Why I Recruit

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

While I might not be searching for a job right now I am going through something very similar: Trying to find an agent for my manuscript. You attend career fairs, I attend conferences. You pitch to a recruiter, I pitch to editors and agents. You put together a cover letter, resume and application. I put together a synopsis, one sheet and proposal. This process has made me a better recruiter, because talking to an agent can be daunting, but just about everyone on this journey has been kind to me which makes it so much easier.

I have been recruiting for 13 years and counting.  Just the other day the speaker at the networking event said to me, “I used to be a recruiter. It is the best job in the world!” And she meant it.

Wow. I love what I do but something about the way she said it made me take a step back to see what made her pump her fist in the air when she said those words. So here are my top 14 reasons why it’s so cool to be a recruiter. Yes, I know it’s an odd number but it’s my blog. J And they aren’t in any particular order either. (You Type A’s are going to have a fit!)

1)    Making someone’s day. And not in the Dirty Harry way. (Yes, I know, I’m dating myself, but Clint is actually more my parents’ generation.) Making that phone call to offer a job to someone who is perfect for the job is exciting! I have heard people nearly burst with excitement when I offered the job.

2)    Representing a great organization and sharing great opportunities. I didn’t come into my company as a recruiter, and I wasn’t dreaming of becoming one either. I wanted to learn how to run a business and was able to do that during my first five years. Then the recruiting opportunity opened up. I’d never thought about it before but what an opportunity! I knew I worked for an incredible company. The problem was, not enough people outside of our organization knew. The recruiting role would open the door to share that information with potential candidates.

3)    No two interviews are alike. I’ve had many people say to me, “There’s no way I could interview people all day, every day.” Neither could I! Recruiting is much more varied than that. It’s working with upper management to create postings, building relationships with referral sources, networking and managing a process, just to name a few responsibilities. But even though I might have the same questions for candidates no two answers are ever the same.

One candidate I’ll call Bob had a difficult customer that refused to sign a safety waiver at the community center where he worked. For half an hour Bob tried to explain to the customer why it was important but the guy eventually stalked off into the locker room determined that no one was going to make him do something he didn’t want to do. Since this wasn’t the first time the customer had refused, Bob had no choice but to call the police. And Mr. Customer was taken from the whirlpool, escorted off the premises and banned from the community center.

Trust me, I’ve never heard anything like that before or since.

4)    Impacting the company on a critical level. No matter the product, without people to design, implement and sell there is no company. All the success of the organization starts with its people and I get to play a part in that.

5)    Training others to be great recruiters. Being the expert in my craft is a tall order, but absolutely necessary, and it’s part of my job to make sure all the hiring managers are experts in interviewing as well.

6)    Closing the deal. Make no mistake about it, recruiters are sales people and we get that same ‘high’ from winning a new hire as an account representative gets from landing a new account. Once I know someone is a fit for our company I don’t want to let him get away. Just the other day I spoke with a candidate who told me, “I’m sorry ma’am. I don’t want to waste your time but I’m about to accept an offer with another company.”

I found out this guy hadn’t even interviewed anywhere else; he was just going with the first offer that came his way. I noticed he’d gotten a football scholarship to college. “Let me ask you something,” I said. “When you got your football scholarship, did you just go with the first college that came your way?” He laughed. “I went with the most money!” I laughed. “Then let me tell you a little bit about our program…”

I proceeded to tell him everything that made us the exact opposite of the other company.

He interviewed the next day.

(And we recruiters get to chat with this guy.)

7) Watching the folks I brought on board climb the ladder. I feel like a mama bear as new hires take those first tentative steps, then they slowly learn the ropes and begin to advance into higher roles in the company. Total affirmation that we made the right choice.

8)    Spotting the potential in a candidate and watching him bloom. So we take a risk and hire someone who’s a little light in sales but with a crazy competitive streak and strong leadership. Mere months later she’s breaking sales records!

9)    Creativity. Coming up with new ways to attract quality candidates can be challenging, yet rewarding when new ideas pan out. Should I utilize social media, the internet, college visits or employee referrals?

Along those same creative lines, earlier this week my colleague and I conducted  a Career Prep seminar at a university. When I present I don’t want to talk ‘at’ the audience, I want them to stay alert and participate. So I ask questions and make them think. And, big surprise, I call on people. At the end of the day forty students were scribbling notes, sitting on the edge of their chairs and asking how they can get on board with our company.

10) Mock interviews and resume critiques. I can’t lean across the desk in an interview as say, “You’re doing this all wrong!!”, although some days it’s tempting. Thank goodness for local universities and career centers like the Urban League who offer opportunities for recruiters to come and teach students and job-seekers how to improve their interviewing skills and resumes.

11) The opportunity to learn new things. I’ve learned about investments, how to build a deck and, yes, even the operations behind the scenes at a circus. Apparently, and contrary to popular belief, clowns are some of the saddest people on earth.

Who knew?

12) Building relationships with referral sources. There is a great satisfaction in knowing that a university is sending people my way because our working relationship over the years has become more of a friendship. When they greet me with a hug instead of a handshake, I know I’m doing something right.

13) Spotting candidates’ talents and skills and guiding them in the right direction. A candidate who has started several businesses in college and has entrepreneur written all over him but is considering a career in accounting? Not on my watch.

Nothing wrong with accounting, it just obviously isn’t the best fit for him.

