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Career profile: Sarah Langton, head of resourcing, Clifford Chance LLP

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Sarah Langton of Clifford Chance LLP shares her career journey; from teaching English in Russia in the 1990s, to being a leader who listens to and learns from people at all levels.

Basic details

Name: Sarah Langton

Job: Head of resourcing

Current employer: Clifford Chance LLP

CV in brief:

  • 2011 – present: Head of resourcing, Clifford Chance
  • 2009 – 2011: Recruitment manager, Clifford Chance
  • 2007 – 2009: Legal recruitment manager, Clifford Chance
  • 2006 –2007: Head of HR and recruitment, BuyingTeam (now Proxima)
  • 2004 – 2006: Head of Recruitment, London & Dublin, McKinsey & Company 

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

I’m head of resourcing for Clifford Chance LLP, one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms. I’m responsible for the strategy and delivery of recruitment of all staff in the London office.

Who do you report to?

The HR director for London.

Tell us about your team

There are two parts to the resourcing function and they both have very different challenges. The graduate recruitment and development teams hire and look after the trainees through their two-year training contract; and the lateral recruitment team hire everyone else in the business. I’m lucky to work with a very committed group of people, who are passionate about the firm and finding the best people for the future of it.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The people I get to work with on a daily basis.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

Like any recruiter, the challenge is always finding the best person for the job, and from a strategic view, figuring out how to find them and then how to execute that strategy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up early because I have two young daughters. I then get to work early, as I like to have at least an hour and a half dealing with emails and getting some work done before the day starts properly. A typical day involves lots of meetings including one-to-ones, and meetings with suppliers and prospective suppliers, covering a wide range of topics: strategy, marketing, approach and innovation.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I really like the people. After having worked for an American firm, I also liked the idea of being in the biggest office of a global organisation based in London.

Perks and downsides of your role?

Working in a great environment with lovely people is a perk. I’d like to have a shorter commute, though…

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

Being incredibly organised, listening well, being calm, looking at the bigger picture and taking a step back from the detail are required on a daily basis.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

The simple answer is good luck and hard work!

What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?

I went to the local mixed state school in North Wales where I grew up. My best subjects were History and English. A passion for all things Russian-related (it was the late 1980s!) led me to decide to study Russian at University, and I went to Portsmouth to study Russian Studies. I then followed up, many years later while working at McKinsey, with an MA in Russian Studies from SSEES, UCL.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

I had a variety of part time jobs at school and university, starting with a paper round when I was 11, then waitressing at 13. My first proper job after university was as a graduate trainee in an Anglo-Russian freight company. I’d returned from teaching English in Moscow and graduate roles involving Russian were far and few between, so I took the job but very quickly realised I had no interest in airfreight whatsoever. I then walked straight into a temporary role as a recruitment assistant at McKinsey & Company and stayed there for the next seven-and-a-half years.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I haven’t ever set one out, but I’ve always felt a need to be challenged. At McKinsey I was given a lot of responsibility early on which I thrived on.

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

In every role there has been a steep learning curve. The challenge has always been how quickly I can get up to speed to be able to lead the team and make informed decisions. For me, that means speaking to as many people as possible and reading everything I can find.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

Nothing, I’ve only ever worked in professional services!

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

There have been many; most memorable was at the TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards last year when Clifford Chance won ‘Graduate Employer of the Year’.

Do you have any career regrets?

No, even when I’ve not enjoyed a job, there has always been something I’ve learnt from it (although at the time it didn’t always feel like that!)

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

You can learn from everyone, so take time to talk to people at all levels. Never forget that the people are involved and impacted by everything you do.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Not so much to me at 22, but to any 22 year old, I’d say: “Life is too short to be miserable at work. You will spend so much time at work – it helps if you enjoy it. Try to work with people who you like spending time with”.

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? Tea, all the time, all day. I hate anything coffee flavoured.
  • Jam or marmalade? Jam, with lots of bread and butter.
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles, I had a teenage obsession with John Lennon…
  • Mac or PC? iPad.
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Guardian.
  • BBC or ITV? BBC, especially BBC 4.
  • M&S or Waitrose? Neither, I prefer Lidl!
  • Morning or night? Morning. I’m a very “busy” morning person and tend to be in bed by 9pm!
  • Rain on snow? Snow because it reminds me of living in Moscow in the 1990s.
  • Sweet or savoury? Chocolate or crisps? Probably crisps….

Favourites

  • App: GoodReads, because I’m an avid reader who loves lists.
  • TV show: Victorian Farm or anything similar.
  • Band: Pearl Jam or Metallica. Basically early 1990s grunge and metal.
  • Song: There are a handful of songs that I could listen to on repeat for the rest of my life….
  • Book: “One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, as it’s a book I’ve read so many times and it was my first introduction to Russian literature.
  • Sports team: Whichever team my husband (a football coach) is currently working for, or Wales in the Rugby.
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Sit quietly on the sofa with chocolate, crisps and a cup of tea once my girls are asleep.
  • Place to eat: At home, or anywhere where someone else is cooking.
  • Holiday spot: My childhood home on the north Wales coast.
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: My first boss at McKinsey always used to say “fill the vacuum” and “it is better to seek forgiveness than ask permission”. I repeat those mantras now to my teams.

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