Denis Waxman: If I had to start again..

Both of my kids are successful academics, and when I hear about their Oxford life I think I would like to have done that. But I never had the patience, and I'm not intellectually bright enough. I didn't get any qualifications from school.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I fell into the world of recruitment, largely through want of anything better to do. I'd just come back from a couple of years on a kibbutz in Israel, back in my idealistic days, with the objective of earning enough money to go away again. I ended up as an assistant at a recruitment agency in London, and got bored quickly because I was never given any work. I told the boss this, figuring he'd tell me to get on my bike, but instead he set me up at a desk. I soon found I had a flare for it. I started talking to another guy and we decided to set up on our own, and the company just grew from there.

For two years I could only afford a two-line advertisement in the Telegraph. It read like a text message - all the words were abbreviated to make sure it all fitted in. All I had going for me was enthusiasm: by the time our bigger competitors had sent a letter to the candidate with a dossier of what they had arranged, I would have got them three offers or already accepting a job. The business was built on that passion.

Hays bought us in 1986. I became chief executive of recruitment and then, in 2004, of the entire group. I never pictured it getting this big: we give livelihoods to 7,500, and place 50,000 people in jobs every year. That's why I've loved the job - you're doing something socially worthwhile and earning a fee at the same time.

I have absolutely no idea what I'll do next. I always just grab the opportunity and see where it leads. I know there are other things in life besides business, and I'm now lucky to have the time and, to a degree, the money to explore them.

Denis Waxman steps down as CEO of the Hays recruitment group in November

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