If a recruitment or sales job has ever intimidated you, you wouldn’t be alone. It’s almost mystifying how a recruiter or salesperson can connect with people with such ease, network flawlessly, and close a deal; and even more so when they are successful and have lucrative paydays on top of it. So, what about when you transition from Recruiter to Sales Executive? Do you train to sell? It does take a certain personality it seems to make it work – or perhaps it’s more about “outworking” those around you.
We enjoyed speaking with Michele Beilman from Matlen Silver about how her journey starting as an entry-level recruiter in the IT staffing sector transformed into an executive position managing the sales and operations of the entire Southeast for her organization.
Michele’s fresh take and honest feedback about her career advancement shows us that with some elbow grease, a strong work ethic – and perhaps working on a Saturday or two – you can set yourself up for success as you start your recruiting career.
Entry-level Recruiter: No Experience Necessary
As Michele celebrates her 8-year anniversary with Matlen Silver, we asked how she got there:
I came from a role in Property management in Charlotte. This was a very tense job managing HOAs and being on call for issues from who had too many flowerpots on their front lawn to towing neighbors’ vehicles. It almost felt like the violation police. Then a contact I had told me about a good opportunity for networking and building relationships with people looking for jobs. He thought I might be a great fit and that I could make a good living doing it. So, he connected me with Matlen Silver as a recruiter.
I did not know anything about being a recruiter. But I was a fast study and quickly loved it. I did it for two years and really had no intention of stepping away. I just loved being a recruiter.
I was then however approached by leadership to transition to Sales – I really had to be nudged but I moved forward and it proved to be a good move. I was in that role for a couple of years and was then promoted to run my account nationally. Then the opportunity to manage the Southern region for Sales and Operations came up and I stepped into the role, which I am in currently.
You came in as a recruiter, and we will talk more about the nuances of recruiting in a moment, but how did the jump to sales work for you?
I was in recruiting for two years and frankly I wanted to be in recruiting forever – I loved it. It fit my personality and how I work and it fed my competitive nature.
But we needed salespeople in Charlotte and leadership approached me. And it was daunting; as a recruiter, it was one thing to connect with individuals on the phone and via computer contacts; it’s another to have to meet with clients, be in front of them and, “sell”. It wasn’t me but leadership needed someone to step into the role.
So, I did it and wound up loving that too. And it helped that I had been a recruiter for two years. The conversations that I could have with hiring managers were very different than the ones my competitors were having who did not have that recruiting background. When they were telling me about role needs, I was thinking in a recruiting mindset of qualifying that need and how my recruiting team would go about solving that need.
It worked well. Hiring Managers connected with me, because I could understand their needs from a different perspective. By asking the right questions, it allowed me to take more of a consultative approach because of my background. For instance, I could understand what they needed in a skill set because I knew what that skill set looked like in the market and therefore could provide concrete suggestions. I also had insight into what the market was doing in certain areas because of the cross-knowledge of other company initiatives and their timelines. So, when another company’s initiative closed, I knew those resources were soon going to become available.
Having the edge of recruiting helped me become successful.
Before you came to Matlen, your job seemed to be one of putting out fires. Yet, recruiting can also be challenging – did it feel the same?
When I started in the southern branch, it was a bit smaller back then, so we worked very closely with other regions. I was putting out fires but in a different way.
You had more individual autonomy to set your own pace – to work as fast as you wanted to without having to wait on decisions by committee. It worked for me because I enjoy a fast-pace, and I am competitive so I was able to align my recruiting style and schedule with my target audience and when they were available.
I always tried to put myself into the mind of the people I was recruiting.
Candidates were at work all day, and couldn’t really be interrupted for recruiting activity during that time. I made myself available when they were available, which meant later nights and weekends. That type of schedule might not work for everyone but for me, I wanted to advance and it paid off. If I can come in on Saturday, I can be the only call that those consultants get that day. I would structure my days so that I could outwork other recruiters.
What skills do you need to be a good recruiter?
- You have to be organized. That’s #1. The more organized you are, the faster you can work. Most companies looking for tech staffing are working on the same initiatives – whether it’s agile transformation or beefing up cybersecurity. You are often recruiting for similar skill sets – if you are organized, you can manage that cross-over, based on how you structure your talent pipelines and how you network with them.
