Updated: Feb 26, 2019
Prime Team Partners’ Wendy Hellar has been on both sides of the recruiting equation. As an executive search and business development manager, she looks at hundreds of candidates, staffing contract and full-time roles in the Puget Sound. As a returning mom of two teenage children, she took a significant career pause (10+ years!). When she returned to work, Wendy reckoned with the flexibility of a steady contract job, versus a more lucrative and higher time demand role in account and business development.
You worked full-time as a recruiter for Robert Half, took a break to raise kids, switched gears to training, then returned to your original recruiting career. What was the hardest part of stepping out, and then stepping back into the workplace?
There were a couple of different hurdles that I had to navigate, and unfortunately some of them compounded on one another. I’m a bit of an over-thinker and absolutely suffering from imposter syndrome. It took reconnecting with a dear friend and mentor, Liz Hughes from The Table Group, to get me back into gear and to increase my confidence around what I had to offer.
I also had to have patience in every sense of the word. During my search I think I applied to well over 130 jobs, with very little response. I know what it feels like to be on the active job seeking candidate side of the equation - and it is not fun. It takes grit to keep going - it’s rejection and no response and “no, thank you” on repeat at times. As I got back to work, the last hurdle was just getting my family to a place where expectations were shifted around our home life- schedules, meals, chores - everything had to be turned on its head.
You took a pretty long break. Did you meet with resistance when you went back into the workplace? How did you respond to it?
I don’t know if I met with resistance as much as indifference. My previous accomplishments were met with understandable skepticism, likely deemed irrelevant and my skills were rusty. I could fully accept all of that, and was really just looking for an opening back in with a company that was willing to give me some grace to get up to speed. I’m grateful every day that both The Table Group and Prime Team Partners were willing to take that chance with me.
As far as the resistance, I think I responded like anyone else - sometimes determined, other times deflated, sometimes excessive chocolate was involved. But I never really stopped. I set weekly goals for myself around networking and “connections” as well as time set aside daily for job search applications and follow up. I looked at it like a project that I was managing - except that project was myself and my professional re-entry.
What are you looking for as a recruiter?
One of the key things I learned when I was working with The Table Group was around the importance of highly functioning teams. For this phenomenon to occur, it’s important for every single person on the team to be humble, hungry and smart (5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Pat Lencioni). This short and sweet checklist can really help us to identify candidates who will be appealing to an employer outside of the technical skills they possess.
For the clients that I work with today, strong communication skills and professional presence in combination with their technical skills, experience and certifications. In the tech world, there are a lot of very tangible markers around the roles we source, but the soft skills are still equally important.
When a candidate’s making a career transition, what do you look for in their resume and online presence? How important is your network?
The resumes I look for are not a Dickensian tome on the entire career path of an individual. The best resumes highlight individual results, traction and forward momentum, usually 1-2 pages in length, and focus on what I call the “$, %, and #’s”. They paint a picture around your effectiveness in a particular role.
Often we see candidates talk about team accomplishments and objectives rather than their individual responsibilities and accomplishments. It’s fine to talk about the what the team was doing but we want to know how the individual contributed to the goal.
Your network is the most critical tool you can leverage. Connect, connect, connect - and ask for introductions and referrals. One of my favorite clients came to me via a friend introducing me to a recruiter at a different company, who recommended me to a consultant, who recommended me to the client, who has now hired me to source 5 different roles for their company. Job seeking works the same way - but you have to reach out and ask for the introductions.
So, online presence, particularly on LinkedIn, is critical. One of the first things employers (and job seekers!) do when considering whether to interview - is to look at the LinkedIn profile of the person they are interviewing. Your profile should mirror your resume very closely - with a little more space around personal expression. What are 3 easy to implement changes you can make in your resume? And 3 things that make you crazy?
Easy changes? Focus on personal impact and results- $, % and #’s! Repeat keywords for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to flag, but keep it simple and easy to navigate. Leave room for people to ask questions and gain clarity during an interview. I always like to hear how people describe the work they did, how they communicate the objectives and their end result. They’re always great for keeping conversations going and engaging your audience.
Make me crazy…. Too long (NO ONE wants to read your 7 page resume), so keep it to 2 pages if possible. Work history is too far down the page - add your certifications, education, technical skills at the end and start with most recent role. I also have a pet-peeve about resumes written in the 3rd person - but that might just be my personal preference.
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