A Journey into Recruiting: Facing the Real World and Life’s Lessons

As I sat in the college academic advisement office, situated in the rather antique styled Kansas State University administration offices, armed with my most current transcripts, a career plan I had meticulously designed…fresh shirt, polished shoes, freshly shaved with just a hint of expensive cologne I had used from the sample bin at Macy’s. I let my mind drift, as I tried to breathe deeply, calming my nerves and subduing the building excitement and anticipation of the glorious career future I could expect.

Obviously, with one look at my grades, my appearance, the strength of my voice and the conviction in my words, this counselor would quickly understand he had “gold” in his office.

Would I be hired as a president, or would I have to actually show them what I can do? After just scraping by in college, odd-jobs, garage sales, begging mom and dad for must a little more “support”, this six figure income position was going to be a new life.

What would I buy first? A penthouse apartment in the highest building in the city? A Porsche, to replace the 14 year old Corolla that was in serious need of repairs? An entire wardrobe, designed for those with the hard-to-fit “husky” profile? Of course with this new status, this life changing career all my professors have spoken of once you have “the golden ticket” – your diploma. I would probably just buy it all.

His office was filled with expensive framed diplomas; each represented a class, seminar or certification in advisement and counseling. Thank you letters, personally addressed to him adorned one wall…each thanking him for his advice and collaboration. Several were signed by “President” or “VP” of this or that, all of them sending me a clear signal: I had arrived at freedom. I was sitting in the office of the matchmaker of financial freedom; the guru of careers, the ‘one’.

I studied business, marketing and sales management. I found a way to pass basic college math. Slept through my electives, sat behind a really smart girl in economics and pestered my roommate to cram with me for the final in geography. Through all the parties, all the studying, all the sleepless nights; some actually attributed to classwork. I had passed. I had achieved the golden ticket… I had “set myself apart” just like all the ads I had seen foretold of college graduates. I have seen 1000’s of commercials on television of students, from various colleges and technical universities, revealing how they had changed their lives by graduating and getting out of a dead end job. It was my time.

As he studied my transcripts, obviously marveling at the intelligence and savvy each grade and subsequent professor’s comment outlined, I found myself inching forward in my chair, anticipating the words that would soon pour from the lips of this career guru.

“Have you ever thought about sales as a career?” “Maybe marketing?” ……”Oh! I have it…recruiting!?”

Sales, marketing, recruiting…what was he talking about? I had sold the idea of throwing multiple parties to my roommate throughout these 4 years…I had done some marketing, albeit, the marketing typically revolved around marketing my ideas about the need for additional funds to my parents….Recruiting? Isn’t that what the coaches did to kids in high school they wanted to have on their college team? Did he think I was an athletic coach? Did he misread my transcripts? Perhaps he had the wrong transcripts and student folder in front of him…that had to be it.

As I left his office that day, the VP titles I had dreamed about, the Porsche, wardrobe, vacations, furniture, luxury apartment…everything I had done without for these 4 years of academic hell quickly swirled down the dream toilet.

Hello world, I’m a college graduate! The world is supposed to be mine. Where’s my golden ticket!?

I was fortunate that, after my disappointing meeting with ‘the one’, I stumbled into a career that I enjoyed. For 17 years, I discovered and stayed in an industry which peaked my interest, satisfied my financial needs and continued to elevate me into a higher status with the company, offering the ability to manage people, implement positive change and create a reputable name for myself. I had risen to the top of retail sales, earned a good living and was known throughout this industry as someone who had proven himself. All the nights, weekends and holidays that I had sacrificed over the past 17 years had paid off. But where was I? What was next?

My brother had left coaching and teaching to be a recruiter several years ago. I never really talked to him about what he did; it was an abstract title that I didn’t really understand. When I called him to inquire about his role, what he explained intrigued me.

“So you get paid to find people jobs, with companies that need their skills?” “Why would they pay you for that?” “Why don’t the companies just run ads?”

