Why we do recruitment a little differently


James here! I head up Octopus’ search for talent in our Operations team. As Head of Talent, Culture & Space, it’s my job to ensure our recruitment, onboarding and learning and development processes work for our fledgling team members, but also meet the high standards we set for ourselves.

I started as one of Octopus' first Energy Specialists 4.5 years ago, and along the way I've learnt a thing or two about creating brilliant teams who put customers first.

I wanted to talk a little bit about how we recruit great people for our Operations team.

What’s going on with Operations recruitment?

Recently I’ve been reflecting on our recruitment process, and I’ve started to ask the team questions about scaling, inclusivity and delivering better outcomes for Octopus and all our candidates.

Our business is growing rapidly, and in the Operations team our job is to meet that growth. We work to maintain and improve the standards we’ve set ourselves when it comes to putting smiles on customers’ faces.

An image of one of our ops team members answering the phone

As an agile tech company, we’re constantly making our processes more efficient, so each Energy Specialist can be more effective than ever before and can do more than ever before. Still, people are at the heart of what we do, they are the ones who talk to customers, and in simplest terms, we need more people to match our rapid customer growth. This means that in 2021 we effectively need to hire double the amount of people that we’ve ever hired in a year before.

Ensuring Inclusivity at Octopus

The BLM movement started a deep conversation across the business about our responsibilities. I’ve learned so much from that conversation and wanted to make sure that in Ops, and particularly in Ops recruitment, we were leading the way with a fair and inclusive process that delivered a result that reflects the diverse society we serve.

A graphic showing a diverse group of people celebrating

I wanted to make sure that everyone involved in decision making understood bias, both conscious and unconscious. When we engaged candidates, I wanted to guarantee that we purely focused on competency and that every candidate had an equal opportunity to prove their worth to us.

We rolled out unconscious bias training and we continue to discuss inclusivity - it’s an ongoing conversation, deeply ingrained in every element of our process, not just an afternoon’s training session several months ago.

Our ultimate goal is to remove CVs from the recruitment process entirely. We’re 75% of the way there and only the initial stages of the process include the CV.

Finally, we only use your first name and the first letter of your surname in the process. We discovered an abundance of research that suggests this effectively reduces bias.

Who is involved in the recruitment process?

Another change we’ve made is to involve the Ops team in decisions about who we hire. Today, around 25% of the team gets involved in the recruitment process. They each offer a unique and helpful perspective. It’s a matter of real pride to offer some recent recruits the opportunity to take part in the process, alongside their Energy Specialist role.

Why are we making these changes?

Change is good. Change is at the heart of what we do at Octopus.

The Ops recruitment team wanted to make sure we were doing more than ever before to ensure that our team was diverse. We learned a lot in 2020 about how society needs to do more to be fair and inclusive. The energy industry in particular lags on this. We saw no reason as to why we couldn’t lead here. We’re already seeing more diversity in recruitment outcomes and our business is all the better for it.

Another reason we made changes was to drive candidate experience through the roof, especially in a virtual world.

An Image of one of our lovely octopus teams!

When our teams are in the office, there is so much excitement about what we do. Since lockdown, we had struggled to share that excitement with candidates. The Discovery Day has given a platform to team members, and allowing them to talk about what they do has really engaged candidates. Our NPS (candidate happiness/recommendation) has fluctuated between 80 & 95 over the last few months, and this is above our average customer NPS, so all of the team deserve praise for their role in that.

Finally, like every part of the Octopus team, we always need to focus on being more efficient. The Discovery Day in particular, has helped us to succeed here. Our conversion rates have increased from 40% to 55% and we’ve saved an average of 30 minutes per successful candidate.

What should a candidate expect?

Candidates can expect a process that focuses on getting to know them as an individual. It is thorough and it requires a lot of commitment. For those that make it through and meet the team, they can expect a super excited bunch of people. We’re eager to share what it’s like to work here, and also keen to understand how they respond to situations and prioritise certain things.

