In the Spotlight: Carol Ellen

To be a pro at anything, you’ve got to put in 10,000 hours. In those 10,000 hours you’re not always going to succeed. A lot of falling down and ~failing~ will take place. Guess what? That’s okay.

Meet Carol Ellen. She’s a Senior Talent Specialist and Executive Recruiter. She’s a mentor to thousands of applicants who come her way. When you Google “mentor” you’ll see that the first definition is “an experienced and trusted advisor.” That’s Carol. The number of resumés, cold calls, emails, LinkedIn messages — you name it — she has received in her lifetime doing what she loves probably surpasses 10,000. Upon meeting Carol, I learned quickly she was willing to listen. She gives people a chance to tell their story.

If you’re on the search for a new job, confused about what to include in a cover letter, or need some reassurance before approaching your first (or second, third, 100th interview), get an insider’s take on who stands out. Carol tells all right here. 

ProjectNextUp: In a few sentences, how did you get to this point in your career?

Carol Ellen: I’ve been a recruiter for the past 18 years. It’s truly my passion. How I got here? I responded to an ad in a newspaper in the classified section. People used to post jobs in the newspaper (gasp! right?). The ad very simply was “looking for very client-centric individuals who are team players.” It was very broad, I had no idea what recruitment was, but I knew it spoke to me and resonated with who I am as a person. I like to give back. I responded to this ad in the newspaper up in Canada as I am from Toronto. I was literally thrown into the deep-end learning recruitment. Fast forward to today, I’m on a contract at a label in the capacity of a Senior Talent Specialist and Executive Recruiter. So what that means is I operate as a generalist across the corporation’s needs as it relates to recruitment at all levels.

PNU: What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? You’re meeting tons of people every day. You get LinkedIn messages, cold calls, emails — I’m sure that’s challenging in itself. 

CE: There are more people looking for jobs — specifically in the entertainment industry — than there are jobs. So that’s number one. It’s super competitive and there are a lot of amazing, smart, ambitious, talented people who would do what it takes for their first job, their second job, their third job to be in this industry because it’s such a committed group of people. I’ve never really seen anything quite like it. The challenging part is you inherently want to help out everybody. You want to spend time with people to say, “Hey I hear you. I acknowledge and I affirm you.” The challenge behind that is that when you’re a recruiter you’re servicing a multitude of clients. You’re servicing a business unit who is looking for X person. Within a talent division, you’re serving human resources, and externally you’re representing a brand. You want to put your best foot forward all the time, and you want to ensure that you have a great brand experience and not get discouraged. The toughest part of my job is saying, “No, not right now.” I really don’t love that — I don’t like saying no! Especially as they are starting out.

The challenging part is you inherently want to help out everybody. You want to spend time with people to say, “Hey I hear you. I acknowledge and I affirm you.

PNU: With an industry that’s constantly changing, specifically in music, how are you able to stand out amongst the noise?

CE: Personally, for me it’s about delivering incredible customer bespoke service. Every client, your colleagues, your hiring manager, HR, everyone is unique. To really stand out, understand every perspective, to the best of your ability. When I have to go find a specific candidate, behind that there’s a whole story. Why is that role open? Has something changed in our business? And really getting a holistic viewpoint so that when I deliver the message externally, I get it. Some things I can share, and some things I can’t share. So the challenging part is being able to operate with speed and efficiency. 

The toughest part of my job is saying, “No, not right now.”

PNU: Who is a mentor in the recruitment realm outside of your current scenario?

CE: They say that 10,000 hours makes you an expert at anything. I have well over 10,000 hours of doing this. It’s 10,000 hours of falling down, having no idea of what I was doing, and picking myself back up. It was really honing in on the skill set of recruiting and being very strategic of who I met. But in terms of who has helped me in recruiting, it actually didn’t come from anyone within that space. A client from very early on was in human resources, she was one of my first clients on the agency side and she scared me! She was so frosty. I thought I was going to be this order taker. She ended teaching me so much about process and following through — she taught me the strategy and the science of recruiting.

They say that 10,000 hours makes you an expert at anything.

PNU: When was the moment that recruiting was your passion?

CE: Right away. If you have ever met anyone in recruiting they will tell you that it’s truly love or hate. There’s no grey zone. If there is a grey zone, you’re on your way out. I really knew that I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and do that through a business. And I realized I was making a difference, and definitely did not ever want to take it for granted. From year one that was the moment. Have I changed platforms? Of course — that’s called growth and evolution. Everyone should do that, and I highly encourage that. 

