Lessons From a First Placement

Apr 13, 2011

Like just about every other recruiter, current or former, my first couple of months in this business was a struggle. Everyday I was making 70-80 dials that equaled 25-30 non-sensical ramblings that usually ended in a “not-interested” or a merciful hang up from my target. I was a brand new accounting and finance recruiter who knew nothing at all about accounting, and very little about business in general. The juxtaposition was that I was a hard-headed, sometimes cocky, 30 year-old who thought he knew pretty much everything. As time went on in my first couple of months as a recruiter, that attitude was replaced by a resigned feeling that I was not going to make it out of this alive (figuratively speaking of course). After about 6-8 weeks of this battle, I was ready to throw in the towel and move on. Moving on is what I had done best in my career up to that point. This was my fifth job in seven years, and going in, I was convinced that this must work out or I would be stuck in that revolving door of sales re-treads. It was this feeling, and a fiancé who was not likely to marry an unemployed former golf pro, that kept me coming back every day. Yep, you could say my first couple months as a recruiter was indeed a struggle. Then, one day, I caught a break.

Every morning my manager would pass new leads out to the account managers. Typically, we made these new leads our first calls of the day. On a particular day in September 2006, a lead passed was my way for a manufacturing plant in Lincoln, NE that was in need of an entry level accountant. This plant was an organization that we had never done business with, but I had been calling the new HR Manager for the past few weeks. The HR Manager, Tyler, had been hired recently to help with some reorganization, and part of that was reducing the number of staffing vendors they worked with. I knew they were somewhat close to finalizing this process, but was I not all that excited to call and get the same old run around Tyler had been giving me. Even still, I pulled them up on screen and prepared to give it a shot. As I was dialing I saw out of the corner of my eye my teammate, Tam, bouncing over to me with her usual chipper smile and a single white piece of paper in her hand.

“I saw that you are calling on that accountant opening at CompanyX in Lincoln,” she chimed with an unwavering positivity that you had to appreciate. “You just have to market Casey. She’s really awesome and just needs a chance.”

“Sure!” I said it without missing a beat and I grabbed the piece of paper, which was Casey’s resume, out of her hand. I trusted Tam as someone who understood what a good accountant looked like. I examined the resume and saw that Casey was a recent accounting graduate, and currently served as the assistant manager of a local bagel shop. What I didn’t see was any connection to a position that looked to require some accounting experience. I walked back over to Tam’s desk to dig a bit deeper.

“Maybe I’m missing something, but she doesn’t have any experience.” I said in a disapproving and, I am sure, condescending tone.

“I know, but you should call her. You’ll fall in love with her immediately,” Tam said as she flashed her happy-go-lucky smile and quickly spun back around to her desk, giving me no choice but to go back to my desk and give Casey a call. I called and she answered on the first ring. And you know what? I fell in love with Casey immediately. We talked for about ten minutes. She walked me through her goals and what she hoped to accomplish. We also talked a little bit about her personally. At the end of the conversation I felt great about her. OK, I thought to myself, I must place this person. I took a minute to compose a candidate sizzle, and then called Tyler.

“CompanyX Manufacturing, this is Tyler.”

“Tyler, this is Nate with the Aureus Group in Lincoln. I have someone that I really want you to meet. This person has an accounting degree from UNL, great technical accounting scores noted in our testing, and just a tremendous positive personality. I think this candidate would be a great fit for your current opening in accounting.” I rolled through my presentation with an ease and focus like never before in my two months as a recruiter.

“Sure.” Tyler said, in agreement with my assessment of his open position. “I tell you what. We are getting pretty close to finalizing our vendor list. Why don’t you call me back in a week or so?” All of a sudden his agreement had turned into a blow-off. Now, in every call leading up to this point I would have just accepted this objection and moved on. This time, however, I chose a different path.

“Tyler, I’m worried that this person will not be available if you don’t choose to meet with her right now. She is just the right kind of person that would fit your accounting team.”

I knew this, because Tyler had told me previously that they need people free of ego and easy to work with in their unique environment. Casey was definitely this, and I felt very sure telling him that she was a match for their culture. I knew this was a key factor in all their hiring decisions. “Based on everything you have told me in the past,” I assured him, “I think people would like Casey very much.”

With bated breath I waited through a pause that seemed to last minutes rather than the actual couple of seconds. “I’ll check with the hiring manager and get her availability for an interview. Can your candidate come out first thing tomorrow? I think we will have time.”

“Yes, I will make sure she is there whenever you need her.” I hung up the phone and the only thing I could do was deliver a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump in my cube. It was two months of frustration coming to the surface all at once. I had sendouts before this, but this was the first time I felt like I made a difference in the process rather than just being a part of it.

I called and set up the appointment for the next day. Casey showed up and made the same impression on Tyler and his hiring manager that she had made on us. They loved her right away. Tyler called me later that next afternoon and offered her the job. Strangely enough, I expected it, and was not shocked at all when the offer was made. Excited for sure, but I just felt like it was going to happen. The more exhilarating part for me was calling to make the offer to Casey, who accepted on the spot. The subsequent celebration for the new recruiter that made his first placement was a fun one. The fee was small, and Tam and I split it two ways. Clearly, nobody was getting rich on this one. But it didn’t matter then and it doesn’t today, either. I was happy for myself and proud of breaking through, but I was happier for Casey who now had this career development opportunity.

Flash forward to present day, and I still regularly feel angst, fear, and anxiety as a finance and accounting recruiter across Nebraska and Iowa. As an imperfect human being, these emotions are not unique to me alone. I have bad days where my calls stink, and I forget steps in the process of doing my job that are essential to doing it well. These are the days where I forget why I am a recruiter. This job is a roller coaster at times, and as with any profession, it is hard to stay on the correct path. “They” don’t call it the road less traveled for no reason. When I do take time, however, to reflect on that day on which I finally caught my break, there is one very clear lesson that I learned. It is a lesson that helps carry me every day. I learned that I am a worthless recruiter unless I have a real connection to my client and my candidate. I fall into err when I desperately search to find what’s in this thing for me rather than staying focused on the mission of my position as a recruiter. It is the same mission you, as a recruiter, also have in your charge. It is a mission to positively change the lives of our candidates and clients. With this as my focus I march on, making mistakes along the way for sure, but learning from them and enjoying the journey.

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