I've recently taken the leap into corporate recruiting, specifically for the C-suite EA / Chief of Staff niche.
After 27 years as a top-performing EA supporting game-changing CEOs in numerous industries and becoming one of the top EA advocate/instructors in the world, I've thrown my hat into the recruiting ring with high expectations but absolutely no clue WTF I'm doing. Luckily, I've worked with some incredible recruiters over the years and several have stepped up to mentor me through my self deprecation to show me that I'm actually more than equipped to stake my claim in this industry.
I recently launched trīb Recruiting Group, an extension of my private, global EA community trīb. The response has been fantastic and the inquiries have been rolling in. Even in the short time we've been live, I've noticed several things I'd like to bring to the attention of those either looking for work or those looking to hire. I'm hoping my newbie perspective of a legacy industry will provide some much-needed insight and clarity and hopefully help both sides be more successful in finding the right opportunities and matches. Warning: I tend to be pretty blunt, so take no offense where none is intended.
The first few times I heard this it made me laugh. The next few times, it pissed me off. And here's why. The decision to "go it alone" and post a job req into the aether expecting that volume will be your savior is just bad business. The amount of time it takes internal recruiters, HR, even CEOs themselves to sift through hundreds of resumes using whatever methods they're using, in aggregate, ends up being more expensive than paying a great recruiter to do the work for you and present a tight, well-vetted, group of candidates for consideration. If you were to run the numbers of the amount of time spent at all levels, salaries of those involved, and the number of reqs to be filled, you'd quickly understand how fiscally wasteful a practice it is.
The main sticking point is the amount of most recruiters' fees which can range from 30 - 50% of the annual salary of the successful candidate. Sure, it's pricey on paper. But when you consider the amount of time it takes to find and vet through hundreds of resumes, conduct seemingly endless phone/Zoom calls to rule out axe murderers and phonies, determine possible fit based on a (likely) vague job requisition, and find that top 3-5 candidates who you believe are as close to perfect as it gets AND will likely stay in position for years, it's worth every penny! The best recruiters have incredible intuition and can typically spot a unicorn within a few minutes of conversation. Often, those recruiting internally are so focused on filling the seat due to internal pressures within their organization that they overlook some of the most important traits of a candidate.
I'm a huge believer in specificity. If I'm going to spend big money on anything I research it to death, almost to the point of obsession. I want to know and feel assured of the value before I lay down the card. Recruiting is no different. As a business owner I want to know for sure that the money I'm paying a prospective employee will have an exponential return on investment. That also includes the method by which I go about finding that employee. Instead of hiring a bunch of internal recruiters who, let's be honest, are jaded by being members of the company, I'd much rather have the real experts handling the task, third party, offering much more subjective and unbiased feedback, and truthfully, doing all the work so that my crew can focus on fit vs. wasting time culling through a stack of resumes often to find the search largely unsuccessful. I kinda view this as that rich/poor approach to life or finance. Rich people are some of the cheapest in the world, but they're not stupid. They realize the value of the dollar but they're also keenly aware of their #1 commodity: time. Wasting it is wasting money. And wasting either is unacceptable.
The attitude toward using specialized recruiters needs to change. Unfortunately, recruiters have created the bad press for themselves with some rather shady practices over the years including exorbitant fees, cutthroat tactics, and lackluster performance during the good times. Truthfully, this is one of the reasons why I avoided becoming a recruiter for so many years. It was inevitable, but I had already been an EA for decades and exhausted from fighting the bad PR that role continues to suffer from for similar transgressions.
Recruiting in a remote-first, new world is a much different animal than in the past. And I believe this will truly separate those recruiters relying on their legacy and using the same, played methods and those, like me, who are newer, wide-eyed, tech-intense, more aware of the methods and challenges of working remotely, and able to recognize the unique characteristics and personality traits associated with being super effective in a remote environment. It's more than just asking a few questions trying to determine if someone is comfortable working from their kitchen table. It's imperative to know if a candidate's personality and work ethic prove that unequivocally.