On February 1, 2000, after relocating to Dallas, Texas, I sat at my new desk, in my new company, poised to be successful in my new career: recruiting. I remembered the questions and answers my brother had given regarding recruiting. “We find people jobs with companies that need their skills.” This was going to be easy.

The account manager at my new company, who had clients that requested our assistance in finding specific people, began talking about the open positions we would be working on, illustrating the specific skills each candidate needed in order to qualify for these openings. We would be recruiting for Information Technology positions (IT), and the acronyms associated with these positions might as well have been spoken in German. My extensive computer savvy over the past 17 years included turning on a fax machine, balancing a credit card transaction machine, and once, being shown how to write a formula in Lotus 123.

HTML, Java, Sonet, database architecture, etc., the list went on and on. Each new requirement, a word I hadn’t heard before, let alone, one that I would understand as it relates to the position. Names of companies I didn’t know existed, certifications I had never heard of before.

Not only were the job descriptions foreign to me, I was quickly learning that the recruiting industry had their own set of never before heard acronyms to explain their functions. “POEJO”…when I heard this, I assumed it was just her Texas accent and there was obviously someone in the room named Joe who had fallen on hard times. “JO’s”, “SO’s”, the slang terms kept coming. There was a computer on my desk…new, shiny, with a blinking green dot at the top of the screen, obviously inviting or encouraging me to do something…I just didn’t know what. People kept referring to their date base; being single, I was encouraged that so many people in the office were dating so frequently that they needed to keep track of it on their computer. Maybe Texas was going to be a good move! Obviously, I later learned it was the company’s database, not a date base; and there would be a need to learn how to use this computer.

I guess I never imagined how one would go about finding people to fill these jobs. I assumed that I would just run an ad in the paper or something, and as people called, informing me they saw my opening and they wanted the job, I would send them over to the company, and watch the money pour in. Needless to say, this wasn’t the strategy widely accepted in the recruiting business.

Thirteen years later, as I look back on the first days of recruiting, I wonder how I have made it this far. I had no computer training prior to starting, had never made a “cold call”, had never interviewed for a job personally, let alone prepare someone for an interview. I had always been someone with a base salary, paid commission for my sales, etc…knowing every two weeks what my paycheck was going to say. For the past 12 years and 9 months, of my 13 years in recruiting, I have been commission only. I have relied only on my efforts, drive and professionalism to provide my personal income. Sometimes, I wonder how I have survived.

Several months ago, as I walked into my home after a day of recruiting, I was met by my 4 year old daughter. She has gotten into the repetitive habit of asking; “How was your day?” She has heard my wife greet me with this question and adopted it as her own greeting. She always follows with, “What did you do at your job today?” I suppose, what happened in my day seemed infinitely more interesting than her own routine of eating, playing, coloring, reading and celebrating the daily accomplishment of keeping her “big girl panties” dry. My standard response is typically, that I talked to a lot of people on the phone today I didn’t know, and made new friends. On this day, after asking her coined phrase related to the disposition of my day, she asked, “Did you talk to people you didn’t know today and make new friends?”

Hearing the words, seeing the seriousness of her question emphasized by her raised eyebrows and half smile…it hit me. My job directs me to call both candidates and companies, uncover the specific needs of clients and match their needs to the skills of the candidates we represent. My career has revolved around talking to people I didn’t know, and making new friends. It wasn’t just a response to a question; it has been my lifestyle for the past 13 years.

There are a lot of books, webinars, conferences, audio tapes and interactive videos made my seasoned recruiting professionals on the market. Each one illustrating different techniques related to our industry to maximize your success as a recruiter. Over the years I have seen a countless number of amazing speakers, applied numerous techniques they have shared and embraced the fruits of success as a direct result of being exposed to their expertise.

Information is power, and this industry is so gracious with sharing and teaching this information. So many of the top producers in the recruiting industry have painstakingly produced literature and sacrificed their personal and professional time in an attempt to share their methods of success with others. There are very few industries where people that reach the “top” and want to bring others with them. We are driven to see one another succeed.

