Working: Capital One's head recruiter explains the process
At a time of high unemployment, when any job opening produces a flood of applications, finding top talent might sound easy. But not everyone is the right fit.
So Jim Reo, Capital One's senior director of recruiting, and other members of his team employ a mix of human connections, best practices and high-tech tools to find the ideal candidate. Their first stop is often LinkedIn, with its millions of individual profiles and work histories.
The professional network Web site "is the first tool that we use right now," he said. "I looked at your LinkedIn profile before this interview."
Capital One recruiters target specific companies -- major firms in and outside the financial services field "that have great talent," he said. Reo said he often starts his search on LinkIn with the name of a specific company, then plugs in a job title to identify potential recruits. He looks for those who match up with the job requirements, of course, and also checks out their contacts.
Sometimes, Capital One's recruiters will approach the candidates to start a conversation or introduce themselves. Other times, "we pitch a specific job to them," he said, and hope it looks enticing enough that they apply or share it with someone who will.
With a bachelor of accountancy degree from George Washington University, Reo spent several years as an auditor for Arthur Young, now Ernst & Young, and fulfilled his father's hope that he become a CPA or a lawyer. Before switching careers, he did a great deal of research and networking. "I was in a dignified career, and I was giving that up," he said.
Yet he longed to help build an organization, so he joined a small search firm where he learned sales as well as how to recruit candidates. From there he joined Freddie Mac and then executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. When a colleague joined Capital One to do IT hiring, he recruited Reo to come along.
These days, employee referrals are one of the fastest growing sources of hiring; they account for 30 percent or more of Capital One's new hires. If a current employee recommends someone who is hired by the bank and financial services giant, the worker could collect a referral fee.
After acquiring Chevy Chase Bank last year, Capital One employs about 4,000 people around the Capital Beltway and more than 28,000 nationwide. It faces increased competition for hiring. Financial services sector job listings doubled in October compared with a year ago, and U.S. jobs for financial specialists and accountants grew 170 percent, much more than for many other positions, according to an analysis of 3.9 million openings by Simply Hired, an online search engine of job listings.
Reo appeals to potential recruits by touting the company's values -- its desire for excellence and doing the right thing -- as well as its potential for growth as it transforms itself from a credit card company into a multi-state bank. He likes to talk about the opportunity to be part of a "pretty exciting journey" -- Capital One's growth.
Finding the right talent takes diligence -- some searches require nine months or more. "If they were easy, we wouldn't be needed," said Reo, a 12-year veteran.
Relocation can be an issue at times, particularly for key executives. Some people don't want to uproot their children in the middle of a school year and some don't want to live near the District.
If the candidate is the right one, Reo said, "we give individuals a choice on which location they prefer," Richmond or headquarters in McLean. The McLean office draws those who want a more cosmopolitan life, Reo noted, while Richmond offers a "smaller-town feel."
Reo believes good recruiters must be passionate about their work and the company who employs them.
"This has been the career experience of my life," Reo said. "I jump out of the bed in the morning" to head to work.