From Rock Bottom to Rising Star in 12 Months – Our Founder’s Story

Coceptive Recruitment Founder & Senior Associate Luke Hemmings is on top of his game and yet he feels like he is just getting started. He explains his story and journey of success in his own words.

Rising in the ranks, Luke Hemmings Founder & Senior Associate at Coceptive Recruitment.

Coceptive Recruitment is Canberra and Queanbeyan’s go-to recruitment agency, setting the standard for industry best practice and taking a people-centric approach to everything we do. We focus on building valuable relationships with our clients and candidates, while creating an innovative, collaborative workplace for our own employees that fosters their personal growth and professional development. We believe we’re breaking new ground in the industry.

We support businesses and talent by taking the time to understand their motivation and goals. We’re bold, polished and direct. This approach reduces a drawn-out hiring process and ensures skills gaps are filled efficiently and effectively

What does a 26-year-old with no experience in HR do to get his foot in the door?

Undertake study in the field? Get an entry level position and gain experience?

Well, if your name is Luke Hemmings, you bypass the traditional route and start your own recruitment agency.

I know it’s unorthodox, but that’s how my HR career started exactly 12 months ago. Prior to that, I had a diverse background in hospitality, real estate and media. Although I had experienced several great roles, I hadn’t found the fulfilling career I was looking for.

A friend suggested my personality, ambition and skills would be well-suited to HR. So, rather than take the traditional route of working my way up and gaining industry experience, I dove in head-first and launched Coceptive Recruitment in August 2019.

I hit the ground running, learning as I went along, and it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s extremely rewarding to know you work in an industry where you can change people’s lives on a daily basis by helping them secure meaningful employment or grow their business.

Over the past 12 months Coceptive Recruitment has grown from a one-man band, with a clientele of zero, to a dynamic team of seven full-time staff. We’ve filled numerous positions for clients ranging from small-medium businesses to household names.

We’ve grown our candidate database to 1,453 and currently we’re working with several clients to fill their vacancies.

I believe in Transformational Leadership. This means I encourage and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will shape the future success of the company. I do this by encouraging open communication and collaboration.

When I started Coceptive Recruitment I never wanted to adopt the leadership style of ‘dictating to people down below’ but rather work alongside them and bring them on the journey with us to the top. It’s my job to lead by example, striving for continual improvement across all areas of the business. In my eyes, success has always been about the people. Having positive people around inspires and motivates me.

An example of my approach to leadership is that I encourage team problem solving. If one of our staff is having a challenging time filling a vacancy for a client, they’re not left to solve the problem on their own. If someone is struggling to find a solution, we all work together to find a solution in a team environment. This collaboration promotes a workplace culture free of judgement and in turn leads to better results for our business and more importantly our clients and candidates.

Coceptive Recruitment team members.

Although we believe we offer a very affordable service, we understand that the cost of working with a recruitment agency can be prohibitive for smaller businesses, especially under the challenging market conditions in 2020. To improve accessibility, I implemented a Recruit Now, Pay Later option. This allows businesses to engage our services and instead of the standard up-front payment, clients can pay over a period of 3-6 months. We’re the only recruitment business in Canberra offering this option.

We have also recently introduced Coceptive Wellness, a program available to our entire team giving them access to a Wellness Trainer and Health Coach at the company’s expense. Recruitment is not a 9-5 job, it’s an around the clock gig and you really must be committed to it, to do it very well.

We think health is just as important as work and we believe it’s our responsibility to ensure our staff are healthy and well. Not only does Coceptive Wellness help our staff stay physically and mentally fit, it results in better performance at work, so it’s a significant win-win.

Another example of innovation is the Coceptive Innovation Lab, our own in-house creative department which puts videography, photography and graphic design all under the one roof. The Innovation Lab ensures we’re at the cutting edge of technology and processes and able to put together exceptional campaigns very quickly, something our competitors cannot offer.

I believe I’ve got my finger on the pulse, in terms of what the market is doing and as a firm we have never been motivated by the wrong reasons. Having a good reputation is key to delivering effective HR Solutions. Focusing on people first is an essential part of us meeting our objective to match candidates to a company that will allow them to thrive or connect a client to an employee that will help their company grow. We’re not about plugging gaps as quickly as possible but connecting the right people.

I’ve seen many recruitment agencies who, if they receive a resume from a candidate that doesn’t match the criteria for a job, they’ll never contact the candidate. However, we contact every person we come into contact with, regardless of whether they fit the criteria for the position we’re advertising.

Everyone possesses talent and I don’t believe candidates should be rejected at the first opportunity. We keep them on file and if a role comes up that suits what they’re after, we will actively follow that up. We go to our database first before we advertise a job to the broader market.

