The Most Important Goal I Set As A Recruiter This Year


Is it really almost the end of January? I’m a big fan of, “Set goals and you will achieve goals,” mentality. I usually start putting my business and professional goals down on paper right after Thanksgiving . Then, I write a blog or a memo or something telling everyone else how to do so in early December. Then, I study my goals and get very prepared to make them happen.

This year that did not happen.

This year was hectic for me personally. In fact, my professional success aside, 2014 was a pretty rough year. I was scrambling to keep up around Thanksgiving. I was missing deadlines I had set for 2014 . Taking time to set more goals for 2015 seemed silly. I found myself on December 28th with not one goal written down. Gasp!

We all know you have to write it down if you really expect it to happen, right? Excuses aside, I was stressed this year. While I was busy, and still liked what I was doing, I was a little depressed started to feel a little sorry for myself. Mostly this was because I felt like I was working way too hard for my success.

When I finally forced myself to sit down and put some goals to paper, my mind, and my paper for that matter, were blank.  So I did what everyone does when they don’t know what to write down. I went to Google. I  typed in “setting goals”.  When you consider that as I scanned through the numerous google pages on the subject that I eventually saw my own posts from years past, it was really pretty pathetic. Stay with me.

One of the listings (not mine) had something that caught my eye. It was a simple line.

“What do you want the most?”

Now we all know the master, Franklin Covey pushes “What Matter’s Most” and I had the class, (used to) use the planner, I get it. But this said, “What do YOU WANT most.”

It was profound for me. You know how in a movie, they will lift the words off the page digitally and make them glow to help the viewer understand what the character is reading? Yeah. Imagine that happening to me as I read them. Those words very literally seemed to scream out at me. I know what you are thinking (insert eye roll). I thought the same thing; so I went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up with one word on my mind: “HAPPY”.

What did I want most? I wanted to be happy. Geez, how did those people do that happy thing?  I went to my desk. Sat down and wrote. ” In 2015 I will be H-A-P-P-Y,” on a purple sticky note. I stuck it on my monitor. Perhaps because it was an obnoxious shade of purple, I was more distracted by this little sticky note than the house full of kids screaming through the last days of their holiday break.

(Chalk on Blackboard) “Coffee break!”

I walked to my kitchen to fire up the Keurig before posting a few random jobs and looking out my back window, I had an epiphany. I stood there and thought about how happy used to feel. I was a lot younger and had a lot less responsibilities. I was still a recruiter back then. Hmm. At that moment I simply made up my mind that I WAS GOING to be happy in 2015.

Bare with me. I know. Why should you care? This is a recruiting blog, right?

Here’s why:  Happy gives you power in the recruitment industry; power in building relationships. I believe, without a doubt, happy recruiters attract more people than a hard ass ever will.  Happy recruiters get results because, well, people sort of like them. What? Could it be that simple? Hmm. Let me think back to when I was happy myself. Happy recruiters have clients that call them back. Happy recruiters have candidates that can’t resist listening to them sell a job. They don’t take a no as no, they take it as a “not now” and move on.

As I sat all day, looking at that “Happy” little sticky note, I continued to think about the last time I was really “a happy camper” AND a recruiter. Despite my current success, andy titles, blogs I write, what have you,I still wasn’t really happy. Success did not equal happiness.

Was I a success when I WAS happy? Well, sure! When I was happy, people just seemed to fall in to my lap. Recruiting was a passion, not a career. I lived and breathed recruiting because it made me happy to help people find new jobs, or to help others find relief for the open slot on their team. I made good money. I certainly didn’t have to force myself to pick up a phone or to work a few extra hours to accomplish my goals.

Next, I searched for the point at which the paradigm had changed. When had I moved from thinking I need to be successful to be happy instead of the other way around?  It occurred to me, that it was at the point that I started being a recruiter for ME instead of for THEM. They were tired of me being a jerk. They wanted to talk to someone that cared more about them and their needs than a fee.

It is sort of hard for me to admit this to all of you. I mean, who wants to announce their own short comings on a public forum? I’m also not suggesting you throw out making goals, or being persistent in collecting a fee. However, I suspect there are others reading this right now, that can relate. If it helps just one of you have more success because you are happy then I’m happy, and that is my #1 goal. For business; for life, stay happy.


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2015 – The Year Of The Candidate

It occurred to me today that we are just about ONE week from 2015. Where did the fourth quarter of 2014 even go? I know those of you that follow my blog have probably thought I fell right off the face of Earth, right? Well fortunately, I did not. I could give you a long list of reasons why taking time out for a blog wasn’t possible the last few weeks, but I’d rather focus on how much I’ve missed it, and simply say that I’m doing my best to get back to a weekly frequency for posting again. Let’s talk 2015!

Have you noticed that we are once again fully immersed in a candidate-driven market? I have to tell you, 2015 is almost here and it will be “The Year of the Candidate”. I hope you have thought through how you will change gears to take advantage of this in your recruiting business. It is going to be a great time to be a recruiter if you have used some of the tips I’ve had for you this past year. Remember when I told you to become a “Master of Talent” in this post from April 2014? Yeah. That might come in handy for 2015.

