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Learn How This Young Recruiter Got His Fee Despite NOT Placing the Candidate

Summary: Michael McDonnell is one year into his recruiting career. He opened his own firm through the Global Recruiters Network and is already off to a strong start. In this 30 minute interview we talk about how got started, what tools he uses to recruit and a story about a candidate you may find remarkable.

He liked our process so much that he wanted to pay our fee anyway which he did, so I was blessed to be able to get that...
— Michael McDonnell

Tools Mentioned: Linkedin, CareerBuilder, Lusha, Hiretual, Hunter, Zoom (video calls), Caps X (internal ATS)

Links: Michael on LinkedIn, GRN of Columbia website


SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Michael McDonnell: My name is Michael McDonnell and I'm next on the RecTech Podcast.

Chris Russell: All right. Let's do this. The RecTech mission is to mission is to help employers connect with more candidates through technology and that's what this show is all about, but first.....this episode of RecTech is sponsored by Jobs In The U.S. If your company needs to hire a more local talent JobsInTheUS.com lets you post your jobs for free on their national job search engine. They also operate 51 local state sites for every state in the country, including Washington D.C.

Online since 1999, the job sites they power will help you to connect with more local talent, learn more at jobsintheus.com

Now, on to our guest. Michael McDonnell is the president and managing partner for Global Recruiters of Columbia based in South Carolina. Now one year into his recruiting job, Michael has experience in a multitude of facets ranging from his leadership experience in the army to his success while working in sales at Con Agra Brands. He recruits in the CPG and Food and Beverage Industry. Michael, welcome to RecTech. Great to have you.

Michael McDonnell: Thank you so much. Great to be here Chris.

Chris Russell: So, let's start out by telling me why you became a recruiter. I'm curious how you went into the field and what that motivation was all about.

Michael McDonnell: Absolutely so, I'm somewhat of the anomaly of people that would be in the space in the sense of a lot of recruiters have either been in the industry for a very, very long time or they've held executive c-suite type positions previously. I am not on that list, you know? I came from a good entrepreneurial background. I started my first company when I was 12 years old. It was just a little vending machine business, but I've always had that entrepreneurial spirit right? Wanted to created efficiencies through simplicity and really try to help people and that's at the heart of really why I got into recruiting. It's not only to perpetuate people's careers, but it perpetuates their livelihood for them and their families and their able to make an impact, not just an impression at a company.

The same reason that I got into the military. It's really, not necessarily just to help those who can't help themselves, but really to lend that helping hand and watch things kind of come together that was helped to be inspired or created by you. 

Chris Russell: So you like the whole entrepreneurial approach to recruiting?

Michael McDonnell: I do.

Chris Russell: Being that you went into the staffing model. The third party staffing firm.

Michael McDonnell: One thing we don't do is staffing so we actually focus on the professional and c-suite middle level type management positions, but we don't do any of the hourly or anything of that nature. No temp work.

Chris Russell: Okay. So, your last job before recruiting was in sales correct?

Michael McDonnell: That's correct.

Chris Russell: Okay. So recruiting is definitely a sales, part of that is a big sales pitch right? But tell me more about your approach to recruiting and why you're different.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah and I think that's huge. I don't want to say that it's quintessential but it is, I think, somewhat necessary to have that sales background or at least some extrovertedness to you. To be able to speak to anyone about kind of anything at any time, if you can do that pretty well you're usually pretty successful being a recruiter.

The reason that I think that we're different, it's really simple, we take a very proactive approach so, we're not just soliciting resumes, throwing things at the wall and seeing if it sticks. We truly don't post jobs on job boards because, again, the way that we're different is that we're tapping shoulder that are gainfully employed. They're not necessarily willing to make a move. They're not looking on job boards because they're happy where they are. They're doing well and they're compensated well. So, we're only going to persuade this individuals to look at a new opportunity if it's going to increase one of the seven factors of why someone makes a career move. 