14) Three words: Best. Stories. Ever. My all-time favorite came from a candidate years ago who was telling me how he coped with stress. He explained that he lived in a small town and there was a girl there who had accused him of getting her pregnant.

Oh boy… I was too new of a recruiter to know how to stop this runaway train. So I just sat there with my frozen smile as he continued.

He knew it couldn’t have been him because they’d only been together the one time.

Yikes!! Please do not keep talking.

“So I talked with my friends to ease my stress.” He shrugged, looking a little helpless. “And after that, all I could do was wait for the DNA test.”

And that, my friends, was priceless.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t at all about gearing everyone—or anyone—toward recruiting. What I’m saying is this: when you can compose a Top 5, 10 or, ahem, 14 reasons why you love your career, then you know you’ve made the right choice.

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First Job Offer Woes

After you’ve stood in line at career fairs, after you’ve sweated your way through endless grueling interviews all you can think about is that job offer. And you finally get one! But wait. Should you just go and accept the first job that comes your way? It depends.

When I graduated from the University of Toledo there was no particular city that appealed to me so I decided to move back to my hometown. But for some reason I applied for a job in a small city. After six years in school—full time—I finally held a degree in marketing with an advertising focus. Trust me, after all that time I was set on getting a job in advertising. What I discovered was that advertising jobs weren’t so readily available. Which is why I suppose I applied for the advertising job at a little radio station in…we’ll call it Littleton, so as not to insult anyone in the real city.

Normally, I’m 15-30+ minutes early for any appointment but I somehow ended up skidding up to the doors of the radio station about 10 minutes late. I’d miscalculated how long it would take me to drive to Littleton from Toledo. In reality, I think I knew on a subconscious level I really didn’t want this job. But I sat through the interview and it went really well.

Well, maybe Littleton wouldn’t be so bad. I drove around town a bit, checking it out, and ended up at the mall. I’ve never been one for shopping but I figured the mall would be a good representation of what the city had to offer.

In a word: tiny. In fact, it would have to get bigger to be tiny. But I overheard someone mention another mall. I stopped a woman to inquire about it.

“Oh, you mean the small one?” the lady asked.

“You mean this is the big one???” This was an OMG before OMG was even a thing.

Now what was I going to do? The radio station wanted me to come back in a few days to take a personality assessment test. I drove back to Toledo pondering the dilemma. Easy! I’d fail the test. I mean, it’s not like I could actually turn the job down, right? I was a brand new grad who ought to be lucky someone wanted to take a chance on me.

I arrived in Littleton as scheduled and took the assessment. I wasn’t quite sure how to fail a personality test but my theory was to answer the opposite of what I thought they’d want in the person they wanted for the job. I left confident in my failure and with a spring in my step.

A few days later I got a call. The lady on the other end of the phone raved about how great I’d done. Oh, come on!! How was I going to get out of this? Reluctantly I went for the final interview in Littleton hoping against hope they’d choose another applicant. It never dawned on me I was probably the only idiot who’d applied.

At that time I worked in the Admissions Office at my university. I talked to Shelly, one of the Admissions Counselors, who is still a good friend today, about the situation. And what she said changed everything. I might be a new grad but it didn’t mean I didn’t have a choice about the career I accepted. She assured me I shouldn’t feel bad about turning the job down if it wasn’t the right one for me. Something else would come along. What a relief! But I still hoped I wouldn’t have to have that difficult conversation.

Then the call I was dreading came. Much to my dismay they loved me and wanted to offer me the job. (Darn this charm of mine!) The conversation turned to pay. To say it was low was a severe understatement, like saying Harry Potter was a small success. Were they serious? It would be different if there were opportunities for advancement but there weren’t. I was going to be stuck with that pay for who knew how long. And Littleton was a tiny town far away from friends and family. And civilization.

So I took a deep breath and politely declined. The lady wanted to know why, of course, and I explained. That’s when she told me they’d upped the pay $2000.

Wow.

Now, as a professional, I realize I should have spoken up sooner. As a tremendously busy recruiter I hate to waste my time, so I regret doing that to the hiring managers. But after making a decision I was finally relieved. And Shelly was right. I got turned down for a couple other jobs but I also got a couple more offers. I accepted one of them and, eighteen years later, am still with the same company and have received five promotions over the years. Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t in advertising. But we’ll discuss tunnel vision in another blog post.

Recently I had a similar situation come up and I remembered this dilemma. As an aspiring author I have been attending conferences and reaching out to agents and editors in hopes that someone will either represent or publish my young adult manuscript. About three weeks ago I got an email that I thought was another rejection. But no, a publisher was interested!

And so much faster than I anticipated.

The company sent me the contract and I began reading it over. It might has well have been hieroglyphics! What was a decent advance for a new author? What about royalties? I started doing some research and reached out to other authors and agents that I’d met at the conferences for advice. The feedback varied from: It sounds very reasonable except ____ to: ‘Get a book on the shelf no matter what’. And, ‘They need to increase royalties and you need to keep the foreign, dramatic and commercial rights’.

What? I need an agent. Badly.

And then I remembered Shelly’s advice. Just because I’m a new author doesn’t mean I have to take the first deal. I learned a lot over the past few weeks and something else will come along.

Bottom line?  If the job that comes your way is right for you, grab it. If not, it’s not the end of the world. Just like me, your perfect fit will come your way in due time.