Nikki Tarr

Head of Talent Acquisition, ex-ClearCourse – looking for next challenge

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school and what did you learn from that person?

Oh I love this question! I’ve been a teacher, (albeit not in the UK) so have an understanding of the challenges and have the utmost respect for people that teach for a career. I’ve had several amazing teachers, but the most memorable would be Miss Matherson who taught at my Primary school in London, she would have been in year 5 I believe as I would have been 8 or 9 when I was in her class, but I remember being aware of her before that. We respected her as she was very no-nonsense in her approach and not afraid to raise her voice to keep us in line, but was also able to keep us engaged and actually ensure we walked out of the classroom having learnt something. She also suffered from MS and by the time I had the privilege of being in her class was already in a wheelchair. I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back, my drive and determination, “never say die” attitude and characteristic of always pushing forward despite adversity, is something that I think her example sparked in me.

Special mention for my English teacher during my GCSEs who used to ride around the classroom on a tiny kid’s tricycle to keep us focused on her – it really worked! She was outspoken, openly gay and had very short hair, which was slightly less common in the 90s compared to now. I was a huge admirer of her self-confidence, style and fierce intelligence, and she instilled in me a love of the English language that has never diminished.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

Haha, this probably won’t sound inconsequential to a lot of people, but it was pretty off-the cuff at the time. In 2008 I was in my late twenties, living on a boat-share in Gibraltar bumming around and doing bar work. One day my friend came back to the boat and asked if I fancied crewing a racing yacht to Thailand. The owner wanted it re-fitted and it would be cheaper for this to be done in Thailand (and even cheaper if you can find a crew to sail it there that you don’t have to pay!) As my Dad lived and still lives in Thailand, I said yes without much thought as it seemed a great way to get there given I could never have afforded the plane ticket. That trip was life-changing in itself for reasons we don’t have time to go into, but more than that, it started a chain-reaction of events which resulted in me moving back to the UK in 2009, starting my career in Recruitment in 2010 and now, talking to you, when I’d previously never dreamed that I’d even work in an office, let alone develop the career that I now have..

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

I guess just looking after myself better.. I spent my 20’s and 30’s with a “live fast, die young” mentality. I’m the kind of person that puts 110% into everything I do, and back then that looked like how late can I stay up, how many noxious substances can I put into my body and how many hours can I work whilst doing all of the above!

I quit alcohol on NYE 2019 and since then have been on a journey of self-improvement and self care which has resulted in my going from someone who had never set foot in a gym to now going 5 times per week, running a half marathon in less than 2 hours this year and now being THAT person that is tucked up in bed with a book by 9pm 🤣 sounds boring but I love it and feel a million times better than I did 4 years ago.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’ve studied a little about behaviour change, but this book really breaks down the steps and gives simple, actionable advice that can help everyone improve their habits. His back story is impressive too.

Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty

I love how Jay uses ancient wisdom to help us make sense of ourselves. He’s a great storyteller and I found this book really helped me to become more grounded, grateful and calm.

Connect David Bradford & Carole Robin

Omg this book is life changing! It gives practical ideas on how to better understand your relationships and why you and other people behave the way that they do – so insightful.

5. If I were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

Too impatient and overeager, doesn’t always think before she speaks.  Tends to talk too much, too fast and talks over or interrupts people, so can come across as overbearing. Work, exercise and nutrition obsessed, lacks a social life and no good after 9pm!

6. What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the
world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and

At the risk of sounding woo-woo, gratitude. We live in a society that is engineered to make us dissatisfied and constantly seek external gratification and advertising and social media are designed to increase our feelings of empty desire and jealousy “if only I had this iPhone or this new car or this item of clothing or was on that holiday” …I think that truly happy people realise that happiness comes from inside and a step towards realising that is to be grateful for what you have and even just for being alive which goes for everyone on the planet. There was only a 1 in 4 trillion chance of anyone being born, so that makes you being here pretty fricking amazing!

7. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are
wary to do so?

Why I gave up drinking and my sober journey. Alcohol is such an ingrained part of global society and alcohol is the only drug addiction which is blamed on the individual as opposed to the substance (you don’t get a cigarette-aholic or a heroin-aholic!) that to be someone who admits to having had a dependency is not generally something people feel comfortable talking about.

