Business Lunch Do’s and Don’ts

Business lunches can be a lot like dates. Oftentimes you are meeting with someone you don’t know very well, you have to dress up, and it’s best to think of a list of conversation topics beforehand. Maybe that last part is just me…regardless, here are a few tips to help you navigate the ins and outs of lunch meetings.

<DO>

Email/phone ahead to confirm the lunch. There is nothing more annoying than showing up to a scheduled lunch, only to receive a frantic call from the person you’re supposed to meet asking to reschedule after 30 minutes of sitting alone in a restaurant. The waiter will think you have an imaginary lunch date, and you will have wasted at least an hour of your time.

<DON’T>

Order the most expensive item on the menu. Be considerate – of the other person if they are paying, or of your company if you are expensing the bill.

<DO>

Dress at or above the level of the person with whom you are meeting. That is the “Golden Rule” at Conexess, and it goes hand in hand with my own belief that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

<DON’T>

Talk with food in your mouth, be on your phone, chew with your mouth open, slurp your soup – basic table manners most definitely apply. Finishing school not required, but please, be polite.

<DO>

Be direct, but also meaningful when it comes to conversation. You should have an objective for the lunch, whether it is getting to know the person better, or closing a deal. Make sure that you accomplish your lunch goal before going your separate ways.

<DON’T>

Arrive unprepared. Research the person with whom you are meeting, and have any questions, papers, contracts, etc. prepared and with you when you get to the lunch. It is also helpful to tell the person you’re meeting what you’ll be wearing that day to streamline the introduction process.

While following this list of do’s and don’ts won’t guarantee a successful meeting, it will undoubtedly get you on the right track. How do you feel about business lunches – love or hate? Any tips to share? Leave a comment below, and let’s go to lunch sometime!

Lessons Learned while Networking

If you don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling when you hear about an upcoming networking event (and by warm and fuzzy, I don’t mean about to hurl), never fear – that can change! Speaking as a former wallflower, I can now confidently say that I genuinely enjoy networking events. If you had told me that I would feel this way 10 years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Or more realistically, giggled timidly and then awkwardly shuffle-walked away. Attending networking events well is all about perspective. The first networking event that I went to by myself was a little bit terrifying – nerve-inducing to the point of giving myself an audible pep talk in my car in the parking lot. It went a little something like this:

“Kayte, you are a big girl, you can do this. They won’t be mean to you, and if they are you can leave immediately. Just walk in, order a drink, take a quick lap, meet one person, and then you can leave.”

I ended up staying for 2 hours. I had a wonderful time, and made connections with people that I still keep up with nearly a year later. Since then, I have tried to attend one event each week. Not because I’m a cat lady and have nothing better to do with my free time, but because every time I go to a networking event, I walk away with something new (and not because I’m pickpocketing people while I’m there). Here are a few tidbits that I’ve picked up along my networking journey; I hope they are helpful to you!

  1. Set a goal before you walk in: my goal is always to meet at least one person. I don’t let myself leave until that happens. Decide what you want to glean from the event, and don’t let yourself bail until you have achieved exactly what you intended.
  2. Practice makes perfect: turns out that my high school lacrosse coach was right – the more you practice, the easier networking becomes. The hyperactive butterflies in your stomach will subside, you’ll begin to see familiar faces as you attend regular meetings, and before you know it, friends you drag along will comment that you seem to know everyone in the room – imagine that! So allow yourself to make awkward conversational faux pas in the beginning, stumble through a discussion with a CEO without realizing he’s the CEO until it’s too late to recover, and forget your business cards – you will learn from all of these experiences! And as painful as the situation might seem in the moment, odds are that no one will remember you as “the girl who spilled wine on herself” at the next event. Keep practicing! It gets easier, I promise.
  3. You just never know who you’ll meet: making valuable connections is the whole point of networking. If you have registered for the event via a site like Eventbrite, you may have access to the guest list and can then mentally prepare for the people you will meet there. Otherwise, you can just walk up to someone and start a conversation – that person could be your next employer/best friend/business partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/etc. You just never know!
  4. Humans are better than the 9:00 news claims: I cannot tell you how many times the strangers I’ve met at networking events have offered to help me. Whether it is a videographer suggestion, or recommending a friend of mine for a job opening, people (in Nashville at least) are pretty great. And while you never know what someone might be able to offer you, you also don’t know how you’ll be able to help them. This has been perhaps my favorite aspect of networking – getting caught up in the “how can I help you” mentality that everyone seems to share.
  5. Clinging to your safety raft gets you nowhere*: Bringing a few friends or coworkers with you to a networking event is great. BUT if you only talk to them all night, you might as well have gone straight home from work and watched Netflix because you will be missing out on all of the benefits of networking. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be intimidating, but taking the easy road is often not the most beneficial in the long run. So let go of that safety raft and make some new connections, you won’t regret it.

