellis’ incredible mentoring on diversity leadership, Bert Miller’s (CEO of Protis Global) niche food and beverage market or Randy Moore’s passion for artificial intelligence, there’s a lot of very different and great ways of contributing to our ever expanding sector. I hadn’t met Baroness Karen Brady before but James Caan and I know each other from my Jobsite days and we even feature in the same book (The New Rules of Business – ) so it was great to catch up.

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It’s a wrap. End of filming with Baroness Karen Brady and James Caan

The show is out next year and I’m really looking forward to watching it and in the meantime I am keeping half an eye on the Whatsapp group we created for the show which is still going strong with banter, questions, meetups and advice…. two weeks later.!  A great show, new friends and an ever expanding network – I think everyone agrees that we miss it already.