But, as with anything in life, everything essentially pairs down to its simplest form. Religion, marriage, sports, life….whatever “category” you choose, our humanistic approach to understanding the core of the topic is to break it down to its simplest form, a form we individually understand.

Treat candidates and clients fairly. Be honest every time. Return calls. Take the time to understand the needs/wants/desires of everyone involved in the process. Never forget that it’s not a resume, it’s a person.

My “simplest form” for recruiting is this: “Talk to people I don’t know, and make new friends”. It took a 4-year-old to help me understand what my true career was really all about.


Johnny Letourneau

Johnny FID_2716aa

Finding A Job in the Social Jungle: Part 2

Last week I wrote about effectively using LinkedIn to find a job. Compared to other popular social media platforms, LinkedIn is viewed differently by those who actively use the site to find job applicants and professionally network. LinkedIn is viewed, out of all the social media platforms, as THE professional networking site. However, it is not the only tool available for job seekers. To view my tips on using LinkedIn for your job search, click here

This week I’m looking at Facebook and how you can leverage your friends and their personal and professional connections to help jump start your job search.

Facebook. Have you ever heard of Dunbar’s Number? Neither had I until recently. Dunbar’s Number is a theory that says a person can realistically only deal with a limited number of friends, connections, followers, etc. due to cognitive limitations. From this theory, the recommended connection count on any social network is 150. However, I’m sure we all know several of our own Facebook friends who have over 500 or 1,000 friends. Do they actually know each of their “friends” or do they simply friend anyone they meet? The answer to that question could actually help you with your job search.

Leverage your friends. No matter your personal friend count, you can ask your friends for help during your job search. If you’re the type of person who keeps your profile private and only accepts friend requests from people you know and stay in contact with regularly, your small network could work in your favor. These people interact with you and know you personally; therefore, they want you to succeed and are the most likely to help with your search.

Most Facebook users fill in their work history on their About section. Take an afternoon and “Facebook stalk” the About section of your friends’ profiles for their work history. See a company you are interested in? Message that friend and start a conversation about the company and their experience. Is it a good company to work for? Did they like working there?

Facebook Message

Once you receive a response and a two-way conversation is established, move on to more direct questions: Did they leave on good terms? Are they still in touch with former coworkers? Don’t ask for the inside connection or who they know in the initial message; you might not know their personal experience with the company. You also don’t want to seem like “that” person, you know the type, the “friend who wants a favor to get your foot in the door” type. When requesting information or a friendly favor, give something in return, i.e. the story of why you are looking and what interests you about this company.

Give them a reason to share and they could in return give you more information than you imagined.

Did you know, each time one of your friends’ comments or likes a post, it shows in their Timeline for all of their friends to see. Remember those friends with 500+ “friends”? This is a great way to engage more than your inner circle. Encourage your friends to share your post with their network and expand your possibilities!

Use Timeline to your advantage. Facebook has a habit of changing the site design more frequently than most users prefer. Timeline, for example, came with a lot of pros and cons when it was released. A big pro is using it to get your job search request out in the Facebook world. Posting a status update will broadcast your post to all of your friends, so when they login and scroll through their timeline, there’s your request asking for help in your job search.

Want to make it even more eye catching? Images are said to be the most interactive and engaging posts on Facebook. Add a quirky image to get their attention!

Facebook Status Update

And don’t be afraid to actually ASK for help. More people will comment and interact with a post when there is a “call to action.” And calls to action aren’t just for business and brands; you want your friends’ feedback so just ask. Once they comment or like your post, it becomes visible to their network, which could expand your reach even further.

A con of Timeline is you’re newsfeed refreshes so frequently, your post could not be seen by your friends. Be cognoscente of what your friends are doing when you post your request. Are they working and can’t view Facebook at the office? Be aware and make sure your post gets the most exposure possible.

