Ask the expert – our conversation with Sophie Milliken

Image of Sophie Milliken, MD at SRS Recruitment and Employability Experts

"Hiring the right people takes time the right questions and a healthy dose of curiosity."

– Richard Branson

Our passion is to partner and collaborate with like-minded folk who have a purpose beyond purely ‘making money’. We want to support a more ‘conscious’ model of capitalism where entrepreneurs and business leaders share a growth mindset, have a true sense of purpose and are passionate about growing their businesses and achieving their vision; whilst harnessing the best out of their people to deliver performance and profits.

This is why we have decided to ‘Ask the expert’ and showcase some of our business partners; exploring what makes them tick and more importantly finding out more about their views on working in partnership and sharing their tips for how to make it work.

This month, we caught up with Sophie Milliken, founder and MD at SRS Recruitment and Employability Experts.

Through our conversation, this is what we found out…


Tell us about you and your business

I’m the managing director of a multi award-winning business, as well as a TEDx speaker, two times best-selling author, chair of Smart Works Newcastle and a proud mum, amongst other things.

SRS Recruitment and Employability Experts is an employability consultancy that specialises in graduate recruitment. For employers, we design their assessment materials and processes to help them recruit graduates who fit seamlessly into their business.

We’ve worked with companies including M&S, JP Morgan and Expedia.

We also work with over 40 universities providing vital training designed to help graduates enter the jobs market.

We’ve become well known for running large scale assessment centre simulations across the country. Only last week we were at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester working with 300 Manchester Metropolitan University marketing students. Job hunting can be a nerve-wracking experience for students. Putting them through our training gives them a realistic experience of what to expect when preparing to enter the jobs market, which is essential in boosting their confidence and giving them their best chance of success.


What is the most rewarding part of running your business?

One of the most rewarding things is watching the progress of my fantastic team, one of whom is doing a Masters degree currently. Seeing all the ideas this has generated for her is great. Also, the clients and students that we work with, particularly on the university side, are amazing.

When the students first come in, they’re a little quiet because they might not want to be there, but throughout the day, the noise level starts to rise, signalling that they’re engaging with the programme and enjoying themselves. I love hearing them in the corridors saying “I really enjoyed that” or “that was fun”, and the feedback from them at the end is always really positive.

We often hear from them down the line too, letting us know that they’ve secured jobs which allows us to quantify the success of our business. Some students we’ve worked with have even told us the training was ‘life changing’, which is phenomenal to hear.


Three tips for a good working relationship with partners:

  1. Clear contracting from the start – so that you both have aligned expectations and there is absolute clarity around the deliverables.
  2. Regular reviews at appropriate times – to make sure things are on track and everyone is on the same page.
  3. Mutual respect – this is paramount. If you’re working with external partners and you’ve both decided to do that for reciprocal benefit it’s important to be respectful, open and honest to maintain a good quality relationship.


How can a true partnership strengthen a business?

If you have a good partnership and they are giving you feedback, this can be instrumental in strengthening your business and the skills of your team. If you’re responding effectively to feedback, this can help with retaining clients too. We often get referrals from partners, which is brilliant.


Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by women in business. When I moved back to the North East from London, I went to a lot of traditional business events which I found a little stale. Then I started attending some refreshing women in business events and there I met some truly inspirational women.

Alongside that, I wrote my second book during lockdown called ‘The Ambition Accelerator’ to inspire young women with their careers. I got to interview some amazing women for that. One of the women I enjoyed speaking to is Sara Davies MBE, from Dragon’s Den (and currently on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing), who I approached to be our ambassador for Smart Works Newcastle. She’s been incredible.


What are your plans for the future?

It’s important that I give back and so I’m involved in several different charities. I’m chair at Smart Works Newcastle and we’ve recently decided that we’re going to double the number of women we support over the next year. This month is the first month we’ll hit that target, which is so satisfying.

I feel like I’m getting lots of new opportunities too. Only this morning I was a guest on Wake Up to Money on BBC 5 Live! That was a great experience and I think it’s important to share the lessons I’ve learned in business, so I’d love to continue with more media work. Writing is also a passion of mine and there’s more to come. Watch this space!