Cora Barnes of Three Q Perms and Temps

“At the age of 21, I was told that my business plan was ‘telephone numbers’ but we’re still growing 15 years on.” Cora Barnes

We discuss recruitment top tips for SMEs, predictions for the jobs market as well as expansion plans with the Managing Director of Three Q PERMS & TEMPs, Cora Barnes.

Established in Dublin City in 1999, Three Q PERMS & TEMPS operates within two distinct divisions – Healthcare & Hospitality, led by skilled recruiters with direct industry experience.
The business is headquartered on Lower Abbey Street and is based on partnership and quality; it looks to form, mutually-beneficial relationships with clients and candidates alike.
For the last 15 years, they have built their reputation on offering the Three Qs: a Quality service, with Qualified candidates in the Quantity the client requires.

Why did you decide to set up your own recruitment and employment agency and how did you go about it?

I worked with two friends in a generalist agency in 1998 and we saw that niche and specialist was what clients really wanted.

So in 1999, we set up a niche recruitment and temp employment agency for hospitality staff and added a second section in 2008 in the healthcare sector.

We were refused finance from the main lenders, so First Step Microfinance, a credit union loan and family loans got us started. At the age of twenty one, I was told my business plan was ‘telephone numbers’ but we’re still growing 15 years on! To date, we are one of First Step’s most successful small start-ups.

We also gained support from the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Dublin City in the form of grant assistance. Since 1999, we have continued to use the Local Enterprise Office’s training and networking services.

What kind of services can you provide for small businesses in Ireland?

Our temp staff can become a flexible extension to a small business’ work force. We work with hotels, golf clubs, event and venues that may need to upscale or downscale staff numbers, depending on seasons, events and surprise contracts.

On the permanent side, our experienced recruiters work with small businesses looking to expand and who want to use our service to find the best staff for their teams. Expensive as recruitment fees may first appear, the cost of a poor hire is so much more. Smaller companies feel that an outside perspective and an external search can open them up to candidates they may not have met directly.

Any predictions for the jobs market?

Generally, I see a high demand for high skilled and ‘hard working’ professionals – companies are being very selective and qualifications alone are not sufficient. To be successful, candidates must have a ‘can do, want to and will do’ attitude to secure the job they want.

Jobbridge will continue to give graduates an opportunity for work experience and smaller companies the chance to venture into growing again, if they can keep labour costs in line with growth.

Jobs in the service industry are available but the value of these professionals needs to be reflected in salaries that currently companies can simply not afford.

In healthcare, the global shortage of nurses is going to see Ireland continue to struggle to fill its own nursing requirements. Opportunities abroad will draw more nurses away.

I would like to see nursing as a profession promoted widely as it is a profession in serious decline due to less entrants and retiring nurses. Demand will continue to outweigh supply, especially in the elder care sector.

Any plans to expand your company?

We are expanding our nursing recruitment business with our new company, Nurse Jobs Ireland ( We are also exploring co-operation agreements with agencies in New Zealand or Australia.

What are your ‘Top Tips’ for new start-ups?

In general, know what you want, set up a plan and work that plan. If the plan doesn’t work, make a new one and work that instead.

My three ‘Top Tips’ would be:

  • 1. Network and talk with people who have done it and who want you to succeed. 
  • 2. Modelling - look at the success of others in your area in other countries – a path has been beaten down – can you use it? 
  • 3. Know your numbers – how many of X to achieve Y and what are the costs to produce X? Passion will get you so far – passion and a clear understanding of the simple cost and output of your company or service is crucial.

What recruitment advice would you have for small business owners, who are also employers?

‘Hire slowly and admit mistakes early’: not my advice, but advice I was given.

Be clear about job responsibilities before you hire – what three things will this employee be responsible for? Use these through the selection, recruitment and performance review, to create a good working relationship with employees – both knowing what is expected from each other.

What businessperson do you admire most and why?

Mary Ann O’Brien, founder of Lily O’Brien’s Chocolates, business woman, mum, Senator, all round sound woman. Starting small and thinking and growing big and adjusting to what life presents are just some of the reasons I admire her.

Our thanks to Cora Barnes for taking part in this Case Study.

To find out more about Three Q PERMS & TEMPS and the services they offer to small business owners, please visit or