5 reviews
16:04 13 Mar 23
Highly recommended! Josh and Sarah have been fantastic at Astute. They've found and placed me in 2 jobs now between them, both really responsive and excellent at keeping you up to speed with things. Very knowledgable about the roles and happy to talk to companies with any queries you have.
C R.C R.
10:45 27 Jan 23
Great agency one of the best ones I've worked with! Liz has been a great help and support in helping me towards a new direction in my career life. She is very attentive and keeps me in the loop at all times! She makes the extra effort to work with my preferred requirements for work and even if it isn't completely attainable she meets me in the middle and does as much as she can to help! Also Liz is very funny might I add 😂 and I'm happy that I can now put a face to the name after all these years! Thank you again Liz for all your help and support! 😊
10:32 20 Dec 22
Josh and the Astute team was very swift to help me to find roles that matched my profile. They are really reliable and will help through every step of the recruitment process going out of their way to assist and follow up when needed. Could not find a better recruitment agency!
Helen PinegarHelen Pinegar
16:19 18 Dec 22
Fantastic recruitment agency.. Josh was extremely enthusiastic, encouraging and clearly knowledgeable about what was needed from both the employee and the employers point of view. Extremely supportive especially in regards to interview preparation and endeavoured to procure feedback promptly. Wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Astute in the future to both candidates and recruiting businesses particularly for the right fit for the role!!!
Lisa LeighLisa Leigh
11:56 30 Nov 22
I have worked as a candidate for Astute and they have been excellent. Super friendly service and professional agents keen to fit the right person to the right job. It has been a pleasure dealing with them and I would happily work for them again in the future. Highly recommend this agency.
Contact us
Suite 1, Ground Floor West,Cardinal Square,10 Nottingham Road,Derby. DE1 3QT
Stanford House,19 Castle Gate, Nottingham, NG1 7AQ
Sarah Before Her Haircut
Sarah Stevenson

Sarah Stevenson, joint Managing Director at award-winning Astute Recruitment, launched the business in 2009 with business partner Mary Maguire offering recruitment advice to SME businesses across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The Derby based firm has grown to become the go to specialist for growing companies across the East Midlands region with a team of ten including three new consultants in the last 3 months. Here, Sarah explains about the company’s incredible growth and hopes for the future.



A) I started Astute Recruitment when I was made redundant in September 2009. I saw a gap in the market and believed that SME businesses were getting a substandard customer experience. It was my aim to deliver a more value-added, partnership approach using over 25 years’ experience as a recruitment professional. Since then we have grown our team to 10, won numerous business awards and managed to create a truly unique brand in a competitive sector.



A) It’s a difficult thing to measure but I feel our biggest achievement to date is our market reputation; the positive feedback we get from our clients and candidates is fantastic. Another highlight would be last year when Astute was awarded Business of the Year across the East Midlands by the ICAEW. This was amazing for such a small business to have made such a big impact. To be recognised by the Department of Trade and Industry, and other business peers away from the recruitment industry was amazing. To have my company judged as winner above more established and international East Midlands firms was wonderful for Mary and I, but also as an acknowledgement for our brilliant team!



A) Competition is high for SME businesses across a range of sectors. However, if you look behind the scenes – we have several clients where the company is having to put in highly competitive tender prices to win larger contracts, resulting in smaller profit margins. Additionally, there are several SME businesses who are also suffering from significant, large-scale late payments from their suppliers which in turn means delays in them squaring off their debtors! So in my mind, 2 key issues:

Far too many contracts are being awarded dependent on price rather than quality or proven expertise and experience. Secondly, a big issue is companies particularly the larger firms and corporates, who need to start honouring their debts and pay SME businesses on time per payment terms agreed!

Firms within construction/ engineering are sometimes not making enough profit to re-invest in their own infrastructure – for example – recruitment. As a result wages have not risen as much as they perhaps should have done with companies looking for the same “mid-level” qualified accountant as they don’t want or cannot afford to hire more experienced workers. This is hindering sector growth and having a detrimental effect on the long-term sustainability of organisations and programme delivery on projects. The solution? Firms need to plan further ahead and start thinking longer term, ideally, planning their recruitment strategy for the next 12 months on a rolling basis. Only the other day we had a couple of business owners who have known of pending retirements or other issues recruitment wise and left it to the last minute! I’d encourage business owners to plan ahead as much as possible.



A) Service before sales. What does this mean to our clients and candidates? We are honest, transparent and want to be a trusted recruitment business partner that works hand in hand with them, while adding value to their business or career. Ultimately, I would rather have a great reputation for excellent customer service than make a few extra sales implementing some of the negative working practices displayed by some recruitment agencies and which work to give our industry a bad reputation.



