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BY Cameron-Brooks

Cameron-Brooks Alumnus Shares His Biggest Takeaways from 30+ Years in Business

The Cameron-Brooks team recently asked our alumni to share a photo of themselves when they were active duty and a recent photo with a short summary of their current role. Our inboxes were flooded with alumni stories who are all in different phases of their careers, and we’ve loved reading everyone’s stories. 

One alumni sent such a heartfelt and insightful email, that the team felt compelled to share. Dave Parmly launched his career with KFC after attending a Cameron-Brooks conference the winter of 1990 in Waco, Texas. Enjoy reading Dave’s story.

You know, I had a hard time getting 31 years into 2 sentences.  I was an “interesting” Cameron-Brooks candidate.

I had just made the decision to get out of the service after discussing it with a good friend (and fellow Cameron-Brooks alum – Phil Hallenbeck.)  He told me Cameron-Brooks was interviewing at Ft Polk and gave me the phone number of the guy screening candidates, Mark Horstmann.  I hadn’t ever heard of Cameron-Brooks (CB), and I had already started talking to another recruiting firm. However, Phil said CB was pretty well-regarded.  Sure, I thought, I’ll give it a whirl.
I called and set up the meeting for the next day and showed up in my BDUs, fresh from work.  Other guys were coming out in suits.  Hmm.  “Was I doing this wrong?”, I thought to myself.  I had a great conversation with Mark and, God bless him, he accepted me as a candidate.  In retrospect, I am not sure what he was seeing in me.  I was barely prepared for the meeting, it was more exploratory for me, but the immediate arrival of a hefty packet of prep materials showed that CB did things very differently than the other firm I had been working with. I settled down to doing the work and felt pretty confident about my preparations.  My conference was in Waco, TX and I drove over from Fort Polk.
At my meeting with Roger on Day One of the conference, I got the immediate impression that A) as a History major from a state school with a 3.2 GPA, I was a lot different from all the high-powered schools / degrees / Cum Laude GPAs  the other guys had to their credit, and B) Roger was not shy about telling me that my profile was NOT the Cameron-Brooks norm.  I had a feeling Mark Horstmann might have gotten his butt chewed for taking me.  Still, I have always been an overcomer and an over-achiever, so I was certain I would prove Roger wrong.  He told me I would have 14 interviews over the weekend and gave me the list.
I have always been a top-block OER, head of the class, Top-5 order-of-merit guy so I was determined that of 14 interviews, I would have 14 follow-ups.  I hit the interviews hard and felt great about my navigation of them all.  I recall quite clearly that my first interview was with Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I considered this interview as a warm-up, since I had ZERO interest in a job selling chicken.  I was going to sell surgical instruments, or work for Ethicon, or some other glamorous job.  At the end of the first day, Roger announced that the conference was already a 100% success, in that every candidate had AT LEAST one follow up.  I was quite confident I had 7, with 7 more tomorrow.  I called my wife and told her the good news.
The next day’s interviews went just as well as Day One.  After they were all finished,  I met with Mary Lou for my 1-on 1.  She informed me that I was not 14 for 14.  I was 13 of 14.  Sadly, 13 of 14 said they had no interest in me.  Who was that 14th company that said yes?  You guessed it: KFC.
Roger, it seems, had been right about me and the typical CB profile.  While glad to have at least ONE rope to grab ahold of, I was pretty devastated.  I called my wife and just said “How do you feel about fried chicken?”  She could hear the bitter disappointment in my voice.  As she always has been, she was my rock.  “Just come home.  we’ll be fine,” she said.  It was late but I couldn’t stay in that hotel, the place of my apparent defeat any longer so I checked out and drove home.
The interviews in Dallas with KFC went very well and I landed an offer and got a good choice of locations.  The rest, as they say, is history.
I have learned that, when a company says no, it’s almost always for the right reasons.
I’ve thought a lot about what my biggest takeaways from all of that should be, especially given my 30+ years in HR.  I have learned that, when a company says no, it’s almost always for the right reasons. I also have come to see that I would have been miserable as a lone-wolf salesman, no matter how much better it paid, no matter how much better I would have dressed.  I have learned that the people doing the interviews did me a huge favor by steering me away from jobs I wouldn’t have done well in, leaving me no alternative except a place I could do what I did best: lead people in a tough job…and working in a chicken restaurant in Dallas is a TOUGH JOB!  I have also been aware of how vulnerable a person feels in an interview and how dehumanizing the process can be for the candidate.  I have never forgotten the lesson I learned there in Waco at my hiring conference.
I am eternally grateful to a guy that took a chance on me…
See?  Hard to do in 2 sentences but I am eternally grateful to a guy that took a chance on me, Mark Horstmann, and to Roger and Rene for not dumping me when they probably should have!  You all do great work and I bet candidates have many stories like mine.

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