PNU: What’s the biggest challenge young people face?

CE: You have to be persistent. You have to seek out role models. You have to do that in a really genuine way. You need to create your own brand from an early age. You have to operate with authenticity.  While in school hone in on skills that you genuinely know line up with ‘who’ you are. Focus on your communication skills, volunteer, and just do your best. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing — be awesome at it! Be bold. Why not? Seek out others that you think are exceptional. Spend time on your LinkedIn profile and your brand. Take time now to truly cultivate that. Have a professional photo of yourself on LinkedIn and Facebook. Surround yourself with amazing people early on in your career. 

PNU: What are some other qualities you look for when you’re trying to place the right person in the right job?

CE: I have to say it starts with the first interaction. Were there spelling errors in the cover letter or resumé? Yes you may be enthusiastic and excited, but slow down. Set your intention. Think about what it is you want to say. It’s so easy to want to apply for every job. Maybe you’ll be considered for all those jobs, however ask yourself is this really what you want? Be focused. Even if you don’t have a lot of working experience, don’t be afraid to share your accomplishments — good grades and volunteer work included! I spend a lot of time looking at what people do outside of work because that sheds a lot of light to me in terms of what kind of person they really are. Also, internships are so key!

Be bold. Why not? Seek out others that you think are exceptional.

PNU: It’s hard to give advice for those looking for a job because it’s really hard and you just need to keep at it. What would you tell yourself before you go into an interview?

CE: It is so easy to be nervous for an interview. That’s your body’s reaction. You’re competing, it’s exciting. Do breathing exercises and practice what you’re going to say. There are standard questions that usually everyone asks. Why are you interested in this role? What makes you different? Why do you love this industry? There are a ton of online interview questions. Knowing your why front and center is important. Really have your solid why. I want substance! Ask your questions, be interested in the person that is interviewing you. I know people walk in with the standard questions, come prepared with three questions. At the same time, really listen to what’s being said. Be respectful of your 15-30 minutes.

There are standard questions that usually everyone asks. Why are you interested in this role? What makes you different? Why do you love this industry?

Post interview: if you were introduced to that person through an agency, unless that person gave you the email address, don’t email that person. Send a note to the recruiter externally who introduced you to the company. If you are interviewing directly with the company through talent or HR, send a note to the recruiter thanking them and that you would love to get a thank you note to so and so. Depending on the situation, you may or may not get an email. You want to set your professional boundaries from day one. Otherwise, it may not work in your favor. I would always ask the recruiter to figure out what’s the best approach. Sending thank you notes goes a long way. Being grateful is huge. It’s basic etiquette!

PNU: Cover letters can be really hard to write. You’re getting a ton of cover letters a day. How can applicants write one to really convey they want that particular position? 

CE: If a cover letter is part of the process, then first and foremost: spellcheck. I can’t emphasize that enough. I would keep my answers to why I want this job very specific. If writing doesn’t happen to be your strong suit, then provide bullet points. Back up your reasoning. Even if you don’t have a ton of experience, you can say, “My favorite class with X was X and what I got from it was X.” Not everyone is coming at it with the same amount of experience. Write up two paragraphs or less. No one has the attention span to read through a thesis. If you have hyperlinks, throw your hyperlinks in there, but always be mindful of someone else’s time.  

Sending thank you notes goes a long way.

PNU: How much does personality play in your decisions to move forward with applicants?

CE: It comes down to attitude. Someone should come to the table with a positive attitude and be professional, respectful, and grateful. You have to be yourself. If you aren’t yourself during your interview, your real self will come out the first day of work. Personality is subjective — but be the best version of yourself. 

PNU: What would you tell your 15 year old self?

CE: Be mindful of what you put on social media. Even if you don’t know what you want to do at 15 years old, that’s okay! Focus on what you are at 15. Be an awesome citizen in your community and in your friendships. My best friend’s mom once said, “People are who they are. They just become more of it.” That is totally true and accurate. Just become the best version of yourself. And if you don’t know what or who that is, ask other people who think highly of you. Because they’ll tell you, and it’s nice to get that affirmation. 

If you aren’t yourself during your interview, your real self will come out the first day of work.

PNU: If you could tweet your purpose in 140 characters or less?

Artist on Repeat: Everything from Beyoncé (love her) to Led Zeppelin to very hard deep house. It rotates! 

Connect with Carol on LinkedIn

Michelle Golden