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HR Leader in discussion with talent acquisition guru, Andrea Kirby

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
HR Leader in discussion with talent acquisition guru, Andrea Kirby

The HR Leader sat down with Andrea Kirby, founder and director of Talent Table. The company provides resources, forums and networks to educate businesses in all things talent. Ms Kirby discussed her work journey and the positives of trying different careers.

Shandel McAuliffe, editor at HR Leader: “How have you gotten to where you are today?”

Ms Kirby: “I have had the most varied career ever. Whenever I talk to students, I say, ‘Don't worry about what you're studying. You'll never end up doing it.’ I left school, started work in 1984 and studied to be a library technician. I [then] moved into [other] things.”


“I sold the first computer notebooks in Australia. I've been a shopping tour bus hostess around all the warehouses in Melbourne. I've worked in recruitment agencies. I then went on to choose a career in HR, went back and studied my [degree] in HR at night, where I ended up working for a logistics and trucking company. I worked for BHP, and before I moved to England, did four years working in HR in a law firm, where my passion for recruitment came about.”

Ms Kirby continued: “Then I moved to the UK where I specialised in talent acquisition (TA), recruited in financial services, energy, tax, risk advisory, and even had a stint at Harrods, as their recruitment manager there. Implemented loads of TA systems and absolutely and utterly think TA is the best part of HR anyone can do!”

Editor: “Do you think it’s a good idea to try different careers before deciding what you want to do?”

Ms Kirby: “Yes. When I was recruiting the young lawyers coming out of university, [some] wanted to be a lawyer since the age of seven. [But] lawyers end up having one of the worst attrition rates. At about three or four years into the profession, they all decide it's not for them and they move out.”

“We need to be saying to the youth of today, that you are going to be doing jobs that you didn't think you were going to be doing. Stay open to opportunities. Say yes to the weirdest things, and you always end up in a place better than where you were.”

She continued: “I remember after I sold notebooks, they said to me, ‘There's this new thing called the internet, and we'd like you to train our customers on how to use it.’ I didn't even know what it was!”

Editor: “So, you believe in taking the opportunities that come your way?”

Ms Kirby: “Exactly. What I do now involves sales, that involves standing up in front of people, all the things I didn’t learn in a library.”

“Moving people around, plus all the knowledge I've gained in HR and TA, to actually talk with credibility to my audience. It's all led me to where I am today, doing the thing that I have been the most passionate about in my entire life.”

Editor: “Do you believe skills like customer service and sales are transferrable to HR?”

Ms Kirby: “Yes. I think you learn to listen to what people are looking for. When I was asked to go in and sell computer notebooks, I had no knowledge of what a computer was. They taught me the terminology, but they wanted a woman in their business selling computers because at that time women were not seen in that industry.”

“I was the first woman salesperson, but they liked it because I was comfortable enough to sit in front of the IT dudes and say, ‘I don't know, let me bring in an expert to help me with this sale.’”

“I learned a lot in terms of being able to sell something I knew nothing about, but doing it in a way that met the needs of the people I was working with, and then offering that follow-up service. So that service mentality and that sales mentality has gone right through everything I've done since then. Particularly when you get into recruitment and you are talking to hiring managers and candidates and trying to get everyone over the line,” said Ms Kirby.

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation with Andrea Kirby is below.




The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.