‘You Don’t Have to Be Passionate About Recruiting’

Meet ERE member Mary Faulkner, who talks about the P-word, her greatest workplace fear, why she seems unapproachable, and Celine Dion.

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Sep 5, 2023

Welcome to the latest installment of a new series in which we spotlight talent acquisition professionals within the ERE community. The series’ aim is to showcase individuals not so much for what they do but for who they are. In other words, the focus is less on what people are doing in their roles and more on how they view work and life.

Meet Mary Faulkner. Mary is a principal with IA-HR, a consulting firm focused on HR transformation. If you scan the socials for people who regularly share their views on talent, it won’t take you long to come upon Mary Faulkner. Mary is one of talent’s top voices and strategists — and for good reason. With experience as a practitioner and now a consultant, she eschews platitudes in favor of realistic, practical insights and advice. Mary approaches recruiting challenges with a deep understanding of the profession — all to serve the profession.

Additionally, Mary is ERE’s strategy columnist (read her articles here), as well as a regular speaker and moderator at the ERE Recruiting Conference. Plus, she authors a leadership development blog called Surviving Leadership to continue the dialogue around the challenges of leadership, both being a leader and being led.

I recently spoke to Mary about what she likes most and least about working in TA, how she defines success and failure, and the potential problem with passion.

ERE: What is your best personality trait?

Mary Faulkner: Is sarcasm a personality trait? But really, it’s actually my sense of humor.

What is your worst personality trait?

My sense of humor.

I see what you did there. What is the biggest assumption people tend to make about you — be it wrong or right?

People assume that I’m not approachable — and depending on the day, they are wrong or right. I think people often think this because I don’t immediately engage with people when they are in a room or in a meeting. I’m an introvert, so people think I am difficult to connect with, when really it’s just that I don’t initiate.

What do you love most about working in talent acquisition?

I love helping companies find better ways to find candidates and employees. I also love the idea of talent acquisition to help people find jobs where they can make a good living and not compromise too much of themselves.

Notice I didn’t say anything about passion — in the sense that I don’t think you have to be passionate about recruiting or any line of work. You can love the work you do, but it does not have to be your passion.

What do you like least about working in talent acquisition?

Bad actors. There are too many bad recruiters, bad hiring managers, bad companies that think it’s OK to do what they can to trick candidates. They pat themselves on the back for low-balling candidates. How about just paying people what they are worth. Don’t lie to them about a job or what it’s like to work at the company.

What is your greatest fear in the workplace?

That there are too many incompetent people who have power over the lives of others. There are too many people in senior leadership who have no idea what they are doing. And they make all the money.

What do you most value in team members?

Competency. Know how to do your job.

What is the most overused or overrated thing that recruiting professionals believe about themselves?

They think they know the job market better than they actually do.

How do you define success?

When I have made myself proud. As long as I have done something to the best of my abilities, to my standards, then that is success.

How do you define failure?

Not living up to my own potential.

What is your biggest failure?

I’ve always been disappointed that I did not pursue music as a career. It’s not that I regret my current career, but I regret  that I didn’t stay with music to do what I feel I could’ve done with it.

What is your current state of mind as it relates to the current state of recruiting?

Cautiously optimistic. There has been a great reset in how people have to think about recruiting, engagement, and compensation, and I’m hopeful that we don’t backslide — especially because there’s now enough of a critical mass of candidates who are not from the old way of doing things. They have different expectations, so hopefully that will make everyone rise to the occasion.

Name one TA person besides yourself who people need to know?

Adam Karpiak. He’s a recruiter who is great at calling out the stupidity of the hiring process. And he does this because he truly wants to help people find jobs. He genuinely wants recruiting to be better and is not afraid to poke the bear. He’s also funny as hell.

Most important question: What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Nobody ever lets me sing karaoke. I’ve only done karaoke once, and I think it was Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”

I’m sure there were moments of gold and flashes of light, but what would your song be today?

It would be KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.”

Finish this sentence: Mary Faulkner is…

A work in progress.


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