If you’ve been a recruiter for more than 10 years, you are probably more familiar with this shift from an employer-driven market to a candidate-driven one because you’ve been through it before. There have certainly been strong indicators that the market was shifting since 2011 but in 2015, there is no doubt that employers who are not shifting their recruiting methodology in response to it will be at a real disadvantage this year. Here’s what I think you can expect this year:

Motivated passive candidates.

During the recession, many of the best candidates would openly admit that they were just happy to be working and felt a strong responsibility to stay the coarse with their current company. They may not have shared their pain or points of discontentment with salary or mobility in their current role. Now is the time to revisit those candidates because they will begin to make moves to find something ideal for their career path.

Employers calling you!

As candidates begin to expect more from an employer, employers will need to have more ambassadors selling their company to the best and the brightest. It is very likely that the same hiring managers who avoided your calls for a few years will be scouring their contact list to find your name now. Think back to the prospects you gave up on and re-visit contact with them. There is still time to get a New Year’s greeting card out.

Closing becoming critical.

As candidates begin to feel more control and have multiple offers to choose from, closing your candidate on their salary expectations and real interest throughout the screening and hiring process is essential to success. Remember, you only get paid if the candidate takes the job. This is not the time for “tire kickers.” They do nothing but make you look bad to an employer serious about finding an employee they can retain. Close hard on their goals, and close often. Take good notes and hold the candidate to what they told you they were looking for.

Better placement fees.

In the end, good recruiters will find that “The Year of the Candidate” will be a time to make more money. This is because the value of your product is up. Employers enjoyed several years of bargain salaries on top candidates but now that the best candidates are in higher demand, you as their agent, will reap the rewards.

What changes have you noticed in your business with the shift to a candidate-driven market? Are you planning new initiatives for 2015 to support this trend? My advice is stay true to your commitment of only working with the best and brightest. Stop wasting time on candidates that are less than stellar and focus on relationships with those who are. The employer still pays you, but the quality of the candidates you  work with and the influence you have to sell them on your clients company will be more important than it has been in years.  Be honest to those that don’t meet your criteria and create a pipeline of exceptional performers that your clients are willing to pay top dollar for.


Amy McDonald works in an executive role with several employment websites including She has been working in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy also participates as a contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360. – See more at:







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Preparing Candidates For Stressful Interviews

“Tell me, if you were an animal, what would you be?”

Let’s face it, job interviews are not something that most candidates look forward to but they know they are a necessity for a new job. They can be pretty stressful in any circumstance, but if your candidate is unemployed, or feels that they could be soon, the stress factor just increased 10 fold for them. Some recruiters I have worked with in the past won’t even present a candidate that is presently unemployed. I’m not that strict with my own candidates, but I do make sure that if they are unemployed they can support why they are still the best candidate for the job.

In addition to the given stress that a candidate may already feel, some of my clients actually design their interviewing to determine how candidates will respond in an exceptionally stressful interview. I call these “pressure cooker interviews”. Sometimes I know it before hand, and sometimes I don’t. Either way, I typically set aside time to prepare each of my candidates before they interview. Before you say it, I know this can be a slippery slope. Some clients do not want recruiters coaching the candidates at all. I’ll say this, I don’t give them confidential information that might be perceived by my client as an unfair advantage. On the other hand, I feel it part of my role to make sure my candidates represent me well.

With that in mind, there are some interviewing tips that I use with almost all candidates to help relieve some of the stress that they may have regarding interviews.  If the hiring manager has made a point of describing their interview process to me, I’m going to take the opportunity to make sure that my candidate is prepared for anything out of the ordinary as well.

  1. Make sure your attire fits the position, but is something you can be comfortable in. This might seem silly, but trust me, if you are worried about the shirt gaping or the crazy color of the tie your sister talked you in to wearing, it will show in the interview. Think about how someone in the military might dress for an important meeting. Dark suit, crisp white shirt, but above all, your clothes should be well-fitting and you should appear to be very well groomed. When you look good, you feel good. If you are questioning whether you look ridiculous, well, you might. More importantly, this tension shows in your demeanor, even if they like the chartreuse tie.
  2. Be prepared. Study up on the employer before the interview. Google the person you are to interview with.  Scour the company website. Dig in to the investor information tab and the careers page. Learn everything you can about the position you applying for upfront. Nothing makes you feel more confident in an interview than knowledge. Knowledge is power. When they discuss their growth, for example, and you can talk about a press release you read regarding this information.
  3. Be calm when asked something you don’t immediately know the answer to.  Some interviewers may ask questions that seem ridiculous and irrelevant to the position. The key is to be thoughtful about your response. Don’t just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, think about how the question relates to your work skills and/or character before answering.“If you were an animal, what would you be?” A question like this, for example, is enough to make someone that is worried about how they will pay next month’s mortgage lose their composure. Keep in mind, they don’t really care what animal you choose, but more, why you chose that animal. Why do you think that animal could represent you? These are clues to the interviewer about your personality and how you will handle pressure and stress. Asking questions like this in an interview also tell the interviewer how they can expect you to deal with difficult questions that you may not immediately know the answer to from a customer.
  4. Limit personal sharing when it comes to why you are unemployed. This one can be tough if you have been unemployed for a long time or feel that the reasons you are unemployed were unfair. If you develop a good rapport with the interviewer you may find yourself sharing more information than they really need to know. Stay away from discussing anything negative about your personal situation, or former employers whenever possible.  Keep all answers to a potential employer on a “need-to-know” basis. If the issue is something that the employer will discover on a back ground check, it is best to let them know this upfront. Otherwise, try to keep the conversation focused on the value you can bring to their company.
  5. End the interview well. No matter how you feel the interview went, end the interview on a cordial note. Thank the interviewer for their time, and when applicable, use this opportunity to tell them how much you enjoyed hearing about the opportunity and let them know that you would like to be offered a position. Some positions, sales for example, may even warrant a more aggressive close like, “I love what you’ve shared today. When can I start?”

