Justine Buhrmann



“The most successful people in recruitment are sales people who are hungry for success.”

I am the Director of Gough Recruitment, specializing in Property and Real Estate Recruitment.

I loved school and did well, but wasn’t always 100% sure what I wanted to do. I went to university, but wasn’t really passionate about it, so at that point in my life I went and found a job.

Back in those days, you looked for jobs in the newspaper. I saw an ad for Real Estate Receptionist in The Age, and for the next five years I worked my way up through the Real Estate industry.

I did most non-sales roles like PA, advertising coordinator, office manager.

I was working in the Buxton‘s Head Office when I was approached by Graham Gough of Gough Recruitment (whose services I used in the past), wondering if I would be interested in a Recruitment career. I had a coffee with him and decided to give it a go.


I had always wanted a career that offered a potential to earn a good income, but I didn’t want to do Real Estate sales because I didn’t want to work 7 days a week to achieve success.

Recruitment seemed like a good option, though I must admit I was a little nervous at the start about going into Sales.

I started out as a Consultant doing mostly residential recruiting – placing staff in real estate agencies. Gough was only a tiny agency back then, with 2 smallish offices in Melbourne and Sydney.

I ended up loving the job and its not a job that everyone loves!

I have always been pretty motivated and over the years I have tried to learn as much as I can, which you need to in this job. But I’ve always worked hard, and put the expectation on myself to achieve success.

I think that came from my parents, who came from having very little, but achieved great success in their lives through hard work and sacrifice. And having tasted some of the finer things in life that my family was able to provide for me in my teenage years, I knew that I wanted to achieve the same for myself.


Maybe this is why I’ve always wanted to own a business and even when I was working for Gough, it was in the back of my mind.

Over the years, Graham mentioned that he was eventually planning to retire and sell, and that piqued my interest.  I let him know of that as well.

The opportunity came after about 5 years of me first starting.  Timing played a big part in it too.

Working for small agencies like Gough certainly makes it easier to have conversations about partnership opportunities or buying in. There is nothing wrong with starting this conversation at the initial interview.

If somebody asks me about future possibilities at Gough, I see it as a good sign that indicates commitment from the candidate.

Of course you then need to stick around a bit and prove yourself!

Many other people shown interest in buying the business in the time I was there, but in the end I bought the Melbourne office with Joel Barbuto, who also started as a Consultant with Gough.

Today Joel is the majority owner, and he is our CEO based in Sydney. He’s an incredibly driven and successful businessman and with him at the helm, we have grown Gough to 6 offices and almost 60 staff.  I would describe Joel as a force of nature – he’s incredible!

Because I have two children, I can’t dedicate myself to work at the same level as Joel, do the same amount of travel. I am more focused on managing our Melbourne business.

What I have learnt from being at Gough for so many years is that there are moments in everyone’s career where you’re not enjoying it and there seems to be greener grass elsewhere, but I really believe that riding through these rough patches is a big part of what has made me successful.

For me, it’s the same strategy as my marriage.

A lot of people don’t have that strategy in life, maybe more so the younger generations, but I believe they miss out on a lot of growth opportunities by not sticking to things.

My main challenge these days is balancing the recruitment part of my job and being the owner-manager. But I still do a lot of recruitment.


I believe when you run a company, you can’t just be a manger – you must be a leader who leads by example. As much as I’d love to just play the boss, come in and tell everyone what to do, and then go home, it just doesn’t work that way.

To have a successful business, I have to be in the trenches with my team, doing the recruitment, keeping up with the market and clients, experiencing the same challenges.

And I actually really love it. Getting out there, searching for that perfect person to fill the client’s brief – that’s one of my favourite bits.

At the same time, this can be tricky when it comes to being a manager. When I first started at Gough, there wasn’t much training – I was pretty much thrown in the deep end. These days, I try and make sure new staff get the necessary guidance and training to succeed from the start.

But sometimes, I can come in thinking I’m going to spend the day training a new recruit, only to look up at the clock and see that’s it’s almost six and I’ve spent the day on the phone, which never stopped ringing with candidates and clients!

The most successful people in recruitment are sales people who are hungry for success.

When I interview people for Gough, if their main motivation is to help people, I am wary. In this job, you are going to get let down by people. A lot.

People will pull out of contracts, not show up to interviews, change their minds and not tell you. You get let down regularly, and there isn’t much you can do about it – so many new recruiters become quite jaded and disillusioned in the people who they are trying to help.

To do well, and to enjoy this job, you need to be driven to succeed and to serve your clients and candidates.

You have to enjoy the search process, the problem-solving, and you need to have a never-say-die type of personality that will allow you to bounce back and keep trying and trying.


Ten years ago, pre-GFC, the market was tough for candidates, there weren’t many jobs and lots of people competing. Things are the opposite today: there is a huge shortage of quality candidates in our marketplace.

