#8: The powers behind Meijer&Co Consultancy:
Meet Alex Gerritsen

Mirjam Donáth
17 July 2023

As part of introducing the people behind the powers of Meijer&Co, meet Alex Gerritsen, Non-Executive Director, and Strategic Advisor behind the sustainability recruitment company.

“Recruitment is all about the people, it’s all about the future, it’s all about the next generation.”
Alex Gerritsen has been in the HR industry for more than two decades and still loves every second he spends with it.  Professional colleagues call him “the ultimate Guru of Recruitment'' and the first person to call “if you lost everything and wanted to build a team from zero.” He is also good friends with the founders of Meijer and Co. and is on a mission to help them be the number one player within the sustainability niche in the CEE region. Inviting Alex on the team might well just be one of the smartest recruitment moves Meijer and Co. has done so far. 
Meet the third Dutchman beyond this sustainability recruitment company. Upbeat and energetic, Alex Gerritsen, 48, delivers his thoughts fast, in the unmistakable fashion of large team leaders, while he plays with a stress ball. He talks about changes in one’s dreams and the long way he came from his desire to become an investment banker while studying Business Administration to his dream of building an environmentally healthy world. Two of his main inspirations for change were his young children for whom Alex left busy Frankfurt and followed the path of the Grimm brothers finding home in rural Marburg: his wife’s hometown with a hilltop Gothic castle, medieval churches, three power-generating windmills, and many many roofs with solar panels. 

Alex first discovered his interest in recruitment at his university (back in the times when he was fascinated with the movie Wall Street, “but don’t quote me on that”, he says laughing) where the campus had a hotel for the guests of the business school and for traveling professors, ran 80 percent by students. While coordinating students for the various posts – from bartending to cleaning the conference rooms, handling reception, and preparing breakfast – Alex realized how this position helped him build an enormous network of students and provided access to the otherwise overwhelmed professors who never minded having a conversation about the questions of an upcoming exam while sipping their evening drinks at the hotel’s bar. “I was capable of leveraging my relationships from the job for my studies,” Alex remembers his inspiration to dive into the field of recruitment. He found his passion. By the time he stepped down as managing director of SThree (a global recruitment company specialized in STEM) where he had worked for 17 years, he managed 9 offices with around 700 people achieving year-on-year double-digit growth. 
Alex was done with money-making but not with helping people. “I realized that I’m responsible for enabling people, building the future of others, creating careers. I give people the opportunity to sell themselves and companies the chance to hire people to invent the next great thing. I am not willing to think of people as numbers from a spreadsheet. You are not a good recruiter if you don’t have a passion for people.” The heart of recruitment, as Alex explains, is the human triangle of CLIENT, CANDIDATE, and COLLEAGUE who oftentimes change their roles (regardless of which market, a colleague can become a client, clients can become candidates and some candidates become clients), which should motivate HR professionals to treat all these actors with equal care and respect.

Alex remembers ESG appearing as “a theme” in the recruitment industry together with DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) around 2017. Back then they were more like decorating elements in most companies’ year-end reports that only gained real meaning in the last 2-3 years. The experience of fighting COVID helped this development as people worried for their health and questioned the need to travel for work and pollute their environment every day. Today’s reality is, Alex says, that if a company doesn’t have an ESG workframe they will not be able to attract new talents from the last two-three generations. The companies Alex advises today have a very strong ESG and DE&I agenda “but nothing like what Meijer and Co. does with recruiting only from the sustainability area.” 
Alex considers Thijmen Meijer and Imard Veenstra, the owners of Meijer and Co., as two of the pioneers in the sustainability recruitment business in the CEE region. He describes his role as their “sounding board” on how to grow the business. ”They want to build their business without making a lot of costly mistakes”,  Alex says, “and by having a strategic advisor, who has been in the business for 23 years and made many many mistakes, I think you can make sure you didn’t dry your investments, because if you didn’t, your company will grow and your impact will be bigger.” He is excited about working in the CEE region where prices are relatively better than in the Western part of Europe and the workforce isn’t as spoiled. He says that the market there is not sustainable;  a market in which companies offer “ridiculous salaries” for university graduates who, without any experience, are less likely to bring a lot of value in their first 6-12 months and therefore force their employers to make their products more expensive. 

“Why do I work?” Alex says after refusing the idea of him ever burning out in the dealing-constantly-with people-business, citing resilience as the number one skill of a professional recruiter. “To allow my kids to have a fantastic style of life, which also means that we have to look out for our environment.” At home, in Marburg, Alex pays special attention to reducing and recycling domestic waste and eating vegetarian at least a few times a week. With his children and their group of friends, he often participates in cleaning the banks of the Lahn River that crosses their town, protecting wildlife and the town’s children who love playing in the water. “We need to focus on what kind of world we build for the people we brought into this world,” Alex says. “This is why this theme of sustainability with Thijmen and Imard is so exciting. Anyone they place in a job helps us create a better world.” 
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