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Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.
Eric: I have been married to Susanne for 28 years — which is almost half my life, We live in the Sunset District of San Francisco. We can see the Pacific Ocean from the second floor deck of our home. We have two sons. Max is 24 and Jack is 21. They both live in San Francisco. From our home, I can jog up into Golden Gate Park, out to the ocean and back to the house in a five mile loop. It’s a great way to start the day.
Growing up in Chicago, I visited the Art Institute frequently. I was particularly drawn to the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. As a small boy, I made a pledge to myself that if the opportunity ever came my way, I would go to France to see where these masters created their works.
Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, and the generosity of a dear friend, I have been able to visit France for two weeks in ’07 and two weeks in ’08. We spent time in the last three towns where Vincent lived and visited Monet’s estate at Giverny as well as the museums in Paris which display their works including the Musée d’Orsay, Musée de L’Orangerie and the Musée Marmottan.
I read a number of books on the artists before and after the trips. There’s a very interesting contrast between the anti-social Van Gogh, who died at 37, and the gregarious Monet, who lived into his 80’s and donated major works to the nation of France.
Needless to say, I have become quite a buff and can explain the differences between Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (this painting is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and was created from memory while he was housed at the asylum in St. Remy in 1889) and “Starry Night Over The Rhone” (done in ‘plein air’ in Arles in 1888 and houses in the d’Orsay). Okay, I see your eyes are glazing over. I’ll stop now [Laughs].
Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
Eric: I have been in recruiting for more than twenty years.
Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?
Eric: I started way back in ’88 at a firm called Sales World. It was a contingency firm filling sales positions which has subsequently gone out of business. It was, for the most part, a great way to get training in the field of recruitment. There were methods and metrics for everything.
Each recruiter was assigned a “desk.” For a while, I worked “packaging” and came to know every purveyor of corrugated containers in the San Francisco Bay Area. In other words, they encouraged industry specialization. They also taught candidate and client control. The Sales World style might have been a bit old fashioned … maybe a bit “used care sales” in tone. But the concepts behind the style (like consistency of effort) were extremely valid.
Then I was recruited to a much higher end firm, The BridgeGate Group, in ’89 when it was the largest privately owned search firm in the state of California. I worked in the San Francisco office. We had the entire 37th floor of the Transamerica Pyramid. It was a pretty posh location. It was interesting working in the Financial District, wearing wool suits and silk neck ties every day. I was in the office when the earth quake hit in ’89.
At The BridgeGate Group, the focus was on providing real search services for client companies. My practice migrated from contingency to retained. There was a lot of cross training going on there. We taught each other how to finesse certain situations and how to “thought lead” the client companies to make a decision. The entire style was much more subtle and sophisticated than Sales World.
About ’93 or so, I was promoted to Team Leader in charge of a small group in the functional area of Manufacturing and Operations. That played to my interest in how things are made. My group placed people with Applied Materials, Johnson & Johnson and Wrigley, among many others.
Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?
Eric: In ’95, a colleague passed a lead to me. She was placing software people with IBM and they needed a Purchasing Manager for the Boulder, Colorado, facility. That was where they were doing software duplication, manual printing and kitting for internal and external consumption. Remember, this was before internet speeds made downloading software easy, cheap and quick.
I went to meet the prospective client wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red power tie … the iconic IBM uniform of the time. The client was wearing a sport shirt and slacks. We hit it off. He selected me for the assignment. Then I initiated the search. I did significant telephone recruiting, went to the Boulder area, interviewed several candidates and went to the IBM facility to make a report. We found a terrific candidate at Coor’s Beer who was subsequently hired.
After a while I realized that I had successfully placed with one of the “brass nameplate” companies and the people from that company never cared about the wool suit or the posh office or collegial rapport of the firm. It was my own ability to understand the position skills needed and the interpersonal chemistry desired — plus the basic diligence to do the recruiting work and give them enough choices to make them happy. Shortly thereafter, I left the BridgeGate, where I was surrendering half my fees for the office space and training and award trips and hung out my own shingle.
I’ve been operating independently since March of ’96.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your compay, Jackson Maxwell Raynard
Eric: I am a Vice President at Jackson Maxwell Raynard, a boutique recruitment firm headquartered in San Francisco. We specialize in technical and operations positions with companies making sports and recreation equipment. Most are “back of the house” positions. We work from individual contributor level up to Vice President and have placed with such identifiable brands as Samsonite, Victorinox, Precor, CamelBak, Yakima, JanSport, Spyder and Schwinn.
Six Degrees: Can you detail how the recession has affected your particular industry niche?
Eric: About four months ago, I got calls from four people who had been laid off – all before lunch! It got me thinking. I should provide information for candidates to help them with my client companies, such as interview preparation, including what kinds of questions to expect and how to answer those questions. That type of coaching could be of value to people who are between careers or looking to upgrade their positions.
Simultaneously, I started blogging. There are simple, discreet lessons one learns in the recruiting field. Like how to answer the dreaded money question or how to research a company before going in for the interview. I am at the place where I want to share that knowledge, either in a one on one coaching session or in the broader context of a web posting. So today I have broadened my service offering to include all forms of career coaching.
Six Degrees: Aside from simply the generic term “Networking” what specific efforts have you made on your own behalf, or on behalf of colleagues to broaden your opportunities.
Eric: I have about 12,000 records in my database. That probably represents more than 9.000 separate individuals. So that’s where my networking starts. Additionally, I am a frequent user of LinkedIn and belong 13 groups including Linked: HR, Outdoor Sporting Goods Connection and World Cycling Industry.
Six Degrees: Given your own Trial and Error experiences as a Networker, what advice do you have for your peers on what NOT to do?
Eric: The written word is different than the spoken word. Without tone of voice, it’s very easy to misinterpret things. Be careful what you write because it can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Use language that’s family friendly. If you are expressing an opinion or point of view, I recommend you do so in a gentle fashion. It’s amazing to me, when you follow the strings of comments, that a simple question like “Are Human Resource professionals liberal or conservative?” can elicit such strong back and forth debate. Seems like some people have just too much time on their hands.
Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?
Eric: No question about it, this economy has reduced the amount of hiring and, therefore, the amount of ongoing retained search work available. Prospective clients have invited me to participate on a contingency basis and, at least for now, I’ve resisted the temptation because it feels like going backward.
I have all this experience and talent to bring to an assignment … and I can provide a more comprehensive service if I conduct a comprehensive search. So my next career goal is to return to “those thrilling days of yesteryear “ — when retained search was at least a strategic option for urgent, critical hires.
In my heart of hearts, I believe there’s a lot of pent up demand for a quality service geared to hiring quality people in key contributing rolls and I think (and hope) the tide will turn before 2010. I guess that’s the stubbornly optimistic part of me.
It’s important to communicate the value proposition of search. Even in a down economy. Because the economy won’t be down forever and the less expensive, less customer friendly options (like internet postings and contingency search) will diminish in usage because there is very little value added in those ways.
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