I have often heard that a good plan is essential for success, and for the most part I agree. That being said though, a good plan was definitely something that I was lacking when I entered the recruiting industry. I began my career as a recruiter out of necessity. Why necessity? Well I had just lost my job, and it was necessary that I have money to eat, pay bills, and ultimately survive. A new career was not in my game plan by any stretch of the imagination, and recruiting was foreign to me in every aspect. Sure, I knew what was meant by the verb recruit, but I had no clue how the job was accomplished or anything else beyond the root meaning. Just to make sure that all the odds were working against me, I also began my recruiter career by recruiting for an industry that I had absolutely no interest in or experience with- video games. So unless my idea of a good plan also involved starting a new career in an area that I lacked knowledge or even interest, I was going to need a good plan quickly!

The first item on my "to do" list was to align myself with an experienced recruiter who knew the industry well, and most importantly someone who enjoyed their job! It's easy to find someone to teach the "doings" involved in the work, but to find someone who is passionate about what they do and the service they provided was key for me. I found that passion and experience in one of the client managers at the firm I worked for, and I immediately aligned myself with her. Her name is Maria Barton, a no nonsense Brit with a work ethic that most people could only aspire to achieve, and the people skills akin to some of the world's greatest leaders. She knew how to talk to a complete stranger, be it over the phone or in person, and she could quickly build a bond of trust that would serve as a foundation for years to come. It seemed as if there wasn't a single person in the Video Games Industry that didn't know of her, and they all had nothing but good to say about their experiences with her. Maria was my new mentor and ultimately she became a great friend as well, but she also had a lot of work in front of her if she hoped to turn me into a recruiter! I had a lot to learn about recruiting in general, like learning how to build my own network for referrals, knowing how to use the many different social networking sites to source, cold calling, etc. This list of things to learn and master was a long one, but there were a few key lessons that Maria taught me which in hindsight was key to my success.

Lesson #1- Know your client. Maria stressed this to me from the minute we first talked! Knowing who the client is, where they have come from, and where they hope to be in the future is important. Sure, anyone can read a paragraph or two about a client and regurgitate the information to a prospective candidate, but I didn't want to be anyone, and Maria certainly wasn't going to allow me to "be" an anyone either! Great details were given to me about the "environment" of each one of our client's studios and what a candidate could expect. The product lineup and company vision where also important pieces of information that I was to know. Knowing how the client handled promotions and acquiring new talent was key, as was knowing the general background of each person that made up the management staff. I can go on and on here about what it really meant to Maria when she said "Know your client", but the real message is just as simple as the phrase implies. Knowing as much about a client as possible will always translate into higher placement percentages and stronger candidate relationships.

Lesson #2- Know your candidate. This phrase sounded simple enough to me when I first heard it. After all, I was going to be interviewing each person anyway so wouldn't I end up knowing them by proxy? Yeah, I was in for another surprise. When Maria told me to "Know my candidates", she really meant to know them! There was one time that I spent 45 minutes on the phone interviewing a candidate just to make sure that I knew everything there was to know. I knew where he worked, what he earned, and all of that other stuff, but it turned out that I didn't really know anything about him at all. I didn't take the time to learn the candidate's likes & dislikes, preferences in climate if he were to relocate, social activities outside of work, what his spouse did for work, special needs of his children, where he grew up and where the majority of his family still lived, etc. This was important information to know if my plans were to eventually place him in a new job. From a business standpoint, the small details that I forgot to ask could later result in a deal breaker. More important was that each candidate left our conversation knowing that I actually cared enough to listen, and that I had their best interests and concerns at heart. Looking back, it was the practice of really knowing my candidates that contributed the most to my success. The worst thing that will ever come from knowing a candidate is their trust. Ironically, trust is something that some recruiters struggle to earn throughout their entire career.

Lesson #3- Get on the phone. In today's society the majority of our communicating is done electronically. We are sending emails, tweeting, posting, texting, and whatever else I may have forgotten. Communication is most effective when the person trying to communicate something knows that they are being heard and understood. People like to experience being heard, or put simply, everybody wants to be "gotten". Obviously we can't have every conversation in person, so the next best is to communicate often and effectively over the phone. That's not to say that the phone is the only way to communicate, but instead of building a relationship that only exists over emails, tweets, posts, and texts, throw in the occasional phone call as well. No matter how it gets delivered, the written word quite often leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The reader may not always conclude with your desired message either. When a candidate (active or passive) speaks to their recruiter on occasion they will begin to see that there is actually a partnership being forged and that the recruiter has their best interests in mind. Keeping up with a candidates changing concerns and desires will build a relatedness between recruiter and candidate that will truly stand the test of time. Communicating involves much more than speaking though, it also involves listening. When a candidate knows that their recruiter is actually listening to their concerns, those same concerns will fade away or disappear altogether, because they know that the recruiter understands them and will handle them.

Lesson #4- Know when to move on. My step-father had a hobby that involved looking at houses that were for sale, and to this day I still don't understand it. On each family vacation he would pack us into the car and spend several hours looking at homes that were for sale. He wouldn't look at places that he couldn't afford to buy or couldn't qualify for, rather he would look at each as if he were really buying it and we were moving. I can't count how many I was convinced we were actually moving, and I can only imagine the frustration the Realtors went through each and every time! Well everyone has a hobby, that was my dad's, and we never moved. The moral of the story? Some people are professional "lookers", just as my dad was when he looked at property for sale. If you really listen to a prospective candidate when you speak to them it's easier to spot the professional "looker". The professional looker is usually just fishing for information or checking out the market, but he really has no intentions of switching careers. The "looker" may even go as far as the offer stage before backing out of the role. Knowing that these types are out there, and learning how to spot them and walk away is important. There is only so much time in one day and it needs to be used wisely. Of course, the "looker" might someday become a "mover", or a great bird-dog, so treating each person with respect and kindness is always key.

The lessons I learned from Maria Barton are such that they will be an asset to me no matter what my career. As far as recruiters go, I think she is the best. She taught me more than I could ever hope to capture on paper, and more than she will ever realize. I believe that it is her passion for her job and the humanity that she brings to it that makes her a huge success. I can relate to that passion now since I feel it every day when I go to work at RecruiterBuddy. The enormous and quick success of RecruiterBuddy is largely due to the simple yet difficult lessons that Maria taught me. RecruiterBuddy is designed to allow recruiters more time to do what they do best, recruit. We take care of the sourcing, parsing, searching, scheduling, and contact managing so that the recruiters can get back on the phone and start talking again.

Maria still recruits in the Video Game Industry, and I still speak to her on a regular basis to keep up on my "lessons". What "lessons" might you share with someone today?

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Comment by Loni Spratt on March 31, 2010 at 4:20pm
Hi Matthew! Great post. You are so fortunate to have had such an inspiring, enthusiastic and knowledgeable mentor. I believe in paying it forward. It is so important for us to be mentors and mentees. One of my greatest lessons learned was to always approach your work with integrity and humility and never take anything personal. My favorite day-to-day motivator is "the squeaky wheel gets the grease."


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