Here are a few of the networking events that I have attended in the Nashville area. Check out their websites, and I hope to see you at an event in the near future 🙂

Nashcocktail

Nashville Geek Breakfast

Network After Work

12th & Broad events

WiTT events

Girl Geek Dinner

What are you favorite networking events? Any tips to share? Leave a comment below.

*Unless it’s a literal safety raft and you’re stranded in the middle of the ocean, <my nightmare> then please hang on for dear life.

A Contractor’s Perspective…

The other day I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of our longtime contractors, Keith Beckman. Keith has been working contract positions for the past few years, and when asked what incentives, if any, would cause him to revert to a permanent position, he said “none.” Pretty bold statement considering that he held a permanent role for several years prior to working contract. Initially, it was the fear of the unknown combined with a lack of the right opportunity that gave Keith pause before switching to a contract role. While he said that there is admittedly more paperwork that goes along with working contract (as a 1099 employee), he claims that the perks of “being your own boss” are most definitely worth it. Between the flexibility, and the immediate control that he has over his occupation, Keith wouldn’t change a thing.

I asked Keith the hot button question of what it’s like to work with a recruiter. He very eloquently gave a response, careful not to step on too many toes. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first, shall we? Turns out that Conexess aside, recruiters don’t have the most honest track record (resume tampering, lies about salary, etc.), and tend to cause a lot of “noise” in the lives of candidates. Keith said that he daily has LinkedIn messages, emails, and voicemails from recruiters he does not know. And while it is flattering to be so sought after, it is annoying/frustrating/exhausting to weed through the endless barrage of messages, especially because he is happily employed right now! That being said, he noted that when one is out of work, getting a cold call from a recruiter can be the best part of your day – it is all about the timing. If the call comes in:

  1. Not at dinner time, and
  2. When you need a job,

then it is fantastic! Wonderful, even. One of my favorite things that Keith said was:

“If you haven’t built a relationship with someone, you don’t know what you’re getting.”

At Conexess, we truly value the relationships that we form with candidates. Case in point – Keith is one of many who have been in our pipeline for multiple years, and the relationships that have been formed are genuinely enjoyed by recruiters and contractors alike.

When presented with the opportunity to work as a contract employee, many without experience doing so are hesitant, or flatout refuse to consider making the switch from a perm role. I asked Keith about this recurring phenomenon and he said that having a permanent role within a company is no more stable than having a contract position. Anyone could be fired at any time regardless of the supposed “security” of a permanent role. Keith did note that if you are not a skilled negotiator, and/or don’t have your finances in order, you may want to think twice before working as a contractor. And as far as health insurance is concerned – you are paying for it one way or another, whether it is included as a portion of your set salary, or a policy that you choose and pay for out-of-pocket.

An aspect of working as a contract employee that Keith has come to really enjoy is networking and going to conferences around the country to hone his craft. Attending various networking events and conferences not only widens your social network, but also expands your skill set. If you are a contract employee, going to a conference is a great way to meet someone who could give you your next job opportunity. Be warned that popular conferences sell out quickly! PyTennessee is coming up next month but has already sold out, however they do still have sponsorship slots available.

Ultimately, working contract versus working perm comes down to personal preference and lifestyle choice. If you want more freedom and flexibility, then 2015 might be a great time to take a contract position. If a more structured work environment works best for you, then a “perm” role might be a better option. Just remember, that there is no such thing as a permanent job! Although the verbiage makes it seem that way, an employee can be let go at any time, regardless of the position title. Have you worked both perm and contract roles? Which did you prefer and why? Let us know in the comment section below!

