Debbie's Story - Part 1 - "The best recruiter that I ever hired"


I recently sat down with Brenda James, the former managing director of Clayton Services (a recruiting company), to talk about her experience as an employer hiring stay at home parents returning to work. She had so much wonderful wisdom to share with both candidates and employers looking to hire return to work candidates that I couldn’t keep this to just one post! I had to break it down into 4 parts and edited to be concise.

Sign up for our newsletter to make sure that you don’t miss one of these articles full of wisdom. There is so much more to cover!! We will explore:

1)    Debbie’s return to work success story and understand the transferrable skills between parenting and paid work that made her one of the best recruiters Brenda ever hired in this article.

2)    Challenges return to work candidates face and what to do to prepare in part 2.

3)    Benefits of hiring a return to work candidate in part 3.

4)    How employers can think about on-boarding return to work candidates in part 4.

Let’s get started and learn about Debbie and how she became one of the best recruiters that Brenda ever hired!

Debbie’s story

Anna: Thanks so much for speaking with me today Brenda! I am so excited about this interview. I can’t wait to learn all about Debbie. Let’s start off with you sharing about Debbie, the return to work candidate that you hired as a recruiter in your company.

Brenda: Thank-you Anna. I am excited to be here! I managed a small staffing company, and because it was small, I didn't always have the budget to hire someone coming in with a ton of experience. I often had to train and develop my own people. For recruiters, I found that they came from all walks of life and they brought all kinds of skill sets.

I found Debbie when she called our company looking for work. She was a stay at home mom for 15 years. Her children were in high school and she decided that she wanted to go back to work. She had been a very hands-on, mom. Raised amazing children, and they are amazing workers today. So, Thank you, Debbie for that!

When Debbie came to me, she didn't know what she wanted to do. She said, “I was a secretary before I stopped working so I guess that’s what I should go back to.” And I said “You know things have changed a lot in that 15 year time period. Are you sure that is still what you want to do?” She admitted that it wasn’t but she didn’t know where to start. We talked a lot and I was interested in her. She had a lot of common sense and people skills. I enjoyed talking to her. She was funny. She was insightful. She was smart. 

Anna: I love that you helped her reflect and think about what she wanted to do. Just because she had a certain job before children doesn't mean that she needed to go back to that. You opened up the world for her and that's amazing! This is one of my favorite things to do with our clients through the THRIVE program at Parents Pivot.

Brenda: Yes, it’s those self-limiting beliefs that we get trapped into: “I guess this is all I can do. ”Whatever it is, I want people to know that that's not true.

I loved all those intangible traits that Debbie brought to the table that a resume honestly just doesn’t communicate. A resume very rarely tells me about a person and what they're going to bring to the company. It’s the in-person meeting and connection that truly helps me decide to hire someone.

So, I said, “Why don't you come to the office and we’ll do a “working interview” We’ll go through the job. I'll let you sit in on what I now call “a day in the life”: sit with us here in the office, watch, ask questions, and get a feel for what we do here. Let's see if there's any interest moving forward that we can all feel comfortable with.” These days, the working interview may be called a return to work program or “returnship” as coined by Goldman Sachs.

Spending 8 hours with Debbie during a working interview gave me so much insight into who Debbie was and what she would bring to the team and the organization. Debbie was curious. She was smart. She took notes. She was interested in what was going on in our office. She was funny. She was a good team player and interacted well with the team. These are all things that you don't see on a resume, whether you're re-entering the workforce or not. Those were the intangibles that are important in this role of a recruiter.

I ended up hiring Debbie and she was one of the best recruiters that I ever hired. 

Anna: I love to hear that! That leads me to another question. What do you think that she did during her career pause for parenthood that helped her be successful in the work that she did for you as a recruiter?

Brenda: She brought so many things to the table that were amazing and helpful to me.

1)    Problem Solving Skills - She raised children for 15 years.She was very involved with her children’s education and the PTA at their school. She learned how to solve problems working with other people.  

2)    Motivational Skills - When you have to look at your own children and figure out how to guide them and mentor them into becoming the human being that you want them to become, that's an amazing feat. Those skills are certainly transferable to work.

3)    Organization - Another thing that Debbie did in her role as a parent was that she organized a lot of the children’s activities in school. She was the one behind the scenes working with the children’s theater productions and sports activities. When she came to work for us she brought tremendous organization to the company. These organizational skills combined with her uncanny ability to connect to people and show empathy for her clients were invaluable.

4)    Fresh Perspective - She was actually the one who pointed out the importance of a well thought out job description that focuses on a day in the life of the employee: what does that really look like, because often times what employers start out with on paper is not what they're really looking for in real life. Creating these tangible solutions to challenges we faced as recruiters was one of the reasons that Debbie became one of the best recruiters that I've ever hired.

5)    Calm under pressure - As a parent she could stay very calm with her children. She could read through to what her children needed and solve a problem with a calm response. Even when the person bringing the problem wasn’t as calm. Debbie brought from her experience as a mother, the ability to stay calm and problem solve.

There you have it!! Several transferrable skills between being a parent and paid work! What comes to mind for you when you think of transferrable skills between parenting and paid work? What are your real world examples? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.  

If you enjoyed this, then don’t worry, this is not the end. I can’t wait to share more insights from my interview with Brenda next week where we discussed some of the challenges return to work parents face and how to overcome those challenges. To stay in the loop with great articles to help parents return to their careers with strength and clarity, join our Parents Pivot newsletter here.

Wishing you all the best!


Parents Pivot is a coaching and staffing company that works with parents returning to work to help them reconnect to their careers with strength and clarity. We offer coaching and support throughout the job search process whether it is figuring out what you want to do when you return to work, helping you with your resume and interviews, and coaching you through the on boarding process in your new career. We also help connect employers with highly talented stay at home moms and dads returning to work. Reach out to to learn more about how we can serve you.