Meet Virginia Poly, “The Force is With Poly Placements”: Leading One of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Staffing Firms
“… I started Poly Placements in 2006 when I was transitioning from maternity leave back into the workforce. In our first year, it was just me and another recruiter, mostly working from home – our 2006 revenues were $2600! Now, I have 7 full-time employees and 50+ contractors in the field at any given time. And we’re one of the fastest-growing recruitment companies in Canada – we were #6 on the Profit Hot 50 list of emerging growth companies in 2009, and I was listed on the Profit W100 which recognizes female business leadership.”
• Virginia Poly, President of Poly Placements
• Toronto, Canada
• Follow Virginia’s Twitter Profile
• Follow Poly Placements
• PolyPlacements Website
• Community Volunteering: I’m a volunteer board member at my son’s daycare.
• Phone: 416.440.3362
I had the pleasure of being introduced to Virginia Poly at the ERE Conference in San Diego. It was the opening event networking mixer on a beautiful, bright warm day and she was wearing her sunglasses. She struck a well polished, sophisticated air, with a warm smile. What I liked about her was that she laughed at my jokes on a rare day where I (thought) I was particularly funny. She played along and humored me, but the impression which she left me with was that she was quite articulate and knowledgeable about her business and I was grateful to Lorne Epstein for making the introduction. Since that time that we have corresponded, I learned her sense of humor wasn’t momentary, but a part of her approachable, friendly character. I am glad to have made a new and quite astute colleague, but even more so, to have learned in the process that she has made quite the impression on the Canadian staffing market. She is force to be appreciated, making inroads within the female business leadership.
Prior to her current role as President of Poly Placements, Virginia was a top producing sales professional with over 10 years of experience in Sales, Training, Recruiting and Project Management within an Information Technology environment.
Virginia has also spent part of my career as a trainer. She has experience as a sales trainer and as a technical trainer/consultant. She has worked with many large corporations seeking to achieve productivity gains through their people, processes and/or technology. She has extensive general management experience in the staffing and training industry and I am a strategic thinker with experience in managing turnaround and start-up situations.
Poly Placements ranked 6th fastest growing start-up business in Canada by the 10th annual HOT 50 list of Canada’s Emerging Growth Companies, in PROFIT magazine, a leading publication. The company has amassed 2,265% revenue growth within the past two years.
Virginia has also appeared as a guest on various TV shows on OMNI Television and CBC. Recently, for example, she was a guest on Steven & Chris (CBC) advising on How to Deal with Embarrassing Situations at Work.
Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.
VIRGINIA “My husband, Peter Poly, is an environmental lawyer here in Toronto. Marrying Peter has turned out to deliver benefits in a whole lot of ways – without Peter’s last name, there wouldn’t be any Poly Placements! Peter Jr was born in 2006. No pets yet – but both Peters are enthusiastically lobbying for a dog.”
Six Degrees: What is a secret pleasure of yours not readily known among colleagues?
VIRGINIA: “Well, I don’t think even my closest friends know just how much I love Star Wars. Sometimes the best part about having a 4-year-old is that you can buy a full-scale, super-expensive model of Jabba the Hutt – and then say it’s for your son!”
Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
VIRGINIA: “Staffing and recruiting have been my primary focus for the past 10 years, but I also spent a few years doing organizational training and development.”
Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?
VIRGINIA: “Like most recruiters I know, I didn’t actually start out as a recruiter – I started in IT sales with a smaller company, where we often had to wear different hats – and one I wore from time to time was a ‘recruiting’ hat. Then I spent several years in training and development.
In both of these roles, I got to know my clients’ organizations from the inside out, and what I saw was that the right person – in the right place at the right time – could make a huge difference. We’ve all heard the saying “people are the most important asset”, but the more you get to know different types of organizations, across different industries, the more you realize that it’s more than just a saying. Great people can transform mediocre organizations; mediocre people can do a lot of damage to great organizations.