A) To be honest – we have never been so busy! Generally, our clients’ attitude towards Brexit in the East Midlands remains very positive with companies happy to go ahead and recruit when and where they need to and at all levels. Manufacturing, Engineering, IT and Pharma sectors seem to be particularly strong.



A) Increasingly firms are realising that they need to invest in recruitment if the skills shortages are to be breached. Flexibility is key, companies need to consider a broader range of skills sets and level of experience, putting more trust and confidence in their recruitment processes and recruitment partners. This is why we came up with our unique Triple Point Guarantee (TPG) to give confidence to employers who take their recruitment process seriously and want a recruitment firm they can have total faith in to deliver a solution. Firms also need to reward and develop their existing staff, otherwise there is a good chance they could be head-hunted and forever lose their financial investment in that employee’s training, knowledge and development to a competitor.



A) The company of choice in The East Midlands within our sector with around 30 staff across our two offices in Derby and Nottingham.



A) Our Triple Point Guarantee! It is unique within the entire recruitment sector. Provided we can have a face to face meeting with our client, work exclusively, agree timelines (and a few other details), if we then fail to secure an offer for the right candidate we will pay our client £500. No other agency gives that commitment to their clients and genuinely provides confidence to non-agency business owners distrustful of recruitment firms.

For our clients we are truly consultative, honest and deliver long-term results. For my current team and future colleagues, we offer unrivalled flexible benefits and initiatives to reward our team’s efforts. Having promoted several staff from trainees to become fully fledged recruitment consultants and in one case promoting one of our team four times to senior managing consultant, we can genuinely say we have great career prospects and development opportunities for the right people.

Why the 1% matters
“Why the 1% Matters”


Last week I had the opportunity to meet a pretty amazing individual (though he would be the last person to acknowledge this!). Successful businessman, David Ryley, had an idea for a great new charity in 2015 called the 1% Matters Fund.

It provides small grants to local community projects who are helping young people, the elderly, those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, vulnerable people or those suffering mental health issues. This type of organisation really appeals to me as it works in a philanthropic way for businesses and individuals to ‘give back’ to those less fortunate in a really constructive and practical way that really makes a difference. I will be posting an article covering mental health in the work place soon so this type of charity really strikes a chord with me.

David Ryley, Chief Executive Officer of successful local business, Ryley Wealth Management (a St. James’s Place Partner Practice) decided to start a fund with 1% of his profits to support local charities in Nottingham. A second business leader, Mark Goldby, CEO of SMS Electronics Ltd, quickly saw the potential and was the first to offer his support. David Ryley created a charitable fund with the aim of growing it to build a permanent legacy for the people of Nottingham.

As government and council grants to local charities are facing constant pressure, the team at 1% Matters want to do all they can to help. To find out more information about this amazing charity and for an opportunity to make a donation please click on the following link. http://www.nottscf.org.uk/one-percent-matters-fund/

Warm or Cold which is best?
Warm or Cold which is best?

After speaking to a great Finance Director I’m representing and have known for a while and on talking to attendees at a CIMA event I was a speaking at on interview techniques, a common theme emerged which I think would be a great topic for discussion on LinkedIn – Warm vs Cold approaches to the hiring process.

Professional job seekers whether experienced in accountancy, law or other disciplines have two separate types of relationship with recruitment businesses and their consultants.

Some agencies have what I’ll describe as the ‘cold’ approach. This is where most communication is via email and there is very, very little in the way of a relationship where a sense of trust and openness can develop. Any correspondence is on a very formal basis, often the candidate is made to feel one of many and any sense of their own individuality and uniqueness is pretty much lost!

The other approach is the “warm” approach. This is one I personally have always believed in. Where a consultant meets the candidate face to face and thereafter a truly professional relationship begins to develop through positive interaction over time. A sense of trust, empathy and honesty is forged where the consultant and candidate relationship morphs into an understanding on a personal, platonic as well as professional basis.

There seem to be a lot of recruitment professionals who purely look for ‘the quick win’ the ‘fast placement’ and the ‘easy fee’. What they fail to realise and easily lose sight of is that the ‘win’ as they see it is a unique and individual person with their own career aspirations, commitments and priorities entrusting their professional dreams in the hands of that recruitment professional. The ‘win’ is the SME business owner who genuinely needs a business partner to work with them, be passionate and care about their particular company – not just someone looking for any role that will do!