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

Sticking with that theme, drinking alcohol! At the risk of sounding preachy, it’s a poison that comes top of the WHO harmful substances list, costs the NHS an estimated £25B per year, and is linked to over 200 illnesses and 42% of violent crime in the UK, yet it’s still legal which is shocking but maybe not unsurprising given the trillions the government make from the industry.

I think we’re seeing a societal shift already in that Gen Z drink 20% less alcohol than Millennials, along with the rise in availability of low and 0% alternatives (which makes me very happy as I was a big real ale drinker and I still like a pint or two when I can get my hands on an AF beer on draft!) so I hope that in the future, alcohol will go the same way that cigarettes are going in becoming far less socially acceptable.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

I’m probably a bit late to the party, but I’ve been getting to grips with Chat GPT and it is just brilliant for automating these time consuming tasks like writing JDs and adverts and also for summarising notes from candidate interviews.

10. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

I’d love to take six months out and backpack round either SE Aisa or South America. I’ve dreamt about doing that since returning from living in Thailand in 2009. I absolutely love travel and experiencing different cultures and have lived in several countries, but haven’t had the time or funds in the last 10 years to do much more than a standard 2 week holiday each year which is still lovely and I’m certainly not complaining, but doesn’t give you the chance to truly immerse yourself in a place and its people.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what
would it look like?

Ahhh, this nearly happened when I was living in Thailand, but my investor (also my Mother 😂) pulled out at the last minute! My bar was going to have living walls covered in plants, an indoor waterfall and a tropical fish tank and an open library with books that could be read onsite or borrowed. There would be chilled Ibiza tunes playing in the daytime and people would be able to come and drink smoothies and Thai iced tea or coffee while reading or playing board games on the Thai-style low couches.. At night it would be festooned with twinkling fairy lights of all colours and a massive disco ball above the dance floor. There would be trance and club classics playing and trained mixologists serving amazing cocktails with sparklers in!

12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Oooh this is really tough as there are so many! I think there would have to be David Attenborough as he is just such a hero and national treasure and I admire him so much, Stephen Fry as I think he’s brilliant;I’m sure he’d had some interesting stories and his wit and intellect would make for scintillating conversation. Then Sarah Millican as I just love her sense of humour and down to earth take on life.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

My first boss and mentor in recruitment, the incomparable John Nathan, when I was just starting out, drummed into me that “preparation prevents piss-poor performance” and this has definitely helped me throughout my career. I always make my deadlines, but have been known to leave everything to the last minute and cause myself far more stress and worry than I need too. Reminding myself of this mantra will usually give me the kick up the arse I need to start preparing earlier, stress less and perform better.

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Stubbornness 😂 not sure if you can call it a skill, but the fact that I tend to be like a dog with a bone and will not give up until I have achieved what I set out to do, has definitely made me more successful.

15. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

Massively depends on the other characters in the team, but it’s often the leader / organiser/ spokesperson or if not, I will be the person taking notes and helping direct the flow of discussion. My DISC profile is high D/I and I’m an only child as well as being very impatient for results 😂 so I seem to end up being the person who is bossing everyone about to get things moving!

16. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

Generally I’m for people who seem the most inquisitive and ask the most questions. You can train the recruitment process, you can’t train curiosity or EQ.

17. Who In our industry would make a great Prime Minister (or equivalent role in your country) ?

Bill Boorman, hands down, no explanation needed!

18. What is your biggest professional regret? What do you think might have
happened otherwise?

This might sound trivial, but it’s played on my mind for years. Whilst I was managing a team in a high street agency environment, one of my team had a particularly good month of perm placements which was enough to push him into the top threshold of the commission structure. This would make the difference of about £700 in his pocket. The candidate was going to be starting in their role on the cut off date (inclusive) for that month’s commission, but when I was in my weekly review with the area manager, she told me that we would need to bump the placement into the next month “to keep the figures more level”. My team member was understandably really pissed off, and even though I was sickened by the whole thing, as I was new in post and lacked confidence, I did not push back as hard as I think I could have and he lost out on a significant chunk of cash. I don’t think I could have got the directive overturned, but if I’d have tried a bit harder, it would be one less thing that my brain reminds me of at 3am!

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

How did you get into Recruitment (everyone has a story!)

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

My erstwhile boss John Nathan as I really respect his calm and pragmatic approach to life and I think he’s give some really insightful answers.

Thank you to Nikki Tarr for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Nikki on LinkedIn.

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