“It’s not about just filling a job, it’s about matching talent to the need, because that’s the differentiating factor in great companies.”

Dennis Smith,
Recruiting Manager, St. Jude Medical

Dennis Smith admits his journey into human resources was slightly unconventional, but once he found his niche, it’s been a great ride ever since.

One the home front, Smith also discovered a true passion – his family. He is married and has spent, in his words, “Twenty-six awesome years,” with his wife, Katherine, and is a proud father of 5 kids. Although that has meant sacrificing golf for the past 18 years, he has enjoyed writing his blog, jobgeeks.com between soccer and softball games.

Smith sat down shared what it’s like working as a Recruiting manager at St. Jude Medical, the shift in recruitment technology and what really resonates with him about the HR profession.

Nancy: What is your current role at St. Jude Medical and how did you land there?

Dennis: I am Recruiting Manager for the Neuromodulation Division in Dallas. My first corporate recruiting job began in 1997. The person that hired me into that role then called 12 years later about an opportunity with St. Jude Medical. I was told there were so many jobs that “your children’s children could probably have a job when they’re ready.” So I took a good hard look the company, and I couldn’t pass it up. My personality is such that I don’t work well just in a job. I really have to be connected with that company and its purpose, its vision and its mission because that’s where I get my drive. That came easily at St. Jude Medical.

Nancy: What does your team do really well?

Dennis: We are extremely focused on doing the hard things very well and consistently, even though they may seem like minor details. That can be different for anybody, but we look at the real mechanics of what it takes to be a great recruiter. We all have to talk, but if you can communicate well with the candidate, you can differentiate yourself from your competitor. We really try to become a partner, not just somebody who’s calling and asking you to take this job for a dollar an hour more. We’re trying to help people find that right fit. If they’re not the right fit, then they’re not going to be happy at our company and they won’t stay.

Nancy: In your opinion, how has recruiting changed over the years and how has recruiting stayed the same?

Dennis: Some of the things that were very basic to recruiting 20 years ago haven’t changed. We still reach out and make a connection with people, and that is done best through a one-on-one telephone conversation, ultimately leading to a meeting where we endear somebody to ourselves, to the company and a purpose.

What I don’t like about how recruiting has changed is how it has become impersonal. We send an email, instead of picking up the phone. In the past we’d pick up the phone because that was all we had, right? In 1996 when I started recruiting, the only guys who knew what Google was were the IT guys. We weren’t using social networks, and in a sense, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by immersing ourselves in the social piece of it when it’s not really that social.

I love that we have technology at our fingertips, and if we can use that to enhance those relationships and connect with candidates, I’m going to have an edge over my competitor. Nothing can replace the basics of recruiting, and that’s why I emphasized we do the basic stuff really well.

Nancy: You know what I love about what you’re saying? You are unabashedly an advocate for seeing the benefit of technology, but when it comes down to it, it’s about people. If you miss out on that human component, you risk losing big.

Dennis: It is a big difference. It’s not until we sit down face-to-face and have a conversation about what makes you tick that the whole thing comes to life. That’s the difference to me. You can connect with somebody on a whole different level. I won’t forget a job seeker sitting in front of me when we make a connection and I really get to look inside their heart and figure out what they want to do and why. You know the old saying about people might remember what you say, but you know they’re definitely going to remember how you made them feel? I can’t make you feel what I’m really passionate about to come across in email. And I love social networks, but if you’re not great at communicating on a social network, you’re just going to you know compound your chances of being misunderstood. It’s much easier to be understood face-to-face and that’s what a job seeker has to do well.

Nancy: What about HR really resonates with you?

Dennis: I really look at what we do as a calling. I know that sounds a little strange, but we’re in the business of changing people’s lives. In HR, we help people – we help them get better. We help solve some of their problems and we challenge them to do their best. Obviously over the last couple of years we have seen our share of unemployment, but we get the joy of helping people.

A special thank you to Dennis Smith for his time and enjoyable conversation. Dennis recently participated in the Social Jobs Partnership by sharing advice to job seekers. Check out his video: http://vimeo.com/33531145

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