leeds.tech / features

Meeting Up With Melanie Parker – Founder | Director – Graft Talent


Leeds-based recruitment firm Graft Talent is passionate about retaining talent in the Leeds City Region, recognising that business is booming in the area, with huge private sector jobs growth.  Graft’s Founder and Director, Melanie Parker, is only too well aware that for this success to continue, skills gaps need to be closed and graduates need to know what roles are available on their doorstep.

It is with these factors in mind that Graft Talent use their extensive networks in universities and business to identify, engage and recruit talent to match and support business aspirations. We spoke to Melanie to find out more.

The history of Graft Talent 

Melanie told me she had worked in recruitment for many years. She worked at Leeds Beckett University, where she set up a recruitment business which focussed on supporting students to find rewarding jobs with local businesses, and in particular with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).  Melanie took voluntary redundancy and subsequently set up Graft Talent. Her aim in doing so was to retain talent in the north by highlighting great job opportunities to graduates, and developing strong relationships with local businesses. 

What makes Graft different from other similar companies?

The traction for Graft Talent was built through the work that Melanie did whilst working at Leeds Beckett. Her experience at Leeds Beckett emphasised the importance of coaching and development work during the recruitment process, and this is something that she has carried through to Graft Talent.  This enables her and her team to ensure that the ‘grafters’ they work with have the opportunity to consider a range of career options, and are equipped with the skills required to stand in good stead during the hiring process. Melanie explained that Graft Talent does not just work with recent graduates, but also with those further along in their careers who are wanting to explore alternative career options. One of the characteristics of Graft Talent that makes it stand out from other recruitment agencies is that it was not set up as a transactional business, but rather as a passion project to support local graduates and the Leeds City Region business community. 

The impact the COVID restrictions have had on the business. 

The restrictions that were imposed as a result meant that Graft Talent had to work differently. One of the key characteristics of Graft Talent is their relational approach, which involves regular face to face meetings. Melanie prefers meeting face to face since she finds it easier to get to know someone and this allows her and her team to identify the most appropriate job opportunities. However, COVID-19 meant that everything had to go online. She thought it would be difficult to work online, as she couldn’t see how you could get to know someone over Zoom. However, after being forced to give digital methods a go, she realised that Zoom had its benefits and became very grateful for the technology. However, she still prefers the in-person approach as it gives a human touch to the recruitment process, which has been overlooked by many other agencies. Moving forward, Melanie said that Graft Talent will look to utilise digital technologies where this will allow for processes to be streamlined, as it will give the team more time to focus on the relational aspects that make Graft Talent different. 

Who are the clients and jobseekers? 

Melanie is passionate about supporting the Leeds City Region and the small and growing technology businesses that are based here. Graft Talent was set up with these businesses in mind as she had realised there was a gap in terms of support for them. Melanie and her team now focus on the development of relationships with tech SME’s and helping them to find great talent in the region. In terms of clients, Melanie explained that Graft Talent work mostly with university graduates, who are often overlooked by other recruiters as they can be hard to place. However, for Melanie and the Graft Talent team, who do not work on a commission basis and are not focussed on targets, they enjoy working closely with their ‘grafters’ to help them navigate the job market and identity the best roles for them. Melanie explained that Graft Talent aims to interview their grafters with an open mind and create a partnership with them to develop trust. 

Looking forward 

Melanie and the Graft Talent team are wanting to keep things small, but perfectly formed. Although there is scope to take Graft Talent to other areas, the team is in no rush to spread to other cities; they do not want to become so big that the company becomes all about the money. Instead, Melanie wants to allow Graft Talent to grow naturally, supporting as many people and organisations as possible across the region. 

What does engaging with leeds.tech offer to Graft Talent? 

Melanie is keen to tell the Graft Talent story and share their message, and this is where Leeds Tech can help. Tech businesses in the Leeds City Region are growing at a remarkable rate, and therefore need a lot of new talent. Graft Talent is really keen to support tech and digital marketing in the area, and through the networks afforded by Leeds.Tech, they are sure that it will be possible. Melanie went on to say that she really appreciates the way in which Leeds.Tech is for the City and that is something that is core to Graft Talent. As such, there is a natural synergy that Melanie wants to  make the most of. 

Finding out more

For prospective clients and grafters, there is more information available about Graft Talent via the Graft Talent website (www.grafttalent.co.uk). For those with specific questions, they can also email the team (Hello@grafttalent.co.uk) or call Melanie directly (07421 904 933). At the end of our conversation, Melanie said that for anyone wanting to work with Graft Talent, whether they are a prospective client or grafter, they should check out previous recommendations, as that is what will tell Graft Talent’s true story. There are over 100 of these such recommendations available to read on her personal LinkedIn profile.

Two of the latest vacancies

For those who are pursuing career opportunities, details of two of the vacancies:  for Recruitment Resource Manager can be found here and for Partnership Success Manager here.

Photograph:  Professor Sue Black OBE (l) with Melanie.