Ventus’ Fabienne Lonie-Renfrew: an engineer turned recruiter on bringing diversity to a male-dominant industry


Today’s ‘Meet the Expert’ interview is with Fabienne Lonie-Renfrew, the Senior Consultant – Renewables for Ventus International.

Ventus International is a valued and trusted recruitment partner to global renewable energy companies. The company was founded in 2020 and specialises in contract, permanent and executive recruitment. Ventus International’s team has worked on assignments across the UK, Europe, USA, Asia, and Latin America, forging long-term partnerships with clients engaged in the financing, development, design, construction and operation of renewable energy assets internationally.

Fabienne focuses on renewable energy recruitment needs – it is a niche field which is stereotypically male. Thank you, Fabienne, for sharing your experiences candidly and authentically!

How did you get started in recruitment? Was working in talent management something you always wanted to do?

I actually used to be a chemical engineer for a couple of years before I went into recruitment. Engineering wasn’t for me – too process-driven, every day was quite the same and dull, and I just didn’t see myself doing it forever! I landed myself an internal recruitment role at Knight Frank, and when people say they fell into recruitment, that is me all over. An engineer comes recruiter – fish out of water springs to mind!! But I haven’t looked back since – I’m much better suited to recruitment than engineering.

What would you say is a common misconception about the work of a recruiter or a TA manager?

People have a misconception of what actually goes into the job – they think it’s pulling a candidate and putting them in a new role. The time and effort to get a candidate through a process successfully is a challenge – humans are super complex and even more so when they’re considering making a massive career move. Recruiters need so many skills aside from being experts in their field – they need patience, compassion, huge amounts of emotional intelligence and very good listening skills.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve managed to overcome or improve on during your career so far? How did you do it?

I used to be very nervous when I dealt with clients – I had a constant fear of them asking me technical questions about the role I was recruiting and me not knowing the answer. The truthful answer to how I overcame it was time and practice. Clients aren’t there to trip you up, and it’s totally okay not to know the answer, but just to be honest and tell them you don’t know.

Another would be taking the highs with the lows. Recruitment is a proper rollercoaster – one day, you’ve made your biggest placement fee to date, and the next day, your biggest competitor filled the role, and you didn’t (that hurts – a lot!). Having resilience is absolutely key to being good at this job and being able to dust yourself off and go again. I think it’s important to allow yourself to be annoyed or upset, have a rant to a colleague and then crack on again. It is all part of the job. And I think it’s so important to be teaching our teams that all of this is normal and it’s all okay.

What are some of the most rewarding experiences or achievements you’ve had in your recruiting career so far?

Your biggest placement fee has to be up there, right? I made a £35K fee off a client I won myself, and that felt great. But other than that – I have a placement rate of 55% females, and considering I have only recruited into Real Estate and Renewable Energy, that is something I’m very proud of. Helping clients improve their diversity within their businesses is something hugely important to me.

What kind of experiences have you had as a candidate yourself? Any experiences that stand out?

I remember my first ever engineering interview when I was a fresh graduate. The interviewer gave me a cup of tea, and as I walked to the meeting room, I was shaking so much with nerves I dropped the whole mug of tea all over the floor and myself – cringe. It has totally scarred me for life, and I have since never accepted a drink in an interview!

AI – a good thing and a bad thing, in my opinion. I think it is great for the likes of writing job adverts. It pushes out biased language and it is great for screening ads, especially when it comes to focusing on diverse and inclusive hiring. However, I’m not so sure about using AI to source candidates and review CVs. Removing the human element from this job feels crazy – as I said above, humans are so complex, and the amount of emotional intelligence we use every day in our jobs, I personally don’t think can be replaced with AI!

What do you feel is special about your current place of work? Why should people apply?

Ventus are recruiting into a really exciting sector – renewable energy. It is a sector that is on a massive upward trajectory, and that is a really exciting area to be a part of! Ventus is also a startup, which is really attractive because you can be a part of a small business as it grows and develops.

Michael Lynch, the MD, has 20 years of experience recruiting into renewable energy, giving him an extremely strong network in the market, which all of us consultants are able to tap into. The career progression opportunities are unparalleled, and there is a real focus on advancing everyone’s careers within the business. The commission structure is also very good!

What tools that you use in your day-to-day work are the most valuable to you? What do you use them for?

I would argue that I don’t use any crazy tools in my job – some very good real-time data tools exist out there and can be super helpful. But to be honest, the best tool for the job is getting out there and building your personal network across the industry and being the “go-to” partner of choice amongst the best candidates and clients.

LinkedIn Recruiter is also a very important tool.

In your opinion, what are the most critical skills and qualities a recruiter should possess to be successful in this field?

It has to be resilience.
Some days, it feels like everything is going wrong, but the ability to get up the next day and keep pushing on is one that you absolutely must have in recruitment – never ever give up. One of my old managers used to tell me just to keep putting out, and things will come back, and I still live by that advice.
Another is to be a good listener – as the old saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth. Use them that way.

