Top job: Judith Coslett, head of personnel, Guildford Borough Council

Guildford Borough Council has appointed Judith Coslett as its new head of personnel. She takes over from Mike Keogh, who retired after 30 years at the council. Coslett has responsibility for a 12-strong personnel team.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was HR manager at The Body Shop International – three years heading up the logistics division HR team, and one year in retail HR.

What will be the duties in your new role?

I will be leading a personnel team of 12, which will deliver training, generalist HR, equalities and access to the 1,200 employees of Guildford Borough Council.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

To devolve basic performance and absence management to line managers to enable HR to take on a more strategic and proactive role.

What are the challenges HR faces in the next five years?

Keeping up with the ever-changing raft of employment legislation.

What’s the worst thing about HR?

Having to explain to people what it is.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

This is tough – there’s so much to choose from. I think ‘let’s touch base’ makes me cringe the most.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Get your CIPD qualification as early as you can – it’s essential.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Nutritionist Dr Gillian McKeith – I am now a convert to nettle tea.

How do you fill your spare time?

An unusual mix of gardening and salsa dancing.

What is the essential tool in your job?

A shredder – you can’t be too careful with confidential information.

And the most over-rated?

A mobile phone – people managed perfectly well for years without them.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

A disciplinary in which the employee maintained that his four-week sickness absence was genuine, despite the doctor declaring his sicknote a forgery and the hospital denying all knowledge of his operation.

What was the last book you read?

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – highly recommended.

What song gets you on the dancefloor?

Virtually anything – however, Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners would make me sit down.

What would be your dream job?

Something with a generous dress allowance and huge discount on Clarins beauty products.

What is the best office party you’ve ever attended?

We had some pretty lively ones at The Body Shop. Some of the lads from the warehouse would strip naked and run around, and the communications manager once ended up on crutches after an impromptu gymnastics display.

Coslett’s CV

2005 Head of personnel, Guildford Borough Council

2004 HR manager, The Body Shop International

2001 Regional training co-ordinator, Ernst & Young

1995 Development manager, various charities

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