Faces of HR

The Fulfilling Life of a Recruiter

So far, “Faces of HR” has focused on HR generalists. Today, we have something a little different: a professional with 20 years of recruiting experience. She discusses the joys of recruiting, critical trends, and trusting her gut when sitting across from a candidate.

Debbie Gunning, Head of Talent, Human Interest

Meet Debbie Gunning, Head of Talent at Human Interest. While she is responsible for a wide range of HR duties, she came up in recruiting, and that is still the focus of her job.

How did you get started in your career?

“I stumbled upon recruitment really early in my career. The Silicon Valley was just taking off, and a friend said, ‘Hey, I think you might be really good at this job called recruitment.’

“I had been in an outside sales role right out of college, so I didn’t even know much about recruiting or what recruiters do. I interviewed with a technical placement company in the Silicon Valley and got hired. They trained me, and I started learning how to hire and place contract software engineers for an agency.”

What do you like about recruiting?

“I love the empowerment involved in recruitment. We get to help people make one of the bigger decisions they make in life: a job change. It’s not to be taken lightly. It’s a huge decision for people, and you get to know them really well during the whole process. And you help guide them through it and decide to come to a place that hopefully is going to be a really good fit for them and be a good career. It’s super fulfilling.”

Yeah. What would you think is the most important trend in recruiting right now?

“I think it’s shifted. For a long time, recruiting was pretty much about just getting people hired. Now, I think there’s a lot more thought put behind the match and making sure it’s absolutely a good fit from all sorts of different angles. As we see that evolve more, we start seeing tools and technology that help find people who are going to get different perspectives and different angles.”

Do you trust your gut when you’re talking to candidates?

“I trust my gut immensely. Even more so over the years, as I have learned from the times that I have not trusted my gut feeling.  With that said, it’s one of several things that I rely on when I am trying to determine if a candidate is going to be a good fit or not. ”

How does the addition of technological solutions fit within your personal touch for recruiting people?

“I think you develop your own process and style over time when it comes to finding people for your organization. Then, you supplement that with the right tool. It might differ per organization to be able to help you assess and have access to candidates.”

You’ve had the opportunity to really watch the organization that you built grow. Can you just talk about that?

“Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, it even applies here at Human Interest because we’ve doubled in size since I started working here 6 months ago. We are a super-high-growth start-up. Watching it grow feels super fulfilling because we watch these teams start taking shape, and we watch the business bring really good people in the door.

“It’s really fulfilling to watch that because a lot of what we do here at Human Interest is very good for the world; we’re providing 401(k)s to the employees of small and midsize businesses. We’re a mission-driven company, and we tend to look for people to join the organization who are mission-driven, as well. We want the mission to really resonate with them and make sure that they feel good about what we’re doing out there in the world.

“That approach tends to shape a really nice culture and a really good group of people. It’s so fulfilling, and you are just super proud to watch an organization scale this quickly in a short amount of time.”

What do you think is something that leaders don’t understand about your role?

“At Human Interest, I’ve found that the leadership team here is so invested in the hiring process and wants to be a partner. I think you may find that other leaders don’t understand that it really is a partnership and that to be successful working with the talent team, you partner, and you consult with each other, and you help each other along the way. You don’t just kind of throw your openings over the fence to a talent team and say, ‘Hey, here you go. Let’s go hire these. Please go get them; it’s on you.’”

Is there anything you don’t think you’ll ever forget about your time in recruiting professionally?

“One comes to mind in the past year when somebody remembered that I brought her into the organization 4 years prior. There was an all-hands-type meeting, and this person got up and told the story and vividly remembered the day I spoke with her and found that she was a really good fit. I had worked with her along the way and got her onboard. She then had a super-successful career and had been at the company for 4 years.

“At this meeting, she just got up and started talking about this story. She was basically doing a shoutout because of how amazing that whole process had been and how that one phone call made an impact on her life. Those are the things that really are fulfilling for me and make my job so awesome; people remember the impact and the partnership. You get to make a big difference in someone’s life, and the person remembers that.”

What advice do you have for someone who’s just getting started in either HR or recruiting?

“I would, at a very early stage, figure out what you’re really good at and what suits you naturally because HR is really broad, and there are so many facets of it that you can specialize in. See if there’s a piece of an HR practice, whether it’s recruitment, being an HR generalist, focusing more on compensation and performance programs, and so forth. Roll your sleeves up, and learn everything you can about that because you can find these great channels to pursue careers in that aren’t so broad.”

“Become very talented and very experienced in one of those areas, and then just keep building upon that.”