Executive Recruiter Stephanie O’Hayre shares her career story, offering insider advice about the path to staffing success.
How did you get into staffing?
Just like anybody, I came into staffing unexpectedly. I started working early in life at a physician office and continued there throughout high school and college. By the time I graduated college, I already had a 10 year resume and was one of the office’s billing managers. So when my husband and I were moving to California, I naturally sought jobs in medical billing. I applied for a position with Robert Half, assuming it was a doctor’s office. The person who interviewed me explained that she was recruiting for several different medical facilities. She asked if I had considered a career outside of office administration. My college degree is in Neuroscience, all I knew was tied to the medical field, and I had no idea what opportunities existed outside of healthcare.
The recruiter painted a picture for me of how temporary staffing works and all the ways it impacts business as well as people’s livelihood. She said I’d be a perfect fit for their healthcare division and had me interview with several other managers. It was a whirlwind and exciting experience, and I decided I really wanted to be a part of their team. At the time, I didn’t even know that I was in one of the biggest Robert Half offices in the country, in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district, and that I would be joining the company’s flagship office for healthcare staffing. That’s how it began.
Over the years I’ve worked in companies large and small. At a family-owned staffing firm I got to wear every hat: answer every phone call, input every application, conduct all the interviews, coordinate documents and benefits, act as HR and employee relations. If there isn’t a policy or procedure in place, you have to create it. This role really taught me how to be resourceful, think fast on my feet, and keep everything moving.
As an account manager and corporate recruiter, I enjoyed going on client visits. It was eye-opening for me, showing what temporary staffing can be – you can be so influential with very different types of companies.
One of the things I’ve learned about staffing is that you might encounter something you’ve never done before and if the opportunity comes across your desk, you could become part of something huge. While working with CORESTAFF, I became aware of an RFP with an insurance provider headquartered in the Denver Tech Center. With the help of fantastic senior leadership, I responded to their RFP. I did some major sales presentations, something I had never done at that caliber. We had senior VPs flying in from all over the country to help in the process. We ended up winning the account – our company’s largest on-site account win of that year, and I subsequently won Sales Person of the Year. All of a sudden, I became a Program Manager for one of the most sought-after headquarters in the Denver marketplace. I learned what it takes to create an on-site relationship and be completely dedicated to a single company’s staffing needs. I also became familiar with national account management and VMS and MSP. I’ve never worked harder in my life. I was burning the candle on both ends, but was so excited about what I was learning and how many people were collaborating with this young manager to make this program work.
Later down the line, I transitioned to remote corporate recruiting.
What I discovered is that you can still be very entrenched and impactful as a virtual employee. The company was phenomenal in letting me work the way I wanted to work and still be a resource.
When Robin Mee found me, it made perfect sense to join Mee Derby since they cater to the staffing industry, and I already had a network of staffing professionals across the country that I had built with my former staffing firms.
And here we are today – I now have under my belt traditional recruiting, sales, implementation, on-site management, national account management, MSP, VMS, RPO, virtual, corporate recruitment, and executive recruitment. All because I applied to a medical billing job!
How have your years with Mee Derby developed your staffing expertise?
My years with Mee Derby habe been an invaluable learning experience. When doing internal recruiting for a company, you’re limited to that organization. Mee Derby gave me the ability to connect with executive level talent at any time and place in the country and connect them with other opportunities. I have learned so much about different types of staffing companies, different levels of workforce solutions. This job connects me with the major MSP players in North America, regional rapidly-growing staffing companies, all the way up to global power companies. It’s been a huge, exciting challenge to get to know all the opportunities in staffing.
In my previous recruiting work, if I had a really good candidate in a certain location and they didn’t get that one job at my company, there was nothing further I could do for them. But with Mee Derby, it totally changed the game. Just because I may not get you a job with company x, I can still actively market you to all these other companies. It has changed the relationships I have with candidates. At Mee Derby, I work more directly and long-term with candidates. The on-going relationship piece and my value-added as a strategic resource to these individuals has risen to a higher tier.
With time, the pieces come together, bringing the perfect fit to fruition for a candidate. And I love being able to offer the client multiple resources too. I also enjoy collaborating with the Mee Derby team; we all work together to build as strong a candidate pipeline for our clients as we can, and for the candidates, pipelines of opportunity.
You never know how a placement will come together. When it does, it’s great to see the right thing fall into place. It’s exciting every time – it has never lost its magic for me.
How have you seen the industry change over the years?
Nothing else has impacted it like social media. When I started, the only way to find new candidates was on job boards. They had to post their resume and want to be found. There were amazingly creative ways to headhunt, like opening the phonebook and dialing random numbers for an office’s extension lines. It was just very time consuming. Blindly cold-calling a company, you have zero knowledge about how talented or skilled that individual may be. It took so much more time to build a database of reliable, placeable candidates. As soon as social media blew up and people were willingly posting their resumes and backgrounds out there, it was amazing how much easier it became to find the people you want to talk to and vet passive candidates.
Social media has also changed the ideology of being open to reaching out. Before social media, if I got wind of a passive candidate and called them blind, there was this wall, like “Who are you? Why are you calling?” People were often put off by it. Doors would be slammed in your face, phones hung up in your ear. Today, even if I cold call somebody, there’s a much warmer reception. There’s much more openness to having exploratory conversations. Even in a short phone call with someone who might not be interested, they will at least say, “Not now, but let’s stay in touch. Send me an invite on LinkedIn.”
The ideology has changed for me too. When I started using social media professionally, I remember wondering why a stranger would request to add me on LinkedIn. Today, only 5 years later, my colleagues and I are LinkedIn Open Networkers, which means we will connect with anyone who sends us an invite. You never know when a connection might help you.
Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in staffing?
It’s amazing how large the staffing industry is, yet full of people who just fell into it! That’s why I’m glad Robin is leading the ASA Staffing as a Career Taskforce. Staffing is an amazing learning environment to understand all kinds of business.
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Ask lots of questions. Almost all of my successes in staffing happened with me starting on a path that I had no idea where it was going, or the scope of what I was doing.
This particular segment of the business world, the staffing realm, is probably the best learning ground for understanding all different types of business, for getting exposure to all these things you don’t know. If you’re really interested in getting that third party view on the business world, staffing is an amazing way to get visibility and experience.
What are your hobbies and passions?
Hiking, skiing, playing volleyball, going to the theater, and being active with my family. Both my husband and I come from large families, and I’m a firm believer in the ties of family and the lessons you learn being a part of a much larger whole.
This advice from Sandra Bullock totally nails how my career in staffing has succeeded:
“Always choose people that are better than you. Always choose people that challenge you and are smarter than you. Always be the student.”
Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn.