Caroline Hunter

Recruitment Leader, Looking for next challenge

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Living on the South coast of Ireland from age 7-11, playing freely in the hay barns of a family friend’s farm with my younger brother. Collecting the wild cats that lived there and putting them in cardboard box ‘beds’ in colour order – always makes me smile when people say ‘it’s like herding cats’ – have they actually tried to do it?!

2. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

Neil McCurley, Head of Drama – not to be so uptight!

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Saying ‘yes’ to everything! I was made redundant a few weeks ago and decided to see it as an opportunity rather than a setback. I’m meeting new people, joining lots of webinars, getting involved in some new things and doing this! (Sorry, before you ask, I don’t have any examples of really wild and crazy things I’ve said yes to….the most exciting thing I’ve agreed to so far that I wouldn’t normally have is to sleep in a tent this weekend. Given the weather we’ve been having recently it might be wilder than it sounds!)

4. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?

Part A – not sure tbh. Part B – Religion. Not sure if you’d want to go there on Recruiting Brainfood though!!!

5. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells – it’s a really terrifying book that has stayed with me since I read it several years ago. Each chapter outlines a different catastrophe; Fire, Flood, Famine, War etc… and how we are already in a twisted race to see which will wipe out all life on planet Earth first. They are all caused by us, humans, and I think we have a responsibility to wake up, be more aware and do something about it.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – another book that has stuck with me and I can’t stop recommending it to everyone I meet! It’s a beautiful, authentic true story about a couple who fall on hard times and walk the 630 miles of the South West Coast path in the UK. It’s beautifully written, easy to read, describes my favourite place on earth and provides the perfect antidote of hope and uplift after the previous book!

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough – in fact, anything by David Attenborough, he’s a hero of mine!

6. If I were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

Too detailed, nit-picky, critical, talks too much/over people, not very interesting, clean-freak!

7. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?

They think I’m super organised but I’m not! I guess it’s all relative and I do like things to be structured, everything in its place & if you start something you should finish it etc…. but I don’t feel all that organised; I lose things & I forget things and I’m late, just like everyone else!

8. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

Not having children….sometimes people ask ‘do you have kids?’ and when I say no they sort of double-take and change the subject in case it’s sensitive (which I fully understand and this isn’t a criticism of that!) but I’m fine to talk about it. I chose not to have children – just never felt like I was in the right place to give them everything they deserve (in terms of time, focus etc…). I see how difficult it is to raise children, I honestly think it’s the hardest & one of the most important jobs there is, and I never felt I was in the right place to do it properly and give it/them justice.

9. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?


This made me feel sick. I really hope we figure out how to avoid wasting things in the future – from single use plastic to water and also, closer to home for us, resources, talent, time etc… We can already see positive change in this direction, for example, printing flyers for a Graduate Recruitment Event is now considered a ‘no-no’ because the audience is so much more enlightened and aware of the fact those flyers will end up as litter… I love that and hope to see the expectations of Gen Z and Gen Alpha job seekers entering the job market now & in the future, driving higher standards and continuously improving what we do. Their expectations are already forcing employers to focus more on ESG topics (authentically – because fake lip service gets called out!) and I hope this brings about a better, less wasteful world for us all.

10. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

Teal – the job application tracker. It’s great to see some TA Tech focused on the candidate-side of things and I’ve been using Teal instead of keeping an old-fashioned spreadsheet of the jobs I’m applying for. It’s quicker and reduces the need to type out the role title, the company name etc.. There’s enough repetitive data entry in job searching, I’m delighted to have found something that reduces it even by a little bit! I also revamped my CV using the resume builder and found that very helpful to clean up the layout and structure of my CV and focus on the outcomes/results. Highly recommend it.

11. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Travel – I’ve always had a hankering to throw a few things into a back-pack and jump on a train or plane to somewhere exotic, meet interesting people and experience exciting adventures. I haven’t done it (yet) for all the usual excuse; money, time, opportunity…. I sought a job in recruitment back in 2000 as a way to earn fast money to fund a round the world trip….. I ended up enjoying the role and getting sucked into the stereotypical ‘rat race’; trying to progress my career, taking on commitments like a flat and then a house….I met my other half and we got married and got a dog. With each commitment, throwing a few things in a bag and running away became harder to do!

One of the motivators for moving from Leadership Development/Assessment Consulting into RPO at IBM was the possibility to travel with work. I’ve been lucky enough to visit my team and clients in various places across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Hungary & Poland as well as the US. But the more exotic destinations are still calling me and I hope to engineer opportunities to visit LatAm, APAC & anywhere that will have me at some point while I’m still young enough to enjoy the sights, the food and the nightlife!

12. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

The Hams Hame Pub & Grill at the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Scotland.

We travelled Scotland for a month in a Motorhome after the pandemic. It was October and poured with rain around 98% of the time (I knew October was a risk but didn’t expect it to rain every single sodding day!). Anyway, one day we arrived in St Andrews in the pouring rain but were determined not to let the weather defeat us so we parked on the seafront, donned kagools and other sexy kit and got blown along the beach for an hour before we gave up and went in search of hot food and booze to warm up. By this time our waterproofs were carrying water and Ted, our dog, was virtually swimming along next to us….. We found The Hams Hame by accident; it was the first building from the beach with a sheltered entrance. We queued with all the other people who had done exactly the same as us, figuring if it was good enough to warrant a queue on a day like that, it must be good!