Manage your privacy. Friends with your boss or coworkers on Facebook? Announcing you are looking for a new job wouldn’t be very smart, would it? There seems be constant controversy over Facebook’s privacy controls, but they’ve recently made it easy to manage each post’s individual privacy. To the left of the Post button on status updates, photos and check-ins, you have the option for which friends can see certain content.

These settings can be set universally for your profile under Settings: Privacy, but looking for a job is a different post from “I just ate at this great new restaurant!” Make sure your settings are configured accordingly.

Facebook Privacy

Want to take it a step further? Choose Custom and target specific people that you either want to or do not want to see the post(s) you are sharing.

Facebook Custom Privacy

Follow companies that interest you. Most companies, today, have a Facebook fan page, but not every company posts job openings on their Facebook site. Because there is a stigma that Facebook is not LinkedIn, there is a fine line for companies when it comes to posting interesting content or becoming  a job board. They want to reach as many customers as possible, without offending fans with “spam” content such as job posts. If there is a company you are interested in but they don’t have a way to view job openings on Facebook, post on their wall asking for more information about their process or where you can find more information. 

Facebook Careers

If a company has a Facebook page, most likely there is someone in charge of monitoring the page and should respond to or acknowledge your post. They may only be able to direct you to their website, but in that case there are still other outlets for finding an inside connection. (See last week’s LinkedIn blog.)

Depending on the company size, most will have contact information listed in their About section, so be sure to scan through that page. It may only be a phone number to their company operator, but sometimes they can be your best friend and help guide you to the appropriate department or point of contact.

Facebook About

Facebook is viewed as a no-no by most people when it comes to the job search process, but if you use it right, it could be your biggest asset. Facebook is built off of personal connections and interactions. People tend to be more honest and open to discussing real world experiences about companies and the ups, downs and how to’s of job hunting. Companies try to connect with their fans by posting relevant and interesting topics, so you could learn a lot about a company by how they handle their social presence.

Befriending your boss in your online world isn’t for everyone. Beware of your Facebook profile and how it can not only help you in the job hunt, it could just as easily destroy you. Employers are looking at social profiles of new applicants more and more, so is your profile something to be ashamed of?

Stay tuned next week for Part 3. I’ll be talking about how Twitter and Pinterest can help with the search!

Casidy Lemons

Casidy_DBJ Event 

Finding A Job in the Social Jungle: Part 1

Finding a job with social media can be a daunting task for those not of the millennial generation. While more and more people, of all age ranges, have embraced social media as a social outlet to connect with friends and family, but using these same networks to find a job is an uneasy subject. Maybe you think employers aren’t hiring candidates they discover from social networks?


Companies are turning to social media not only to connect with customers, but to interact with potential new employees. There are hundreds of articles online sharing stats ranging from various user demographics to the most popular topics or brands people view/share/tweet/pin/+1/like, but what most people aren’t aware of is how to successfully present your social profiles to a potential employer.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be doing a four part blog, walking you through the top social media sites and how to use them to their fullest potential to land your dream job.

The question is though, with the US unemployment rate at 7.7%, where do you start?

LinkedIn. At the end of 2012, LinkedIn had over 200 million registered users, 160 million of those were active users on the 10 year old professional social media network. LinkedIn should be the first stop for any person looking to make a career change or join the workforce out of college. And with their recent site updates, it is easier than ever to boost your online profile (resume). With the addition of Endorsements, Projects, Publications, Patents, etc., it is easier than ever to present your entire virtual resume to potential new employers.

Be professional. First and foremost LinkedIn is a professional network. It’s not Facebook, so keep your beach profile picture on your Facebook page. People with profile images are more likely to be given a second look, so keep this in mind when deciding which photo to choose. A clean face shot, from the shoulders up is best. If you’ve been to a conference or work event recently and had pictures taken, choose the clearest picture and crop everyone else out. This profile is all about you, and first impressions are everything.

