So, You Think You’re Drowning in Applicants? Try 1.2 Million in One Month!

Macys-logo Today’s post is an interview with Linda Little, Director of Executive Recruiting at Macy’s, Inc. Linda and I originally met on-line (no, not on one of *those* sites) when she answered a question I posed on LinkedIn seeking topics for networking meetings for senior-level executives. Her willingness to help me out got her dragged into being a speaker at one of the events I host (she was awesome) and now I’m interviewing her for my blog. (In related news, it is only a rumor that the world revolves around me…)

How’d you end up here Linda?

I started my career as an Aircraft Mechanic in the Air Force. After leaving the Air Force, I got into Subway restaurant franchises and eventually sold those. I ended up at a recruiting firm to see if they could help me figure out what I wanted to do next and the woman I met with talked me into becoming a Recruiter. Here I am – 17 years later! Initially, I recruited in the restaurant, hospitality and casino industries and I would basically get the phone book out and dial for dollars. Eventually, I opened my own agency, working mainly in the defense industry. After selling my firm, I’ve been here at Macy’s a little over 2 years now.

Tell us a little about Macy’s, Inc. and what your job involves…

Macy’s just celebrated 150 years in business this past year and we have over 800 stores/180,000 employees. During the 3-month holiday season, our employment grows to around 400,000 including everything from those working on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to those working in our stores. I’m personally responsible for recruiting at the VP level and above and for some Director level positions. I lead a team of 37 Recruiters nation-wide, and we have groups that support specific divisions, college recruiting and hourly high-volume recruiting. A big part of my job also includes planning new and exciting things to improve our recruiting efforts in the future.

Sounds like a big job! What’s your biggest challenge?

In November 2008, we had 1,247,000 people visit the Macy’s Jobs career site, and we average about 600,000 visits per month. Typically, 60% of those who visit our site will apply for a job and the challenge is to get all of those people through our system efficiently while ensuring that they all have a good experience with Macy’s. To us, you’re either an employee who is a customer, or a customer. We need to make sure that every applicant is touched, handled correctly and communicated with. If we don’t handle the 500,000 – 1,000,000+ people coming through our system each month properly, that’s a lot of potentially angry customers!

You’re a very active and accessible networker. Upsides? Downsides?

Networking is a really big thing for me and I’m constantly meeting new people/pipelining potential candidates. I attend many local, industry and retail-specific networking events to learn more about the industry and also to meet people. The upside is that if you’re accessible, the people you want to find you usually will. The downside is the volume. Many people also reach you that you’re not looking for, and managing all of the people who come at you – while making sure they have a positive experience – is a constant thing. Sometimes, things fall through the cracks for me just like they do for everyone else, but I work really hard at it. I get to the office early and spend a solid 2 hours managing my LinkedIn account and email before my day “starts”. After that, I’m on the phone for the next 3 – 4 hours, and then I’m in meetings much of the remaining part of the day.

Is LinkedIn a big part of your recruiting strategy?

I’m a big LinkedIn fan. I use it to network for positions I’m personally working on and I encourage my team to actively use it as well. I’m an “old-school” recruiter who believes in straight up direct contact. When I identify someone I’m interested in, I reach out to show an interest and develop a relationship with them first. Then, if there’s an opportunity to match them with a position at Macy’s in the future, we’ll go from there. I have the free membership on LinkedIn and I have enough connections that I can usually reach the people I’m interested in with no problem. One of my favorite resources is LinkedIn Groups. If I’m in the same Group as a person I’m interested in, it’s easy to contact them directly. We’ve hired 22 executives this year at Macy’s through my personal LinkedIn activity. That’s 1.7 per month from a free membership!

If you could choose only 3 tools for recruiting, what would they be?

The branded Macy’s Jobs website, LinkedIn and Search Engine Marketing. Our website works very well, and I’ve already explained why I love LinkedIn. SEM is very cost effective and efficient. For a few thousand dollars, we can target certain combinations of words and specific cities and we get hundreds of thousands of clicks. Once someone clicks our ad, they’re taken to a landing page where we can quickly qualify them to determine if they’re someone we should be talking with. It’s a really great tool for getting people into our funnel.

What’s you best recruiting tip?

Answer the phone every single time it rings if you can. If not, you’ll get buried in voicemail and remain there all week. Just answer it! I’ve never understood why some Recruiters don’t answer their phone. Go ahead and deal with the good, the bad or the ugly. Stringing people along doesn’t help anything.

Thanks to Linda for taking the time to speak with me about her career and some of what makes the Macy’s recruiting team successful! Now, I’m off to the Macy’s Jobs website to apply for a job holding the Snoopy float in next year’s parade. However, I hear if I’m rejected, I’ll get some Macy’s coupons to ease my pain – so it’s a win-win either way. Sweet!

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.