Culture is King: The Importance of Culture in Recruitment

This is the 3rd and final interview with Chad Lafferty, Managing Director of Wahl+Case and Board Director of EQIQ talking about the importance of hiring, training and creating a cohesive culture in the recruitment industry.

Watch the full interview here or read the interview script below.


So, hi this is Brad from Coffee for Closers. Today my guest is Chad Lafferty, Managing Director of Wahl + Case, and Board Director at EQIQ.  Chad, thanks for joining us today and making time.


Thank you very much for having us.


I mean, that’s one of the things I like about recruiting, it forces us to kind of change and adapt but, some of the newer people coming into recruiting or even people with zero experience, it’s really interesting, right, because they…What is the job of the recruiter now? The job description I think has totally changed. And like you said, there are a lot of factors that we need to measure that maybe we didn’t have to measure, ya know, five years ago or more.

So, are you finding that…the team you have now obviously works quite well but in terms of new people that you’re looking to bring on or new positions that are opening up, are you evaluating them differently and what kind of things are you looking for?



Yeah, so, for sure. We had hired three people that were starting in April and so, around March time we kind of had a gut check, you know. It was like “well, what are we going to do?”. You know, honestly, we felt like the only thing that we could do is have them start, and immediately transition all of our trainings and everything to remote, which we did, with I think as much success as we possibly could have had, to be fair. Our talent manager, who handles all the training and courses and curriculum for the training, did, really, a fantastic job of handling that transition. And still, it wouldn’t be shocking or a surprise to say that their development was pretty far behind what they would have experienced if they had started in the office with people around them, and that’s because the way that people learn this job, the way that I learned the job, and probably you as well, there is so much passive learning that happens. You get sat at a desk, with more experienced people around you, and it almost doesn’t matter, the environment, you can have a really high level of training, which a lot of firms in Japan have. You can have almost no training, which a lot of firms in Japan have. But with the way that you’re going to get that classroom style, but then you’re also going to hear the people around you and how they work. And you’re going to learn through that experience.

We found it very challenging to train people online via Zoom instead of a buzzing office environment where you learn by listening to others around you. 

And so, what we found was, very early on we realized, okay, they’re not experiencing that at all and it’s very hard to recreate that. You can create a zoom channel. You can put people in that. You can ask people to join that channel, but still you have to mute when you’re on the phone. You can’t do the same level of activity. You can’t, kind of, have that experience where you’re just sitting there doing your job and you hear

somebody talking on the phone behind you and you’re like “hmm, what are they talking about?” You know it’s such like a…it just happens.

And so, quite honestly, those three people were really working hard to help them get up to speed and… they’ve been coming into the office a little bit more even though it’s still mostly empty, especially now that cases are on the rise again, people are just being cautious and staying at home more often. But we’re trying to find to recreate that. And to come back to your question, It means that, realistically, I think that we have to hire more experienced people than we have previously.

We had to change the parameters, because what we realize is that teaching them the very basics is much more challenging than it used to be.

And this is also related to the question you asked before about our clients and I think that onboarding has been one of the biggest challenges that every company faces right now. How do you effectively onboard people that are working remotely?

And some companies are better at it than others. Some people are more equipped for it than others.

And so, that’s a big challenge for us as well. So, certainly, our focus right now

is hiring some more experienced people that we’re not teaching the very basic fundamental parts of recruitment to.


Okay. Yeah, interesting, it is something that I didn’t really think about was when you are in that open office platform and you do hear other people on the phone, experience people, or maybe conversations that you wouldn’t have, you get that OJT as somebody that’s joining, but you don’t have that now. It’s an interesting point, definitely a different learning curve on that.


Yeah, for sure. Honestly, I’ve been very impressed with, as I mentioned, the three people that started first in April. I’ve been very impressed about how they’ve handled it because it’s tough. It’s really hard. I can’t imagine trying to learn a completely new profession, something I’ve never done before, spending an hour or two in training a day, and then trying to figure out so much on your own. It’s tough. I think they’ve done a really phenomenal job to be where they are today.


Yeah, so, you talked a little bit about that you’re looking at possibly bringing on more senior level people.

In this market right now, where there’s a lot of transition, there are a lot of experienced recruiters from different shops and a lot of them are being pushed out simply because of they’re being furloughed or there’s different issues going on in their company.

What’s the culture at Wahl + Case and what type of people would you be interested to bring on?


So, we have a very strong set of values. I won’t go through them all individually. There’s eight of them. They’re on our website for anyone who is interested. Really the way that we make decisions is by making sure that, number one: they align with the company vision and the company values.

I suppose one of the reasons I’ve always hesitated to hire more experienced people was because they’re coming from a very different cultural experience. They’re coming from maybe a different set of values. And, you know…When we were all working in the office, I was pretty reluctant to have somebody come in at a more experienced level who might not match the same values that we’ve developed and the culture that we’ve developed. Very intention. And that’s something that, to be honest, we have to be a little bit more flexible about.