Utilize the company search bar. Know of companies where you are interested in applying? Search for them on LinkedIn. If they have a company page (which most companies do) you can research more about the company, view their connected employees and read reviews posted by other LinkedIn users. Have a common connection with a hiring manager or someone working in the area where you are interested? Request an introduction from your shared connection.

Utilize your connections. With the new Insights feature, you can see everything you have in common with a connection or other LinkedIn user, such as groups or connections, skills & expertise or previous work experience. For example, below is an image of my Insight graphic with a fellow employee:

LinkedIn Insights

Another way to easily find employees at potential companies is by simply looking through your own connections. And if a user doesn’t have their connections blocked, you can view the “People Also Viewed” section to find potential new connections.

LinkedIn People Who Viewed

Don’t harass potential new connections. If you request an introduction from a shared connection, wait and see if the company employee chooses to connect with you. If after a week or two you don’t receive a connection request, send one yourself with a quick note introducing yourself; mention your shared connection and why you are requesting to connect with them.

After you hit send, don’t ask for another request with them. If you have that option at all, it is because they denied your connection request and asking them again could only ruin your chances with that connection and not make a very good impression.

Instead, continue networking through other company employees. If you don’t have a shared connection with someone to request an introduction, but feel they would be a great way into the company or someone you should be connected with, send your own request introducing yourself and a brief note with why you are interested in connecting with them.

Once you are connected with someone in the company, begin a dialogue with them about the company. You can send messages (not paid InMails) with anyone you are connected with, so take advantage of this feature. However, don’t harass them this way either. You want to put your name in the back of their mind, but not in the “This person is crazy” way.

Join groups and be an active member. Groups are another way to see potential connections. Depending on what the company does, they may have groups they own, in which case you can join to network with other users, learn more about the company and participate in discussions.

Outside of potential employer-owned groups, make sure to join groups that are based on your field of interest and your alumni groups. At the moment, you can be a member of 50 groups on LinkedIn, so take advantage of this. If you are currently working and can’t view your group discussions during the day, you can choose to receive email updates about the most popular discussions on a daily or weekly basis. Take advantage of this and stay on top of group discussions and top influencers.

If you are actively participating in discussions, a potential employer’s employee could reach out to you instead of you doing the leg work.

Search for jobs directly. Another new feature is the “Jobs you may be interested in” section. On the new profile design, you can click on the Jobs tab across the top bar and search for jobs posted on LinkedIn. This can be done with a free account, which is great news to those not in the recruiting industry!

Searching for jobs can be as easy or as specific as you choose, by looking for specific job titles, using only keywords that may be listed in the description or with the advanced search, pinpointing a specific region, state or city. You can also narrow your search by industry or the number of days since the job was posted. You can do a variety of these searches and save the results so you can stay updated with the opening and easily view the company and not lose your search results.

LinkedIn Search for Jobs

Below the “search for jobs” search bar are “Jobs you may be interested in.” These are jobs LinkedIn thinks you may be a fit for based on the information you provide on your profile. This is a great place to get started if you’re not sure what keywords to use or what titles may be the most common for the position you are seeking. Search through the recommended job posts, get an understanding of the keywords and phrases companies are using when describing the position or required experience, and then begin your search.

LinkedIn Jobs you may be interested in

“Discover jobs in your network” is another new feature. This feature works similarly to requesting an introduction through a common connection; you can request to be referred to a position based on your connections and the company employees in your LinkedIn network. This feature may not be as personalized for your career path since it is utilizing your connections’ connections instead of your profile and experience like the “jobs you may be interested in” section. 

LinkedIn Discover jobs

Searching for a new job is tough; it’s a full time job in itself. There are numerous tools and sites available now to help job seekers, these are just a few.

Be on the lookout next week for Part 2 where I will dive into how to take Facebook from simply social to your job hunting tool!

Casidy Lemons

 Casidy_DBJ Event