We weren’t wrong – the inside was warm, cosy, relaxed and friendly with lots of warm lighting, comfy seating and golf memorabilia everywhere. The staff welcomed us in, got us sitting and drying off very quickly, no one minded the puddles we created, the dog was as welcome as we were and the Mac & Cheese was to die for! I’m not a golf fan but the enthusiasm and passion for golf was infectious – it helped that there was a charity golf match taking place across the road on the St Andrews Links course and Ronan Keating was still out there getting wet while we were ensconced in a warm food coma, watching from a comfy banquette, and sipping a large glass of red!

Oh and the floor was nice….I have a thing about decent quality flooring, it’s like shoes for a building/room – sets the tone for the entire rest of the outfit and it makes or breaks the atmosphere and impression it creates! The Hams Hame has beautiful real wood floors smoothed by years of wet walkers finding shelter and sustenance and this adds to the ambience of the place. My bar would have old oak floor boards that told a story with every creak…..

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

Not advice given to me personally but I really like the Maya Angelou quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’m a naturally task-focused person so I need to consciously think about the impact of my decisions & how I show up, on the people around me, otherwise I’ll forget all about them and JFDI until I tick everything off the list but end up all alone……. This quote helps me to prioritise people & their feelings and I’ve found it has always served me well to remember this.

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Bulldozering! I get stuff done… a kids toy, wind me up & point me in a direction and I will keep going until it’s done. Sometimes this works. Others I hit the skirting board and keep banging my head against it until someone picks me up and repositions me. I’m still working on the ability to see the skirting board coming and take a detour……

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Potty mouth – I am not offended and think a bit of swearing keeps it real!

16. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

Organiser… I think because I like to turn ideas into actions, think quickly and I don’t mind taking ownership for making things happen. On a bad day this can come across as domineering and mean I (unwittingly) take the chance away from others who may have been happy to step up and take ownership! On a good day it means we cut through the endless circular discussions and slopey-shoulder-ing and get shit done.


17. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?

That Sourcing is a junior role, a trainee position leading to a Recruiter role or something a recruiter can do in their ‘spare’ time. IMO, Sourcing is an entirely different skill to Recruiting. Yes, there are roles that require the combination of the 2 (perhaps if hiring volume is lower for example) and examples of people successfully moving from sourcing to being a recruiter. But for me it’s not a given that a recruiter can source or vice versa and it’s not a linear career path that you should be promoted from Sourcer to Recruiter once you’ve completed X months of being a Sourcer.

Sourcing is all about finding the needle in a haystack; understanding the requirements for a role and where & how to find the right candidates for it. Then engaging those candidates, exciting them about the opportunity and keeping them interested. The skills required are technical – how to write a good Boolean Search String and filter your results, A&B testing outreach messages, knowledge of the different channels to reach candidates and how to maximise results from them, market mapping etc… You need to be curious, methodical, very organised and tenacious.

The Recruiter role, in my world, is all about the relationship with the HM. It requires great communication skills, empathy and the ability to influence with data. A memorable, engaging personality also helps.

The roles are symbiotic and when you have a good Sourcer & Recruiter combination the results they can produce are magic. Too many in our industry (IMO) don’t understand the differences between the skill sets required for the 2 roles and often categorise sourcing as a junior, ‘feeder’ role rather than a highly skilled specialism in it’s own right. Similarly, the role of Recruiter is sometimes seen as a person who finds candidates for roles and I think that overlooks the value added by a recruiter who truly consults with their hiring community.

18. What is your biggest professional regret? What do you think might have happened otherwise?

I regret that the research that the Centre for High Performance Development (CHPD) was founded upon has been lost via the acquisition by Kenexa and then IBM. CHPD was a Leadership Development Consultancy where I had my ‘coming of age’ role. I worked there from age 24. CHPD was special, it was a boutique consultancy with a group of very talented, committed people leading it and I had so many fantastic opportunities to learn and develop, particularly my soft skills. Although being bought by Kenexa and then the mighty IBM was part of my learning curve and I wouldn’t change that, I think it’s really sad that the leadership competency framework, the High Performance Behaviours, based on 30+ years of academic research by Dr Tony Cockerill, one of the Founders, is no longer in use. That framework was really effective – it helped many leaders in companies such as Tesco, GSK and RBS. If it were still being used I think more people would have a better understanding of their leadership capabilities and development areas and the quality of leadership in organisations globally would be higher.

19. If you could add one question to the next person to answer what would it be?

Can you tell us about the greatest turnaround story you’ve been part of – what happened and how did you influence it?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 questions with and why?

John Vlastelica – I’d love to hear his answers to these questions – he has such a solid, pragmatic approach to things that I really admire & I think many in the community could learn a lot from understanding more about where that originates from. (I haven’t asked him if he’s ok to be nominated, please let me know if I should do that?!)

Thank you to Caroline for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Caroline on LinkedIn

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