I did not tell my parents when I was 5 that someday I was going to be a recruiter. After high school I didn’t try to find Recruiting 101 classes. And when I graduated college I wasn’t applying for work at every local recruiting firm I could find. I fell into it. Just like a lot of us. I didn’t want to really sell anything I told myself. Yet every job has a selling side involved, I just didn’t see it. I was actually doing quite well for myself. I was in the restaurant industry working my way up to general manager of 2 very upscale, top rated, and wildly popular places. Some celebrities knew my name. I worked a ton of hours and loved it. But it did catch up with me. My social life was completely inside the business and I got the itch to do more. I took the LSAT’s (law school tests) and was accepted into a couple of schools. But the cost, and the reality that it was not what I really wanted drove me away. I never went. Whew.

A steady customer at my restaurant and I got to know each other, Shawn. He ate out every weekend and always talked with me about his business, recruiting. He really loved it and from all indications made a good deal of money at it. He told me that he never thought this is what he was meant to be and that intrigued me. He told me he worked hard, but did work less hours then I did. I was up to 80+ hours a week for quite some time by then. But what I really liked was that he treated recruiting like his profession. He was proud of it and the success he found.

Shawn told me I should come in and talk to his boss. In the late summer of 1996 I took him up on the offer after some time thinking, not really sure if I wanted to sway from the path I was on. I was doing good after all, and I had offers to move up in the business I was established in. After a couple of months I arranged my first send out/interview, me. When I walked in I was intimidated right away. The company was a room of about 40 recruiters. The phones were ringing constantly and the sound level of everyone talking created an energy that I only felt on a fully booked Saturday night at the restaurant. Wow, this was cool I thought to myself as we walked to an office. After some of the most grueling interview questions, mostly about me personally and my decision making, I was offered a second interview. I know Shawn pulled some strings I am sure, and I accepted it. Turns out Shawn was the top producer at the company, and one of the top in the nation in healthcare. When I came back I met the owner, Joe Pendergrast, a great man and veteran recruiter himself. He offered me a starting job for half my current salary but some enticing commissions. I accepted after some thought, ready for a change, and a profession. It was a big step for me but it felt like the right timing. I was a poor kid that made his way up the ladder and starting over was a bit scary. But I always liked taking chances and seeing what I can do with them.

It took me 2 years to establish my love for recruiting. I had a tough group to work in as my first team and even tougher boss. My main role was to learn and do the bidding of the other senior members of the team. Don, my manager, was a long time recruiter and former aluminum siding salesman. He had tons of sales skills and I had hardly any so I did what ever he told me. I was young and confident and we butted heads quite a bit but I continued to worked hard at what I was doing. Then it came. Opportunity. Not everyone sees it this way but I did. Don told me he was firing me after about 7 months. I wasn’t “tough enough” he said and tried to do too many things my own way. I just thought I saw some ways I could do things faster. The company president Larry saved me and offered me to work in a new division, one that just lost two recruiters and needed to grow. Again I think Shawn had something to do with me staying but I made my move. My new team seemed to take me as a breath of fresh air and I wanted to impress them with my work. I worked hard long hours (still less then my last job!) and built up a strong candidate pool. My hard knocks training from Don prepared me for the tough work and I excelled making placements right away. That was it, I became a recruiter.

Everything I own in my life came from recruiting and the people that I placed in hospitals and practices across the United States. But being a little crazy, I once again decided I needed a new challenge and in 2006 left my position as Director of Physician Recruiting and started my own firm. I thought there may be a better way to recruit and wanted to control my direction, lifestyle, and business. I have learned more about recruiting by going out on my own than I ever did in a firm. But the firm gave me a strong foundation and lots of friends and contacts.

In 2009 I started creating direct marketing campaigns for myself and some other recruiting firms. Then for some hospitals and corporate recruiters. And now for larger systems. Direct mail is an old but valuable sourcing tool that gets beat up at times, but not by the ones that use it correctly. Some very successful firms use our services and we really enjoy helping them get their advertisements directly into the hands of potential candidates. I like to use all the tools available to me and I made a business out of this one.

In 2010, Tim and I wanted to do more for recruiting and started up RecruitingDaily to hopefully share what we could in our own place, in our own way. We are not experts nor claim to be. But we are tried and true in the trenches recruiters who both have leadership and training experience. We thought we could share our stories, habits, and knowledge to anyone that may want it. Thankfully some of you do! Just knowing someone reads our posts was good for me. And Tim is great at finding great industry relevant topics and sharing them with everyone. I like to think we are having fun.

Then 2011, that is when RecruitingBlogs came along.  Almost a year to the day from when we started RecruitingDaily did we win the bid for RBC.  I had been a fan of the bloggers on RBC and would post from time to time but when I read that the social community was up for sale, Tim and I knew we wanted to own RecruitingBlogs.  It has only been a few months but I have once again learned so much from so many that I know RBC is going to be a great venture!

Looking back I would do it all over again. If I was going to talk to a young person about the industry I would tell them that it is a perfect choice to try your hand at, to go get good training, and don’t worry if you don’t succeed right away because most don’t. But you can make a living at it. A few make a lot more than that and what you really need to succeed is hard work, the ability to figure things out on your own, people skills, organizational skills, integrity, and the will to succeed. The barrier to entry is low, but the barrier to success is high.  I think that is why so many jump into recruiting when the other job markets soften up.  The "if they can do it so can I" theory.  And that is why so many leave so often too. But for a lot of us recruiting is in our blood and I am here to donate some whenever I can.

My path is one of hundreds of stories I have heard over the years. I always like to hear the stories others have on how they got into the business. What is your career path to recruiting? We would love to hear it.

Views: 1678

Tags: advice, career, cocca, noel, recruiting, recruitingblogs, recruitingdaily

Comment by Jeremy Kersten on November 22, 2011 at 10:30am
Inspiring story! Three years ago, make that four, the idea of owning a staffing company entered ny mind. The way how is that I got a job as an assembly technician through one my friends dad worked at. When I started working, I was thinking "wow, their getting payed for placing me!?" I knew that was something I would be interested in. Well three and half years go by and never did I think much on it again. Then about six months ago I started doing my research. Reading every blog, website, and book I could on recruiting and owning a staffing company company. Now, I own Top Candidate Staffing LLC. Do I have experience? No. Do I have the time of day to make sales calls? Not really. But this what I want to do and I am not stopping till this company is a success.
Comment by Jeremy Kersten on November 22, 2011 at 10:33am
Please excuse the typos, im typing this on my phone. And I think I should add that right now, im still working a day job. That's why I don't have the time to make sales calls or placements.
Comment by Roland Kuehn on November 22, 2011 at 12:37pm

Great post, Noel. And you posted it at just the right time. I actually just started an internship at one of the major firms in my area yesterday so it was great to hear a success story like yours. I'll be bookmarking this and re-reading it periodically as I go. Thanks!

Comment by Noel Cocca on December 21, 2011 at 9:35am

Thank you everyone for the comments.  I truly love the business...it is funny what direction life can take you when you are open to opportunities!

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