It’s still dark, and coffee is brewing, the day always starts with coffee. We’re with Imelda to get the skinny on what it means to be a professional matchmaker as well as co-owner of a recruitng company. We’re here to ask the probing questions, to find out how a Chief Matchmaker thinks.
1. How did you become a recruiter for the Travel & Hospitality Industries? By default, really. In my career, I’ve been an Accounting Clerk, Travel Agent, Team Leader, Travel Manager, Meetings & Events Administrator and Operations Manager. I’ve worked for a large TMC, a Multi-national Consumer Goods Corporation, an International Tour Operator, and an Airline GSA. So, I found myself saying, “Okay. I’ve done just about every job. What else can I do, while staying connected to the travel industry?” And that’s where Nick comes in. My former boss (now my business partner), asked me to join him in this recruitment venture. I didn’t like it at first, because I didn’t understand it. I’ve been a hiring manager and a job seeker, but I’ve never been the “middle man” in the equation. I couldn’t figure out how to marry the two. Many times, I wanted to quit and say, “this isn’t for me”. But then one day – BAM– my lightbulb went on. I’d found my niche. I began to see recruitment for what it really is – making the perfect match – one placement at a time.
2. What gives you the biggest high? Liquid Paper! But seriously, figuring out how to marry the two [job-seeker & hiring manager]. It’s just like our logo – a puzzle. We pick out pieces from the pile and see if they fit. When they don’t, we set them aside, because eventually, we’ll have the right spot for them. When the puzzle is complete, (however easy or difficult it is), I am gratified.
3. What is your biggest annoyance? Sleepy socks (HA!) Ghosting. Both, candidates and hiring managers do it. Drives me nuts. When candidates ghost, not only do they waste my time, but it makes my company look bad. Like, we fall short on our delivery. When clients ghost, it makes me wonder if the hiring manager is really serious about hiring. By extension – making my company look bad.
4. What are the challenges your industry/job faces? People who don’t read our job descriptions and apply anyway!! AND finding “new age” talent with “tenured” experience. When the skills required are not necessarily skills possessed, hiring managers rarely look at the potential. There is great talent in those who are willing and able to learn, but so many companies in travel have downsized to the point where training has become obsolete. Hiring managers just don’t have the time to properly groom a new hire, therefore, they expect the applicant to already know the ropes. Here’s the challenge: the tenured agents have the skills. Hiring managers choose not to hire them because they are “set in their ways” or fear they cannot redesign themselves to today’s technology. The tenderfoot hasn’t mastered their craft yet. And because the hiring manager doesn’t have time to train, they too, are rejected. It’s the age old, damned if you are, damned if you aren’t.
5. What do you do differently, from other recruiters? FORGET IT, BUDDY, I’m not giving away our “Secret Sauce!” In the simplest terms: we respond. Do you have any idea how many times we are thanked by the job seekers who say, “I appreciate you getting back to me. No one ever does. I apply, and then I never hear back, one way or another”. Even if they don’t qualify for the job they’re applying to, we get back to them and tell them why: “You resume doesn’t show any experience in the travel industry”, “Our client is looking for someone with a minimum of 5yrs in Sales”, “You list great experience on your resume, but not for the type of job this is”. And then we wish them success in their job search. We know it’s hard out there. Positive affirmation goes a long way. Even if it means turning applicants down. There’s a right way to do it. If they took the time to apply, we take the time to acknowledge them and thank them for investing that time to fill out our application.
6. Where do you see Travel Staff in a year’s time? I see us venturing into the “unknown” – and I mean that in a good way. Most recruitment firms cover several industries. We focus on Travel & Hospitality only. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. Travel Management Companies aren’t the only ones needing to fill jobs. Hotels, Airlines, Car Rental Agencies, Tour Operators, Tourism Boards, OTA’s, you name it – they need front line staff (Travel Agents, Business Development Managers, Account & Client Solutions Teams). They also need back office/foundation staff (Finance & Accounting, Technology, Marketing, Revenue Management), etc. And what about the MICE business? They’ve been overlooked as well. Meeting Planners are in high demand and they’re one of the hardest jobs to fill because they fluctuate, based on the needs of the company. There’s a whole lot of talent out there, waiting to land their next “great job” and we venture out to find a place for them by stretching our reach – looking beyond the TMC’s. In one year’s, time, I want us to be known as the “I-Ching” of travel & hospitality recruitment.
7. If you could do it over, what would you change? I would be more selective about the people I accept as colleagues. This gig isn’t for everybody. I know this, now. But I have to admit that the mistakes, drawbacks and downright bonehead decisions I’ve made along the way, have made it possible for me to speak strongly about the passion I’ve developed for this job. Every day there’s something new to learn. And change is part of the process. It’s what we call success.