Taking it one point at a time

By Mikey DeCourtney Feeney

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“Watch the ball!”, “Concentrate!”, “What the hell are you doing out there?”, “Just give up, you’re actually useless”…. just a few of the G-rated sentences (let’s NOT discuss the R-rated ones) I yell at myself when I’m competing in a tennis tournament, heck, even if it’s just a simple practice session. For anyone who knows me well enough, they know how much of a perfectionist/basket case I am when I play. For the average spectator, it’s a humorous scene unfolding. For my poor mother who followed me around from tournament to tournament when I was kid, it was yet another bratty, stress-inducing and embarrassing outburst that resulted from one thing: trying to achieve the unachievable, perfection.

Ask yourself

In recruitment, the situation can be similar. Rewind two months ago, to the start of June 2016. In the space of two weeks, the number of projects I was working on doubled, from six to twelve. These included difficult, executive talent hires – for example, a Chief Marketing Officer hire for a Series B technology startup, and a Head of Digital for a Series A FinTech. “I can handle all of this, and it will be perfect” I said to myself, with slightly naïve optimism. By the end of June, I felt like I was slightly drowning. Completely stressed, internally screaming at myself when things didn’t go right. Occasionally thinking I was losing my ‘touch’ and doubting my capabilities. Cue to the start of August, I’ve filled the Chief Marketing Officer hire, and am at the finish line with the Head of Digital requirement. In times when things got very tough – what have I learned from this whole journey?

Attention to detail

When the amount of work starts to increase rapidly, your attention to details is the first thing that suffers. You forget to send calendar invites to candidates for interviews. Even worse, you send the candidate the wrong address for an interview. You forget to send Terms of Business to a client. You forget to ask candidates basic questions like notice periods, current visa situation and whether they have any holidays planned in the next 3-6 months. You send a candidate to an interview without giving them an accurate briefing beforehand. I did ALL of those things. I’ve learned that while it takes longer, I need to take my time more. Not paying attention and engaging in assumptive action can result in severe consequences for everyone involved.

Manage expectations

Managing expectations can result in difficult initial conversations. Whether it’s explaining to a client that they will need to pay a higher wage for the candidate they want, or the skill set they want doesn’t exist, or advising a candidate that their salary or role expectations are not realistic in the current market, I’ve learnt it comes down to the notion of it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver. Set expectations from the very start, or as close to the start as you can, to save you having uncomfortable conversations further into the process.

Embrace the pressure and belief in your self-worth

After reaching the Wimbledon semis this year aged 36, my all-time favourite tennis player, Venus Williams, said, “you have to believe in yourself. You just have to”. Recruitment is hard. The ups and downs, the rollercoaster ride, the unexpected successes, the nasty surprises. There are so many times I have questioned my ability, my knowledge within my associated verticals and if I’m still cut out for it – at work and on the court. Then I take a step back and look at my past successes and the relationships I have built. When times get tough, remember the excellent work you’ve done and back yourself to continue do great things.

You can’t do it all…

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Regular and open communication, whether it be with a client, candidate or colleague, reaps many benefits. This may sound like recruitment 101, but it’s so easy to bury yourself in a hole and believe that you have to figure everything out on your own. I’ve learned that the best results are achieved when effective collaboration is in place.

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