Shelley Billinghurst

President of Hire Value Inc. and CoHost of The Recruitment Flex Podcast

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

At 10, my dad and I started on a quest to make the perfect tomato sauce from scratch. We would try different types of tomatoes, different brands, until we thought we perfected it – of course we forgot to write down what the perfect blend was. My dad loved to cook – to create – to take whatever ingredients we had on hand or to travel across the city for a specific brand of tomatoes for our sauce. Pasta and tomato sauce has become a comfort food in my family.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

When I was 21, I signed up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I remember thinking, “Oh, this would be kind of cool”. Jennifer was matched with me, 10 years old, a middle child of 3 girls, her mom & dad were going through a heart wrenching divorce. About 6 months in, I realised the real benefactor was me. I didn’t know it at the time but that experience influenced the mother I eventually became.

3. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

For nearly 20 years – my energy was focused on my kids and I was very vocal about these years being it was all about them. In fact when I heard other women say “I need ME time’ I thought it was selfish and would say as much. At age 50, it hit me like a truck, my being unhappy was affecting everyone around me; that was so unfair to them. I shifted my thinking to care for my happiness first. It’s not selfish, it’s smart. In the last 2 years, it finally sank in what people meant by ME time. If I am in the best head space so are the kids. It’s been so true.

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

7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R.Corey

The first staffing firm I worked for, TPD, this was mandatory reading. I remember reading it on the train ride to work and having this overwhelming feeling of being in complete control and empowered. I could not wait to get to work! I have read it 5 times since then and get something different from it each time.

Traditional Italian Cooking, by Gabriella Rossi

Do you believe in past lives? I was in Boston’s old Italy neighborhood, I knew I’d been there before, it felt like home. This cookbook brings me back to that moment; food, home, love & comfort. **For the record, my family heritage is not Italian.

The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

Reading this flashed me back to childhood, I’d always believed I could become whatever I set my mind to be. I always had a crystal clear vision of what my life would be like.

5. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble

Being candid. Calling it as I see it. Cold, hard reality is; women are expected to sugar coat the truth. I just can’t. People need to hear what they really did wrong in the interview, telling someone what they are wearing isn’t appropriate, telling someone how they are coming across, telling my daughter the eye makeup is too much…. most people don’t really want to hear the truth.

“Cold, hard reality is; women are expected to sugar coat the truth. I just can’t.”

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

Genuine interest in why people make the choices they do. Endless energy to extract from people what they were thinking when they made decisions. Curiosity (I’m just a voyeur), I love to find out about other people.

7. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What did you learn?

In my last corporate role. I knew in the first week I’d made a mistake – I was not a fit. But I stayed for over 5 years until like a pimple it came to a head and I was squeezed out. I was surrounded by people who either worked to 51% of the collective agreement, or spent their brains cells figuring out how to manipulate others to get what they wanted and reporting to someone who although brilliant, like a savant level; had no business being in people leadership – never mind a Director of HR! My job was to shield the top performers in HR from her toxic behavior. What I learned was to find my tribe – they exist inside even the most political and toxic places. Like minded people who really care about making a difference. And yet at the end of the day, the most talented will ‘vote with their feet’ and leave.

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

Working for 2 companies in competing industries at the same time or working for multiple employers at the same time.

9. What is your desktop/mobile screen saver?

This is my daughter Brooklyn, age 15.

We traveled to Osaka Japan to see The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fall Out Boy & Weezer in August 2019 as a celebration for her achievements in grade 9. Brooklyn was awarded Student of the Year.

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

New York loft, exposed brick, minimalist with a mid century vibe furniture, clean lines, simple and very modern. There would be uber cool tech like hologram art, the drinks would be all mixologist mad scientist and the tunes would be emo-type house music & live bands on the weekends

11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

Preacher – bringing people together, setting common ground, inspiring hard work for the common good

12. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

Outdoor deck furniture.

It represents the end of 10 years of struggle and fighting with my now ex-husband about it. I wanted nice, comfortable outdoor furniture – he was OK with $5 rusted folding chairs from a garage sale. *disclaimer: patio furniture was not the cause of the divorce.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Never build your business around a single industry sector, when they go down, and they will go down, they will take you down with them. Always diversify.

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

Ability to influence people who I have no authority over. Getting others excited about my project and they volunteer to be part of it or help me with their time, budget money, internal political support. I’m known for getting sh!t done.

15. Who was the best person you ever hired?

Paula Breeze

She has a wicked sense of humour, always on point and so talented she taught me things I use to this day. Paula performed above and beyond expectations, if fact she set the bar. This was her first office job out of university. Paula is now the VP of HR for CEDA; and is a client of mine, so I guess I work for her now.

16. Who is the best co-worker or collaborator you’ve ever worked with.

Serge Boudreau

He can run circles around me yet we have complimentary skills & styles. He is also the most unselfish human I’ve ever met.

17. What is one industry challenge you don't actually think will ever get solved?

Predicting success on the job. If anyone figures out how to measure determination/grit/desire; they will be a gazillionaire.

18. Who will be the winners & losers in our industry in the post-Covid19 world?

The losers will continue to ‘wait until this is over’. Winners will be those who believe Covid19 is a reality for the next 50 years and plan accordingly.

19. Aside from your parents, name one person who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

Leslie Meingast, President TPD.

My resume didn’t fit the norm, she took a chance on me, believed in me, trained me, treated me with respect and expected top performance from me.

I would not be the person I am today (good mom, successful female entrepreneur, recruitment industry SME) if it were not for her.

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I nominate Kim Benedict of Talent Minded!

Thank you to Shelley Billinghurst for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Best recruiting podcast coming out of Canada? It’s The Recruitment Flex

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