Alexandria People at Work: Recruiting as Match-Making

Alexandria People at Work: Recruiting as Match-Making

TorchLight Hire: Number 621 out of 5,000 fastest growing private companies.

Heidi Parsont, president and CEO of TorchLight Hire, holds up a copy of the September issue of Inc. Magazine that lists her company as number 621 out of 5,000 of the fastest growing private companies.

Heidi Parsont, president and CEO of TorchLight Hire, holds up a copy of the September issue of Inc. Magazine that lists her company as number 621 out of 5,000 of the fastest growing private companies. Photo by Shirley Ruhe.

Heidi Parsont says, "I've always been a connector. So, 12 years ago I randomly ended up in sales/business development and built relationships with companies. I loved making matches. I didn't realize it was a business." This talent has landed her TorchLight Hire company as number 621 out of 5,000 of the fastest growing private companies identified in the September edition of Inc. Magazine. She said placement was determined by percent growth in revenues. Her company grew 650 percent between 2012-2015.


Heidi Parsont says, “I ask myself every day why this job. But I’ve always been a connector. I just didn’t know it was a job.”


Heidi Parsont chats with Julie Lowe, her number two. They discuss recent candidates and offer advice about dressing appropriately for an interview, using key words for what you do in an online resume to make searching easier and being honest “because it always comes around.”

Parsont says TorchLight is a recruiting firm for marketing and communications professionals. They place between 25-50 permanent employees and 50 contractors a year over the D.C. metro area. She said if it doesn’t work out, which has been only twice in the last five years, that they will redo the search.

Parsont said she decided six years ago that she wanted more flexibility so she started her own company. Although each day is different, and "I work all the time, often until 11 p.m.," she has time to attend her children's activities or grocery shop in the middle of the day. "I love the flexibility."

She works out of her own home as do her other nine employees, "but we talk to each other a lot." It is a completely virtual workforce. "How much technology has allowed this to happen. It's been a real enabler. I just finished my Monday morning staff meeting by Skype."

Parsont picks up the phone. They do phone screens before bringing in a candidate and she says some days she is on the phone all day. She says you don't want to waste anyone's time with an in-person interview when you can tell from a phone screening that the salary expectations don't match, the qualifications aren't what the company needs or the personality doesn't seem right. Other days she is attending a marketing event, going to talk to a client about a need or conducting interviews.

"Julie, I'm checking in." Parsont said, "Julie Lowe is my number 2. She has been a rock star." They discuss the interview process which takes a number of steps. "It generally takes 3-6 months for a candidate to be hired," Parsont added. "And about 60 percent of the time we find a match." But she points out the other 40 percent isn’t a loss because they are building relationships that will come in handy in the future. Lowe says the candidate has a number of contacts — with the recruiter, the receptionist, the confirmation call, the telephone screener before they even have their interview and each is important in determining the candidate's suitability for the job. For instance, the candidate may be rude to the receptionist or talk badly about their current boss. They may have a timid personality and would be completely overwhelmed by an assertive manager. "We're looking for the best cultural match. It doesn't help anyone to place a candidate in the wrong job."

"Some candidates are scary. It is indicative of what kind of an employee they would be. So many things pop up. Our job is to screen.” Lowe says candidates show up at their office at Carr Workplaces on Montgomery Street "totally inappropriately dressed for their interview. Like really super casual, with scruffy jeans." Parsont interjects "with holes." She adds, "and hair not brushed, mismatched clothes.”

“Or some people have become hostile when they think they are perfect for a job and they don't get their way." Parsont said they have had trouble with references. "One person said 'I can't believe they gave me as a reference.'" Another woman gave a reference from when she worked in an ice cream shop at 17-years-old.

"There is a lot of strange in this business. It's rarer that you work in a business where the product talks back — the human component." Parsont continued, "there is a particular challenge with millennials who insist their needs have to be met." But she said, " we really value our candidates and want it to work for everybody."

"We have become investigators," Lowe said. "Marketing is a small world and many people know each other. Someone may say the person left a job but another person who knows them says, "oh no, they got fired." Parsont said, “I always tell the candidate to be honest because it always comes back."

Why this job? "I ask myself this every day. But I can do what I love. I'm very, very lucky. We get a lot of referrals. I hear, ‘you’re the place to go.’”