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Talent Speaks: Interview Series Episode 2

Lindsey Sheppard

It’s about time for our long overdue, 2nd episode of “Talent Speaks”. This is part of an ongoing series where we sit down with actual talent acquisition professionals to gain insight and advice. This week we sit down with Lindsey Sheppard. She’s a Recruiting Lead who holds her Masters in HR Management and has vast experience in executive search and leading recruitment teams.

NTF: Hi Lindsey, thank you for sitting down with us today. The goal of this series is really to meet with various recruiters and get their advice regarding all things job searching. We feel there is so much misinformation out there on how to handle the job searching & interviewing process that sometimes going directly to the source is the best advice.

So, tell us a little bit about your career starting at Ohio State and then leading to more recruiting focused.

LS: Of course, thanks for having me! My first role out of undergrad was actually with an IT staffing firm. I was fortunate to learn very quickly 2 things that would ultimately shape my career goals and direction: 1. I loved talent acquisition and the ability to connect great talent with great companies. 2. A culture that is focused on doing what is right must always be the priority. I made the decision to join OSU as an administrative assistant and enrolled into the HR master’s program. From there, my career in Talent Acquisition/HR began.

NTF: Very similar to my background actually, moving from a staffing firm to getting my Masters in HR. So tell us about your current role. Who do you traditionally recruit?

LS: For the past several years, my focus has been on supporting clients in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries. I have worked as a third party consultant managing anything from sourcing to full life cycle recruitment for companies ranging in size — start-up’s with 50 or less people and no commercialized products to global organizations of over 20,000 employees and a commercial portfolio of several dozen products. Roles have varied from C-suite executives, commercial sales build teams, as well as clinical and regulatory roles.

NTF: Since you have the executive side of recruiting as well, I’m guessing you have seen more recruiting teams than most. In your opinion, what makes an organizations’ recruiting truly effective? How do teams build a great recruiting team?

LS: I think this ultimately goes back to my original statement about working for a company that does the ‘right’ thing. Whether you are a recruiter working for a fortune 500 company, a third party search firm or as an independent consultant, at the end of the day, a great recruiter is the individual who puts their clients and customers first. When that priority becomes second, or third, that is when you will find those individuals with what you call a ‘used salesman’ mentality — focusing only on what is best for them (will they meet their goal, will they hit their commission, etc.)

NTF: I agree, recruiters that are incentivized by commissions often make it difficult to believe they truly “put the client first.” When our customers work with recruiters, what should they be looking for in terms of finding a “good” one?

LS: I believe in transparency and open communication. If you want to build a successful, lasting relationship you need to provide clear, transparent communication. Whether that is something as simple as following up with a candidate to let them know you do not have feedback on next-steps just yet but will keep them informed, or providing a hiring manager with difficult feedback about expectations or concerns about a candidate. In general, a recruiter who is transparent and provides timely feedback is the two main things I would look out for.

NTF: That is something we definitely see especially with people that desperately need a job, they tend to miss these communication red flags from poor recruiters they shouldn’t be working with. We work a ton with college students who struggle to understand this process.

LS: Exactly, if a candidate feels like the communication is poor, it may be a good sign to move on with their search.

NTF: Moving on, what advice can you give people on simply starting the job search?

LS: I believe there are several key steps to take but first, begin by networking with industry professionals. Reach out to individuals who are in roles and/or with organizations that are of interest to you. People tend to appreciate and be receptive of sharing their own personal story so don’t be afraid to send a message on LinkedIn to a total stranger — express your interest in their career, ask for guidance, and keep networking! From there, focus on narrowing down the roles and companies/industries you want to target then begin job searching. LinkedIn and Indeed tend to be the places I utilize most heavily in addition to specific company websites.

NTF: Great advice! I always tell people to reach out to strangers on LinkedIn within the company they are applying. I feel that when people think of “networking” they think they have to go to events and join groups, when in reality it can be as simple as messaging someone on LinkedIn and striking up a conversation. I would add though, do not simply message them and ask for a favor immediately… People hate that!

LS: Yes, definitely try to keep in personal rather than seeking a favor from a stranger.

NTF: Speaking of LinkedIn. From our college visits, a large portion of students do not see the value of LinkedIn. What would you say to current college students about the value of LinkedIn, and how you use it in your recruiting efforts?


NTF: Want me to put that in “all caps”?

LS: Please do! Haha LinkedIn is a huge, free resource for professionals at any stage in their career. For college students, I think it specifically provides a great resource to begin learning more about different companies as well as providing and excellent tool to allow you to network. As a recruiter, I utilize LinkedIn daily to search for candidates with specifically skill sets/experiences as well as to share job opportunities with my network.

NTF: Yes, I learn a ton about companies simply from LinkedIn. I’ve seen candidates can also add their resume to their LinkedIn profile. What makes a resume stand out in your mind?

LS: Organization and conciseness. You do not need a 10 page CV for most positions so keep things clear, specific, and concise.

NTF: Great advice, we are not reading those 10 pages haha. What is your advice post-application?

LS: I always recommend reaching out to 1 or 2 individuals that work for the company you have applied to. Keep it short and simple and wait several weeks before following back up.

NTF: Our advice is always to use your network whenever available, thus turning your application into a referral. Tell us how you or your company manages referrals. Do you treat them differently?

LS: Referrals tend to be one of the best methods of hiring. This is because the candidate (the referral) has experience that can be verified by a current employee. Internal referrals that come with strong recommendations, assuming they meet the qualifications of the role, tend to always be put towards the top of the list when it comes to the initially screening process but ultimately still go through the same process as all other candidates who move forward.

NTF: Again, great insight. If someone can turn their application into an internal referral, they may see a vastly different candidate experience.

One of the last questions for you, besides LinkedIn, where do you look to research different companies you may be interviewing with?

LS: Some of the things I recommend reviewing are Glassdoor reviews, media information (are there any legal issues, etc.), reaching out to your network and reading reviews about a company’s culture and compensation practices. These are all pieces that I feel are important when considering a position with a new organization.

NTF: Another major issue we see our customers struggle with is lack of feedback post-interview. What is your advice to candidates after an interview? How can a candidate can sense when an interview went well or if it did not go well?

LS: This can be difficult because not all hiring managers, interview committee’s or even HR want to share specific feedback if it was negative, primarily because most people are uncomfortable in providing negative or rather constructive feedback. Having a good sense of self is key — did you feel like you spent too much time answering one question? Did you have strong follow-up questions at the end of the interview? Did you feel a connection with the interviewer or were they closed off? From there, I would recommend always providing a follow-up, thank you note and close by expressing your excitement and also ask for any feedback. You can’t receive feedback if you don’t ask!

NTF: So true! Most people are so nervous by the end of the interview they forget to ask for next steps or feedback that could potentially help them! I know we could go on all day but I feel this may be a good stopping point since I know you have a hard stop here.

Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and share your experiences and advice.

LS: Of course, thank you so much! Please reach out if I can be any assistance in the future. I definitely agree that there is a piece of the job searching process that is truly broken and I’m glad someone is doing something to fix it.

NTF: Thank you! Glad to have your support! I encourage everyone to connect with Lindsey on LinkedIn!


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