Senior Manager - Payroll Practice Lead

John O’Brien

After spending 5 years in Accounts & Payroll within financial services and a brief year spell in HR with a top five Chartered Accountants I embarked on a career as a professional rugby player for London Irish RFC.

Sadly for me the injuries took their toll so I took the bold decision to move into Accounts & Finance recruitment in 2004.
Twelve years on and I have had been privileged enough to work for some of the major Accounting & Finance consultancies in the City and West End of London.
I pride myself with being able to consult with clients and candidates at all levels and offer an honest and truthful approach to recruitment. The market place continues to change rapidly and with it so have I. Over the past six years my career has developed building new divisions and working across a range of industries including – Financial & Professional Services, Commerce & Industry and the Third Sector.

At Oakleaf I have been personally responsible for building a new Payroll division and personally work on roles ranging from UK Payroll Managers through to EMEA & International Payroll Managers, Global Payroll Directors and Systems Implementation Managers across all sectors in the UK and overseas. My goal in 2014 was to make Oakleaf’s payroll team the “go to” specialist for Payroll professionals and clients alike and in such a short space of time we are already well on our way to achieving this.
My overall aim now is to be the most successful Payroll Recruitment Team in the UK.

Away from work I still play the occasional game of rugby for my old boy’s team but now enjoy working out in the gym, keeping healthy (big foodie) and spending as much time indoors/outdoors with my family.





News articles for John

Senior Manager of our Payroll team, John O'Brien, talks through the changes taking places in the Payroll sector...

More than 90 employers failing to pay their workers the National Minimum Wage have been named and shamed following investigation by HMRC

Global knowledge is increasingly important within payroll, according to international payments specialist Maria Stark.

The number of people working on zero-hours contracts has risen by nearly a fifth (19%) over the past year.



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Testimonials for John

I have worked with John and Oakleaf Partnership as a candidate during the recruitment process for both my current and previous roles as well as a recruiting manager. My experience of both situations has been extremely positive. I've found John to be very responsive and he demonstrates the strongest understanding of both the payroll recruitment market and the way in which the payroll profession is evolving. As a candidate, I found the contact and feedback during the recruitment process to be excellent. While as a recruiting manager, I found that John was able to provide a range of strong CVs that demonstrated a full understanding of my requirements within a very short time frame with successful results.

Tim Reed - Global Payroll Manager, London Stock Exchange

Testimonials for John

Having dealt with John O’Brien in the capacity of Client and candidate, I have no reservations in recommending him and his team in providing the consummate service in the recruitment of Payroll Professionals. John keeps in constant contact throughout the recruitment process and is extremely helpful in facilitating a smooth outcome, with quick results in finding a suitable candidate. I would not think twice about engaging John and Oakleaf Partnerships services in the future.

David Elliott - (ex) Global Payroll Manager, London Stock Exchange

Testimonials for John

I cannot thank you enough of all the help you have given me throughout the process. You have been professional and always informed me of any updates. I am not sure I would have got this job without your help as you have always made sure I was happy with the process. You also made sure Moody's got back to me as soon as possible. You also made sure I received the emails you have sent me. It is really appreciated. You have been very supportive during the test and interview. Also thank you for giving me the confidence vote when I was going to the interview. It helped. A lot!!! Not many people will be as lucky as I was with this process and that's because of you and your motivation skills as well as determination.

Maide Djorkode

Testimonials for John

I had the pleasure of working with John O’Brien whilst looking to a new venture, with him placing me into my latest position as Payroll Manager for Liberty Specialty Markets. John proved to be an invaluable asset in my job hunting. He offered excellent advice, great insight into the marketplace as a whole and took the time to really understand my needs. I went into each interview feeling prepared, and knowing the company I was approaching was the right match for my skillset and requirements. I would recommend John to anyone looking for a new payroll position. His knowledge and contacts of the payroll market are second to none, and I look forward to working with him again in the future.

Chris Headley - Payroll Manager, Liberty

Testimonials for John

I have worked with John at Oakleaf Partnership for over two years as a trusted advisor on payroll recruitment. Just over 18 months ago John found my next career move as the Head of Global Payroll, throughout the recruitment process John demonstrated great candidate care and understanding of my requirements for my next role. I have also personally referred my professional payroll colleagues and friends to John, who he has successfully placed in fantastic career progressive roles both in the UK and in Europe. Therefore I am confident to recommend John to prospective candidates and clients.

Robyn Brack - Global Head HR Operations, Travelex

Testimonials for John

At a time when some of the more traditional payroll agencies were struggling to find roles, John was able to line up three interesting opportunities within a matter of weeks. The role that I decided to pursue resulted in a lengthy process and I found John to be supportive, open and honest throughout. During this time other opportunities arose and John was pragmatic and understanding when I decided not to explore these further, even if the salary and I suspect his fee would have been higher. It was a pleasure to deal with the guys at Oakleaf and I am happy that they helped me find a great role.

Oliver Carr - Global Payroll Manager

Testimonials for John

John O’Brien is delightful, I love the way he sells himself, there is no way he comes across as if he were in a agency, he is totally professional, let see if he comes up trumps with the Payroll post I have given him.

Bernie Tewson, Recruitment Manager

Testimonials for John

Hi John Thanks for our meeting yesterday, its so refreshing to meet an actual consultant whose calm collected and has knowledge of business this side and the other. I'm a huge believer in being transparent and direct and it really felt you reflected the same. I am excited to be working with you :) As scary as it is to be in my situation now I do feel a sense of calm and for the first time in recruiting process a huge sense of positivity and security, im glad you'll be looking after me. The role at the architects sounds amazing!

Hardeep Gill, Head of Payroll

Testimonials for John

John is refreshingly honest and personable in his approach to recruitment. When I met with him, he told me that the kinds of roles I was looking for don’t come around very often, but that he would keep me in mind when one did. And, true to his word, a few months later I got a phone call when a suitable role came up. John kept me up to date throughout the selection process and provided detail advice and guidance to the extent I needed. John has also checked in with me on a number of occasions as I settle into the role, so I feel I have been supported into the role, rather than cast aside as soon as the recruitment process ended. I would not hesitate to work with John in the future and to recommend friends and colleagues to John.

Sarah Cooper, Global Payroll Director

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