Instead, there is a better way and that is to emotionally engage with your candidates and clients.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

The Finance Director I mentioned at the beginning – let’s call him Andrew– is facing redundancy and for the last few months he has been looking for a new opportunity. He has family commitments and is ideally needing a role that will not involve quite so many 70 hour working weeks! He told me he’d applied through one of the online agency recruiters for a great sounding opportunity with a manufacturer in his sector for a full time position which was offering flexible working hours. Andrew said that his frustration was that every time he tried to actually speak to someone at the ‘agency’ he was fobbed off, given excuses and never, ever had the courtesy of an email or phone call acknowledging his application – let alone arranging to meet him and explore his details further.

On chatting I asked him “Agency wise, what do you as a candidate feel is the most effective approach – the personal, ‘warm’ touch like me and my team, or the email based ‘cold’ approach used by other recruitment businesses where you can’t really speak to the recruiter or have the opportunity to build a really good relationship?” I said I’ll draft something and email it to him for his thoughts and then I’ll post on LinkedIn.. he thought that would be a great idea and I thanked him for his inspiration. In life the best ideas often come from listening to others I find.

So – what do you feel?

I’d welcome comments from hiring managers, recruitment professionals as well as those of you looking for a job or who have experienced the recruitment process as such through using a recruitment consultancy. Personally ‘warm’ wins it every time for me!

I hope this provokes some good discussion and thoughts and thanks again to ‘Andrew’ – you know who you are!!


How you can be lucky in life and in business.


After driving home, the other night my mobile rang.

“Hello – is this Mary?” I heard a familiar voice say, but I couldn’t place who it was on the other line.

“Yes” I said, “Sorry who is this?”

“It’s Anne-Marie.”

Anne-Marie! I’d not spoken to her for years! We’d gone to school together, primary school, middle school and were really good friends. We lost touch when she moved and changed schools. Two weeks ago, I was randomly scrolling on Facebook and thought of her. In the moment, I thought I’d try and find her on Facebook. Doubts ebbed at the back of my mind – would she want to hear from me after all this time? Maybe she’s changed her name? Still I popped her name into a search and there she was! I sent her a friend request then thought nothing more about it. Now, here she was on the phone!

Half an hour flew by and in that time, we’d exchanged life’s happenings – marriage, divorce, kids and jobs. After arranging to meet up she said; “You have been so lucky Mary, you have your own business, a great marriage and two wonderful kids!” I paused and said “well, yes I guess I have been!”

This exchange set me thinking: – Have I really been lucky? Or have the decisions I’ve taken and choice’s I’ve made, lead me by myself to be where I am today. Has ‘Luck’ got anything to do with it or as my Dad always said, ‘you make your own luck in this life.’

The dictionary definition of luck is: –

‘Success or failure apparently brought on by chance rather than through one’s own actions.’

E.g. ‘It was just luck that the first kick went in’

Synonyms: good fortune, good luck, success, successfulness, prosperity, advantage.

1:1 Chance considered as a force that causes good or bad things to happen

Verb Informal: –

Chance to find an acquire “He lucked into a disc – jockey job”

1:2 Something regarded as bringing about or portending good or bad things. “I don’t like Friday the 13th – it’s bad luck”


The earliest origins of the word luck was around the late 15th Century from the then middle Dutch “luc” a form of gelucke shortened down to ‘Gluck’.

Through the ages people have done things to try and keep good luck or acquire it. Wear a lucky pendant, touch wood, refrain from walking under ladders (me!)

According to Noah Webster’s dictionary luck is a “purposeless, unpredictable and uncontrollable force that shapes events favourable or unfavourable for an individual, group or cause. The author Max Gunther defines it as “events that influence one’s life and are seemingly beyond one’s control”.

There are two senses that people use the term “luck” Prescriptive and Descriptive.


In the Prescriptive sense luck is supernatural and deterministic concept of forces (religious or other) that prescribe that certain events occur the way very much the laws of physics, will prescribe that certain events occur. It’s the prescriptive sense people mean when they say, “I do not believe in luck”.

In the descriptive sense, people speak of luck after events that they find fortunate or unfortunate or maybe improbable.

Cultural perceptions of luck, vary greatly them it being a matter of random chance to contributing to such explanations of faith or superstition.

The Romans believed in a goddess “Fortuna”. The philosopher Daniel Dennet believed “Luck is mere luck”. Purely down to chance, fate or kismet.

Carl Jung described luck in terms of synchronicity as “a meaningful co-incidence”.