So whether that's better location, better compensation, more appreciation, that proactive approach of just tapping people on the shoulder and saying "hey listen, I saw your background. It sounds really interesting. I want to know more about what you're doing and what might take you to look at a new opportunity." So, it's very holistic in that regard, authentic, trying to get that realistic viewpoint rather than people saying "hey, I need x,y, and z, do you check those box?" Because most people will say, "yeah. Yeah," you know? "I think I can I do that." And because they're trying to kind of put that square peg in a round hole and we take that opposite viewpoint. It's a lot more time inducive on our end, but it's more much more value added to the client.  

Chris Russell: Right. So, Michael, how did you learn all this? Did you have a mentor coming up or did you get any training? Tell me more about your initial start into recruiting.

Michael McDonnell: It's just came to me. Sure, yeah. It just came to me in a dream. No, unfortunately I'm surrounded by a lot of people who are a lot smarter than myself. So with GRN, we are the largest privately held search company in the U.S., so I'm able to partner with 180 firms with many different affiliates and really truly pick their brands to understand their strategy, you know, things that have been successful from them, learning from their past mistakes. We obviously go through our corporate training program headquartered in Chicago and collectively the training that they have is almost 100 years of professional recruiting in one office, where they're able to pour into you all of the good, bad, and ugly. And then I think diving right into it and getting on the phone and having conversations and failing horribly at certain things is really going to be those lessons that stick. It's not a theoretical business. You have to put the practice to understand it.

Chris Russell: So tell more-

Michael McDonnell: And then I also-

Chris Russell: So tell me more about that training part. What was that like? How long was it? Give me some background on that.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, so our corporate training is two weeks at headquarter and then we have follow along training for the next eight weeks after that.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Michael McDonnell: And then I also have a really good friend of mine whose a member of the Pinnacle Society, are you familiar with that?

Chris Russell: Pinnacle Society. I think of heard of it, but I'm not quite familiar.

Michael McDonnell: So, it's for those that are literally top 75 recruiters in the country and so he's been doing this for well over 20 years, training offices and training different individuals. It's been successful as a [generalist 00:10:35]. And so for us, we specialize. We try to focus on a niche of ... For us it's consumer packaged goods, and then usually one layer further than that, it's consumer packaged goods and food and beverage space.

So, the training was encompassing not just what's the temperature of the market right now, but what is highest in demand within that market place or within that industry and then giving a plethora of tools. We basically, we play with those, and find which we like best to put on our tool belt, or which one's to leave in the tool shed. So that way we have those that are, you know, again, most applicable right at our fingertips that we're going to using everyday heavily and then, as we need to kind of branch out and diversify our search profits we can utilize those other tools that we were exposed to.

Chris Russell: Yeah. How did they teach you to get clients Michael?

Michael McDonnell: So, that has always been, I think as it is, at least from everybody I've ever spoken with, those marketing calls. Trying to find your next client is always the biggest challenge. Even with unemployment being, I think, the lowest it's been since 2002 at 1.5% or so, there is a huge talent demand, but there is a lot of more resources than there used to be I think 10 or 15 years ago to find that talent that's in demand. So, it really does start sometimes from a very consultative manner of just calling people and saying,"listen, this is who we are, and we just know if there's a way we may be able to help you whether it's now or in the near future." And it can be as simple as that. 

Someone says, "hey, look, I'm looking for a new sales director. Do you work with those individuals?" And absolutely we do. So the other piece of that is conversing with people that are not necessarily looking for that move but really just keeping tabs on them. Trying to understand what would make them want to make a move or why are they so good at what they do. Why are they different from the other people in their field and in their sector? So by keeping those tabs when someone says, "yeah we are kind of looking for this," well I just spoke to a couple of those type of individuals last week. Tell me more about what you need. And so, again, it's very much more ... We don't want to just look at the job description. The job description doesn't tell me the personality you're trying to find, the cultural match you need. 

It's much more intricate than just some words on a paper. Why is this person going to fit within the team? Why would they want to work for you as a boss? So going through things at a very granular level provides us not only insight to give to our candidates when moving forward, but it really opens the ears and eyes of the hiring manager sometimes so that they can better define what they're looking for. Some people say "yeah of course, they have to a four year degree," and so we challenge that, [inaudible 00:13:16] because if you're saying they need ten years of experience with a four year degree, but there is someone with 15 or 20 years experience with no college degree, you wouldn't want to talk to that individual? "Well, no, I don't even have a college degree myself. We would love to talk to them." So, it's questioning their original thinking of if you were looking for something for four months, why wasn't it successful? Were you just putting it online or are you asking for something that's impossible? And let's better understand that.

