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Lessons From the Frontline of Recruitment and Parenting


Being in agency recruitment is a lot like parenting a three-year-old.

Hear me out while I torture this concept and I think you may agree that my hard-earned parenting skills are invaluable to my recruitment role. There are concepts that I think are equally important whether you’re working or raising your kids. Learnings which have helped me in both of my full-time roles. Considering I’ve been recruiting for three times as long as I’ve been parenting, I guess I should thank my day job for the following lessons:

Set Boundaries and Expectations Early

Clients, candidates and three-year-olds can be capricious and difficult to understand, let alone manage. For your own sanity, and the sake of efficiency and consistency, it’s important to let everyone know what the brief is, what the timeline is and what the deliverables are and make sure everyone is on the same page and in agreement. Or, for a pre-schooler, what their bedtime routine is, when they can run around naked and when it’s appropriate to use their inside voice. Everyone copes better knowing that there’s a plan in place and that someone (you) is accountable for it running smoothly.

Know Your Own Limits

Now you’re committed to a time to deliver – can you really deliver a short-list in 24 hours? Can you really produce a home-made lion suit for dress up day tomorrow given you’ve been told about it at bedtime? (Yes you can, just print off a lion mask, fashion a mane out of an old scarf and a tail out of brown tights, and voila - one lion costume.)

But really, be realistic within the constraints of your limited resources of time, candidate flow etc. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver, a disappointed 3 year old holds a grudge for longer than you think possible, and you’re only as good as your last placement or client contact.

Know When to be Firm and When to Let Things Slide

What’s your bottom line? Do you know what you absolutely won’t budge on, what you have sign-off ability for and what legalities you have to work within? At work, mine is a floor for rates, terms of business, relevant legislation and transparency. At home it’s manners and being kind. Everything else is up for negotiation.


Never, ever should a client or candidate be the one calling you for an update - set a communication plan when taking the brief and stick to it, or better, over-communicate on it. There should be no surprises along the way, and believe me – if you don’t hear anything from your kids in longer than 10 minutes at home, the result is going to be worse than a candidate walking away from a job offer or a client taking the internal option at the last minute.

Stick to the Plan (or Don’t)

We all love a plan and a colour-coded Outlook calendar, but sometimes sticking to the plan means being highly flexible. For example, my plan this week is to deliver on a short-list by Friday so I’ve planned time for screening, interviewing and reference checking in my diary - but we all know that way lies madness! I’ll move things around, Skype interview at night, reference check on the train, do whatever it takes to make the big picture happen and don’t sweat the small stuff.

It’s the same with parenting styles, and it all goes back to knowing what’s important and what to be firm on. Because everyone has a story about the meticulously planned weekend that was shot to heck because the three-year-old didn’t want to get out of her pyjamas or the trip to the zoo that was spent entirely looking at seagulls ($90 in entrance fees and we could have gone to the dump!).

What’s important is that everyone had a good time and the client got the short-list at 4pm on Friday - right?

Commit to Every Minute

Any parent will tell you that they miraculously get 50% more productive and effective at work because a hard deadline of the day care pick-up means that you HAVE to commit every minute to being productive. Sorry, no time for the Game of Thrones round-up today. Multi-tasking has been proven to be an ineffective tactic, so focus on one task for a short-period of time and reap the benefits.

 A quick google search will show that there are numerous blogs devoted to time-management and email techniques to help you with this. And I will add, committing to quality time at home, and not worrying about lack of quantity time, will make you more effective at work. So turn off the phone when you get home and follow France’s lead. The weekends are for family, and your three-year-old can give you a lesson in focus and commitment to mindfulness any day of the week. Have you seen how long a kid can look at a single ant? That’s mindfulness.

Celebrate Success

Nothing is better than a celebratory ring of the bell or a glass of wine at the end of the week to cheer on success. The highs are high but the lows are often in recruitment, so any positives and success should be highlighted. In my other full-time job they call this ‘Positive Parenting”; research shows that focussing on success, good behaviour and highlighting progress rather than failure breeds an environment of positivity and willingness to try harder and be better. So leap up and applaud that placement or successful potty-training day people – it’s all good.

The Final Lesson

My being a perfectionist was driving my pre-schooler crazy and ruining our fun time together, not to mention causing me unnecessary stress at work. My new mantra is “aim for excellence, not perfection”. Because roles get placed or lost, people will be people, and eventually even ‘three-nagers’ turn into 4 year olds.

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