If you are looking to make a career move this year, check out our job postings here, or contact one of our rockstar recruiters.

**A great big thank you goes to Keith Beckman for contributing to this blog post!**

The Reason for the Season

Last week, our Nashville office had the opportunity to volunteer at the Salvation Army warehouse. We had no idea what we would be doing, and upon arrival learned that we would be “shopping” for the Forgotten Angels. Are you familiar with the Angel Tree program? Families that cannot afford to purchase gifts for their children can register their kids for the Angel Tree. A form that lists their clothing sizes, “want,” and “need” items is then placed on a tree in a mall for passerby to select, shop for, and then bring the gifts to the Salvation Army warehouse. Although it is a wonderful program that benefits numerous families around the country each year, there are holes in it. Unselected forms that are left on the trees signify the “Forgotten Angels” – kids that will not receive any Christmas gifts if left as is.

Our job at the warehouse was to take a Forgotten Angel form, and get the child his “needs,” and 2 medium sized toys or “wants” from a large selection of donated goodies in the middle of the warehouse. We put the gifts for each child into a large sack, reminiscent of Santa Claus (ho, ho, ho), and sorted them by family to be delivered.  I was not expecting to become so easily attached to these faceless forms, but seeing items like “coat, shoes, undergarments, baby wipes, and diapers” listed as “needs” was incredibly sobering. It was so special to see my coworkers working together to find the best possible gifts for their Angels. While we will never know for sure, I like to imagine that the faces of our Angels will light up on Christmas morning when they see presents waiting for them under the tree. The part that we played was so trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it feels great to know that we made a small difference for these kids. As heart-wrenching as it is to think that the biggest concern for some of these children is where their next meal will come from, the fact that they will get to escape from reality for even a moment to unwrap their gifts and feel the joy of Christmas is what our volunteer experience was all about. That thought brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye each time I think about it – how lucky are we that we had the chance to help these nameless Angels?

While we were working to give to the Forgotten Angels, they inadvertently also gave to us. Volunteering with Salvation Army was a great reminder of the reason for the season – spending time with people you care about, and helping others. Collectively, we have been so very blessed this year at Conexess, and want to say a heartfelt “thank you” to those of you who been part of our journey throughout 2014. We wish you Happy Holidays, and all the best in the New Year. We also encourage you to consider volunteering this holiday season – here are a few links to get you started in the Nashville area:

http://www.hon.org/

http://www.paradisedivision.org/Nashville

http://secondharvestmidtn.org/

Holiday Gift Giving in the Office

A few suggestions for giving holiday gifts in the office…

If you collectively agree to do a gift exchange, organize a White Elephant swap or Secret Santa event because buying a gift for everyone in the office is unrealistic and expensive.

White Elephant swap – set a dollar amount (we did $10) and have everyone bring in a WRAPPED gift for that amount. Put all of the gifts in the center of the room, and have all participants draw a number 1 through how ever many people brought gifts. The person with number one goes first, and selects any gift that he wants from the pile. He then opens the gift, and sets it in front of him. Then the person with number two can either choose a gift from the center pile, or “steal” the gift from person #1. Gifts can only be stolen three times before they are “dead,” and stuck with whoever has them at that point. If the gift was stolen from person #1, he would choose a new gift from the center, unwrap it, and place it in front of him, just as before. Person #1 could not immediately steal his original gift back from person #2, but if a steal occurs later in the game, the person from whom the gift was stolen would have the option to select a new gift from the center or steal from another person (again, cannot steal his original gift back). The cycle continues until all presents have been unwrapped. White Elephant swaps are a fun, easy, and affordable way to get everyone involved. If you have questions about the rules, leave us a comment at the bottom 🙂

Secret Santa – Set a dollar and time limit (last year we did $5 per day for 4 days). Have all participants fill out a form that lists their general likes/dislikes, candy/food preferences, interests, favorite coffee places, and any other information you think would be beneficial. Then fold up the forms, put them in a bowl, and have each person draw one (make sure you don’t draw your own name!). Designate a spot in the office as a “gift drop-off” – can be cubbies, lockers, last year we set up stockings to really get in the holiday spirit J Then you read over the form of the person you selected, and buy them a little happy for each day of Secret Santa. Sometimes it helps to have themed days – spa day (loofa and fun-smelling soap), movie day (funny movie from the $5 bin & popcorn), candy day (all their favorite candies). Have fun with it, be creative and make your own rules/modifications! The goal is to not let anyone know who you have for Secret Santa, and to figure out who has you. On the last day, have everyone come together and reveal who they had.