Chris Russell: Yeah. Looking back on this past year Michael, what's the most important thing you've learned so far about recruiting or becoming a recruiter?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, that's a good question. Patience, I think patience was always something I've struggled with, just as a very fast paced type person. If you could hear my rambling sometimes just within the short conversation we've been having but, I'm trying to slow down because I understand that there's not a one size fits all, and sometimes you have to cater your demeanor to your audience, but truly having that listening, patience is sometimes the hard part. We might be looking to hear x, y, and z, and until we hear that, you can end up tuning something out, or disregarding it when it could be a critical piece of information. So truly tuning your ear to listening, and again providing that insight in consultative manner. So, the listening and patience aspect is very important.

Chris Russell: Got you. All right. You a big cold caller Michael?

Michael McDonnell: We have to be in this business sometimes. I think that for what it's worth, to digress slightly, that was part of the training. I don't mind cold calling. I think that I can talk to anyone about anything, I might not know a lot about it, but I can at least ask questions and try to learn about it, so that is a big aspect of what I do.

Chris Russell: Fair enough. All right, let's talk tech a little bit. So what are you use there for an ATS to manage your candidates if you use any?

Michael McDonnell: So we use our proprietary data base. It's called CAPS X. 

Chris Russell: CAPS X?

Michael McDonnell: And so that ... That's correct. Have you ever heard of that?

Chris Russell: No. So it's a-

Michael McDonnell: And so it. Yeah.

Chris Russell: It's a custom built-

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, it'll only be available for GRN owners.

Chris Russell: Got you. Okay. So I guess GRN is kind of almost like a franchise. You can basically go out and start your own. Is that correct?

Michael McDonnell: That is correct and so with my background, starting my own little company when I was younger and then working a little bit within the corporate environment and in the field. I decided to take my entire life savings and pour it into something I knew nothing about.

Chris Russell: Nice. Nice. Well, I've definitely ... I went through there. I know what that's like, you know, starting your own business and kudos to you doing recruiting. Recruiting is not easy and I think if you can do it well, there's a definitely a good business there so, you say, CAPS X. So, what's cool about your ETS? What do you like about it?

Michael McDonnell: So, I like it's search-ability. I might not remember where the person worked or name, what their title was, where their location was, what the compensation was, but I can remember that they got married on The Great Wall of China, well, I proposed to my wife on The Great Wall of China, so I will write a simple note like that in there, and I can, two months from now remember that there was a guy talking about getting married in China and so now I have a client that's looking for x, y, z type experience now I just simply type in China, I find him. So, it's very searchable in that type of right and then there's also the feature of being able to code things in its [basket? 00:16:42] will vary heavily by industry but it has certainly [crosstalk 00:16:46] the difference. Come again?

Chris Russell: You mean like tagging people?

Michael McDonnell: To an extent, right? But yeah, it's how you're going to ... This is a director of sales for natural foods or this is a marketing manager with huge e-commerce experience in the beverage side of the industry, so it helps you to again, kind of categorize those different individuals.

Chris Russell: Got you. Okay.

Michael McDonnell: The other aspect of why our, I think, ETS system is really unique is that it helps to track the entire progress so when I go to submit somebody whether they're in the phone interview stage or their at the acceptance letter, because there's so many stages of the interview process essentially from time of taking a job order to finding individuals that you want to submit, them either passing on the opportunity or the candidate, excuse me, the client passing on the candidate, it helps you really to keep that all in line organizationally and track that. 

Chris Russell: Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Anything you wish you can change about it?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, all the time. No, there's some different things-

Chris Russell: There's no perfect ETS right so?

Michael McDonnell: Of course. Of course. So, we do provide that feedback to our corporate environment and usually they're pretty fast at being able to [crosstalk 00:18:02]

Chris Russell: Yeah is this something they will iterate on every year? Do they change it constantly or?

