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So Munir, thank you for chatting to us today. Firstly, it would be good to know how you started out. What was your background before getting into the recruitment business?
Before recruitment I worked in media sales, so directory advertising, magazine advertising. It was all sales so I was cold calling business to business, focusing on new start ups.
That sounds like it was pretty full on for starting out in the world of employment?
Very much so, yes, but it was very good grounding. If you can succeed in that world, which is extremely cut-throat and competitive, you can succeed in anything. Especially back in the 90’s when all of the directories were fighting for business. Remember this was in the early days of digital advertising and most was still was paper based. It was great fun but really tough at the same time, I did telesales and field sales as well as running my own team too.
It sounds character building but long hours and a lot of grind. Did this influence on your decision to make the change from media sales to recruitment?
Around 1999, I had started to get really disillusioned with general B2B sales. I needed a new challenge. One day a friend of mine had just gotten a new job in recruitment in Leeds city centre and he suggested I give it a try. I wanted to stay in Sales, but I really needed a change. So I applied for a position in Leeds which was for an individual to set up a new sales desk, I turned up and I was given a phone and a desk and told to get started. I was still in Sales but the beauty of it was there was a reward at the end where I could actually find people jobs! That was extremely gratifying.
I can definitely understand that. I imagine there’s a much bigger sense of satisfaction there?
That’s it, if you’re selling a product it’s a one-way transaction. There’s more personal fulfilment being able to assist someone find a job and better themselves as opposed to merely making a sale of a product and it ending there. We are working with people and there’s an interaction there, a way to help someone. A product never says “thank you”.
Is there anything that you had to learn quickly when you switched from product sales to recruitment?
Absolutely. After-support is something we adopted very quickly. This is extremely important, especially now this market is so competitive. We needed to identify where we felt other companies were failing and set ourselves apart. Now we pride ourselves on value added services, which is why we’re having this conversation!
I understand you started out covering all aspects of recruitment before you decided to specialise in the education sector. What was the driving factor behind that decision?
When we began recruiting for overseas positions back in 2007, we picked up a few education contracts. This was just through my business development as I was working out in the Middle East, but the education side began to grow exponentially to the point where we had to make a decision. We made the choice to specialise in education because trying to be a master of everything just doesn’t work.
There is so much around this field to learn and so many nuances to be aware of, we felt we were serving our applicants better by focusing on this one area alone. This was pretty terrifying as we basically just got rid of all of our business overnight. It turned out to be the best thing we’d ever done! In 2015 we officially re-branded as m2r Education. The great benefit is we get to work with schools and colleges- we’re all passionate about education. It’s just a perfect fit.
We made the choice to specialise in education because trying to be a master of everything just doesn’t work.
Would you say your biggest focus is to build confidence in your new applicants by offering an experience of specialist support throughout?
Definitely, it’s about completing the experience for our applicants. It means that everyone on our team at m2r becomes an expert in education recruitment, they’re not doing education one day and engineering another day, and then we can confidently hand them on to Vital Consular for their legalisation needs. This makes a huge difference in the market, and really gives our team a confidence boost to handle anything that comes their way, wherever the applicant is from and being placed!
What did you have in place for your document legalisation needs before you teamed up with Vital Consular?
In all honesty, we had nothing! We fell into overseas recruitment so it wasn’t on our agenda to have all of these things in place. When we started to place people overseas we found ourselves advising them based on the information we had read ourselves online. We wanted to give high quality advice, but all we had was the research we had done. We realised that to give the best experience possible for our applicants, it was best to look for a specialist who dealt with legalisation alone.
Did you feel adding the burden of knowing the mechanics of global legalisation would have been detrimental to your team?
Very much so, but again it was all a huge learning curve. We started with a zero base and learned as much as we could, but there are so many variables and it seems legalisation is subject to as many changes in regulations as we are in recruitment.
So you’d decided to look for a specialist to deal with the document legalisation for you. How did you come across Vital Consular?
One of the applicants we placed overseas mentioned they’d used you to process their documents and had a great experience. We looked into your company, saw it had a great reputation and decided to start working with you. Even though we have a global reach, being partnered with another West Yorkshire based company really appealed to us, because we’re passionate about supporting other local businesses like ours.
It’s always refreshing for us to speak to companies who want to really support their new starters. What was it that made you decide to go the extra mile to assist your candidates?
It’s interesting you use the phrase “going the extra mile”, because we don’t see it that way. For us, it’s just part of what we do. If you’re placing someone in employment, you’re not going above and beyond helping them get their documents legalised. That suggests that there are a lot of recruitment companies out there which don’t do this as standard and I personally find that both surprising and also very worrying for the candidates. They’re not getting good quality advice especially when they’re potentially going to live and work overseas for the very first time.
It’s interesting you use the phrase “going the extra mile”, because we don’t see it that way. For us, it’s just part of what we do.
On this subject, could you tell us which countries you currently supply teachers to and are there any new markets you’re hoping to explore in 2019?
At the moment our core market is the Middle East and North Africa, and also South East Asia. We’ve started to gain some traction in Europe recently too. We go where the teachers are interested in living and working, and where there’s a demand from the institutions. There’s an increased demand at the moment for teachers in Latin America and further locations in West and East Africa, so we’re exploring these whilst continuing to grow and develop our existing core markets. If you look at the high value growth market in Latin America from the Department of International Trade, Brazil and Chile are ones to watch.
Any other plans for m2r Education this year as a company?
We’ve created a new division as of this year. We’re now offering our services across the entire education vertical, so not just teacher recruitment but also with education technology companies and supply companies. We only launched around 6 weeks ago but it’s already gaining traction which is exciting.
That does sound exciting, and very positive growth for the company. Have there been any challenges you’ve faced previously which have shaped this progressive approach?
In the early days we had to brave two recessions. This almost broke us, but we came through it. Many companies focus on sectors which are floundering and once that happens they don’t have the capacity to make changes. When the recession hit we noticed things in the UAE were starting to struggle so we focused on Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.
You’ve got to keep a keen eye on what’s going on, trying to stick it out doesn’t work. You only need to look at the UK high street. You’d be stuck if you supplied recruitment solely to that market and didn’t keep your eye on changes so you can adapt accordingly. The fact that education is an ever-changing sector can create some frustration in the office when you’ve got something nailed and then it changes overnight, but as long as we keep expanding and diversifying, we will continue to do well.
One of the ways you’ve been recognised for your success is becoming a proud Export Champion. Why is this so important to m2r?
For us to be recognised by the Department of International Trade as an organisation which really excels in British Export is just fantastic! As I understand, we are the only education recruitment company which are Export Champions and it just shows we are at the forefront of this sector and doing something right. I’m not saying we are the biggest or the best, but the recognition is fantastic for our credibility in a saturated market. As we’ve alluded to before, recruitment doesn’t have the best reputation because there are a lot of instances where support isn’t as good as it should be. We need to do all we can to boost our standing to the best it can be.
Finally, we like to ask interviewees what their favourite quotation is?
I don’t really have a favourite quotation, but I do believe that you make your own luck. That’s what I live by. When people say I’m lucky, I say it’s not really true, I worked hard for it! That’s more my personal mantra, rather than a quote.
If you are looking to secure an overseas teaching position and haven’t yet done so, get in touch with m2r Education via their website here. You can see the latest positions available and speak to the specialist team. If you’ve already secured a position and need your documents legalising, you can access exclusive rates with Vital Consular, courtesy of m2r Education, through the portal here.