How do you advise your candidates to keep their cool and out-perform other candidates as any of your submittals would, when they are really under pressure to get the job? Are there any of my tips that you disagree with?  How much time, if any, do you spend time on prepping candidates with this type of information before an interview?  Sound off in the comments below.

  • Amy McDonald is a President and CEO supporting several online employment sites including REKRUTRResumeSpider, and RazorHire.She has worked in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with many career seekers, recruitment professionals, and business leaders throughout her career, training best practices in finding a job, workplace relations, sourcing talent and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360.

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Empathy in Recruiting

Jill Krasny had a good article earlier this week on called The Awesome Power of Empathy. This of course being the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The article reminded me of when I first applied to be a search consultant at an Indianapolis MRI office.

As part of the hiring process, after multiple interviews and I took a battery of tests meant to determine if I would make a good recruiter. It was the first time I’d been asked to take these types of tests during a hiring process. I had no expectations as to what they were looking for in regards to answers. I answered each question completely unbiased.

Later, when discussing the opportunity with their managing partner in a final interview, he discussed I scored very high in all areas except one. The one area that I tested significantly lower than what they what they would typically look for was empathy. I have to admit, I was a bit shocked. As someone who spent practically as much time volunteering in the community as I did at my full-time job, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on compassion. At that time, I thought that is what empathy meant.

My soon-to-be manager explained that empathy was a critical piece in recruiting and that it was something I would need to work on if I wanted to be successful in his office. He also shared with me at the time that his highest performer had scored exactly the same score on all areas, including the empathy, which he found remarkable. He was giving me a shot.

It took me a while to understand why empathy was so important in recruiting and even longer to truly embrace it. The test was pretty accurate. When it came to screening candidates for example, I had very little patience for grey. I was all black and white. The candidate had the right answer to my question, or they didn’t. Had I not been trained to notice it I wouldn’t have. It was true for clients as well. I took a thorough job order and determined the client was someone I could make a placement with or they weren’t. There were no room for maybes on my desk for a long time. Eventually I learned what I would like you to consider, and that is the power of empathy in recruiting.

You have to get to know your candidate and client beyond what is on their resume in order to understand what motivates them. If you can put yourself in to their shoes, probe for the reasons they made the decisions they have in their career, or in the hiring process, good or bad, you have an advantage. For example, having empathy for a candidate can help you coach them through the process. Having empathy for the pain the client is feeling about the open position helps you drive urgency for hire. It also may change your decision on whom you work with, particularly candidates. By this I mean if you take the time to get to know the individual you may decide to spend more time with them than you expected before knowing more.

When I was conducting an initial phone screen with a recruiter candidate recently, I asked why she chose to leave her last recruiting role. She had obviously quit, albeit on good terms but her resume indicated she had been extremely successful for a new graduate in the recruiting industry.  Her answer surprised me. ” I didn’t like how competitive the job had become. I was miserable in the environment. ”

Now, as you can imagine, I immediately had the vision of my client’s face if she were to say this to him in an interview. First, I empathized with him because, let’s face it, recruiting is almost always a little bit competitive and many recruiting firms with have a similar environment. Someone that does not have a desire to compete to win, just might not be the best choice for a recruiter position in the first place. I could completely relate to why he would not want to waste time on a candidate that said this.

Then I forced myself to go one step further, probably because of the empathy reminder I got from reading that article on Monday.  I asked more questions of the candidate. Doing so changed my mind about the viability of this candidate because suddenly, I had empathy for her situation as well.

In reality, the issue was not about competition at all, but rather, an issue with the company’s process for determining regional accountability and with tagging “ownership” of candidates. She was exceeding all expectations but not being compensated for it. She was a new grad that was clearly still a bit of a rookie but she had no intention of working without being fairly compensated. She had the confidence in herself to walk away knowing that her skills would provide her with another great opportunity. Is it the way I would have handled it? Probably not, but could I put myself in her shoes? I tried.