Michael McDonnell: It will and again sometimes if I find something's wrong, someone in the office finds that as well, and a partner office says it, within two weeks turn around time if it's something really simplistic that they can modify within their ... Oh goodness, I just forgot the word. But if they can essentially modify that, not algorithm, but code right? If they can change the code real quick and simply implement it then they do that. [crosstalk 00:18:31]

Chris Russell: Is it a web-based tool or is it software?

Michael McDonnell: Software.

Chris Russell: It is. Okay. Very good. Let's talk what else you use to do your daily activities to recruit and manage your candidates. Do you have any sourcing tools, plug-ins, extensions, other websites?

Michael McDonnell: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I have to imagine every ... I don't think I've ever met a recruiter that doesn't know what LinkedIn is right?

Chris Russell: Yeah.

Michael McDonnell: So, that's a big one. It really is a great way to get an instant tap, I think, into the market. An immediate connection with an individual besides giving them a call. So, that's a big one for us. Career Builder, certainly we have a subscription there and that yields us a multitude of resumes sometimes some are new sometimes and they're older, which can also be nice, because you discover somebody that's actually moved up three levels from the last time they put their resume on Career Builder. I big one I like is Lusha, are you familiar with that platform?

Chris Russell: Yep.

Michael McDonnell: So that extension is great at sourcing different emails, phone numbers, things like that. We use that as well. Hunter, I'm sure you know most of the Google extensions that everyone else uses as well but, I've recently been using Hiretual which I like because I've not been the greatest bullion searcher, and it helps to create that bullion search kind of like a plug-in play sort of platform.

Chris Russell: Got you. Okay. Anything else? Like do you send out calendar events with Calendly or anything like that? Any other sort of [crosstalk 00:20:00]

Michael McDonnell: Yeah so Calendly is something we've looked at. For now I've just standardized and consistently just used Outlook, so I'll just send out calendar invites out like that, whether that's for a phone call for that, if that's going to be, initial phone interview. We use, not Web X, we use Zoom, that's a big platform that we use to interface just for video conferencing, whether that's [crosstalk 00:20:28]

Chris Russell: So you do your video interviews over that?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, we do that, and then we also do our meetings. Another thing that we have our, you know people that are very, very successful or have great insight, we, once a month or so, as an entire organization, will have about a half hour to a hour long meeting to kind of sharpen our tools.

Chris Russell: Got you.

Michael McDonnell: And so, again, we use that video interfacing.

Chris Russell: Nice. Okay. Is there one tool, I know [inaudible 00:20:55], is there one tool out there that you wish existed that doesn't?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, I think, I mean, it's kind of already becoming. When I begin starting this, I questioned from the CEO of GRN, how is AI technology going to change the game kind of for recruiting? And just like most people who think their jobs could be somewhat jeopardized or greatly changed by AI. They all say "oh, it's never going to replace the person." I'm used to technology and I see it everyday and things are perpetuating at a rate that they never have before, so that being said, I do think that that's going to be a large piece in essentially conglomerating people that are really just putting people together that are going to be a great fit for something you're looking for rather than going through that bullying stream and adding to different organization and going into trade shows. 

I think that this is going to really streamline that process. I'm not sure necessarily how or when, but I do think that it'll be within the very near future.

Chris Russell: So, will AI replace recruiters or just help them?

Michael McDonnell: I don't think it's going to replace. I think it'll replace the bad ones because bad recruiters essentially are doing what AI can do in the snap of a finger, so I think in some regard it'll be replace those that are not extremely good at what they're doing, but as far as taking them out as whole, I don't believe so.

Chris Russell: Yeah. And by the way, your LinkedIn, do you have a recruiter account? You pay for the annual license?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, we definitely have the recruiter account. Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Chris Russell: Got you. Some recruiters, you know, like the free stuff, but just curious.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah. I get it. I get it. Half of the individuals I work with, they use the free one, and then everybody in my office we pay to have that, just ... we find it a more streamline process, and again for communicative purposes we can save them to profiles and projects and things like that.

Chris Russell: Are you, generally speaking, a fan of LinkedIn, or are there parts about it you just try not to [inaudible 00:22:54] at all or what's your opinion of [crosstalk 00:22:56]?

