My adventure in recruiting started 16 years ago when I decided to switch fields. I became a candidate for a recruiter position and, naturally, I had to go through the interview process before being the one on the other side. In fact, many of my initial learnings on how—and how not—to recruit came from this first experience. Here’s how it went.
The first interview was with the recruiting manager. Traditionally, this person coaches you on what to prepare for the interviewers: what topics to discuss, what each person is looking for, and what personality traits are important to each of the interviewers.
The second interview was with the head of HR who asked if I was pregnant or planning to have children. I paused long enough for them to realize what they had just asked me. I then met with a few other employees before going out for lunch—that awkward eat-and-talk interview. After returning to the main office, I was told the chief executive was ready to interview me. Okay, but maybe a bathroom break first? (I needed to check for spinach sticking to my front teeth.) After I completed the ninth or tenth interview of the day, I was famished, exhausted, and wondered just how many people it takes to make a decision.
After all of this, I heard nothing. Not a peep for more than two weeks. Because this was a company I really wanted to work for, I was content to overlook the less-than-ideal interview experience and decided to “wait and see.”
Eventually, I received a call that I needed to interview with yet another person. This interviewer asked why I would want to change careers to become a recruiter. At this point, interview fatigue was setting in and I was asking myself why, too—yet was able to muster up a legitimately true reason. I’m interested, because I’m curious by nature, and I genuinely enjoy getting to know people and their stories. I also have three friends who made career changes from merchandising to recruiting and they each love their jobs.
The interview concluded. I gave it a few days before reaching out to the person the position reported to. He was now on a two-week vacation. Once he returned, I was told his boss was now on vacation, and a decision wouldn’t be made for another week. I waited three weeks.
Finally, after 11 interviews and nearly eight weeks, I became a recruiter.
Sometimes it takes a less-than-ideal experience to become a better person. As someone who has been on both sides of the recruiting process, I have learned how to turn the experience into a positive one.
Additionally, I once had a very senior executive recruiter tell me that she viewed the job of a recruiter as being noble. This will always stick with me. Her point was that recruiters do good work by saving people from horrible experiences, which applies to both the company and the candidates.
While there are thousands of great interviews that went quite well, I have also experienced some doozies. People will always surprise you. Most of the time, it’s to your delight, yet other times you’re left with your mouth gaping open in disbelief over what you just heard or witnessed.
As the first person a candidate speaks to in the interview process, I tend to start with a couple of warm-up questions like, “How did you learn about us?” and “What interests you about this particular role?” Usually, candidates have an appropriate response ready for these types of questions, but then there was “Fred.”
Fred’s reply to what interested him in the role was that he needed to secure full-time employment, so he could get a mortgage loan. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked him about the qualifications that made him a fit for the role. He mentioned his loan again, and proceeded to tell me he’d be quite happy doing contract work. I continued the interview for a touch longer, but it was clear this was not a good fit. Tip: Think about what you share—companies want to know what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
I received an employee referral for “Joe.” Joe had a background in an industry similar to the open role and looked to be a great fit, so I scheduled an initial conversation. Within minutes, I felt like I had been whisked away from my desk into a weathered chair in a dark bar while Joe spewed expletive after expletive. It was as if I had become his drinking buddy. Since I wasn’t, the interview process ended at this point. Tip: You can never go wrong by remaining professional.
I was scheduled to interview “Bill” via video conference. Bill worked for a globally known tech company. Just as I logged into the video call, Bill’s spouse popped into the room and exclaimed, “Bill, don’t you have an interview? Are you seriously wearing that T-shirt for an interview?!” Bill blew her off while shaking his head. Doh! If that wasn’t bad enough, within 5–6 minutes of Q&A, Bill’s wife decided to start vacuuming. Tip: See previous tip. Make sure you are projecting professionalism at all times.
Lastly, and my personal favorite, is the “I love you” candidate. A candidate actually said “I love you” in response to hearing we wanted to move forward to offer. It was very sweet.
Stay tuned for more adventures in the world of recruiting! In the meantime, we are back to seeking “purple unicorns in squirrel costumes”—what recruiters call the perfect candidate for highly specialized roles.