This interview with Ed McKersie, is part of my new blog series, Maine Movers and Makers, featuring career insights from Maine’s leading executives. Ed is the President of Pro Search, a recruiting and placement services company focused on connecting talent with Maine based employers. He is also the creative force and founder of LiveandWorkinMaine.com, a website dedicated to making “Vacationland Work for You.”
“Ask good questions.”
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
Please tell me a bit about your childhood and the influences that helped shape you?
I grew up in Chelmsford in MA in a very grounded and supportive environment. I hung out with a group of 10 boys and we would pull together sports teams and run around outside every day.
My biggest influence were my parents, who both were wildly supportive but also had high standards. My father is still the most honest person I’ve ever met. He taught me from an early age that if you don’t have integrity and your reputation, you don’t have anything.
I worked for Demoulas in the deli. My brother is 7 years older and he paved the way for me. You were supposed to be 18 to work the slicers and I got hired when I was 16. It probably helped that I was tall so I looked 18. That was a fun, fun job.
What made it so much fun?
I was the youngest on the team and at times, it was stressful as you’d have a long line of customers. We would make it competitive and see who could move the fastest, but also package things the best. Dealing with customers and some of the quirky things they would want was a lot of fun. Serving the Lowell & Chelmsford Greek community, they had some things in the deli counter that I still don’t know what they were.
What was your first “real” job out of college?
In 1983, I joined CompuGraphic Corporation, which produced typesetting equipment. It was a really interesting time to join the company as technology was just beginning to influence that industry. Our new products were $100,000 solutions which were much more efficient and offered more creativity. But we were dealing with small business owners who literally did not have that kind of cash flow. So, the company set up an in house leasing and financing company. I joined that team out of college, helping the sales force come up with creative ways get the new equipment in our customers’ doors at a price that made sense for us and worked for them.
You are a Massachussett’s native. What led you to move to Maine?
In 1986 I was recruited by Robert Half International, which was a big recruiting firm, to join their Boston office. I enjoyed the business and seemed to be pretty good at it. I was dating a young lady who was originally from Maine so we spent a lot of time in Portland. I thought I’d much rather go out on my own in a smaller market and open up an office, so I approached the owner. We drove up, looked at a couple of sites and I came here in 1989 to open the Portland office.
Who had a game-changing impact on your career?
Ralph Struzziero, who was the CEO of Romac, where I went to work after Robert Half was sold. Ralph was a great mentor and has since become a close friend. Any time I have any sort of fork in the road or a business decision, I call Ralph and he gives me sage advice.
What led you to the decision to start Pro Search?
Romac decided to go public and planned to move the Maine office to Florida. They were surprised when somebody from Maine with two young kids didn’t want to move to Florida. That really forced my decision to start my own firm. I had to do a little soul searching. At the time, I didn’t consider myself very entrepreneurial or much of a risk-taker. But I talked to enough people who said that that my idea was less risky than I thought and that I should do it. And in 1994, I started Pro Search.
How has hiring changed since you’ve been in the field?
The hiring process has sped up. With technology driving the process at every level, things go faster. I also think employers are much more aware of their own culture and the management style that exists. They look more for that cultural fit. Over the 30 years that I’ve been in this business, that’s probably the biggest change.
What’s your #1 “go to” interview question and why?
It’s situational but if I had to choose one, it would be what’s your interest level in this opportunity and why? The reason I like this question is it that it goes to their ability to play back to me what they think the job is, why they would thrive in that environment and why they think that they would enjoy doing the job.
Please complete this sentence: Candidates that impress me the most….have done their research and ask good questions.
Most memorable interview fail?
We have had crazy ones where people are interviewing and ask to use the restroom in the middle of the interview. Later, the client calls and says “the candidate was here for an hour and everything was going great. Then they went to use the men’s room and we haven’t seen them since.”
Some people will just go AWOL in the middle of an interview rather than have the confidence to say that they aren’t interested in the opportunity.
What are the qualities that you look for in candidates that lead to successful hires?
It’s all about fit. I think the road to success for somebody getting into an organization and not just surviving, but thriving, is if they ask the right questions. If you are going into an interview with the idea that this is an investment for you as well as the employer, then you want to make sure that this is a place where you can really have an impact. In today’s world, everybody’s got to be a team player. You have to ask the right questions to make sure you are joining the team you want to be on.
What job search advice would you give to college students getting ready to launch their careers?
You can’t apply for one, two or three positions and then wait. It’s okay to apply for as many opportunities as are out there. This is your chance to make sure that you accept the best opportunity for you and not the first job that comes along.
Also don’t focus on job title, starting salary (as much as your budget will allow), or what your friends think of a certain industry or a certain employer. Don’t get caught up in other people’s opinions. Check it out for yourself. Sometimes, companies in turnaround are the best opportunities.
Often your first job search is a process of elimination as opposed to knowing exactly what you want to do. So think more broadly and be open-minded.