The key to office gift giving is to not make anyone feel pressured to participate. If it is all in good fun, then there should not be any issues. At Conexess, we love getting into the holiday spirit and have done both Secret Santa and a White Elephant Exchange. For our office, it seems to be easier to do a White Elephant Exchange because it is not as big of a time commitment. Every office environment is different, so do whatever works best for you and enjoy the holiday season!

^^Our successful White Elephant gift exchange^^

Conexessgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! It is safe to say that we have all been incredibly blessed at Conexess this year. With so much to be thankful for, we wanted to share a few of our thanksgivings with you 🙂

Wendy – I am thankful for my children.

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Kim – I am thankful for coffee!

Miles – I am thankful for my family.

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Ryan – As a participant in No Shave November, I shaved off my first beard attempt because it was too itchy….that being said, I’m thankful that my second beard attempt hasn’t been as itchy!

Kelsie – Thankful for my family.

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Matt – I’m thankful for friends and sweet tea.

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Carly – I’m thankful for my boyfriend.

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David – I’m thankful for my son, Grant Escue.

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Kayte – I’m thankful that I live in the South where it’s warm 🙂

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Michael – I am thankful for the opportunities that Conexess has provided me.

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Jenna Kay – I’m thankful for friends who feel like family.

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Meg – I am thankful for my friends and family.

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Peyton – I’m thankful for golf.

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Jerry – I am thankful for good health.

Dan- I am thankful for my baby girl, Olive, the new life in my life.

 

We are also thankful for all of YOU! What is something that you’re thankful for this year? Tell us in the comment section below!

A Tale of Two Buildings

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” or so it goes. Conexess Group has been located on the 30th floor (Penthouse Suite, as some like to call it) of the L&C building for the past three years. During that time, the company has grown – employees and clients have been gained and lost, new offices opened, and the Penthouse Suite has been replaced with a modern space in 100 Oaks. Needless to say, there are a mixture of emotions about the move. Our time in the L&C building has been great for the company, but there comes a time when moving on is the natural next step. We have reached that point, and while there are feelings of excitement about the next chapter, there are also twinges of sadness and nostalgia that will always be connected to the fond memories that were created on the 30th floor.

The office in 100 Oaks will truly be ours, and we will have new freedoms and be able to take liberties that we previously could not have taken. There is a beautiful space behind the building that will be picture perfect for hosting events, and a lofted area for us to use as a relaxed space (mini-bar included). Making this new space feel “warm,” and “lived-in” is a challenge that we welcome, and at the same time, realize that it will take some time before we are truly at home in 100 Oaks.

Because we were in the L&C building for 3 years, it became familiar to us, comfortable. The security guard, mailman, FedEx & UPS delivery men, and janitorial staff all greeted me by name. I heard about their grandkids, PhD pursuits, vacations, and job laments; they know where I’m from, that my space heater is perpetually on, and that my love of Starbucks puts a dent in my bank account each month. Although I will miss each of my L&C pals, there is something beautiful in the idea of starting over, completely from scratch. Certainly there are unappealing parts of the “begin again” process – new names, new location, new barista (but I LOVED my old barista!!); however, the pieces of Conexess that are dearest to me will not change. The people (my people), the values, the work ethic, the FUN that we have together, those things will remain constant. So, although I may need to start from scratch with the new mailman, I am hopeful that it will be the beginning of a new friendship. I hope that the intangible assets of Conexess continue to be apparent to those looking in, and that we would be able to use our collective efforts to make our new office a “home.”

