Adam Karpiak (the man, the myth, the legend) is a recruiter with 15+ years of experience specializing in recruiting for candidates looking to work in public accounting. For those who know him, Adam has a unique voice and persona on LinkedIn making him the most interesting person on the platform (totally unbiased statement).
For some background, Adam actually got me my current job and I would recommend anyone looking to work in public accounting to reach out to him. You can creep on his LinkedIn profile here and send him a message.
For those who are familiar with my Spotlight pieces I usually write articles based on interviews and write from a third person perspective. However, Adam has such a unique form of humor that editing his responses to my question would do the piece a disservice. The following are my questions and lightly edited responses from “that psycho with a beard on LinkedIn.”
Where did you grow up? What college did you attend and what was your major? What did you do before you were a recruiter?
Adam: I grew up in Southern NJ. Actual Southern NJ….not that Fake South NJ that confuses people in NYC. Philadelphia was 15 minutes away. I went to The College of New Jersey for 2 years and then wound up transferring to Rutgers-Camden.
TCNJ was great but there was literally nothing to do there except eat. My major was Political Science. My mom always wanted me to be a lawyer (sorry Mom!). So I’m very fact based and argumentative.
My first job out of school was sales. Financial sales. Insurance and financial products. I got to learn about anxiety and rejection right off the bat. “Hey, so you’re 55? Great! Why don’t you let this 22-year-old tell you what you are doing wrong financially, even though you own a home and I don’t?” It didn’t last very long.
How did you become a recruiter? What was the spark?
Adam: It’s probably the opposite of a spark. Like most recruiters I fell into it. I was looking for a new job that didn’t involve embarrassing myself on a daily basis (which I’m still looking for by the way) and I happened to have the keyword “recruit” on my resume.
Oddly enough I was using the word incorrectly to describe my sales prospecting technique. My old boss found my resume online thanks to that keyword. I saw the word “interview” and I was there.
Couldn’t explain to anyone what the interview was for, but hey, INTERVIEW! So I went and sat and listened. I had no idea this was a job. But it sounded ok. And it had something that resembled a monthly paycheck. So I was in.
How did you start your own business and what steps did you take to get it started in the beginning?
Adam: I started to really hate the agency model of recruiting. The rules. I’m not a rules guy. I’m not a 50 calls guy. I’m not a 5 no’s until I stop sort of guy. Monthly quotas…stuff like that. I don’t like company meetings where we sit around and talk about how we can make someone else money (note – that’s not a direct quote…that’s just how I feel about working for someone else).
It got to the point where I thought to myself, “you know, this would be pretty nice if I actually got to keep the whole recruiting fee. Considering I did the whole job.” So, we saved, and saved, and realized we weren’t saving at all…we were running a monthly deficit.
So then the idea of making more money sounded a lot better. We wound up refinancing the house, taking that money and paying off our car, our bills, and having a little cushion left over. Then I gave myself a birthday present and gave notice.
Little did I know how much was involved in starting a business. To my surprise it was so much more than registering as an LLC. Then you have your S Corp elections. Oh, and estimated taxes. Those are kind of important things. You know, people starting businesses are exactly the type of people who need an accountant, but are so afraid to spend any money in the beginning. It took almost a whole year to figure stuff out.
Why recruiting for CPA firms?
Adam: Well, I had a noncompete in Philly for 1 year to recruit accountants. So I had to recruit outside of the area in the noncompete – NYC. But there are 1,000,000,000 agencies that handle accounting recruiting. So I went with public accounting. I figured, it’s easy to narrow down and recruit for something very specific.
I know what I’m looking for, I already know the accounting lingo , and then I know I can market them to the CPA firms. Narrowing the focus made it much easier for me to get started in a brand new area. Otherwise I’d be all over the place with resumes from every industry just sitting on my desk and have no idea what to do with them.
How do you differentiate yourself from other recruiters? What are you doing right that other people get wrong?
Adam: Every recruiter says they’re the anti-recruiter. That they don’t ghost you. That they are ethical. That they aren’t going to send your resume without permission. I’m not going to judge whether or not someone is a good recruiter…I’ll let candidates do that.
I think what sets me apart is I try to educate candidates about the recruiter experience. How it works and what to look out for. Not having a boss helps me do that, because I can be myself and I don’t have to worry about “getting in trouble” because I rocked the boat at a client and I can be myself on LinkedIn. I think authenticity builds trust. People know if they contact me overnight or on the weekend that I’ll just reply. I’m proud of that. Also most other recruiters have no idea to post their jobs on LinkedIn. It’s like trying to watch a 90-year-old use VR goggles.
What is the best advice you could give people looking for a new job? Recent grads/someone who wants to leave their current job but doesn’t know where to start?
Adam: Talk to people. Just talk to people. Communication is key. Why do you want something new? What are you looking for? What is it that you think is missing or could be better? Make sure your expectations are accurate and what you want actually exists.
Talk to people you know at other companies. People that have left your company. Good recruiters know the marketplace. Just talk…a lot of good things come from talking. You realize a lot about yourself and your situation that you may not have thought of previously.
What are you most passionate about? (Professional or otherwise).
Adam: Professionally – helping people. People need help. People come to you for help. You help them. It seems simple. But there aren’t a lot of avenues for help professionally. That’s why I joke that I’m like a therapist – I let people vent. Usually that helps them feel better or actually figure things out.
Someone once described me as a bartender that listens to people’s problems, offers a drink, and a wise word of advice or two. I liked that. People actually respect my opinion…how cool is that? A candidate once told me that he went to meet with a recruiter, and the recruiter asked if they were working with any other recruiters, specifically “that psycho with a beard on LinkedIn.” I was proud of that…
What advice would you give your younger self?
Adam: Stop being an ass. Give that “work ethic” thing a try. No, things don’t have to work out, so stop assuming that. I was arrogant and probably annoying. I thought acting like an expert made me into an actual expert. Oh, and people know when you’re lying. Always. You aren’t that clever.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Adam: Where I am now. That may look depressing in print, but I love it. I wake up and try to make people’s lives better, and hopefully pay my bills along the way. I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world. I don’t want to be bigger. I’m not looking to expand and take over the world.
Just like when I started, I want to keep my laser focus and improve on that. Ideally become that go-to person for public accounting recruiting. Unless the robots take over. Then I’m screwed.
What is your ‘all time legacy’ goal?
Adam: That when people look back on their lives, they think that I played a role in making it better. That a job I helped them with was a turning point and from there on out, things were better. That I helped set them on a path towards what they really wanted.
To learn more about Adam you can check out his website here or follow him on LinkedIn.
Very thoughtful and heartfelt interview. I’m a fan!