An interview with Ali Raza, MD of Graham Matthews

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How did you come to join Graham Matthews?

I always had a dream of running my own recruitment business. I’d looked at various different organisations that provide funding to start your own business when I came across Recruitment Entrepreneur. I was lucky enough to be offered the unique opportunity to join an existing RE brand – Graham Matthews – as Managing Director, where I could leverage experience to lead the organisation and diversity its offerings.


Graham Matthews is historically a healthcare recruitment specialist. How does the new technology specialism sit within this?

Graham Matthews has a fantastic history and reputation within the healthcare industry. Building out a technology specialism and working with some of the latest, cutting-edge technologies in the market enables us to be able to service a much broader portfolio of clients and candidates. Importantly, the technology practice sits as a separate entity within Graham Matthews. We have dedicated teams of specialists on each side of the business working with different clients, although there are some opportunities we can leverage on both sides, acting as a one-stop-shop. Whilst I’ve done some work in healthcare, technology recruitment is my core expertise and that’s what I’ve brought to the brand.


What’s your vision for Graham Matthews?

To be recognised as an outstanding talent acquisition partner for organisations in the healthcare and digital transformation spaces; one that thrives on providing its clients with the top 5% of talent across the industries it services. I want our reputation to be not only for finding talent that fulfils a job spec, but also aligns with the company’s culture. By doing so, we make our clients ever more successful in their endeavours and become a value-added, long-term strategic partner, offering outside-the-box solutions for rapid growth.  


What was your career prior to Graham Matthews?

I’ve been in recruitment for over seven years, leading teams within the technology services space and building long-standing relationships with some of the leading tech organisations based in the UK, USA, and Western Europe. Before that, I worked for an IT services company, selling technology services to clients in the SME space across the UK so I have experience on both sides of the process. I’ve breathed and lived IT for a very long time by now!


Which aspect of being part of Recruitment Entrepreneur’s portfolio do you find most beneficial?

I feel like there is an expert available for anything and everything at all times. There’s lots of mentoring and ideas always available, without the hassle of micro-management. You can have all the autonomy you want but at the same time you can ask for whatever you need from the leadership team.


What advice would you give to those early in their recruitment career?

Firstly, people buy people – never shy away from going the extra mile for your clients and candidates, but there’s also a difference between being a consultant and servant in recruitment. You should be able to take charge of the conversation and manage expectations. Be strategic in what you recruit for, in an area that genuinely interests you, and build a niche around that. Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none.


What’s your favourite thing about recruiting in your sector?

The clients and candidates I work with are at the forefront of innovation, responsible for implementing processes that involve things such as AI, RPA and machine learning that are helping the whole world prosper and be the future. I feel like I’m contributing to this advancement in a way. The conversations I get to have with these people are really enlightening and I get to see the power of these technologies and how they’re changing the world. It’s never mundane as there’s always change, there’s always a new challenge, something new is always coming out in the industry, and I’m always learning. It keeps me intellectually challenges and on my toes!


What are some of the knock-on effects of COVID you’ve witnessed, both in recruitment and in the technology space?

A lot of these pharmaceutical companies have put AI processes into place which has sped up vaccine production times. Retailers have also made use of AI and RPA processes due to the move to online shopping – the world has been forced to become more digital. Technology is innovating at pace in order to adapt to these new norms, even faster than it used to in the past. Nobody thought we’d have to start doing everything remotely so there’s an increased consumer demand that still has to be fulfilled and technology is advancing to meet this demand.

In this environment, the drive for retaining and hiring top talent has become even more stringent. It’s a client-led market now as the market is flooded with candidates. Frankly, companies don’t want Joe Bloggs anymore – they want a specialist who is genuinely perfect for the role. If they’re thinking of adding headcount in this current environment, they’re only interested in top talent who will be able to hit the ground running.


What kind of culture do you hope to foster at Graham Matthews and how will you instil this?

People-centric; agile; supportive; autonomous; driven. A culture that is foundationally based on exceeding expectations, not simply meeting them – I believe that’s the only way to stand out from the crowd as every recruitment company does the same thing. I instil this by always being there for my team and by actually making people the heart of the business, making sure they have all the support and tools they need. I engrave into stone that it’s all about quality, not quantity, and always about the long-term, not the short-term.


What do you think the definition of success is?

In simple words, clients recognising us as a strategic, long-term partner who they can rely on to fulfil their most challenging requirements that are key to their success and growth. On top of that, exclusivity outside of the PSL and good referrals. And for my team, to have a sense of accomplishment and be happy that they’re part of an entity that really adds value.


Finally, when you’re not working how do you spend your time?

Travelling, playing mini golf, and exploring Surrey Hills! I’m also a Concorde enthusiast so keeping up with aviation industry.


Graham Matthews is hiring an experienced IT recruitment consultant to join the technology practice – get in touch with Ali Raza at to learn more about this exciting opportunity.