From sales and training came an opportunity to lead a staffing firm, which only reinforced my belief that strategic recruiting is crucial to business success. So when I returned to the workforce after my son was born, and knew I wanted to start my own company, I didn’t think twice – I knew I wanted to build a recruiting company that helped organizations get those great people.
Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?
VIRGINIA: “The great thing about sales is that, through your clients, you get to see inside all kinds of different organizations, and what makes them successful – or not. I could see how even a single employee could have an enormous impact on an organization: The right employee could ensure success; the wrong employee could precipitate disaster. From sales, I started doing organizational training and development – and from there it was a natural progression to recruiting. So it wasn’t like there was a single Eureka! moment – it was more the culmination of insights I’d gathered over 10 years.”
Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?
VIRGINIA: (thinks about this for a few moments) I know that some businesspeople start out by saying ‘I want to be the next Warren Buffett or Richard Branson’, and it’s a powerful motivator for them, but my approach has always been more about competing with myself. Actually, that’s probably one of the reasons I started Poly Placements in the first place: I wanted to be able to set my own career path and goals, rather than try to shoehorn myself into someone else’s model.”
Six Degrees: Poly Placements has had phenomenal growth, Virginia, tell us about the journey.
VIRGINIA: “I’m the President of Poly Placements, a recruiting company. I started Poly in 2006 when I was transitioning from maternity leave back into the workforce. In our first year, it was just me and another recruiter, mostly working from home – our 2006 revenues were $2600! Now, I have 7 full-time employees and 50+ contractors in the field at any given time. And we’re one of the fastest-growing recruitment companies in Canada – we were #6 on the Profit Hot 50 list of emerging growth companies in 2009, and I was listed on the Profit W100 which recognizes female business leadership.”
“We place candidates on both contract assignments and permanent positions with IT, Sales and Finance primarily within the Greater Toronto area. We are proud of our Fortune 500 relationships and equally proud of our relationships with smaller and mid-sized Canadian companies. Our key sectors of focus include: Banking & Financial Services; Property & Construction; IT & Consultancy; Pharmaceutical; Telecommunication; Media & Entertainment; and Legal.”
Six Degrees: (A) What other companies’ recruiting operations do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples?
VIRGINIA: “I actually learn a lot from my clients – many of them are doing great things within their recruitment functions, and we’re just there to help them broaden their capacity or capability.”
Six Degrees: (B) In what aspects are they superior?
VIRGINIA: “For example, one of my customers is a mid-size, fast growth sales CRM company called Luxor CRM and they are doing a fantastic job of using online channels to attract the best and brightest Gen Y candidates. Instead of relying on job boards or reactive recruiting, they’re proactively building relationships, which I think is going to pay huge dividends for them in the next 5 years as the talent crisis rears its ugly head again.”
Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?
VIRGINIA: “The continued growth of contract positions and use of independent contractors, combined with the new legislation around how recruiting companies manage the temp-to-perm model, is going to have a significant effect on the recruiting industry in the next few years – but I don’t think anyone knows yet just how that will play out.
Of course, the talent crisis, which was hidden by the recession, is going to be a big challenge over the next 5-10 years, as the baby boomers continue to leave the workforce. Recruiters are going to have to become more specialized, and a whole lot more proactive – you can’t just post a job on a job board or your corporate website and then hope great people will apply. Organizations and recruiters are going to have to start building long-term relationships with candidates. I think it’s going to be exciting, because as recruiting becomes more strategic and less transactional, recruiting professionals are going to be seen as consultants rather than just ‘salespeople’.”
Six Degrees: Tell us about your broader involvement within the staffing industry:
VIRGINIA: “After being recognized in the Profit Hot 50 and W100, I find I’m asked to participate in events within both the recruiting and entrepreneurial communities. I’ve just returned from the ERE Expo in San Diego – it was great to finally meet so many of the people whose articles I’ve been reading over the past few years! Next month I’ll be speaking at the University of Toronto, helping recent MBA grads navigate the recruiting marketplace. I also had a lot of fun doing the ‘Steven and Chris Show’ on CBC, talking about how to handle awkward moments in the workplace – as a Canadian, there’s nothing better than being on the CBC!
