I walked into my first interview for my first job with an executive search firm in 2006. I’d just moved back from Italy, and before that, had worked as a musician. I wore rings on every finger. I sat at the huge mahogany table, polished to a high gloss, in the well-appointed conference room in the John Hancock building in Chicago, and waited for my prospective boss to arrive.
When he blew in and shook my hand, I thought, “Oh, everything is fine”. Nothing had happened yet, but he put me at ease with a genuine smile and a handshake. Then he asked me about my life, what I enjoyed doing, why I was interested in this job – research and admin to a small team of Executive Recruiters, focusing on C-Level candidates. I told him I loved learning about people – what they did, what they wanted to do, what made them tick. I asked what he was looking for, too – what were the most important qualities he looked for when recruiting someone to join his team? He specified three things.
Curiosity, the Ability to Read a Room, and a Sense of Urgency.
- Real interest in learning about each search, along with the ability to ask questions and gather research until a true understanding of the need is reached
- The ability to efficiently hunt for appropriate candidates
- The confidence to discuss the role with candidates, and to learn from and about those candidates during those discussions
- Ability to Read a Room
- Discernment of the best way to communicate with each client and candidate based upon their industry, subject matter expertise, level, passivity or interest, etc., with an eye on building a relationship rather than only filling a role
- Effective collaboration with others on the recruiting team, listening to direction, offering ideas, implementation and follow-through where appropriate
- Sense of Urgency
- Get it done, whatever it is. Concentrate. Proceed. Keep getting better.
Eleven years after that first interview, through which I got my first job in this space, I still love recruiting. Really, honestly, the most important thing is actual, real, interest in one’s work. It keeps the head in the game, and it makes the game enjoyable. It’s a big deal, walking a person through the decision to take a new job. The far-reaching impact that makes can be enormously important to their life.
That’s where the sense of urgency really comes from. That’s why the recruiting function is crucial in a deeper way than just tactically headhunting to meet metrics or advance the client’s company line. Helping a candidate secure placement in a new job, a role that fits them like a glove, is truly satisfying. There are things worse than forging on in a job that isn’t a fit, but really, we spend the lion’s share of our waking hours working. We should enjoy what we do, feel well-suited to it, and see a bright future ahead.