All our staff go through a rigorous induction process, including a 4-6 week advanced recruitment course which our firm pays for. This course provides our staff with a solid grounding in everything they need to know to do their job effectively, and for those who have been in the industry a while it’s an excellent refresher.

This training allows us to provide consistent service delivery for our clients and ensures all our staff feel confident in their role.

In addition to this, I owe a huge thank you to our Business Coach/ Mentor Brad Semmens and Psychologist Katherine Hurrell. Who I have direct access to. Both work closely with me from a leadership perspective to ensure that I stay productive and accountable both personally and professionally. They also assist me with setting personal and work-related goals, whilst motivating and helping me support our team to achieve their best in all facets of their life.

When choosing a Business Coach and Psychologist, I only wanted to work with people who had the result that I wanted and I think that’s important to realise when searching for a great mentor.

To implement the vision of the company it’s important that I lead by example. We aim to be the region’s premier recruitment firm, dominate the Canberra and Queanbeyan market and excel in every element of our operation. To achieve this vision, it’s essential that we have a strong company culture.

All our communication is open, effective and non-judgemental. We encourage consistency in everything we do and that takes a team effort. I lead and guide the team, but we’re all on the same level.

To create a strong company culture, Coceptive Recruitment has the following core values:

  • We collaborate. We believe in building relationships, because people are at the heart of what we do. We treat our team, clients and candidates with respect. We take pride in our work and are accountable for our actions and outcomes.
  • We empower people. We believe in continuous development and encouragement of our team so we can deliver positive outcomes for our clients and candidates. We empower our staff to make decisions, let them lead by example and learn from experience when things don’t go to plan.
  • We create experiences. Our reputation depends on our personalised service and we strive to live up to the high standard we have set for ourselves.
  • We’re always learning. We know effective recruitment isn’t easy, so we believe in continuous education and learning. We learn from the industry’s best and invest in developing our people.

My biggest professional challenge over the past 12 months has been growing the agency from nothing to what it is today. Not only has this been my biggest professional challenge, but my biggest personal one as well.

In fact, just shy of 12 months ago I was standing at Ulladulla Headland contemplating taking my own life. My mental health was suffering, and it took immense determination to push through.

Coming into the industry with absolutely no experience and starting from scratch, no-one knew who I was and there were plenty of people who expected me to fail. I know this may sound dramatic, but I truly had to overcome the mindset that everyone thought Coceptive Recruitment would crash and burn. It took a lot of work, but I refused to let other people’s opinions throw me off course. A lot of people aren’t bold enough to be who they really are, speak their truth and not care what other people think. I knew I had the drive and perseverance to succeed and with an exceptional team around me, I’ve been able to be bold, take risks and create a successful agency on my own terms.

I’ve done all this while at the same time navigating an extremely challenging market, starting with the December bushfires and floods followed by the Coronavirus pandemic. These challenges have been overcome because of my commitment to building relationships, willingness to adapt to change, a never quit attitude, and hiring high-quality like-minded people to work alongside me.

My Top Achievements For 2019/2020

  • Growing the Coceptive Recruitment team from 1 employee to 7 full-time employees.
  • Filling several vacancies for clients despite extremely challenging market conditions, including bushfires and a global pandemic.
  • Growing our candidate database from 0 to 1453.
  • Being nominated as a finalist for the HRD Recruitment Industry Rising Star Award 2020.
  • Being featured in Recruitment Marketing Magazine.
  • Being admitted as a Member of the Australian HR Insitute.

Something you probably didn’t know about me is that I have a 4-hour commute each day to get to the office, so you may wonder why I based Coceptive Recruitment in Canberra?

Canberra is saturated with franchise recruitment models, most of them managed by people based in Sydney or Melbourne. And while I have respect for our competitors, I wanted to bring an independent agency to the market that was flexible and adaptive, not bound by franchise red-tape and a one-size-fits-all philosophy. An agency where the management and staff were accessible and based in the local area, with greater knowledge of the Canberra and Queanbeyan job market and the specific challenges our clients and candidates face.

That’s why we’re not your typical recruitment agency. We are bold, polished and direct. We’re very forthright in our communication, who we hire and the clients that we take on. I think it’s important to speak in a matter of fact way. We are always compassionate and professional, but if a client or candidate isn’t a great fit, we’re upfront and honest about that.

We focus on building relationships. Any time we take on a new client or candidate, we have very selective criteria and assess whether we can truly add value for them. We need to be on the same page. I think this is something that really sets us apart from other recruitment agencies.

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Luke Hemmings

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