The bottom line is, was this something that should keep her from being considered for a recruiting position. Would it effect her performance with the next employer. Had she been encouraged to share what her issues were before she left, would she even be on the market. Were her concerns valid?

After a bit of a chat, my perception of this candidate changed. I was able to coach her about how to answer the question when she met with the hiring manager so that I could feel confident about presenting her to a client. Her hungry desire to succeed was very evident in the results she showed. She might work perfectly for an employer with a different process.

So think about empathy as you make your own calls this week. Probe further when you hear a response you don’t necessarily like. See if you feel like that little extra bit of understanding might help your recruiting process. I’m not suggesting you “settle” for less than great, but consider putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. I’m convinced now that  empathy can be a powerful skill in business, with my own team at REKRUTR and ResumeSpider and with those I recruit for private clients. I challenge you to get to know your candidates, and your client’s a bit better. The ability to put yourself in their shoes will offer you an advantage. It will allow you the opportunity to alleviate their pain, and that might be the most important part of the entire recruitment process.

Sound off below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Amy McDonald is a free-lance recruiter and employment specialist. She currently works with employment websites including as an executive consultant. As a veteran of the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years, Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy also participates as a contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360. – See more at:

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The Search For Joan : When Recruiting For Fit Becomes Expensive

I’m working on a job order for a retained client right now. This will back-fill a position within their organization that I like to call their “Joan”. Joan – like on Mad Men, you know? I love that series. If you watch it, you can probably identify that person in your own organization, right? She is absolutely, positively, irreplaceable. Or maybe she is a he; John. Maybe you have a John.  I’m sticking with Joan just because this is my post and I don’t have a good example of a John.

So, by my definition the office “Joan” is someone in the office one considers practically irreplaceable. Let’s face it, she’s the one that knows everything there is to know about the company and the people that work there. She knows all the secrets. She knows where the company has been (because she was there) and where it says it is going because you are pretty sure she is sort-of psychic. She wears a lot of hats -A LOT. She probably has had her hand in every department at one time or another and she takes up the slack for almost anyone that is out of the office unexpectedly and makes sure that the world, which is your office, keeps right on turning. She is the glue.

Whoa! Now wait a minute. We are recruiters, are we not? NO ONE is irreplaceable, right? It is all about who is brave enough to take on finding the replacement! This client just needs a brave little soldier to take on the search! You are just the person to do it! Before you do, I’d like to offer some advice.

The company thinks Joan is irreplaceable because she defines the “fit” of their organization. She has the perfect amount of business acumen, accountability, exceptional communication skills, pride in what she does and impeccable style in her professional appearance. Oh, by the way, everyone loves her too. Those that don’t won’t survive in the organization anyway. She has drive! She has passion! That’s a Joan…or a John. They are the position that has become personalized. It is no longer a position, it is a person they are trying to replace. Many times, no one even knows the job title. She or he doesn’t have a job description. They just make it happen.

The past month (or so), that brave little soldier, ahem…recruiter, has been me. I am currently engaged on a retained search for a Joan. I have worked with this client for a while, and I really understand the fit they are seeking. In fact, I found her replacement in a week.  Yep. Three calls and I found her! The managing partner loved my candidate. The supervisor loved my candidate. Heck, even the current “Joan” loved this new Joan I found for them. She couldn’t wait to start training the new Joan for the position! I was already picking out a very brightly colored feather to insert right in to my favorite recruiter hat. The offer was made. The offer was accepted.

Okay,okay.That probably sounded a little “braggy”, but wait. Let me finish the story.

The day she was to start I got the email. The new Joan’s life had been impacted by a fatal disease. She would NOT be starting today. In fact. She might not be able to start at all. What? No! I went immediately in to crisis mode. I had to figure out how this candidate could in fact start because she was perfect. There were not going to be many more perfect fit candidates. There were only so many “Joans” in that city after all.

As a recruiter, recruiting a position that depends heavily on fit, can be risky. We might as well just admit that a recruiter never reallycompletely, controls their candidate. My perfect candidate, or so I thought was not perfect at all. no one is. There are situations in life to which none of us have control and this was the case here. The candidate hated it as much as I did, because the position was perfect for her as well but sometimes there are things more important than career.

Look for the signs that your job order is the office “Joan” or “John”.  A Joan “wears a lot of hats”. Her “background is not typical”. She is “almost irreplaceable”. She was “perfect for the position”. She’s “been here forever.” You need to recognize that you are recruiting for fit early in the process because it can be expensive. If I were a contingent recruiter, I might moved on to another job order because finding this particular fit twice in a month is pretty rare.  In this case, I’m retained by a client who wants to see the best of their options, so fortunately that doesn’t have to happen. I can continue to bring them value by submitting the best of what is out there so they can determine when and if there is another “perfect fit” out there, and when it is time to hire outside of fit.

There are a lot of studies to support both sides of the argument about hiring a candidate that is qualified but not a good fit. Barry Schuler says it is baloney to hire someone for fit. I’m not so sure. Fit can be very important to success for both the job seeker and the client. Ultimately you need to look at the cost for finding someone that has an exceptionally unique “fit”.