How do you approach diversity and inclusion in the hiring process and ensure fair and unbiased recruitment?

This is a hugely important topic for me and one I could go on and on and on about. There are so many things that businesses can be doing, and we still have a very long road ahead of us before so many businesses even come close to getting this right.

As recruiters, every shortlist we send should offer at least 50% diversity, and if it doesn’t, we’re not doing our job right. Don’t get me wrong – the process of finding diverse candidates can take longer and require different and often timely approaches, but it is absolutely our job to be doing this.

We need to make sure our adverts are non-biased and that things like benefits are clear in the adverts – what is your maternity policy, and does the business offer flexible working? We need to encourage our clients to use diverse interview panels and to ensure hiring managers are trained appropriately on how to avoid unconscious bias during interviewing. Also, most importantly, as recruiters, we must pay attention to and sometimes change the words we use, lead by example and continue to educate our clients.

Do you track any metrics or KPIs in your day-to-day work? If you’ve managed to improve any of them recently, what did you do to achieve better results?

Not really – both my current company, Ventus and my previous company weren’t into KPIs and tracking metrics purely for the sake of it. At Ventus, we adopt a quality-over-quantity approach at all times, but obviously, we do track key metrics such as client meetings, new roles, CVs sent, and first/second interviews.

At Ventus, our sales approach revolves around knowing the renewable energy sector far better and more intimately than the competition. In addition, we truly consult and add value to our clients by minimising downtime within the recruitment process through a robust screening and qualification process. This approach sells itself to some degree, and the value of that approach is evidenced by our repeat business rate, which is extremely high. KPIs can be a great training tool and can help a lot when things aren’t going so well for someone in my team. We can sit down at regular intervals and review outputs, which helps us to recognise where and why someone might be having problems. I never want to run a purely metrics-driven team – I’d much rather have a team of people with strong networks who are passionate about the renewable energy sector and who are given trust and autonomy to do their job well without people tracking their every move.

How would you define a good candidate experience? What strategies do you use to offer one?

The number one rule has to be never to leave people in the dark. If you have nothing to tell a candidate – tell the candidate that. I so often hear of bad practice when a candidate has been ghosted by other recruiters, and it leaves a really sour taste. My advice is to push your clients for proper feedback. The line “we found someone with better experience” is not proper feedback, and it isn’t useful for anyone. If someone has taken the time to apply and interview for a role, the very least we can do is offer them constructive feedback that will help them improve for the next time.

The other thing that’s important is to do what you say you’re going to do – if you tell a candidate you will call them at a certain time, make sure you do it! And if you tell them you’re going to submit their CV, then do it! I’ve heard of recruiters telling candidates they’re going to submit their CVs because they’re too scared to tell them they’re not the right experience fit for the role. Trust me – people would much rather hear your reasons why you feel they aren’t right than be misled or, worse, lied to! It also gives room for the candidate to overcome any perceived weakness in a particular area through open discussion – CVs don’t always present the full picture of a candidate’s experience in the field!

Recommend us 3 books, TV shows or podcasts, and let us know why you love them.

  1. Number 1 has to be Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO – it has become a running joke in the office of how obsessed I am (with Steven and with the podcast itself!!), but he has had some seriously good conversations with some super cool people.
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama – everyone needs to read this.
  3. Desert Island Discs – one of my favourites, it’s a perfect listen for a walk or while sitting on the train.

How do you know when it’s time to take some time off to avoid burnout? How do you recharge?

I am a huge advocate for flexible working for this exact reason. The most successful recruiters I know are the ones who strike a healthy balance between life and work. A motivated and happy team are the team who are going to make the most money. It doesn’t always mean that just because you spend lots of time at a desk, this is the most effective way to be successful in the role and earn a commission. The more experienced consultants in recruitment tend to be more self-sufficient, and therefore, offering them some flexibility is important – for example, we have a hybrid model in place here at Ventus
I also believe time away from your laptop can still be valuable thinking/planning time – how are you going to structure your approach to your search, who will you target for your BD this week, etc? Personally, I like to take time out to walk my dogs or ride my horse.

What motivates you professionally?

I’d be lying if I said money wasn’t up there – everyone does recruitment to make good money. That’s a given. But for me, doing a good job is so important. From the client, the candidate, and from my own perspective, I like to know I did a job well and in recruitment – winning work and filling jobs.

Thank you to Fabienne from Teamdash’s team!

Teamdash is a customisable ATS that helps recruiters save up to 70% of time per vacancy on tedious tasks by offering the best in market automation and interviewing tools and perfectly adapting to your existing processes. 

Want to learn more about diversity recruiting in 2023? JOIN OUR UPCOMING WEBINAR.

Don’t miss out on our next “Meet the Expert” interviews. Sign up to Teamdash’s newsletter below 👇

Merilyn Uudmae


Content Marketing Manager

Read about author
Next up

Interview with a Recruitment Expert – Miro’s Nick Krekis on blitzscaling the company’s workforce in 2.5 years

Read more