Michael McDonne: You know, I really like LinkedIn. I have not really seen any really drawbacks to be completely honest. What about yourself Chris?

Chris Russell: Well, there are some of the veteran recruiters out there are do complain about LinkedIn in terms of, you know, they really crack down stuff, for instance there's this whole big recent stuff about the extensions you might use to pull up [crosstalk 00:23:21] accounts and you know, they're going after the user now to, so it's like, they've also taken stuff away from recruiters in the past in terms of just discontinuing features, things like reportive, they brought it, the shut it down, you know? So, there are some naysayers out there and-

Michael McDonnell: Yeah and I understand that. I think we have pretty good ties with some of the individuals at LinkedIn so we're able to get support and if we have questions or concerns we kind of can just go to them immediately with that and I get that. Trust me. I do understand that from time to time but, in the very simplistic generality, would I rather have it or not have it? No question. I'd rather have it.

Chris Russell: Got you. All right. Let's go to stories Michael. Tell me a story. I want to hear sort of your biggest win so far in recruiting in terms of just sourcing a candidate and getting them placed. What do you got?

Michael McDonnell: Interesting. So, actually the first placement that I ever got was with a client of mine, was just very, very much by the consultative "hey, how can I help you," type of scenario and they said "you know, we are looking to have this type of individual but it probably wouldn't be for about four or five months and that's good because we like to act proactively. If you told me, "hey, we need a person for sure in one month," it's going to be late in the game. Not impossible by no means but, at the end of the day, the more time can sometimes be a little bit better depending.

Long story short, we're working on this for about two and a half months and our process is not to submit candidates. I believe that you can post jobs to post a bunch of candidates if you want to have 100 to 200 resumes. That's not our goal. Our goal is to find you two, three, maybe four finalist, all of which can do the job based off of the criteria we discussed, and again that's without a job description. That's not how we operate. So, by doing that we came across three finalist that have gone through three or four interviews now, this again being about two and half, three months for the first time I took the job order. 

The hiring manager, which was the vice president of sales, told me at the time they did have somebody apply indirectly and we were working with them exclusively so they didn't post the job online and they weren't utilizing any other recruiters so, that raised an eyebrow right? And I was somewhat concerned in the sense of I know my candidates are very good but also they ...We have this individual that's kind of come out of the side, which instead of this being "hey, we're guaranteed to make this placement now, or at least at 99% guarantee," it's now been reduced to maybe about a 75% probability. 

Again so, long story short, the candidate had found out from one of my candidates that the opportunity was open and essentially kind of went around the back door and said "hey, I think this position's going to be great for me." And so he emailed directly and they wanted to interview him and they did. So, they actually made the offer to our individual that was not our candidate. Yeah and so, I'm a firm believer that everything does happen for a reason. I know it's very cliché, but we want to make sure at the end of day our client gets the best candidate possible. And so, we offered to certainly compare apples to apples, go through our reference check, just have some conversations. Of course this candidate can't be the theoretical "tell me about yourself and what your interest are," because you already know about the company now and the opportunity, but we still wanted to put him through a diligent process.

The hiring manager and company are so great and we're glad to have them, , but they basically had said that they love our process so much within the 25 years of them being in the industry he liked our process so much that he wanted to pay our fee any way and which he did so, I was blessed to be able to get that fee.

Chris Russell: He paid your fee but it wasn't your candidate?

Michael McDonnell: That's correct. Yeah.

Chris Russell: Okay. Hold on. That's uh ... I've never heard that before so, I mean.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Russell: What was the fee first of all?

Michael McDonne: It was 48 750.

Chris Russell: And so ... Wow, I mean, that's pretty shocking Michael. 

Michael McDonnell: Yeah it was shocking to me as well. 

Chris Russell: You placed the candidate, well I mean, you got a fee but you didn't place the candidate. I don't think that happens too often out there.

Michael McDonnell: I don't think that happens quite ever. I've talked to one of the people helped trained me and worked with, whose billed over 50 million dollars in her lifetime, just her, as a single entity and so she said, "With all of the offices," she works with all offices that I partner with and none of them have ever gotten and again, I know that that's an anomaly. I truly think it's one because we really stuck to the communication at every step constantly. We do a debrief with our candidates after every interview. We do a debrief with the hiring manager. "What did you like? What did you dislike?" 