Six Degrees: Can you detail how the recession has affected your particular industry niche? Has it affected your business?
VIRGINIA: “I think what’s been surprising to me about the economy in late 2008 and early 2009 was how little it affected us – we continued to grow, while most recruiting companies were struggling. I think it had a lot to do with our approach to our relationships with clients. I think the recession made companies re-examine their relationships with recruiting suppliers and do a little housekeeping in terms of vendor lists. We’ve always been committed to building long-term relationships with our clients – it’s important to us that we have a good understanding of their business, their culture, and what the ‘ideal candidate’ looks like. So we avoided being swept out in the ‘housekeeping’.
Six Degrees: Aside from simply the generic term “Networking” are there specific groups, both online and in-person that have proved fruitful in extending your personal brand and job seeking prospects?
VIRGINIA: “I know why you want to avoid the generic ‘networking’ term, but really, I think that’s most of what we do. Everyone at Poly genuinely likes people – we enjoy getting to know our clients, we like interacting with candidates, and we really like it when, 12 months later, clients tell us how much they’ve liked working with the candidate we sent them, and the candidate tells us that it’s the best job they’ve ever had. And the thing is, happy clients and candidates means broader opportunities, because they tell everyone about us!”
Six Degrees: Given your own Trial and Error experiences as a Networker, what advice do you have for your peers on what NOT to do? Be specific
VIRGINIA: “I think some recruiting professionals spend too much time networking with other recruiting professionals – yes, it’s good to connect with your peers and colleagues, because it’s a great way to learn new ideas, techniques, etc. But ultimately, you want to be connecting with people outside the industry – it’s the non-industry people who’ll feed you the great candidate referrals or recommend you to their organization.”
Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?
VIRGINIA: “I get asked this all the time and I never know what to say! Poly Placements has been so successful, in so short a time that everyone thinks there must be some master plan for recruiting world domination, but it hasn’t been like that.
When I started Poly, after my son was born, it was initially just to give myself an opportunity to transition back into the workforce on my own terms – I didn’t start with a goal of becoming the world’s largest recruiting company or anything.
I think my goal has always been to make recruiting more enjoyable – after all, hiring the right person can make an enormous difference to an organization, so why do so many organizations hate the recruiting process? I think if we can continue to make recruiting more enjoyable for clients and candidates, the rest will fall into place.”
“Of course, the talent crisis, which was hidden by the recession, is going to be a big challenge over the next 5-10 years, as the baby boomers continue to leave the workforce. Recruiters are going to have to become more specialized, and a whole lot more proactive – you can’t just post a job on a job board or your corporate website and then hope great people will apply. Organizations and recruiters are going to have to start building long-term relationships with candidates. I think it’s going to be exciting, because as recruiting becomes more strategic and less transactional, recruiting professionals are going to be seen as consultants rather than just ‘salespeople’.”