But I also think that the type of person that we want to hire, they’re somebody who matches that value set. They’re somebody that is…a good…Can I say “not an asshole”? Can I say that? You know, I have a strict…

Actually, I’m stealing this from a client of mine, but they said they have a strict “no asshole policy”, and I was like “that’s a great policy to have”

I want to hire really good people that are resilient and smart but also they’re good people. And they want to work in a team. They ultimately want the people around them to be successful. If they believe that, If they’re really invested in their own success but in the success of the people around them as well and the company’s success then they’ll do very well in our environment. They’ll do very well in our culture because that is, I think, one of the strongest guiding principles that we have is that we’re all in this together and that we’ll work together through good and bad.


No, it’s interesting. Your choice of words is not wrong, obviously, because That’s prevalent in a lot of different organizations. And I think to really come back to…the people that are labeled as assholes

in whatever industry they are in, I think it says a lot about the type of person also the environment because if the environment…

if a company is letting that type of person be that type of person then the environment is wrong, right?

Like you were saying, the culture that you have there eliminates the possibility of having those types of people in the organization which is good but, in our industry, and a lot of other industries that’s rampant.

Especially nowadays, I think you do have to be a little more cohesive of who you work with and it’s not just a me me me type of environment. It’s more like, you know, How can my experience help you? And how can we have a win win situation together. No, it’s definitely interesting that you’re creating that culture and you’re also willing to look for senior level people that might be a little more difficult to to train or to see…to fit into your culture.


Yeah, I think it’s…and forgive me for my choice of words, It’s the word that popped into my mind first, but you know, transparency is one of our values so, there you go.

I think that it’s very important and people are a product of their environment as well. I think that if you’ve been working in a super hyper aggressive agency where you have to fend for yourself and it is food on your plate, then you’ve probably adapted to that type of situation.

That doesn’t define you. That doesn’t define the person I don’t want to generalize that part of it because I think different people can grow into an environment differently. If they’re given the opportunity to be different then they probably would be.

I do think it’s harder for people that have been in that very individualistic environment to adapt to a culture where there is such a strong team aesthetic.  That information sharing and the transparency is absolute. I think that’s probably the biggest culture shock that people would experience. And I, actually, I can say that from my own experience because I came from Robert Walters which is a very team based, it’s a shared database everyone’s helping each other out and your team is usually going to have your back and all that kind of stuff, and I still found it surprising when I joined Wahl + Case, the level of transparency, and the level of support that people provided me and to anyone who was a new starter.

And so, I think if that’s the biggest culture shock for me, joining from a company that already had a similar type of system, then I can only imagine if you’ve spent time in a more aggressive or individualistic environment. But it comes down to what you want and… what kind of person and what suits you best.



Interesting. Yeah, timewise, I’d be interested to pick your brain a bit that was one of the areas that I wanted to pick on. In terms of…you did come from Robert Walters, large agency style into Wahl + Case, which is much more, like you said, cohesive. It’s a smaller boutique style. What did you find as the hardest thing into that transition? And what would you say to other people that are kind of coming from that mindset of extreme styles?


So, I think that with EQIQ, and Wahl + Case as a part of EQIQ we’re trying to do something that’s different. And anything different is going to be really hard. And it’s going to have a very unique set of challenges. And so, even though Wahl + Case operates in a way that people would recognize since we are a recruitment agency, and the things we do are recruitment related, the fundamental vision of where EQIQ is going and where Wahl + Case needs to go is different and that is challenging because if anybody comes in and they’re expecting that they’re going to join a very traditional recruitment company where it’s all about revenue and making placements, and bonuses, then the learning curve is going to be higher, because those things are fine and, of course, yeah, we want to make revenue, we want to grow the company. I want everyone to get huge bonuses and stuff like that.

But we’re aiming for something bigger. And that’s related to the growth of Attuned, how we are positioning ourselves in the market as HR technology.

And I think through those things…it’s the company, the way that we operate is different. The way that we talk is different. The way that we share information is different.

And so, I think that when I joined it was a case of like all this information about…at that time three years ago, Attuned was still fairly early stage, it was a lot to wrap my head around. And I think that that’s one of the challenges not just of coming in, but also adapting to the culture that we have, is understanding that the recruitment side is part of a much bigger plan that we have.

And that is very much a… I don’t want this to sound negative but The Robert Walters’, Michael Page’s of the world, they do what they do incredibly well and they’ve grown massively based on that. But I don’t see as much innovation. And I think there’s a lot of smaller companies that, they don’t have any desire to innovate, which is fine because there’s…In the market that we’re in, in Japan, I think that there’s a lot of money to be made in this business without doing anything particularly… You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, I guess is what I’m saying. So, for us again the mission is a little bit different, which makes it more complicated and it’s more for people to wrap their heads around I guess.


Well, hey thanks again for your time today and all your insights. And definitely for any viewers out there that are interested feel free to reach out to Chad directly or the people at Wahl + Case. And again, thanks for watching. Chad, thanks for joining us.



Brad, thank you very much. It was great.


Alright, so, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more great content from Coffee for Closers. Take care.

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