Conexess Campfire

Celebratory move-in campfire in our new backyard

Team Building in the Office

happy hour

Team building. Ice breakers. More than 40 hours a week spent with co-workers. To some, any of those three would bring on a reflexive headache worse than the most painful of migraines; and the thought of combining the three into a collaborative activity sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. To the people who think that way, I say – you’re wrong! You’ve been misinformed, tricked, fooled into believing that team building is a hassle and a waste of your time, when in fact, it is a critical component when creating a cohesive office environment.

Here at Conexess, a significant amount of emphasis is placed on team building in order to achieve a more familial atmosphere. The crazy thing is that the more team building we do, the more everyone seems to enjoy it, and the closer we all become. Last week, there was a spontaneous gathering in our “pit” area with everyone swapping relationship stories, anecdotes, and advice. I overheard one of my coworkers comment “I love our family time discussions.” Even without years of experience in the workplace, I know that the bonds we have at Conexess are uncommon to say the least. The reasoning behind our closeness is simple:

  • Being a culture fit is a pre requisite to working at Conexess, which means that we all get along on a general level to begin with.
  • Team building activities are built into our annual calendar to ensure that our connections with one another go beyond the walls of the office.

WHY

Let’s go over a few of the basics: why team build? Because even in a sales-oriented workplace, you cannot rely on yourself alone to be successful – you need teammates. Team building exercises build trust, a crucial element of working cohesively with others. They also promote unity within a company, and can be FUN if you know what you’re doing.

WHEN

At Conexess, we plan quarterly bonding activities that correspond with the time of year and type of quarterly contest we have running in the office. Quarterly activities are fun to plan because there is always a holiday/event that can be tied in with the theme of the team bonding. For example: 1st quarter – Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl, March Madness; 2nd Quarter – Memorial Day, Summer kickoff; 3rd Quarter – 4th of July, Labor Day; 4th Quarter – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah. The 4th quarter is an all-star grouping of months, and we like to take advantage of that. Rather than have one big blowout activity, we’ll carve pumpkins for Halloween, have a potluck lunch for Thanksgiving, and a Christmas/holiday party in December.

christmas sillyUSA

In addition to having quarterly team building, we also have annual retreats that last 2-3 days. They focus on brainstorming ideas for the upcoming year, and bring all of our offices (Nashville, Detroit, and Orlando) together for some time of fun and relaxation. Our retreats typically happen in the summer months because we love to be outside. A quick tip is to have a retreat at the same time of year, every year. That way, employees can plan around the retreat, and look forward to it each year.

Birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones are also a great excuse for a small celebration with the team. At Conexess, we like to gather as a team and enjoy a sweet treat to celebrate those occasions.

barile bday

Another EASY way to bond your team is to go to happy hour together! Any day of the week will do, but Thursdays and Fridays tend to have the best response rate…especially if you get out of the office a little early :-). Here is a link to the best daily happy hours in Nashville: http://nashvilleguru.com/best-nashville-happy-hours-and-specials, and in the words of my dear friend, Jimmy Buffett, “it’s 5:00 somewhere.”

WHAT

Since repeating the same activities can be mundane, we try to shake things up when it comes to team building. For the first quarter of 2014 we had a “progressive lunch” where everyone was broken up into groups and assigned a meal course to contribute. After eating, we played board games and went to an early happy hour. The lunch/game combo was great because it got everybody involved, and it didn’t cost Conexess a dime! We went on our annual retreat during the second quarter, which involved a trip to a cabin in Kentucky and time in the sun on a boat…success. Sometimes all it takes to bond a group of people together is getting away from the office for a few days. In that regard, company retreats have been an excellent source of team building for us. Third quarter team building took place on The Redneck Bus Tour, a local attraction that allows guests to bring a cooler with “adult beverages” on board, and takes them on a driving tour of Nashville hot spots. Other team building activities that we have done and recommend are: attend a Nashville Sounds game, attend a Nashville Predators game, go to a pottery studio, have a pumpkin carving contest, take a ride on the Nashville Pedal Tavern, or throw a holiday party (4th of July, Halloween, Christmas). It is always a great idea to support local businesses while team building at the same time!

pedal tavernQ3 Kickoff 014ladies night18

WHO

Ideally, team building activities should include the entire office. However, in larger companies that may be unrealistic. We break up our office in several different ways to team-build throughout the year. The quarterly activities always include everyone at Conexess. Annual retreats are divided into two groupings – one for the operations staff, and one for the rest of the team. Within our sales team, there are smaller groups that work together on a daily basis, and they occasionally have team building exercises on their own. Make sure that everyone in your office is included in a team building exercise in some capacity, leaving someone out unintentionally is a careless mistake that can lead to needlessly burning bridges.

