Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Erika Cherrier’s path to recruiting at Microsoft reflects the experience of many of our Swing Shift cohorts. She talks about her shifting career journey; and as a recruiter, what
she looks for as she engages prospective candidates for engineering roles at Microsoft.
You started in journalism sales, detoured through retail management, and pivoted into a corporate role, first as an executive assistant, and now as a full-fledged recruiter. It’s a winding path. What compelled you to take these different roles?
A couple of different reasons. I took a 10 year hiatus to start my family, and when it was time to return to work, I took retail management roles which provided flexibility, which I needed to oversee my family, with the added bonus of keeping my hand in the work game. Also, journalism has changed radically since I started out. While I was on the sales side, it was apparent that the entire industry was collapsing, and it would be hard to return in a financially meaningful way. When we relocated to Washington State, I started out managing retail locations to continue my flexible schedule, and then leveraging a local reference and work experience, landing a role at Microsoft as an executive assistant.
Many women like you who have had managerial responsibilities in the past hesitate to take an EA or administrator role as a way to break back in to corporate. Did you struggle with this?
Definitely yes! Having run my own business and being responsible for daily operations and HR oversight, I felt I was potentially moving backwards but I was using this opportunity as a stepping stone to launch to the next step in my career. I knew I wanted to secure a corporate role at a larger company, and having the administration and operations skills from my previous roles would be the skills and experiences they would be seeking and would allow me to get in the door. I was hired as an EA in HR and my path had begun.
I was transparent and up front with my career goals from the onset. While taking time to learn the role, the business and the company, I continued to network and grow in areas that I felt were key to my internal movement within HR. Having a love for the HR function, I targeted recruiting as my next step. Working with my manager I was given the opportunity to do a “stretch role” as a recruiter. A stretch opportunity is working part time in a function you are potentially interested in pursuing. In this case, I did a 50/50 split. I continued to maintain and manage my role as an EA while training, learning and working as a full cycle recruiter. My mindset is what got me to my full-time job as a recruiter – learn it all attitude, patience, hard work and trusting the process.
As a recruiter, you are talking with dozens of candidates, and looking at hundreds of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. What stands out for you when you assess candidates, particularly returners or switchers? And how important is networking?
One of the most important things is to update your resume and your LI profile to reflect your current situation. I cannot tell you how many people I talk to that have “20XX-present” and they are not working for a multitude of reasons. This speaks to integrity. Rather than saying you are currently working, be honest and put that you are not – should that be your case.
You do need to have a clean resume and matching LinkedIn profile. At a company like Microsoft, where we get 6,000 applications a day, applicant tracking systems do skew towards people with the most recent and relevant experience.
My lens as a recruiter is not to find reasons why I “would not” want to consider you but reasons why I “would”. We are looking for transferable skills that would make anyone a potential fit based on their experiences.
Networking is obviously incredibly important. I spent a lot of time getting to know people inside and outside of HR and created relationships. It’s how I got into the job I have now. That said, internal referrals are incredibly powerful in terms of getting your name into the consideration set.
If someone has taken a career break, what have you found is the best way to characterize that break?
Address it directly, and then move on to what you can bring to the table in the prospective job you want to be considered for. Before you apply, consider what skills you have that potential employers will be interested in. You may need to hopscotch a little, like I did, taking a role that leverages your existing capabilities, and then moving over time into a role that will be more fulfilling. Even in a low unemployment market like we have now, it’s very important to consider what you will bring that’s valuable.
What’s next for you?
A: This is a loaded question because “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!”
Overtime I have developed a love for program management and events. I am attending the Grace Hopper conference in a couple of weeks and I am responsible for managing the fly back interviews on campus for candidates from the conference. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is creating the best interview experience for the candidates. Whether they get an offer or not, anyone who interviews with Microsoft is a potential customer and I want them to walk away having had the best experience!
As for what is next on my career path, I continue to network with colleagues in HR as I spend time thinking about where and what I want to do next. I can honestly say that we own our careers and the direction they are headed. All you need is the mindset to tackle what’s next, putting one foot in front of the other and go after what you want!
Learn more about The Swing Shift and resources for your career transition!