We have almost 200 listings on Seek (in Melbourne alone) at any given month, but sometimes you can put an ad up and not get a single qualified respondent! You have to look further, use your networks.

The thing with recruitment, is the longer you do it, the more people you know – the easier it is for you.

A lot of property managers don’t apply for jobs because they see them all as the same. So you’ve got to have the contacts, and the kind of relationships with people that will let them trust you to approach them with a suggestion for a better role.

Relationships are key.

You’re not just carrying out tasks, you have to consult and advise – both clients and candidates. Sometimes you need to educate a client about the realities of the market. They will call you looking for a person to manage 250 properties, and you have to be able to say to them, ‘No-one wants to do that job!’

Property managers are not in sales because they want the work-life balance, they don’t want to work every Saturday, even if it means more money – so they are looking for jobs with less than 200 properties.

On the other hand, you might have candidates ringing saying they want a job in real estate and work no weekends.

I just feel like saying, ‘Why on earth did you get your agent’s rep?!’

It’s like someone saying ‘I want to do recruitment, but I don’t want to do cold calls’. Well, then don’t do recruitment. It is a phone job. You can’t sell via email, or text or social media. All these methods are fine once there is a relationship – but you have to pick up the phone to create it.

A lot of people wanting to get into recruitment want a PSA desk, which means the jobs are given to you by the company.  This happens  in a lot of the bigger firms, with clients like Telstra where the listings just get called in.

But if you have that mentality, you’re missing out in recruitment.

If you get used to just waiting for business to drop in your lap, you will be at a disadvantage if ever the market conditions change, and candidates dry up.

Recruitment hasn’t got the ability to carry people who aren’t performing. Anyone can have a bad week, a bad month – most people do. As long as you’re still doing everything right, trying, showing up – it’s OK.

It’s when you’re not doing what you’re supposed to and not performing because of that, it quickly becomes a concern and a threat to you staying on in a company.

When I’m interviewing a candidate, I find an informal interview style is more effective. You can’t just ask formulaic questions and tick boxes – you have to build rapport and get to know a person to really understand them.

I love an offsite coffee and I try to interview people the way I’d like to be interviewed, to build that trust. The same goes for clients – I just try to put myself in the other person’s shoes to do the best by them.

Over the years, I have learnt to read people much better through their body language and expressions.

They might sit there and tell me they just want a new challenge, but I can see that there’s more to it: maybe they didn’t get on with their boss or team. I encourage people to be honest with me, just so I understand the full picture and make sure I’m leading them in the right direction.

My favourite part of the job is when everything comes together – the client loves the candidate, the candidate accepts the offer and we have a deal.

Happy client, happy candidate – this is what you come to work for! It’s not that easy though.

Most of my time at Gough, I did residential real estate recruitment, however last year I moved into property. So now my clients are in the Retail Property sector and I do placements for shopping centre managers, retail leasing executives etc. This is quite a different market to residential, however there are still many differences and crossovers.

So now that I’m dealing with retail property, I might only do one deal a fortnight, as opposed to 6 that you do in residential in a month. It sounds easier, but it’s actually more stressful. Because if something goes wrong, and the deal doesn’t go through, I might be on zero at the end of the month!

And when you’re looking to fill a $300K position, there aren’t a hundred candidates qualified for it either, so it’s even harder than normal.

When I first took over, it was tough. We were in the middle of the GFC and I just had my first baby. I came to work about 2 weeks after I first had him. We bought him into the office for the first 6 months of his life.

People ask what it was like transitioning from employee to owner, but for me that time is much coloured by being a new parent. It was very full on.

I think the main thing I learnt from that time was the importance of staying in a positive mindset. There were days where I had to go to work with no sleep, feeling like death warmed up.

I’d just say to myself, ‘Justine, get to work, get to five o’clock, you can do this’. And I did.

Sometimes I wish that I knew what I know now when I first started. On the other hand, what I know today is years of accumulated knowledge and experience that’s impossible to obtain without living through it!

In recruitment, your product is people, not cars, or houses. It’s unpredictable, and very challenging. Yes, the longer you do it, the better you become at dealing with people and understanding their psychologies – but I’m sure that even after 13 years of doing this, I still have much to learn and situations will come up that I’ve never been in before.


Going forward, I just want to continue slowly growing the business.

I actually love coming to work, I get a huge amount of enjoyment from my job and in a lot of ways it defines who I am.

The concept of retiring and not having this company to run – I don’t know who I’d be!

Outside of work, my focus is on my family and spending as much time with them as I can. As I mentioned before, when I was younger, I was very money and success driven. But now that I’ve had kids, that has become secondary to being a good parent and having a beautiful family  – that, to me, has now become as much a mark of a successful life as my career. It’s nice to be successful, but you have to be able to share it with your loved ones.


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