- Hard-working – if you want to focus on building yourself in the industry, you have to outwork the other recruiters. Think about how many recruiters there are in the US, let alone the whole world? How are you going to differentiate yourself? Are you creative with your messaging to get people to open your emails? Are you available when they are available?
- Good People Skills – having the ability to talk and connect with people and making it about them and not about you.
If you wanted to become a recruiter, do you have to bring a Rolodex with you, or can you build it after you have accepted the role?
You build it. Definitely.
What can a good year-one recruiter earn?
Year 1 is building. You have to get a bunch of people on billing and then start stacking your headcount. Back when I started, the start-up was small and pay scale was lower. Today’s starting recruiters have a higher base, so now is a great time to enter the industry; but with earnings, as a recruiter you have to look at what you are building.
Because at Year 2, with now a good foundation and steady stream – you could easily make six-figures. It can be a lucrative industry if you put in the work. It’s not the same promotion-based salary increase that takes Master’s Degrees or years of experience to advance.
Recruiting rewards you on a successful efforts basis.
Transitioning to a new role
Moving through your career path onto your next role in Sales, what’s the competitive environment – are you looking for exclusive roles or are you selling against other staffing businesses and then the speed of who fills the role first gets the commission?
You have to put yourself in a position where you are selling externally in a way that you are selling internally.
When I am out as sales manager trying to set meetings, these same hiring managers are getting calls from 10, 20 other firms to get meetings as well. So, tapping into my recruiting background, I have to find a way to differentiate my reach out to the managers, which meant engaging in different activities. Going to networking events and meeting people organically to make relationship connections rather than cold-calling. Getting in front of somebody, drawing out the best role information from the manager, and making sure it becomes the top job on the recruiting board so that all the best recruiters want to fill my role vs. all the other salespersons’ jobs.
For instance, tactics such as 48-hour exclusive rights to roles, allows me to tell a client, “Ok, give me 48 hours exclusively to recruit for this role and I will have five qualified candidates at the end of the 48-hour mark, with interviews set up.” Then we push for designated interview time slots from the manager, so that managers commit and are prepared, and know that the interview timeframe is on their calendar for Tuesdays at 2 PM, as opposed to ad-hoc appointments.
It’s enticing to the recruiting side that we have exclusive “rights” and they are eager to fill it.
It’s competitive externally against other firms who also want to fill the hiring managers’ requisitions, but also competitive internally against the other salespeople on my team to get the best recruiting coverage.
My recruiting background also gave me a large network to underscore my success with hiring managers early on. For instance, if a hiring manager needed a certain Java developer, already having that candidate network, I would have someone in mind. It helped move things quickly. There are a lot of benefits to being in recruiting before moving into sales: to learn the technology, to build your network, to qualify needs with a consultative approach. I felt very well-prepared with an advantage.
So not only did you move from Recruiting to Sales, you then moved from Sales to Sales and Operations? What does that entail?
In sales, when I was National Account Manager, I tried to look for efficiencies. When I came into the role, I noticed we were siloed and not communicating, so I made it a point to partner wholly and connect the dots across all segments for the client. This allowed us to be more strategic. So, because of how the account was transformed, when the regional Sales and Ops position opened, I was offered that.
As the SVP of Sales and Ops for the Southern Region (GA, FL, NC, TX), I oversee the sales and deliveries within those regions and manage the account health of the larger clients that fall within those regions.
Are you behind a desk or are you out in the field, in both recruiting and sales?
As a recruiter, in the beginning, I was behind a desk 100% of the time. But quickly six months in, as I built relationships with salespeople, I was able to join them in meetings with hiring managers to gain perspective directly from the source. It created familiarity and trust, and my sales counterparts were able to be confident that I could fill what they wanted. It’s not a job requirement to be out in front of the client, but it was definitely something that helped in the game.
In sales, the name of the game is to be out and visible! If you are in the office sitting behind your desk, there are 10 other salespeople rubbing elbows with your hiring manager contact. Most of my day is to be out, networking with clients, attending meetings, connecting with people over lunches, and working in areas that are very visible. You can perform admin duties that we all have to do, from a location in close proximity to the client (like the coffee shop in their building!)
