David Schueneman: "The statement, ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is the biggest killer in any industry."

December 23rd, 2016
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“The statement, ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is the biggest killer in any industry.”
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David is one of those rare people in the business world that is wonderfully candid. He’ll call it exactly as he sees it, and the man doesn’t hold back. It’s why every conversation with him is refreshing and optimistic.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Well, I’ve been a recruiter almost my entire adult life. 27 years in the industry now.

Wow, that’s some perseverance.

(I cut out another “well” here) Recruiting is my passion, I love it. I mean, I’d better if I’ve been in it as long as I have.

I’m sure you’ve also seen an incredible amount. (amount of what?)

Very true. I’ve been a student of human nature my entire life.

I suppose recruitment is just watching humans and making informed decisions. 

Yes, thank you! When I was a kid, my early recollection of who I was and what I was doing was recruiting.

I have visions of you in a suit as a toddler.

I wasn’t that cool. Keep in mind this was way before kids had smart phones.  As a child I would have a list of kids and I’d call them or ride my bike around the neighbor hood, recruiting kids to meet at the park, and depending on who showed up that day, we would decide once we got there what game to play.  So whether we played a game of basketball or softball or football would depend on the number of kids I recruited to hang out.

I guess ‘always be closing’ really is true with you. 

Ha! It was ten years into my career when I remembered that and realized I’d been closing since I was a kid.

So for you recruitment is a study in humans? 

If it’s done well, absolutely. People will always act in their own perceived self-interest and understanding this will avoid surprises down the road. This is not the business for surprises.

What do you mean?

Well, as a recruiter, we understand that pain is the greatest motivator. Whatever their pain is, as recruiters, it’s our responsibility to identify that, and alleviate it. It could be any number of things, like not having jobs or being unhappy in your current position.  From our client’s perspectives, pain is not having positions filled within certain timelines or not having the right fit for a certain job etc.

It’s our responsibility to love what we do and be passionate about it.  So we care about each side, the client’s pain and the candidates pain. It’s then our job to connect the dots where we can to alleviate the pain when we can.  And  it’s important that we’re honest about that.

If a candidate has shortcomings they can’t yet see, how do you still alleviate that pain? 

With candor. What the corporate world has far too little of is candor. I think by being very candid, in essence, applying tough love to every aspect of this so that people aren’t believing one thing and the reality is another thing.

People argue that recruitment is too cutthroat. Do we have too much candor? 

You see, I do agree with that, but, there has to be decorum, you have to let them down softly. Just because a candidate isn’t right for this position, doesn’t mean they’re off my radar for something that is a better fit.  I apply the same consideration to the client as well.  You have to enable the person to walk away from that potential relationship, and we never want to let go of a candidate. Especially in a candidate driven market.

You have to know when to say, ‘I can help you further down the line’, or ‘there’s a guy here who can help you instead’.

And what about the stereotype of recruiters? It seems to still be a dirty word. 

Ha, yeah! But that’s the beauty of being a great recruiter that treats people with respect. We are dispelling that myth of “Head Hunter being a four letter word by facilitating those healthy relationships between our clients and our candidates.

But it’s true in any industry, like the Doctor playing god, or the lawyer thinking they can fix everything. At the end of the day, it’s the ones who can handle that aspect of it, the good and the bad PR.

What about the cowboys of the talent world? 

Those are not the people that last 27 years.  They don’t care about being able to articulate pain and fix it?

What do you need to be one of the great ones in business?

A human element. You have to have compassion.

What’s important for you when you’re hiring into business? 

Likes hires likes, this term is used a lot around here. It’s what everyone else states as the culture fit. In recruiting emotional intelligence is huge. Making sure within their EI the recruiting attributes apply. That recruiting is in their nature the way it was with me oh so many years ago.

Are you the same guy at home and in the office? 

Definitely! I have 2 seniors in high school who are entering college with declared majors, because I make it at point at home to hone in on their strengths, just like I do with candidates.

Is there room for a private life and business life? Does it all have to merge now? 

I think it has merged a bit. It definitely has in my company. Our company really embraces our spouces and children with family friendly holiday parties, vacation homes, and annual company vacations when goals are being met.  Our hula hoop is large, if someone at the company is in need, we have the Friends In Needprogram, and organization within CPS that lends a hand during trying times.

I think I’d like to work for you. How do you think business is changing?

I think it’s the virtual piece. More and more people are asking for flexibility, which is a bit of a danger for recruiting too by the way. Some of the industries can’t find people in their geographic locations and need to hire someone to work remotely.  That can be a worrisome thing, even for myself.  We have a handful of recruiters that work remotely.  This wouldn’t have been the industry norm just 10 years ago.

Surely that’s a good thing for recruiting?

For me hiring recruiters yes. But when a client can run an ad and find somebody in America to work in the UK., they can have a Skype meeting and employ them the next day, and cut us out of the equation. But at the end of the day, I believe to find true talent requires a search and that will be the case for years and years to come.

Why do you think it requires a search? 

Because an ad can find the best person on the market, but a search finds the best person in the market.

How do you merge the traditional and the millennial worlds?

Pay attention. You must pay attention.  I want to learn from the millennials.   I want to hear what they have to say. They were taught differently than I was. The statement “we’ve always done it that way” is the biggest killer in any industry.

What was the biggest mistake you ever made?

Not listening. You’ve got two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak. I still make this mistake. Early on in my career, I would boldly go into places, instead of surveying the area first and listening to what people were saying. Now I love asking the right question, and then sitting back and taking it all in. Pointed questions. Cornering questions.

I believe you’re not perceived to be a thought provoking intelligent person by the statements you make, but by the questions you ask.

What does The Movement mean to you personally? 

I’ve been a fortunate man in that the first recruiting job I ever got was with CPS Incorporated. It is a big recruiting firm with a diversified portfolio. It has many recruiters in it with a massive reach. I’ve always had a network of professionals to talk with, laugh with, cry with and to brainstorm with. What The Movement has enabled, is connecting a number of agency recruiters with one another who otherwise wouldn’t have been in contact, and that’s an amazing thing.

Also, here’s a big pet peeve for me, the communication gap between talent acquisition, HR, and agency recruiting. The Movement has enabled a connection between the three. It’s my life’s work to bridge that gap. To let talent acquisition understand that we’re not the enemy, we’re a teammate. I want to connect the dots a little better, it’s what I’ll be working on from now until I retire. That communication gap needs to close.

Are we just a big family that needs to work together more?

100%. I’m a sentimental guy. The Movement is helping bridge that gap.

During your time in recruitment, has there been something that’s made you a better person?

Yeah definitely. Learning how to ask a question, and when to ask a question is a big deal. Early in a recruiter’s life, they’re scared to ask the tough questions because they want to avoid confrontation or bad news. Later on in a recruiter’s journey, they’re scared to not ask the tough questions straight away. That’s something I’ve really applied to my life. Get to the “no”.

Just get to the no.

Would you like to work in recruitment in London?