In the Beginning: My #truestory of How I Decided to Start Sharing

Today’s post is by Derek Zeller, Sr. Recruiting Lead at comScore, Inc. Derek has been both an agency and corporate technical recruiter, is a senior contributor to Recruiting Daily, a regular contributor to IntrepidNow, and also writes at his own site. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Contrary to popular Twitter lore he is not to be confused with Ted.

The day my life changed in the recruiting community started in a café near old town Alexandria. Kathleen Smith, a friend who ran a Security Cleared job fair in the greater DC Metro area at the time, wanted to talk to me about speaking at a conference called RecruitDC.  She was on the board, worked as the head organizer, and was looking for speakers. For two years in a row I had been honored by the attendees with the prestigious award for recruiter of the year and Kathleen asked if I would speak about my successes in the field. 

I remember her face when I said quite simply, “why would I want to share my secret sauce? I like the fact that most recruiters are horrible, that makes me better.”  Her response was priceless, you are better than that and you have so much to offer the community.” 

I had never really pondered that before. While in public I may come off as quite gregarious, I actually prefer just being home reading, writing, or watching a good movie. I certainly had never considered talking to people about what made me successful - especially at a conference. As a matter of fact, the only conference I had ever been to was an ERE/HR event in San Diego and I was, shall we say, unimpressed. I garnered some cool swag from vendors and listened to ‘thought leaders’ who had not been in recruiting for years tell me how to be a successful recruiter.  It was, for a lack of a better word, preposterous.

Now I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘thought leader’ on any subject. (Well OK; maybe the Star Wars franchise). Frankly, the thought of getting up in front of recruiters, young and old, was terrifying.  What the hell was I going to talk about? What knowledge bomb was I going to drop? What could I say in order to have them walk out of my session thinking that was worth coming to hear?  Then the ideas came to me like some sort of divine intervention (pick your deity). I was inspired!

Share Time

The day of the event arrived. Kathleen had assisted me in setting up the slide deck as I am neither literate with fancy powerpoint presentations nor, although I appreciate art and own quite a bit, am I an artist. As I stared out across the crowded auditorium (literally an Imax theater with me at the bottom) I looked up and got a glimpse of two feet, then the beard, then the hat. Oh boy; not only were two industry heavyweights speaking at this conference (intimidating enough), they were also sitting in my session. No pressure Gerry Crispin and Laurie Ruettimann!

I won't go too in-depth with the details of what I spoke about but the presentation went off well. Not great, but well.  I offended some of the more established third party recruiters when I spoke of making it about the candidate and not themselves. I also saw eyes light up when I talked about counseling a young female programmer who was unaware of her market worth; she was asking for 50k, but our position could offer 65k+ at her level.  An audience member asked “what did you offer her?” and I told them the truth - I offered her 70k. I saw some looks of sincere respect for that statement - especially from the younger recruiters.

After my speech concluded many people of all levels, from beginner to senior level, lined up to thank me for my talk, shake my hand, or just say that it was a very eloquent speech.  Gerry and Laurie grabbed me later in the day to let me know they were both impressed by my address and asked me “where the heck did you come from and why have we not heard of you before?.”  I have to say that to this day, that’s a memory that ranks as one of the tops in my life. 

Most importantly however was the young lady who approached me somewhat sheepishly with her eyes darting up and down trying to not make direct eye contact. It seems though that something took over, she overcame her trepidation, and got out her question: “Would you be willing to mentor me? I’m the only recruiter in my company, and I can’t afford to go to training.”  I was taken aback that by sharing the stories and challenges that brought me to this moment I had made such a connection with a fellow recruiter. I smiled, handed her my card, and suggested she call me the next day to set something up.


Back in 2000, there was a little-known movie about a teacher giving an assignment to his students; they need to figure out a way to change the world for the better. In this film, Pay it Forward, one small boy devised a plan focused on helping at least three people without expectation of payment - just tell them they need to go help three more people. 

It’s a powerful film. 

I have, since that day speaking at RecruitDC, helped pay it forward in our industry both publicly and privately without ever asking for anything. I just help others along the way. I want to give back and make our profession the best it can be.

I admit that years ago I railed against ever helping other recruiters; I saw no value add for me. However I have learned over the years that selfishness gets you nothing but loneliness. 

We are a tribe and a community. We work in a profession that, unlike many others out there, has a shot at changing people's lives. And now, with communities such as this one, we can be here for each other and we can learn from each other.


Robin SchoolingComment