Does working for a well-established brand give you immediate credibility as a recruiter and salesperson?
Yes, I would agree. Hiring from less well-known organizations, it’s great to be working with a firm that is up-and-coming and land business from smaller companies, but it’s easier to land new accounts when you have name recognition and a premier client portfolio behind you. When you already have let’s say three major retail client accounts, it’s much easier to land the fourth.
If a person is looking to transition from recruiting, are they looking for more Sales or Ops opportunities?
As a Recruiter, a sales role is a good next step for advancement, in addition to other recruiter-side roles such as the Recruiting Lead, Manager, Peer Support, if you want to consider staying on the recruiting side.
As for operations, there are a lot of opportunities to segue your recruiting career to that side. For instance, training new hires, ongoing training for recruiters and salespeople, working with HR for onboarding and compliance; working on the audits for clients. A lot of recruiting skills can translate to new roles here.
Outside of the staffing/resourcing life, there are also transitional roles in procurement, supply chain management. Recruiting skills align with many different operational avenues.
How about training? Should anyone pursue training, certification, or licensing when they consider moving into a recruiting role?
I would honestly say your time is better spent jumping into the deep end and getting that on-the-job training.
Of course, when I first joined Matlen Silver, I was nervous about the technology part of my job knowledge. I tried to self-educate, especially about recruiting for technology positions. My eyes were blurry reading Java code to understand that role I would be responsible for placing!
I quickly realized, though, I wasn’t required to know all the technical details of those positions; I only had to understand it to be able to talk about and connect with people. And naturally, the more you are in it, the more you learn about the technologies you are recruiting for, and the deeper you can get and the more specialized you can become.
But it’s what you can learn on the job. You’ll learn more by doing, than acquiring a bundle of certifications.
A rewarding career lies ahead
What’s your favorite part about the industry as a whole?
I just love it. I think of it as a big match-making game, figuring out from our clients “what are their pain points, what are their gaps?” And then going to the market and our pipeline and finding the best person to match that. I have met so many people from being a recruiter and on the sales side, that my network is huge. I always have a selection of people to reach out to who are willing to help me, because at some point in time I helped them find a job, or fill a role on their team, or connected them to someone else.
It’s the people aspect that I love the most and the connections that I make.
What’s the most frustrating part of the job?
Selling a “product” you can’t control from end-to-end because your product is people. Things happen with people and in life. They get a better job offer or something else comes up. Nothing was more painful to me in sales because I was the face of the candidate I was presenting. So, making that phone call to the hiring manager that a person is passing on an offer or they are canceling the interview because they got a better opportunity, was very tough.
But, I understood it was also the nature of the industry, and especially with a hot market, that’s how it goes. Again, having a recruiting background, allows you to flip to more of a consultative role with your clients as well as your candidates. You can counsel clients on the available candidates out there, what the pay rate needs to be to fill the position, etc.; and with candidates, you coach them on what they need to do if they want the position.
Looking ahead, in an unprecedented hot market – is there a huge need to manage expectations?
Yes, and with the pandemic, there was a whole new layer to things.
For instance, when I meet with clients and ask about their return-to-work procedure, some are considering more flexibility with remote opportunities; others are steadfast that they will be in the office 9-5, Monday-Friday, no exceptions. And I must counsel them on the reality that in this current climate, that’s not where the consensus is, most of their competitors are adapting to the new way of flexible work, and they will, unfortunately, get left behind.
Even for us internally, we look at our sales team and recruiters and have to address how we can support them to work in the type of environment that they want to work in. Being flexible about where we allow people to sit, has opened up our hiring geography tremendously. COVID forced us to be super-virtual, and super-efficient about being virtual, and it has helped us to work better together and collaborate more than we used to. We no longer took for granted that we could connect in passing in the hallway, so we didn’t have as much deliberate connecting. Now our meetings are targeted and we are synched up more than before.
What would you say to someone considering getting started in Recruiting?
There’s no better time to be a recruiter than right now; you can make more money in this industry than you ever could before, even just starting off.
You can select the type of work flexibility that you want. Even after the leaning of workforces that occurred at the onset of the pandemic, we have come full-cycle, hiring has opened back up and there’s lots of work to do.