“I had a pleasure to work with Virginia Poly on many occasions, and am very impressed with the depth of knowledge she possesses. The quality of services offered by Virginia and her organization Poly Placements surpasses anyone I have ever met in the recruitment industry. I highly recommend Virginia and her team to anyone who has any recruitment needs, and I am confident you will find yourself pleasantly surprised.” November 4, 2009. Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity
“Virginia and her company came recommended by one of my hiring managers as a very professional recruiter who gets the job done while enhancing quality client relationships. She did amazing work not only getting the right candidates but also doing good business analysis in asking the right questions that would lead to the right hire in the least amount of time. She is a pleasure to deal with and so is the rest of her team. She is only one of the few agencies I would call to give my business to in a heart beat. Ramiro Ribadeneira” August 10, 2009. Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, High Integrity
Ramiro Ribadeneira, MBA
“Virginia is the best in a very difficult business. She takes the time to understand the skill set as well as the personal attributes required for the position. She always finds us the best people and most importantly does not waste our time with candidates that are not a match for us. I know if Virginia sends us a candidate, they are very qualified.” July 23, 2009. Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, High Integrity
“Having been in the recruiting industry for many years, I can honestly say that Virginia is one of the most genuine in the business. She is sincere and passionate about delivering results. Her natural leadership abilities motivate and encourage those around her to perform and reach new standards of excellence. Our clients benefit from her knowledge, sharp business acumen and resourcefulness. Our team benefits from her guidance, inspiration and sense of humor. Virginia has been instrumental in my professional development while simultaneously proving to be a supportive friend. Virginia is an asset to any business relationship and I highly recommend her.” June 5, 2009
Melanie Benwell, Recruiter/ Account Manager, Poly Placements
“I have worked along side of Virginia for 10 years now, she is an amazing business woman. Her intelligence, strong business sense, ability to get things done and focus never seize to amaze me. She is the best partner in business anyone could ask for.” August 19, 2008
Liz Harman, Recruitment Manager, Poly Placements
“Virginia is super great to work with and always there if you have any issues. She always looks for the best for you. I strongly recommend her.” July 17, 2008 Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Expert
“Virginia Poly is great to work with. She is very attentive to questions you might have, and very quick to get you a response to your question. She is always there to help you. As a recruiter she is always looking for the best for the people she recommends to positions, and helps them when they get the job. I would definitely recommend working with Virginia if you are looking for a employment.” March 10, 2008
Matthew Laszczuk, Analyst, Scotiabank
“Virginia is exceptionally responsive and to date has executed on each and every promise. Her entrepreneurial nature ensures any sensible deal will be done in the spirit of mutual benefits.” February 20, 2008
Mike Hilmer, Founder – CEO, One Contact Inc
“Virginia is just great, I cannot say enough about her. She encourages me to get more involved in the User Group communities and this helps me to better my career aspirations. She is always there to help you. As a recruiter she is always looking for the best for the people she recommends to positions, and helps them when they get the job.” February 15, 2008
Jude Silveira, Infrastructure Support, Poly Placements
“Virginia, based on understanding our business and requirements, has been instrumental in ensuring we receive the best candidates possible for the positions we are looking to fill. In addition, Virginia has provided my Team resources beyond placements, that helped produce outstanding results. She is a valuable and trusted resource.” January 21, 2008
Kevin Curry, Director, IPM Client Services, ScotiaBank
“Virginia has always provided first-class service and recommended exceptional resources for various projects and teams during my tenure with HP. She is very professional and her hard work speaks volumes. I would definitely recommend using her services if you need IT professionals.” January 3, 2008. Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity
“Virginia and her firm provides excellent service and time results. We continue to use her organization for all our technical recruitment needs. Her team is professional, resourceful and responsive.” November 12, 2007. Top qualities: Expert, On Time, High Integrity
Mike Peddle BBA, CHRP
“I have worked with Virginia since 2000. What first impressed me was her persistence. After trying to meet with me for 4 months Virginia spoke to one of my Team Leaders (she was already doing business with us) and learned that I come in early and drink Tim Horton’s coffee, double-double. I arrived to work one morning at 7:00am and there she was waiting for me with the coffee. Since then I have relied on Virginia to provide me with short and long term contractors and she has never let me down.” November 20, 2006. Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, High Integrity
Brian McNamee, Director of Sales
“I have known Virginia for about 8 years now. What I value and respect the most about Virginia is her innate ability in understanding your needs. The selection of contractor candidates she presented to me always met the expectations presented to her. When you develop a relationship with Virginia, you can call her and say “Virginia, I need a contractor with the same qualities as person X”. She immediately understands and will find you the candidate you’re seeking.” March 27, 2008
Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, High Integrity
Todd Van Horne