Ultimately, when you find yourself in this type of situation, it is my recommendation that you give the client (or hiring manager) indemnity to choose the criteria that is most important to their bottom line. That’s because every day that the position is open costs them money.  They need to determine how much it is worth to have a longer time-to-fill. The recruiter needs to determine how long this type of job order could take to fill. If you are a contingent recruiter, you may want to limit the time you will focus on this type of job order, because it can be expensive. John Zappe had a great article on ERE last week about time-to-fill. Did you know that it is at its longest duration since 2001? My theory is that this has a lot to do with recruiting for fit. Recruiting for fit is great, until the fit is hard to find. Then it is expensive because the time-to-fill is longer. I’m not saying it is not worth it. For some positions, I really believe it is.

Do you recruit for fit or submit just otherwise qualified candidates? How important is fit to the hiring process in your organization?

Amy McDonald works in an executive role with several employment websites including She has been working in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy also participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360. – See more at:



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The Importance of Notes in Recruiting

Last week I received a message from a candidate I placed in 2003 about where she might send a friend who was job searching. Her email indicated that her career had advanced significantly since we last met and she is someone that I might market my services to. We had a nice time catching up when I called her.  I softened my questions about her own hiring needs by  getting reacquainted. I asked about her beloved Great Dane pups. She referred to them as her babies when we spoke last and I knew their names were Major and General. She introduced me to them (by phone) when they were barking in the background  during one of our calls. She laughed and told me that she could not believe that I remembered their names after all these years, and complimented me on my memory.The truth is, it was actually my notes that jogged my memory on the dog names. My notes, as a recruiter, are one of my most valued possessions.

Good Notes Empower Better Relationship Management

Remembering every detail about your contacts is impossible unless you have a photographic memory. As a recruiter, you need notes to help you remember critical information you learned in an interview or sales call and a few personal points of interest that will improve your relationships. By this I mean human interest speaking points that make your relationships more real.  After all, you can’t expect to make real relationships with your clients and candidates based only on a contract or verbal agreement to work together. Good relationships are built on common experiences, values, respect, and sometimes shared memories. The only way to remember all of those things for the volume of contacts most recruiters have, is to take notes.

How Do You Manage Contact Notes?

Most recruiters have access to a contact management program where they can keep notes. That is what I use as well. I also try to take notes on anything that strikes me as interesting about a person as soon as I meet them, even those I may not know as a business relationship yet. Sometimes my notes have to be transferred from napkins or business cards or even  my hand. I just take all of these little scribbles at the end of the networking event, trade show, or other chance meeting and transfer them to my database when I have time. Notes on where we met, how I got their card, or a conversation that took place helps me make softer cold calls. 

Some people prefer taking written notes over typing notes in to a database. I was a die-hard Franklin Planner girl for years and the first time I was required to record all notes in a contact management system was sort of hard. Regardless of where you keep your notes, taking them will help you keep track of important facts. Look at the picture above. I found it on a blog. The author started using rubber gloves at work because his preferred method was writing on his hand but it got messy. Hilarious to me, but hey, whatever works for you! The important thing is that you capture the information and keep it in a safe place to assist you in your relationship building. You never know when a candidate will become a hiring manager or a former client will become a candidate. Know all that you can and have it available for review.

A Word Of Caution About Note Content In Recruiting

Notes about things like race, age, maternity or religion are not acceptable for notes when you are a recruiter. That is NOT the kind of notes that I’m talking about here. Those are bad. Anything that could indicate the individual belongs to a protected class (or doesn’t for that matter) should not be jotted down on a business card, noted on a resume, or recorded in a candidates file. Whether you work as a corporate recruiter, an agency recruiter, or an independent recruiter this can be a very serious mistake. Digital notes or hard copy notes of this kind can present a huge legal liability for you and your company. If there is a question about discrimination in your hiring process, applicant notes could, and likely would, be subpoenaed as evidence.


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Be Prepared to Face (Any) Animal

“The Recruiting Animal”

This week I made my debut appearance on The Recruiting Animal show.  For anyone that doesn’t know this show, compare this to getting the opportunity to meet with the best client you could ever ask for with the reputation of being a lot like the Wizard of Oz BEFORE Dorothy and her crew knew he was really just a guy behind a curtain.

Whatever they tell you, no matter how prepared you think you are for an appearance like this, you’re not. I was quite familiar with his format after listening myself for some time to his show. I knew that as far as recruiting and social media went, he was the top dog. I liked his show, and caught it whenever I could. The times I did, the guest was usually being crucified.

When I saw his comment inviting me to defend my blog post : 3 Secrets to Building a Great Recruiting Desk  on RecruitBlogs my first thought was, Oh Crap. I can’t say no to a public challenge like this. I HAVE to do this. Ugh. And they are going to try to make me cry.