Team building encourages unity within an office, and builds trust through fun and oftentimes, low-cost, methods. When planning a team building activity, it is important to consider when you want to have it, what you want to do, and who you want to be involved. Any budget or timeline can be used, as long as the team is spending time together, getting to know one another on a deeper level outside of the office. Best of luck with your team building endeavors! If you have questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

group pic

Spotlight: Carly Ball

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This month, we are putting the SPOTLIGHT on Carly Ball. A technical recruiter with Conexess in our Nashville office for over a year, this girl has got it going on. She is a ball of fun, and lights up any room she walks into. Read her Q&A below to get to know her better, and then connect with her on LinkedIn while you’re at it 🙂

Favorite childhood memory- Summer league softball games.  I played from the time I was five years old until I graduated high school.

Best place to eat in Nashville- There are so many to choose from!! I love Edley’s BBQ, Cajun Steamer, Burger Republic, and Puckett’s.

Best thing about being a recruiter- Meeting all of the awesome people and helping them find a new position that they love! I also love that no day is the same;  I can never predict what my day will be like.

What is the best day of the week and why- Saturday because it’s by far the most fun day of the entire week! I get to hang out with my friends and will most likely have a drink in my hand! 🙂

Nicknames- “Cballa,” “Carl,” “Syball,” “Carly Ball of fun,” “CB.”

Who do you most look up to- My granny; she is all around the best person I know! Love her!

Last selfie you took- Last week- I was dog sitting for my Mom.

A Day in the Life of a Recruiter

Ever wonder what recruiters do all day? Today on the blog, we want to give you a peek into everyday recruiter life. Jenna Kay has been a recruiter at Conexess for a year and a half, and is used to the in and out, always changing tempo of the staffing world. Here is a day-in-the-life for her, and her take on what being a recruiter is really like:

“Just like any job, there are definitely some highs and lows in recruiting. It is a bit of a roller coaster ride, but that’s part of the fun too. Getting out and about all day—meeting people who you can really help and that you genuinely enjoy getting to know, that’s the coolest part. There really never is a dull moment. And the high you feel when you help someone find a job they really want or need, that’s what makes recruiting so worthwhile.”

7:40 - arrive at Conexess....I mustache you a question - how do you take your coffee?

7:40 – arrive at Conexess….I mustache you a question – how do you take your coffee?

8:30 - time for morning huddle. What is on the schedule for today?

8:30 – time for morning huddle. What positions are hot today?

9:15 - Check email, find awesome(!) candidates

9:15 – check email, find awesome(!) candidates.

11:00 - off to lunch with a candidate. Driving and smiling - it's a thing :-)

11:00 – off to lunch with a candidate. Driving and smiling – it’s a thing 🙂

12:45 - leave Burger Up feeling 5 pounds heavier....that place does not disappoint

12:45 – leave Burger Up feeling 5 pounds heavier….that place does not disappoint.

1:00 - head to a local cupcake spot to grab a sweet dozen for one of our clients. YUM

1:00 – head to a local cupcake spot to grab a sweet dozen for one of our clients. YUM!

1:30 - every recruiter understands the importance of caffeine as part of the daily grind. Love being able to support local shops - check out Red Bicycle if you haven't already!

1:30 – every recruiter understands the importance of caffeine as part of the daily grind. Love being able to support local shops – check out Red Bicycle if you haven’t already!

2:15 - Walked in a candidate and handed off the cupcakes - they were a hit!

2:15 – walked in a candidate and handed off the cupcakes – they were a hit!

3:00 - back in the office. Time to make some calls and finish the day strong

3:00 – back in the office. Time to make some calls and finish the day strong.

**If you are interested in getting more information about recruiting, or working at/with the crazy fun team at Conexess, please check out our careers page for more info**