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The Resilient Recruiter

Jun 8, 2020

If the ability to perform under pressure is a pre-requisite for success in recruitment, then it’s no surprise that Craig Picken has reached the peak of our profession as one of the top-producing recruiters in the United States.

Eight years’ experience as a decorated Naval Flight Officer – with more than 100 combat missions, 2,000 hours of flight time, and 325 aircraft carrier landings – was perhaps the ideal proving ground for Craig’s later career in recruitment.  

Craig is the co-founder and the managing partner for the Northstar Group which is a boutique executive search firm based in Wilmington,  North Carolina. Since 2009 Craig has concluded several hundred executive-level searches in leadership, sales, and operations for some of the most prominent companies in the aviation and aerospace industries.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [1:36] Craig’s background: from being a naval pilot to being a recruiter.
  • [6:06] Three main skills from Craig’s naval career that are transferable to the recruitment business.
  • [14:50] Dealing with a very difficult client - hear how it was handled professionally. 
  • [21:30] Long-term business perspectives that you can apply during this pandemic.
  • [31:45] Craig speaks about the biggest challenges in his career.
  • [34:40] The story of how he once got fired -  and how it led to a making a fortune in two different industries 
  • [44:45] Craig’s strategy on how to handle recruitment business downtime due to an economic downturn.
  • [53:50] Craig discusses the value of doing a podcast and other ways he is connecting with his audience.

“ How to Fly When Your Airplane is on Fire”

During the interview, Craig recalls several instances where sudden unexpected airplane system malfunctions endangered the lives of his co-pilots. He then added, “The one thing that the navy teaches you well is not how to fly. It is how to fly when your airplane is on fire. And all your systems are going to hell.” He strongly believes in keeping an open mind rather than being a control freak. When things are not going the way they should be, it should be about the ability to be flexible. 

Translating it to recruitment, he says “That is where recruiters got to understand. What are you doing when everything is going to hell? It’s a very emotional business, you can’t control people. A lot of recruiters talk about control. I don’t try to control anybody.”

Being a Value in these Difficult Times

With the significant impact of the coronavirus to the aviation and aerospace industry, what is Craig currently doing to maintain his momentum? “Building my network, talking, and being a value.” Craig’s perspective is helping people get to where they need to be. And when their business comes back, he is the person they will be thinking about. Strategically, he looks at the long term rather than immediate results. “I take everybody’s call… And my only goal is to be a value.” Hear his philosophy on how the recruitment business is a business of helping people.

Where there is Chaos, there is Opportunity

Just when Craig and his wife are expecting the birth of their twins, something terrible happened - he got fired from his job. This caused them monumental stress, but as Craig puts it, “where there is chaos, there is an opportunity.” For him, getting fired taught him to be more entrepreneurial and to be more on moving forward. 

Giving back to the Community

Aside from rescuing dogs, Craig is also a big contributor to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ltd (JDRF), a charity focused on eradicating juvenile type 1 Diabetes. If you wish to know more about this organization, you may refer to the link in the below section.

Craig Picken Bio and Contact Info

Co-founder and Managing Partner for Northstar Group, a boutique executive search firm based in Wilmington, NC, Craig is focused on recruiting senior-level leadership, sales, and operations executives for some of the most prominent companies in the aviation and aerospace industry. Clients include well-known aircraft OEM’s, aircraft operators, leasing / financial organizations, and Maintenance / Repair / Overhaul (MRO) providers. Since 2009 he has personally concluded several hundred executive-level searches in a variety of disciplines.  

People and Resources Mentioned 

Connect with Mark Whitby

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