It seems a little silly to me now, but that is exactly what I thought. Like I said, I’d listened to his posse roast some guests on more than one occasion and I was pretty sure I’d heard a whimper from a full grown man that thought he was “all that” in the recruiting industry until he met @Animal. Sure, I could say no, but then what kind of wuss would I look like? No way. I don’t just write this blog, I really believe in what I’m telling you. I did not get to where I am letting fear stop me. My parents taught me long ago that you “don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk.”

So I made it a mission to be as prepared as possible to tame the Recruiting Animal. I was convinced I could make him like me and at the very least respect my point of view. I followed his directions to the letter. I cleared it with my boss, who made it very clear that I did not HAVE to do this, but he certainly encouraged it. I chose a date in advance so I could clear my calendar for the day. I went to his site and read every page @Animal suggested.

I even listened to archived examples of good and bad shows and prepared a few stories to share. I had a quick bio and elevator pitch for REKRUTR. All of answers would be free from any of his “bad words” which was a big concern for me, because my vocabulary is something I’ve been called out on more than once in social discussions. I’ll admit, I think I use this “recruiterease” in an effort to disguise the real Southern Indiana hick talk that can slip out now and again. Phrases like ” go way beyond” when I should probably say exceeds or “folks” when I should just say who I’m talking about.  Anyway these shop-talk buzz words he hates. Words like “paradigm”, “visionary” and “thought leader” and I was determined not to use any on that call!

As the date drew near I got  back up  for my childcare, and back up for the back-up. I read that a land line was a must, so I dug out a nice office plug-in type that I used “back in the day” just to make sure there were no failing battery or electricity issues. I got on my social networks and asked for advice about preparing for an appearance on a show like this. I was ready!

Then a few minutes before the show, my twitter notifications lit up. I started to get a glimpse of what I was in for. I was responding to tweets when I would have normally been doing some deep breaths. ( Don’t laugh! Deep breaths are important prior to a public appearance. )  Before I knew it, it was just before noon. I called in. The voice on the other end said that I should press “1″ to speak and that I was the first caller on the line.

I heard my cue: “Amy McDonald, come on down.” I took a deep breath, pushed “1″ and started in with my prepared hello. Then I realized they couldn’t hear me. What? Push 1. I’m pushing 1. One. One. “Hello!” “Hello, I’m here. Can you hear me?” Arghhhhhhhh! They couldn’t. They were discussing what the protocol is for no-shows.

“What?” “Noooooooo. No. No. No.” In desperation I hung up the phone and dialed back in. “Press 1 to enter the host’s cue”.  ”Is this her?” “Yes.” Sigh of relief. Relief? I was relieved to be entering the animal’s den?

Anyway, since we are a few minutes behind, we dive right in to our conversation, and before I know it all of my preparation is out the door. I’m not even looking at my notes. I’m doing exactly what he said not to do. I’m “winging it.” Shoot.

“Define Great” he said. What? Define great. That was not on my prep list. “Give me an example of when you were visionary.”  No. I didn’t use that bad word on here, he did. I said, ” I knew I should have edited my LinkedIn profile.” You get the idea.

In the end, I did just fine. I gave a reasonable answer to support my views on the topics we disagreed on, and I didn’t leave any dead air space for the “I have no clue” moments. I think, if you listen very carefully to the broadcast you might even hear The Recruiting Animal say that he changed his mind about me. I came off of that call ready to take on anything, and I have The Recruiting Animal to thank for that.

I really enjoyed being on the show. I would encourage my readers to face YOUR animal -or high stress meeting, interview, appearance. When you do, be as prepared as you can be. Know everything you can about the person that you’ll be meeting with. Research the company, their website, their history. Then be prepared to be un-prepared.  Be prepared to be honest above all. Expect that there are going to be some questions you might not have easy answers to. Above all, be prepared to represent the most genuine “you” that you can.

In the end. That’s what most people want to know  in these situations any way. Who is this person? Could I do business with them? Could I work with them? Could I see myself referring this person to someone else? That is what they really want to know. Sometimes that answer will be no. But if you commit to representing who you really are, and what you really believe, I’m certain you’ll be o.k. with that too.

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The Time I Found a Purple Squirrel

If you’ve been in recruiting for very long, you may have heard the term “purple squirrel.” I remember the first time I heard it. It was probably my first week in marketing training for agency recruiting. I came to my mentor smiling ear to ear with my new job order.  He looked at it and said, “Do you hunt squirrel?” Confused I said, “Uh no, but my grandfather used to hunt squirrel.” (Yeah, I really did.) Needless to say, he laughed out loud. In fact it was such a genuine hearty laugh that the whole bull pen stood up, head-sets in tact, to signal their displeasure at the disruption. “I bet he never bagged a purple one,” he said. Ouch. By this point, I was aware the joke was on me, but I still had to have the term explained to me.

For a recruiter, a “purple squirrel” is a candidate that matches the seemingly impossible criteria the hiring manager has asked for on a bad job order. Finding this candidate is likened to finding a purple squirrel. The lesson being that purple squirrels should be avoided at all costs because even if they could be found, which is unlikely, the time you’ll invest is not profitable. That being said, many will still take one of these job orders at least once. Whether it is the spirit of the hunt that makes us think we can find one of these folks, or the commission we’re going to get if we do, the lesson is really hard to learn unless you actually find one of these purple squirrels.

