I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been a recruiter since 1987. “I didn’t know that!” I hear you say.  Yes it’s true.  Up until a couple of years ago, admitting it in public was equated with being league with the devil, and greeted with a look of bemused disgust.  And then of course, they asked for career advice and sent me their CV.

Back in the “olden days” of the 80’s, we would be trained rigorously, and worked very hard indeed.  Interviewing up to 10 people (face to face) each day, we would then be expected to canvass out these poor saps to potential employers, whilst they were sitting right there.  This was always extremely flattering to candidates, to hear you actually work on their behalf, and sing their praises to clients. Interviews were supposed to be 30 minutes max, but I recall my very first one, after training, lasted a full 2 hours!  I thought I was being thorough, and followed every step I had learned, whilst my colleagues walked behind the candidate, pulling faces and checking their watches.  As luck would have it, I managed to secure a Red Sendout.  This meant that I had arranged an immediate job interview for my candidate that very day.  In HMS Recruitment, Professional and Technical Division, we were expected to setup at least 20 interviews per week.  I mostly recruited engineers and sales professionals, at all levels from trainee to MD.

That first interview however, proved to be prophetic.  I loved to interview.  Once I had got over my nerves, (interviewing a hugely successful well-qualified Managing Director can be very intimidating) I found that being a born nosey-parker, was a big asset to the job.  Up until that point, I had never really thought or cared too much about other people, in any kind of detail.  Yet now, in a professional setting, I was privy to the most intimate details of a person’s life.  I defy anyone not to find that at least a little intoxicating.  I must confess to falling in love with some candidates.  Not in that way, but to the extent that I would make it my mission to help them make that next career move (contrary to all my training).  Some recruiters will liken this to seeing £££ signs over a candidate’s head, but I just wanted to be part of their story.  I wanted to play a part in their stellar career, and perhaps a little of their moondust would fall on me too.

I don’t recruit now, and haven’t done personally for several years, but I do miss it.  I have to make do by “interviewing” strangers at networking events, conferences and such.  So when I do meet you for the first time, please forgive me if I start asking too many personal questions.  If you’re a recruiter, you’ll probably be doing it too.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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