“We wanted to utilise the Levy and find a better way to recruit for entry-level talent. But beyond that, we wanted to diversify our talent pool. We've really only had talent coming through from very prestigious Oxbridge universities and while that's great, we also want to look in other places for hidden gems and hidden talents.” - Laura Tomsett, Recruitment Advisor, Christie’s
Challenges: Fill long-term operational gaps and cater to the needs of the modern buyer.
Founded in 18th-century London, Christie’s is famous for its prestigious and record-breaking auctions. So when asked to imagine what kind of person works there, most people picture an Oxbridge grad. But according to Laura Tomsett, Recruitment Advisor at Christie's, it's an image that no longer makes sense.
“Everyone has this perception that we’re all the same here and we’re really not—we’re actually a weird and wonderful organisation of many different characters. And we’re making sure we’re looking for candidates in as many diverse places as possible to ensure the future of our business. That's what it’s all about.”
Christie’s already has an established graduate programme and internship scheme, but Laura knew they needed to diversify their talent pipeline even further if they wanted to stay ahead of the curve.
“We have two very distinct parts of our business—one is the art side and the other is operations. We can sometimes struggle to find entry level talent on the operations side, as everybody wants to be on the art side. We want people who have a love for art but that don’t necessarily want to be on the art side, which is quite hard to find,” Laura explains.
But beyond the gaps in their headcount, Laura and the recruitment team at Christie's knew they needed a long-term play to diversify their workforce.
"This is especially important with new art markets emerging and different people collecting now. We had the George Michael sale recently, we had David Gilmour's guitars—these are all sales that appeal to way more people than just art collectors. It’s important that we have people within the business who reflect those buyers. The art market has never been so open and we need the right people to drive that forward."
Laura's mission was clear: create a genuinely diverse pipeline of long-term talent. To do that, she needed go outside the usual recruitment channels.
Solution: Build a diverse pipeline of entry-level talent.
“We had a vision in our mind of how we wanted to recruit but we didn’t know how to find the kind of candidates who could grow to be senior leaders in the years to come.”
So when it came to finding the right supplier to work with, Laura’s director Toby did what any modern recruiter would do—he turned to social media.
“My director posted on his LinkedIn profile ‘We’re trying to implement an apprentice programme—is there anyone you could put us in touch with?’ And someone left a comment asking, ‘Have you spoken to WhiteHat’?"
By sheer coincidence, a colleague from the CEO’s office mentioned that one of their clients also happened to know (and highly recommend) WhiteHat. It seemed meant to be.
“When WhiteHat came in to talk to us, it didn’t feel like a pitch at all. They were relaxed and it felt like they were really trying to make a difference. That resonated with me a lot,” Laura recalls.
Laura and her team enlisted WhiteHat to help find best-fit apprentice candidates and build a diverse entry-level talent pipeline that could grow and evolve in step with buyer markets.
“We tend to find entry-level talent in the same kind of places. But it’s a changing market and university is an expensive luxury now—a lot of people are deciding it’s not for them. There are people out there that haven’t had as much opportunity put in front them, but they're just as bright, just as driven, just as intellectual. It’s important to us to find those people,” says Laura.
6 - Apprentices hired
18-month - Apprenticeship programmes
1 full day - In time-saved per week
But Christie’s is no ordinary organisation. Laura knew she would need exceptional-calibre candidates to fill her entry-level pipeline.
“I liked that the fact that WhiteHat asked candidates directly ‘why do you want to be an apprentice?’ They went to a new level of depth with their apprentices to ensure it was their plan A and not just a fallback plan for not getting into university. Christie's is a very competitive organisation to work in, with lots of very educated people. It could be a daunting place for someone who didn’t truly want to be here,” Laura explains.
Today, there are 5 WhiteHat apprentices, and 1 WhiteHat helped to hire, in a variety of roles within the organisation. And although it’s still early days for the programme, Laura already sees the benefits.
“Apprentices save time by taking on a range of important tasks. Our HR apprentice does everything an entry-level member of staff does. She easily saves me at least a day a week—from organising meetings, making bookings, and especially in busy periods where we might have hired a temporary resource.”
And the benefits reach far beyond immediate capacity support. By investing in apprentices, Laura and her team are saving on future recruitment costs.
“The level of work and time it would normally take us to find qualified people is incredible—the shortlisting, the manager's time to interview, the compliance and background checks. With apprentices, if we can help them step into these roles, we don’t need to do any of that. And that’s the idea. They're in the business for 18 months and we would argue that after that amount of time, they'll be ready to step into permanent roles,” says Laura.
The success of the programme hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the business either.
"For the next cohort, everyone wants to be involved. We’ve even got team leaders who were a bit tepid the first time around who now say they want their own apprentices, their own hidden gems, in their departments.”
And according to Laura, they couldn't have done it alone.
“It was really new for us but WhiteHat was always there to guide us, provide advice and find us great candidates. What makes them a great partner is that they go above and beyond what we would expect an apprenticeships provider to deliver. Our Account Manager Abbi has really become our apprenticeships guru. She helps us in so many ways.”
As a recruiter inside and out, Laura says one of the best parts about working with apprentices is the opportunity to develop a new generation of talent.
“This is an exciting group to work with—they’re a blank canvas. The whole business enjoys being part of this programme and it’s hugely rewarding for the people that come and work here. It’s truly a win-win.”
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