My Chat with Recruiter Colleen in NYC

Colleen is a recruiter in NYC. She has climbed the ranks to her current role as Head of People at Clarity Staffing. She shares her experiences and tips for some of my most commonly received questions.

So let’s get started at the beginning. What did you plan to do after graduation when you were in college?

I started college in the School of Education at Boston College and expected to follow my mom and sister’s footsteps without knowing if it was the right fit for me. During my first year or so, I realized the classroom was not the right fit for me.  I stayed in the school of education, but started focusing on business and psychology and majored in Human Development, focusing on psychology in business and other HR-[human resources] related courses. HR seemed like a decent fit, but I don’t really know if I knew what HR meant at that point.

I graduated in 2009, which was not a great time to be looking for a job. I couldn’t be picky, so I focused on any position in HR support and recruiting. I also had a marketing internship at one point after graduating. I was trying to just get experience and get my feet wet in a corporate setting. I landed a job as a Campus Recruiting Coordinator at a financial firm. I quickly knew this was not my forever goal, but that it was good experience and a good first job. It was heavily administrative, but it was a good opportunity for me to learn from my superiors and it showed me that recruiting was something that I enjoyed. I loved connecting with candidates, but I didn’t love the travel needed to continue on a campus recruiting path.

After that, I started at Clarity Staffing. I didn’t know much about staffing agencies at the time, and what I did know was sort of negative [not everything you hear is true]. I have had so much experience there: hands on recruiting, business development, client management.  I have learned a lot by doing all of these jobs and hopefully I get to help people find their dream jobs.

And what is your title today?

Head of People at Clarity, which is a recent transition for me to an internal management role.  My day is focused on supporting the entire office and its clients. I do some internal HR work and internal recruiting [if you’re looking for a job in HR message me and I will make an introduction].  The position is constantly evolving since it is new to me. It’s good though, because I get to work all sides of the business.

What is the long-term picture for you professionally? Do you know? Do you like what you do?

I am really happy at Clarity. I have been able to make progress and grow. I would like to stay and continue to grow with Clarity. There are a lot of new things coming over into management I would like to watch grow and flourish.  I also like that I can still interact with people I have placed in jobs thanks to our referral network. The referral network enables people who were placed in jobs to refer new candidates to us.

What advice do you have for someone who is trying to get into this field?

Don’t be above any work. Almost every entry level job is going to be administratively focused. An entry-level position in HR is going to include scheduling candidates, meeting and greeting people, preparing candidates and helping your superiors. Entry-level positions are as much an opportunity to gain experience and to learn about the industry and about what HR or recruiting means as they are about what other opportunities there are down the line. Also, HR means so many different things at different companies. You can be super specialized, or one can run everything in human resources for a whole company. Entry-level positions are an opportunity to learn about yourself.

How much would an entry level position pay?

HR assistant/recruiting coordinator roles are typically entry level. They would pay between $35k-$55/60k.  If you are someone with corporate experience looking to transition and can handle a lot, then you may err on the side of recruiting coordinator positions that would potentially pay on the higher end of that spectrum.  You need a lot of grit though. You are going to constantly be running around, scheduling many people, answering the phones, it’s definitely a high pressure role.

What type of positions do you typically place candidates in?

Clarity Staffing focuses on administrative support, HR and marketing. This includes all levels from reception to C-Level [as in CEO]. Lately, we have been expanding into finance and accounting. We place candidates in temporary, temp-to-perm [temporary for now, typically no benefits, but the goal is to bring the candidate on permanently] and permanent positions.

What makes a candidate stand out to you?

Areas we focus on a lot of times are not necessarily skill-based jobs (you don’t necessarily need to use a specific computer program for example). Looking at resumes, we want it to be easy to read, simple and clear. No flash is necessary for most positions. Most recruiters look at resumes for no more than 20 seconds.

Skip the flashy, crazy formatting. Just provide straight forward easy to digest information. Keep your resume as up-to-date as possible. Make sure you use the same tense throughout. Ensure it’s easy to see what company you were working at, the dates you were there and what your title was. Don’t include references.

Where does education go on a resume?

As a general rule, if you graduated in the last year or two, put education at the top. If it’s been longer than that, put it at the bottom.  Realistically, we will find it, the most important thing is that it’s there.

Do you consistently ask candidates any specific questions?

We really want to learn about the candidates. We try to get to know them so we can make the match for them. We know candidates are consistently asked “Tell us about yourself” in interviews, and we try to prepare them for that. You should be an expert on your history. The biggest mistake candidates make is not knowing their own background well enough. You should be able to tell your story with a positive tone, even the parts that you didn’t like much.

Is there anything else you want to share with my audience who are made up of new college grads, career changers and generally people who are at turning points in their lives?

The best advice I can give is to see the value in every position or job you have.  We have candidates come in and despite other issues – not seeming professional, not having the right experience – we can place them if they have a positive attitude.  Make sure to spin everything in a positive light. Everyone learns something from every job, from waiting tables to babysitting. Don’t brush over anything, see the value, don’t get discouraged by taking a wrong path. Find the value.

Also, if you are transitioning to a new career, don’t be above anything in the next step. Your experience may not translate, but five years in the grand scheme of things is nothing.

Act on what you want and where you are genuinely going to be happy. You can make all the money that you want but if you’re miserable it’s not worth it. People who go in and take the chance if it’s something that they truly want to do, they put the energy, time and succeed more and those people grow more.

What tips do you have about interviewing for a job?

The interview starts long before you sit in the conference room – keep that in mind. Be friendly to the people in the elevator. Be friendly to the receptionist. Follow up with thank you notes. These things will set you apart. That’s the goal, find a way to set yourself apart.

We have had candidates that go out for interviews and everything went well, except they were rude to someone in the elevator and it got back to the hiring manager. They were on the phone in the lobby and the receptionist was put off by that. Small things could be the difference.

Even when you’re answering your phone, just answer your phone nicely every time you answer it and you won’t have a problem. You never know what someone is calling to offer you.

What’s the best way to get in touch with you or team?

Anyone who is looking to apply should apply through the website There is a ‘submit your resume’ button – a recruiter will reach out. [Contact me so that I can let Colleen know you are interested]

Recruiting or sales experience – they are hiring internally right now – all teams!

Leave a Comment