Luck is, and probably always will be a universal concept to both celebrate success and attribute causes of failure. “I was so lucky I got that job offer!” or “I was so unlucky not to get that job!”

Throughout history philosophers and writers have universally framed luck with destiny and the result of one’s conscious actions. In chapter 25 of Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ he says: – “Fortune only rules one half of men’s fate, the other half being of their own will”. He reminds the reader that Fortune perceived as a woman, favours a strong, even violent hand and that she favours the more aggressive and bold young man than a timid elder. In other words we have the power – each and every one of us to shape, mould and carve out our destiny.

Shakespere was no stranger to Lady Fortune: “When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes I all alone beweep my outcast state”

Sonnet 29.

So back to you my reader – how does all this relate to you?

I’ll tell you.

Human beings one and all have a deep sense of self. We all have unique and amazing brains capable of great avarice, humility, love, ambition and reflection, of ourselves and of the wider world around us.

My take on luck is that in your own life, it is YOUR OWN ACTIONS AND DECISIONS that frame what you do and ultimately how successful you will be. You need to expand your horizons, step outside your comfort zone and meet new people. Learn new things. You also need to recognise opportunities when they arise and embrace them. Instead of viewing redundancy as a negative – think of it as an opportunity to look for a new job. I did. I set up my own business with my former boss after we were both made redundant!

If you have an exam/ driving test/ job interview/ presentation to give, make sure that you plan and prepare as much as possible.

‘Lucky’ people are more often than not the ones that don’t just dream about change but actually do something positive to make that dream happen. They are also people who refuse to be negative, have a strong belief in themselves and will actually work very, very hard to achieve their goals. So my friends, luck to me is what you make it!


Carpe Diem.

Seize the day.    EVERY DAY!

Please let me know if you have enjoyed this and have any comments!

It was great to host our second event on ‘Emotional Intelligence For Business Success’ at Alfreton Golf Club. With over 30 local professional businessmen and women in attendance it proved to be a great morning. Here are some of the photos… Our thanks to Lisa Spencer-Arnell, and to everyone who attended on St Patricks Day!


It’s important to all of us here that our events are useful, engaging and enjoyable so we took feedback from everyone who came. …. Some of their comments are below…

“I found the event very informative and gave me some good ideas to use with my current team”

Very interesting topic. Thanks for the invite!”

A very relaxed and interactive session – I found it to be quite inspiring”

“It was a great event with a really interesting speaker”

Our next event will be on 21st July at Pride Park with guest speaker Neale Lewis, business scale up expert, high growth business coach, leadership trainer and international strategic planning consultant. Neale will be talking about how to scale up your business and career for financial success. We will announce more details on this event in the next few days.


Neale Lewis, International Business Coach, Trainer and Speaker





The team at Astute were thrilled for Sarah Stevenson and Mary Maguire to have received Highly Commended SME Emerging in 2016’s prestigious Forward Ladies Women In Business Awards (WIBA). The awards took place in Birmingham’s superb Regency Hyatt hotel last week in wonderful surroundings. It was a real honour for Sarah and Mary to have been part of an event hosted and presented by such a wonderful group of inspiring businesswomen across the Midlands Region. Here are some great pictures of the event including some very deserving winners.


The annual WIBA honour and recognise the pioneering women from enterprise and business across the UK. There are 4 regional heats and provide women a unique opportunity to acknowledge their success and become credible and inspirational role models for others.


Awards Date Is Extended

Article published by Dan Hayes

The Derbyshire Times Business Awards are almost upon us – and you now have even more time to enter your business for the high-profile prizes.

Due to the original date’s close proximity to the summer holidays – the deadline for entries has now been extended to Wednesday, September 21.The prestigious even – which aims to recognise and celebrate the very best in business and commerce across Chesterfield and the north Derbyshire area – will take place at Casa on Thursday, November 10.

Derbyshire Times editor, Phil Bramley, said: “Our awards ceremony is one of the highlights of the business calendar and attracts a wide range of entries from across al sectors from both small ad larger organisations.

“But the winners al have one thing in common – they are all truly excellent at what they do and have proved this by winning an award.

“If you want to follow in the footsteps of past winners, then now is the time to enter. Good luck everyone.”

Once again, the glittering black-tie evening will be hosted by Sam Orgrizovic – son of former Spireites ‘keeper Steve.

This year there are 15 categories, including Award: Hospitality, Leisure & Tourism and the Export and International Trade Award.

You can enter the awards on our website – Derbyshire-times.co.uk/businessawards – simply click on ‘Enter’ tab to pull up the form you need to fill out.

We wish you all good luck.