“My candidate was seemingly perfect to the very end. I COULD find a so-called purple squirrel. Ha!”

I knew the job order was bad, but it was my best client.  It took a while, but I found this prize winning rodent with a magnificent violet hue! His cover letter, was smart and articulate. His skills matched the job description and then some. He had more experience than required, but just  enough to make him look really good to the client, not overqualified. The compensation was a hard sell, but the perks and benefits were enough for me to close him on accepting an offer at their high end. The icing on the cake was that he actually lived in the location that the client was completely prepared to re-locate someone to. That alone would save them 10K right off the bat. He showed up impeccably dressed and interviewed well. We were going to get the offer, pending reference checks, drug screen etc.

That is when I realized that I had moved too quickly with my process after spending so long on sourcing a fit. After all, this was a match I assumed would be practically impossible to find. What did I leave out? The reference checks! That part of my typical process got lost somewhere in the excitement of falling witness to a live purple squirrel.

No big deal, right? We’ve come this far. I’ll just call and let him know, call them quickly and we’ll be on our way. I was already thinking about how I was going to spend that fee on a little travel over the summer. I left a quick voice mail, “Hi Joe! I talked to the hiring manager and we expect to see your offer letter today. Of course, it will be contingent on background check and drug screen. Give me a call so I can get your references and give you more details.”

” Then it happened. My perfect candidate showed his furry purple squirrel tail! “

First, he returned my call with immediate questions about what the issue was and why they needed to do a background screen. “Um, well, that is a very typical process for most clients I work with. Is there a problem I should know about?” I asked with hesitation because I really did not want to hear his answer. It snow-balled from there. By the end of the call I had way more information than I ever wanted to know, including the fact that he had no idea how to reach two of his past three employers and he would be refusing a drug screen. I won’t even go in to the criminal history, but based on the role, I’ll just say it could have been a factor. Frankly, whether or not the information I receive would have disqualified him is irrelevant because he simply refused to do any of it. His behavior on the call was borderline scary and left me sure I did not want him to have another conversation with my client. I knew for a fact that the screening was required of all employees in this organization, so it was over. Essentially he pulled out. It was done whether I let them find out from him directly or I pulled the candidate with limited disclosure as to why. Either way, I was going to take a black eye with the client on this one.

Lessons learned:

1. If a candidate seems too good to be true, they probably are. This has nothing to do with their color or species. Be very, very cautious when you find a perfect candidate for a bad job order.

2. Don’t waste time on bad job orders in the first place. Even if you are lucky enough to find a purple, polka-dotted, FLYING squirrel, you should probably avoid working with them. In this case, the client eventually determined that they needed to adjust their job requirements to align with the salary they were willing to pay and we filled the position.

3. Always, ALWAYS check references on your candidates before you submit to clients. You won’t call their current employer obviously, but you need to have some kind of assurance they are who they say they are, even if the references are personal. I managed to keep my client despite the significant time we all wasted on this disaster, but I could have lost a great account.

4. Prep all of your candidates on what they can expect with your client’s hiring process. I assumed this candidate would know that a background check and drug screen would be required for the position he was interested in. Instead, he reacted with shock and frustration that it would even be necessary. Never, assume. Never.

Have you ever found a purple squirrel and had a better outcome? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Sign off below!

Amy McDonald works in an executive role with several employment websites including She has been working in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy also participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360. – See more at:






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Debunking Recruiting Secrets : The Match Game

This is the final post in the series I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. To start from the beginning you’ll want to go HERE. We’ve talked about  great client relationships and mastering real talent.  This week we’ll talk about the third and final key to being a great recruiter. In my opinion that is making the match between the client  and the candidate. This is where the game gets serious. Now there is money involved. Sometimes a lot of it.

Many would argue this is the most difficult part of the recruiting process because to consistently make placements, you have to match great talent to great clients. but you must also determine if the two are a good cultural fit. I’m still of the opinion that building client relationships is most important, but if you don’t provide them with good matches, you certainly won’t have it.

A quick search on “finding cultural fit” and you will know why this final skill is important. Organizations spend a ton of time trying to figure out who will make a good cultural fit. The bottom line is that candidates who are both qualified and a good cultural fit are less likely to fall-off or turn-over. Remember, we are looking for clients that call on us again and again. Fall-off is not good for a recruiter’s reputation. So how do great recruiters determine if they have a good fit?

1. They Understand Their Client’s Culture.

This is another place where having great client relationships are crucial to a recruiter’s success. The key communicator for culture is going to be the person that supervises the role you are trying to fill. While few will admit to this, many companies have multiple cultures contained under one organization. The best judge of a fit for their team is the supervisor. If your contact at the company is not the person who decides whether or not this person is a fit for their team, you will need to make arrangements to have a conversation that includes that person about cultural fit.