We help to kind of rearrange their thoughts, put that down on paper, send it to them to kind of keep things going because this is, they have a lot going on, as vice president of sales, all of the trade shows they're traveling to, so we want to keep that as simple for them as possible and so, I think it was just that honesty, transparency, the consultative experience, and keeping things well and organized, and promising to deliver on producing finalists for them because if this candidate that came from the outside wasn't going to be the right individual, they were going to, unquestionable, as they had said, pick our runner up if you will.

[crosstalk 00:28:47] their number one see that they're dispersing kind of came around from the other side and that wasn't available when we had started looking so.

Chris Russell: So essentially, they paid for essentially a short list almost?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah. Yeah. And don't get me wrong. I know that we'll do business with them in the future I think they're a phenomenal, stand-up company and that's why going through this we've looked at other job orders. We don't just ... If someone says "hey, I need this person. We'll pay your fee. Here you go," that's definitely not how we operate. 

One, we're going to go through our job description ourselves because we want to make sure that we're not just picking a job description. We're going to be the right partner for you. We don't want to just go chase the purple squirrel and if this is something like that we don't want it. So we choose quality over quantity when we partner we clients and that being said this was such an easy client to work for and to describe the condition and background of the company it was an easy sale in the sense of it was just a really, really great company. There were no real drawbacks.

Chris Russell: Sounds like a dream client.

Michael McDonnell: I mean it really was. It really was. More of a dream client is if they called me every month with a new position. That would be fantastic but you know, nada. That's all right. I will trade that for the quality of who they are.

Chris Russell: Nice. Well, let's wrap this up Michael. I certainly appreciate all of the advice today. So, if you were talking to someone who's thinking about getting into recruiting like yourself did back a year or so ago, what kind of advice would you tell them?

Michael McDonnell: I would say the work at the forefront is paramount. We all know that if you try to build walls on an unsteady foundation it can be disastrous later on, but it's so important to better understand if you're going to focus on an industry, not just, 'okay everybody love organic and natural foods, pay attention of that, and there's some mergers and acquisitions going on over here," but much more in depth than that. Where is the temperature of the market going in the sense of e-commerce may be really important. 

So that's something to check out or everybody understands right now with STEM there's a real lack of engineers and things of that nature, so maybe that's really important, but looking at it holistically and dynamically and really understanding it at a granual level more than just hypothetical and theoretical because if you're looking at this thing like it's going to be so simple, "I find a great person. I find a great opportunity. Match them together and that's it." It is so much more complicated than that, and truly I would say its to be so transparent because you have to remember that you're dealing with people's livelihoods, so one, I think you need to be very confidential, protecting people's resumes if they give you the privilege of having it and looking at it and two, being very upfront with them. You don't want to go through this long process, getting them interviews, and then say "oh, by the way, there is no bonus. That's not really true." So be transparent and honest and I think, when you help the world kind of get what it wants, then the world will give you what you need.

Chris Russell: Good advice. Well, Michael McDonnell from World Recruiters of Columbia, thanks for joining me today. How can people connect with you online? Tell them where to go.

Michael McDonnell: Absolutely, so of course on LinkedIn Michael McDonnell with Global Recruiters Network of Columbia or you can go to GRNColumbia.com and you can find our information there. Love for anybody that is looking for some career advice or possibly new opportunity, give us a call and see if we can help you.

Chris Russell: Yeah. By the way, do your friends hit you up, now that you're a recruiter, for resume and job search advice?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah actually, just a few days ago somebody had just got out of college, a friend of a friend had somebody coming out of college and we're definitely willing to speak with them to see. One, give them advice. Two, see how things are going. Three, kind of give a little, "what if this happened, would you do this?" So yeah, if that happens, then we try to help out in every regard.

Chris Russell: Nice. All right. Well that will do for this edition of the RecTech podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor. Check out jobsintheus.com for your local hiring needs. Follow me on Twitter @chrisrussell or visit rectechmedia.com. You can find the audio and links for this show on our blog.

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