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Recruiting Trailblazers

Alden Pennington: Succeeding in a Tough Market as a Specialist Recruiter

Fri Jul 07 2023
Executive SearchRecruitingJob MarketAutomationCandidate-Driven MarketRelationship BuildingAgency Work


Alden Pennington, a former healthcare executive, shares insights on starting his own executive search firm, Tylenza, and navigating the challenges of the current job market. He emphasizes the importance of automation in recruiting while maintaining personal relationships with candidates. Alden discusses the impact of the candidate-driven market on reaching qualified candidates and building new business. He also highlights effective communication strategies, the ups and downs of agency work, and key insights from executive interviews.


Automation and Personal Relationships

Automation can enhance the candidate experience and expedite processes, but relationship development should not be automated. Maintaining personal connections is crucial in recruiting.

Challenges in a Candidate-Driven Market

Reaching the right candidates can be challenging in a candidate-driven market. However, starting in this market can provide confidence for future success.

Building Relationships and Industry Knowledge

Building relationships with known contacts and developing industry knowledge are key strategies for success in the healthcare industry. Specializing in healthcare provides a competitive advantage.

Effective Communication and Recruitment Strategies

Picking up the phone and texting have become more fruitful in the current job market. Transparency, goal-setting, and accountability are important in recruitment.

Building Relationships and Agency Work

Building relationships through personalized communication is more effective than cold outreach. Adding value and sharing process insights differentiate recruiters and agency leaders.

Insights from Executive Interviews

Interviews at the executive level require more time and consideration. Asking about a candidate's commitment to something beyond themselves can provide valuable insights.


  1. Introduction
  2. Calibration Process and Market Insights
  3. Challenges in a Candidate-Driven Market
  4. Effective Communication and Recruitment Strategies
  5. Building Relationships and Agency Work
  6. Insights from Executive Interviews


00:05 - 06:57

  • Alden Pennington spent over 15 years as a healthcare executive before starting his own executive search firm called Tylenza.
  • Despite the challenging market, boutique firms like Tylenza have the opportunity to thrive and gain market share.
  • Automation can be used judiciously in recruiting to automate repeatable tasks and expedite processes.
  • Relationship development should not be automated, but automation can enhance the candidate experience.
  • Systemization and automation are crucial for recruiters to focus on generating revenue and understanding market needs.
  • Loxo is an ATS that Alden uses, which streamlines his outreach campaigns and allows access for candidates and clients.
  • A virtual assistant has helped Alden with job ads, initial sourcing, and system integration, freeing up his time for more important tasks.
  • The virtual assistant uses LinkedIn and creates sophisticated Boolean strings to source candidates while Alden sleeps.

Calibration Process and Market Insights

06:39 - 14:07

  • Early returns are very good for the calibration process.
  • Initial support and putting people into the funnel has been helpful.
  • Automation is used in Loxo for follow-ups and outreach, but messages are kept authentic.
  • Picking up the phone to dial candidates in the database is less frowned upon in the current job market.
  • There is an enormous amount of applications for every job, but most are not qualified or aware of what they applied for.
  • The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is dealing with the emotional ups and downs.
  • Building a supportive community has been crucial in coping with challenges.
  • Specializing in healthcare has provided a competitive advantage due to experience and credibility.
  • Relationships with clients and candidates are stronger due to shared industry knowledge.
  • Starting during challenging times has its advantages as people drop out of the market, making it easier to reach candidates.

Challenges in a Candidate-Driven Market

13:38 - 20:44

  • In a candidate-driven market, it can be challenging to reach the right candidates.
  • Despite the challenges, starting in this market gives confidence for future success.
  • The current market feels deep and winning new business is harder.
  • Building relationships with known contacts is a focus, but new relationships have been formed as well.
  • Healthcare industry is struggling with labor costs and scarcity of roles, leading to budget crunches and fewer executive searches being outsourced.
  • Private equity firms are dealing with talent strategy changes due to longer holding times for portfolios.
  • Outbound recruiting has decreased, but passive candidates remain the main focus.
  • Recruiting strategy starts with a thorough intake process to ensure consistency and a positive candidate experience.
  • Outreach involves building a network through personal connections and using automated messaging sequences for multi-channel communication.
  • Texting candidates is avoided at the executive level, but it can be effective for mid-market roles.
  • Picking up the phone or texting can yield better results in this market where people are more open to communication.

Effective Communication and Recruitment Strategies

20:20 - 26:57

  • Picking up the phone and texting have become more fruitful in this market.
  • Always treat communication as a follow-up, never go in cold.
  • Rejection and disappointment are common in agency recruitment.
  • The number of people to reach out to depends on the role and location.
  • Transparency is important when sharing information with clients.
  • Setting goals and holding oneself accountable is crucial in this business.
  • There is discipline and systems needed for success.
  • Contingency-based recruiting can bring out negative behavior.

Building Relationships and Agency Work

26:31 - 33:26

  • Contingency-based recruiting brings out the worst behavior in both candidates and recruiters.
  • Being active on LinkedIn and consistently posting content has helped build a network of connections and potential clients.
  • Raising awareness through content marketing is crucial for transacting with people on LinkedIn.
  • Cold outreach is less effective than building relationships through personalized communication.
  • Adding value and sharing process insights can differentiate a recruiter or agency leader.
  • Choosing the hiring managers to work with is one of the best parts of the job.
  • The ups and downs of wins and losses are challenging in recruitment.
  • Agency work offers freedom, control over the process, and accountability.
  • Referrals are highly valuable for acquiring clients.
  • Interviews should ideally be limited to three for most positions, but at the executive level, it often takes longer.

Insights from Executive Interviews

33:08 - 36:11

  • For most positions, interviews should be no more than three seconds, but at the executive level, five to seven seconds is more appropriate.
  • Interviews at the executive level are not as easy as everyone on LinkedIn makes it seem.
  • A favorite interview question is asking about a thing bigger and beyond oneself that the candidate is committed to or in service of.
  • The favorite movie mentioned is 'Inglourious Basterds' by Quentin Tarantino.
  • 'Point Break' is another favorite movie because it inspired the interviewer to go skydiving with his brother.
  • The interviewer was a fan of Keanu Reeves even before he gained popularity.
  • The favorite album mentioned is 'OK Computer' by Radiohead.
  • Another influential album mentioned is 'Axis: Bold as Love' by Jimi Hendrix.