Recruiting fees aren't a waste of money. Paying them is a commitment to getting it right in the shortest time possible. Companies actually save money utilizing the specificity and expertise offered by a well-connected, intuitive recruiter. Those who see otherwise are short-sighted in my opinion and, clearly, comfortable wasting company money and hundreds of employee man hours, expensive in both funds and human toll.
The company culture argument is a bit moot now in a remote-first world, because company culture is no longer determined by the same factors as when everyone was working within the office. It will return, but no time soon, and only to a certain degree. And we all know that people online behave much differently than they do in person. (Fight me on that one.) A great recruiter is able to identify those cues in candidates that make them a top prospect and one who will thrive in this new paradigm of working...for years.
Dear people: It is 2021. The world of recruiting has gone algorithmic. Which means your long-ass soliloquies and cover letters mean nothing if you don't include keywords pertinent to the job you seek. I'll let you in on a little secret. My first order of business when trying to fill a job req is to run a boolean search on LinkedIn Recruiter to find a list of profiles that match the criteria I'm searching for. And from that list I am able to cull it down to several people I feel might be a great prospect. And from there the phone/Zoom calls begin. Keep in mind, this includes people who already have jobs and may not be looking. But my superpower is being able to look at a candidate's profile, see their trajectory, see what their current responsibilities are (and specifically HOW they've listed them), and make a pretty accurate assumption as to whether they're already in their dream job or might be open to something sexier, more highly compensated/empowered, or with more room to grow.
I hate to break it to you, but the long-ass, unsolicited, "dream job" letters kinda don't matter to me...at first. What matters is making sure your profile is loaded with relevant keywords and beautifully represents your brand, especially if you are actively looking for or open to a new role. That bot is my first line of defense to finding qualified candidates. Many rule themselves out simply because their LinkedIn profiles suck. No relevant keywords. Task-heavy vs. "wins-heavy" job descriptions. Lame profile photo. No data/stats to support their awesomeness and give a prospective employer a baseline of what they could potentially do for their company, plus more. Some don't even list their experience and simply attach their resume basically saying, "Here, you do the work to find out if I'm a good candidate." Seriously? #next #andblock
If you are on LinkedIn you are a BRAND. Let me be extremely clear, here. How your profile is worded and completed determines how you are perceived both by a bot and a human. You need to make sure your profile satisfies both, especially if you're job hunting. The bot needs to be able to sweep your profile and find that handful (or more) keywords that results in you being part of the search results. And once the human can drill down into your profile and determine if you could be a good fit for a job req, then the "personality phase" can begin. At the moment, the prevailing attitude has this bass ackwards.
Candidates aren't taking care of their business.
My new pet peeve is people who haven't personalized the name on their LinkedIn profile link. Instead of it reading: www.linkedin.com/in/phoenixnormand I'm still seeing the bot-generated one from when they originally created their profile with, like, 14 numbers after a hyphen. Seems like an inconsequential thing, right? But for me it screams "I don't really care about my brand." It also implies a lack of tech savvy and thoroughness, which for an Executive Assistant or Chief of Staff is imperative to convey, especially during a job search. I then dig into those profiles to determine if my suspicions (and judgment) are founded/unfounded and quickly determine if a candidate is a pass based on what I see in their profile.
Given the vast number of "Perfect Your LinkedIn Profile" online classes on YouTube and even LinkedIn itself, there's absolutely no excuse for having a poorly executed Linkedin profile. I judge. Harshly. Because I'm looking to put forth the best of the best to my clients, not those only doing the bare minimum. I hated working alongside people like that and vowed never to put forth anyone who struck me in that way. What sets professionals apart these days are the ones who've done the homework, applied the techniques, and embrace the fact that they are a brand. LinkedIn is the most powerful tool in business. To show up half-ass on a platform that could literally change your life speaks volumes, especially to someone like me...who's also trying to change your life. Consider that an admonishment (with love) if you are one of the transgressors. Get your brand together. For the bot and the human.
First impressions still matter.