I know that this will be tough in some scenarios. If your contact for example is an HR rep, you are going to need to convince this company representative that “team fit” as I like to refer to it in those circumstances is different than their corporate culture. Assure them of the benefits this will bring to their organization. Do they really want to waste time on candidates who just meet the basic qualifications, or do they want to find the best candidate? The candidate that will be a strong fit for the position, the team, and an asset to the organization is what you will find if you can screen for it up front. If you think there will be objection to you speaking with the position supervisor, try requesting a meeting with all the three of you.

2.They Understand What Motivates Their Candidate.

Great recruiters do a thorough job of screening the candidates they plan to work with. It is important when you do so, to diagnose the candidate’s “pain” in their current position. Knowing this will help you to clearly determine what would motivate them to make a move to another position. Understanding what is important to your candidate is critical in recruiting even if they don’t pay you. They are your product. Their talent represents yours. When you take the time to identify great talent AND understand what motivates them,  identifying a cultural match will be much easier.

3. They Go With Their Gut

I’ve said that there is no secret to being a great recruiter, but there might be one. It’s that little thing called instinct. Great recruiters are able to make a reasonable assessment as to whether or not their candidate is a good “fit” for the client based on the facts they’ve learned and  a “gut feeling”. They might not be able to put it in to words but they just know that their client is going to love this candidate as much as they do. It is that little something extra.

Beyond these key items, a lot of good follow up with both candidate and client is required to make the placement. I don’t want to make light of how important that is, because even the mediocre recruiter knows that beyond the match, the work is far from over. You must coordinate interviews, evaluate feedback, negotiate an acceptable salary and benefit package between the two parties, etc. That, however is a whole other blog series of its own.

Amy McDonald works in an executive role with several employment websites including She has been working in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy also participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360.






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Debunking Recruiter Secrets : Become a Master of Talent

This week I continue with debunking recruiter secrets, which we’ve already determined, aren’t really secrets at all. To catch up on the series, start with the first post here. Last week, I debunked the secret to great client relationships. This week I want to talk about how you identify, qualify, and maintain contact with a database of exceptional talent, or simply put how you become a master of talent.

Becoming a master of talent is no easy task, friends. It takes hard work, due diligence, and a lot of discipline. Let’s break this up into three areas:

Identifying Top Talent

The first thing I learned as a recruiter was how to source candidates. You have to gather names, you have to get past gate-keepers, you have to have no fear when it comes to cold-calling in to where they work. Chances are you learned about all of these your first week as a recruiter. Sourcing is only the first step. You can identify a ton of candidates and only find five that really have talent, right? So next, you’ll need to qualify.

Qualify Talent

Let me first say that there is a difference between being a qualified candidate and being qualified talent. Don’t confuse the two. Just because you have identified someone that meets the job order’s basic qualifications does not mean you have found talent. Sorry. I wish it were that easy. While a candidate may technically “qualify” for a position,  are you willing to put your name and reputation behind this individual? Anyone can produce resumes that qualify for a position, but a great recruiter knows real talent, and they know how to manage that talent for a client. How do you know you have marketable talent?

There are 2 main things that I use to qualify my candidates:


When it comes to selling a candidate, I still create a “FAB” chart. Features, Achievements, Benefits. Features are the things they have to have, degrees, experience, etc. Achievements the things that will differentiate them from the crowd. Awards, examples of revenue generation, or cost savings. Finally, the big “B”. The benefits. How can all the features and achievements this individual has benefit your client? The A and the B are what will separate a great recruiter’s candidates. If I have a strong FAB chart for a client, I can probably sell them. If I can add in items that are a “plus” like good cultural fit, action-oriented, confidence, integrity, leadership qualities, intelligence, or born communicator, I know I have real talent.

Maintain Candidate Contact

The second qualifier, “Can I sell this candidate on a better opportunity?” is also our 3rd objective in identifying if we have the kind of talent that a great recruiter works with.

Let’s face it, no matter how qualified the candidate is, if they are not willing to work with a recruiter to explore a more exciting opportunity they are just not worth your time. You have to be able to produce your product after all. Nothing is worse than selling your client on an incredible, talented, candidate that you cannot produce for an interview! That will do nothing for maintaining your relationship with the client and will frustrate you both.

You must ensure this person is willing to explore opportunities up front. Look at these type of things: Do they call you back? Do they express pain of any kind in their current role? Are they looking for more responsibility than is available in their current position? Do they call you back? Are they motivated by more money? Do they want to relocate? Do they call you back?

You get the idea. They must be willing to maintain a relationship with you. If they aren’t, you cannot depend on this person to drop what they are doing and go meet one of your clients. Being able to present talent that WILL, differentiates the mediocre recruiter from a great one. To keep great relationships with your candidates, take a look back at last week’s post about maintaining client relationships. The same skills apply. Only present them with opportunities they will care about, don’t lie, consistently show them great opportunities, and be a partner not a peon.

Amy McDonald works in an executive role with several employment websites including She has been working in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy also participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360.ree. If there is a particular area you are interested in, let me know in the comments section below.



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