What do we look for in a candidate?

The team and I hire people who are kind and caring. They need to be solutions focused and resilient to help unhappy customers. They should have grit and determination, and they really need to respond well to challenges.

There is not one single mould at Octopus. We have a beautifully diverse team all across Operations and want to continue this way. Some of the team are recent graduates from a wide array of courses, others have been looking after customers for decades. People succeed in the recruitment process if they genuinely care about customers, if they really want to be part of a team, and if they are smart in how they approach work.

How does the Discovery Day work?

They are 2.5 hours, usually on a Thursday morning, and they currently take place on zoom. We bring between 12 to 15 candidates together from all across the country for all of our Energy Specialist roles.

A screenshot of a discovery day meeting!

I kick things off by setting the context with regards to who we are and what we’re looking for. My intention is to really give a sense of our ambition and the challenge we have set ourselves. This usually lasts 10 minutes and it’s promptly followed by an ice breaker (led by some of the most boisterous members of the team). This part is all about removing nerves and demonstrating we’re not a stuffy formal corporate.

We then split into smaller groups and tackle problem solving exercises that are exactly like some of the customer queries we get in Operations everyday.

We also have a research challenge in smaller groups, where you are tapping into your research skills and imagination, working with a small team to pitch an idea to us.

We then have a sharp competency-focused 30 minute interview, followed by a number of Q&A panels where members of the Ops team will answer any questions you throw at us! We get some brilliant questions, covering everything from the day to day role to what makes us get out of bed in the morning.

Around 22 members of our Operations team usually take part in each Discovery Day, and after speaking to them all, it’s clear that this is one of their favourite tasks. We’re all super excited to meet our colleagues-to-be!

Any other advice?

Do your research. Think outside the box. Keep high standards. Forget how legacy businesses treat their customers.

Meet the team

These are the folks who dedicate themselves to helping customers, day in and day out, so they’re best placed to help search for new talent. Learn a bit more about them and see what matters to each of them!

An image of sameera in our ops team



I'm Sameera and I work as a Digiops squad lead at Octopus. Here at Octopus we form a diverse family & are looking for enthusiastic people who have strong work ethics & the drive to succeed, so let us Octopi your heart 🐙

An image of Gaby in our ops team



Hey, I'm Gaby! I'm an energy specialist, credit specialist, and now part of the recruitment team based in Brighton. I'm a one woman show! Bring your best personalities, your drive, and your best jokes to our business and hopefully I'll see some of you with us shortly! From our little Octo-family 🐙

An image of ben in our ops team



Hi I'm Ben, I am one of the team leaders in the Warwick office who transitioned from one of our partnerships - Co-op Energy. We are on the lookout for confident, hard working and determined candidates to come and join our diverse and ink-redible family! Have you got what it takes? 🐙

An image of tiff in our ops team



Hiya, I'm Tiff! I'm one of the trainers here at Octopus and I also recently joined recruitment in Brighton. We are looking for determined individuals with a genuine passion for delivering excellent customer service and the drive to grow alongside this ever-evolving company. If you see this for yourself, do get in touch - we'd love to hear from you!

An image of Sotoris in our operations team



Hi I'm Sotiris, I manage a lot of the Leicester recruitment and lead some of the Discovery Days we've introduced! The team has worked incredibly hard to limit the bias involved in our recruitment process while giving everyone the best chance to succeed. If you want to make a positive impact in customers' lives while playing your part in creating a greener future, then we want to hear from you!

An image of Christie in our ops team



I'm Christie, I'm an energy specialist here in London. I help out with recruitment in general across our sites, unconscious bias, and also help with our wonderful Discovery Days. We are looking for the brightest stars in customer service - helpful, motivated and hard working! The most important thing is you can be yourself here at our Octopus family 🐙

Published on 10th February 2021 by:

image of James Doyle

James Doyle

Head of Operations

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!