Tired photos. Typos. Formatting errors. No original articles. No engagement. Questionable follows. Please understand that first impressions still matter, especially on LinkedIn. The platform is literally based on making professional connections based on your profile. If you "look crazy" on LinkedIn with an under-baked, poorly-constructed profile, it will severely affect your perception and results. As a recruiter it's the #1 tool I use to vet prospects. I have several "flash criteria" I use to quickly determine yes/no and move on. If you don't have a photo at all, I'm probably blocking you. If you don't have a professional photo or one that displays a bit of effort, I'll likely next you unless your profile rocks. Again, this may seem inconsequential to most, but given how great mobile phone cameras have become and the myriad of lighting filters out there, there's literally no excuse to have a terrible profile photo. Want proof? Every single photo of me on my socials is a selfie. Every. Single. One. I purchased a ring light with a phone clip and have taken every photo myself. For free. Only the price of a little effort. Again...no excuse for bad profile photos. And I judge accordingly.
Candidates are still too focused on what they want vs. what they can offer.
I've read through a number of emails I'm getting from EAs lately. What I'm noticing is that a majority of the inquiries are based on "what I want" vs. "what I can offer." And therein lies one of the biggest issues within the EA community. Perspective. And unfortunately, this permeates the entire process from the profile all the way through to face-to-face interviews. There's nothing wrong with being discerning and having a laundry list. However, as a recruiter, I'm looking for what you can offer to a prospective employer. I want to know about your wins, how your experience fits, what your professional aspirations are, and how you can hit the ground sprinting if I'm able to find you a great opportunity. It's kind of a turn-off, admittedly, to hear people go on and on about what they want. That shit is so subjective and out of your control especially if your name isn't on the building. I want to know what you've done, what you plan to do, and feel confident you have the chops to actually pull it off. The rest is a Charlie Brown audio track to me.
As a candidate, it's your responsibility to paint the picture for me as succinctly as possible. Show me your teeth, first. Your heart comes second. (Let that be uncomfortable.) I'm in the business of placing killers, those who live, breathe, conduct, and improve business. Sure, attitude and personality are important, but they are secondary to understanding business and creating ROI. I know that will be unpopular to many, but welcome to the big leagues, kids. Your sparkling personality, especially when life happens on Zoom these days, is far less of a commodity than in years past. Can you do the work, partner effectively, and not be annoying? Sweet!
I love a challenge. And this foray into recruiting, especially right now, is already proving to be quite a challenge. But I believe differentiation is my success driver and continuing to hold my peers and my candidates to a much higher standard. I don't do the whole finger wagging thing. I'm much better at telling the whole truth, empowering through education, and helping people kick their own ass and level up.
Companies need to run the numbers and realize how wasteful they're being with their recruiting practices. If time is your #1 commodity, why are you wasting it under the guise of saving on recruiter fees? Frankly, you look stupid. And fiscally inept. Yep, I said it. If you want a killer, you gotta pay up. I liken it to paying an extra $75 at the amusement park for a pass that allows you to line jump to the front of every ride line. Why spend an hour waiting in line for a ride that lasts 6 minutes when I can drop a few extra coins and, essentially, walk right onto every ride in the park unabated? I did this at Universal Studios (before COVID) when a friend came to visit. We knocked the rides in that whole park out in, like, 3 hours, beat it outta there and headed to several other sites which we'd never have been able to see had we stood in line for hours on a regular ride pass. Get this! Pay up, find your killer, and keep it moving. It actually protects your most valuable asset: time.
Candidates, you need to handle your business. All of it! Starting with your LinkedIn profile. Wake up early on a Saturday morning, pour some coffee, and commit to getting your profile perfected. I'll actually be hosting a number of "leveling up" workshops to help optimize LinkedIn profiles to exact much better results. But the bulk of the work has to be done yourself. There's nothing more frustrating than receiving a heart-felt letter from someone then accessing their profile to see 50% effort at best in its creation. I can't teach pride. I can only teach preparation and give people as many tools as I can. But in a world of Google, YouTube, and free information about literally anything on this planet, I won't make excuses for laziness. And will judge and treat it accordingly. Raise your own bar. Once you do, I'll likely be hitting you up.
I'm still only a few weeks in. I'll have more observations to share and hopefully some new clients and placements! Stay tuned and thanks for reading.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.