The Day and The Life of a Recruiter

It's not all glitz and glamour

Being a recruiter sounds glamorous and easy. How difficult could it be? All I need is access to technology, high speed internet and a phone. I could do it from my home or at an office. I mean really. I love to talk plus now I get paid to do it. How scary can it be? I am speaking with strangers about a new career opportunity. Who doesn’t want to take that call to learn more? Boy, is this going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to start. Sound familiar?

To a layperson, this is exactly how it appears. Really, are there any prerequisite skills? Is there a 4 year college recruiting degree? I didn’t think so. Anyone can do it as long as you have good interpersonal skills. WRONG!!! 

Recruiting is a very difficult career. Yes, you require good interpersonal skills. And, there is no official 4 year college recruiting degree. However, a good recruiter has to be organized and detailed oriented. They need to be intuitive and innovative. They especially need to be smart. They have to behave as a seasoned psychologist at times. A recruiter also needs to understand that this is not an 8 to 5 job and be prepared to work long hours. They need to understand that they have to satisfy multiple buyers concurrently…the candidates, hiring managers and human resources. Unfortunately, these parties are not always in alignment. They have to have tough skin and be prepared to hear the word, no often. They have one of the few products (candidates) that can so no to the sale and sometimes for illogical reasons. A recruiter needs to accept that they lack total control.   

A good recruiter needs to completely understand his/her client…the company, the open job, the environment, the geography, the employment process, the compensation package, the selling points, the targeted organizations & the targeted job titles, and the hiring manager. The more information, the better. They need to be fearless and be prepared to ask difficult questions. They need to calibrate these requirements back with the client stakeholders (hiring manager & HR) prior to starting the search assignment. Otherwise, it is easy to wonder off the beaten path and deliver unsatisfying results. 

Recruiters commonly fall into a trap. They think because they are busy making calls, posting jobs, mining the internet for candidates, they are doing a good job. If all of this work is not producing meaningful results…interviews and hires, it a waste of time and energy. And, it can be a painful experience. However, there is a correlation between productive activities and desired outcomes. And yes, you can only improve what you measure. This means one needs to capture accurate data related to these key activities and track the results. Then one needs to modify behavior based on the trends and outcomes.

Recruiting is both an art and a science. A recruiter needs to be able to establish a relationship with each candidate. They need to build a trust and a friendship. They need to sell the opportunity first and validate candidate interest. It is like a courtship. One is unable to put a marriage together prior to dating. Many recruiters make the mistake of attempting to screen the candidates first and then struggle in understanding a poor conversion ratio. A key for success is understanding one needs to sell as much as they screen.

The science part is thoroughly vetting the candidate to the open job and the company. Are the candidates qualified? Do they fit the job requirements? Do they have the desired experience and educational background? Do they have prior accomplishments that relate to this role? What is their track record of success? Are there gaps? Do they fit the cultural environment and management style of the organization? Will they accept this job if offered? Are they pre-closed? There are multiple predictable methods in accomplishing this screening process. Good behavioral based questions and assessments will help to predict fit. You can also offer validated skills tests. A video based interview may also be productive. Just keep in mind there are no perfect candidates and no perfect jobs. There are a number of good candidates and good jobs. I once had a successful recruiter say to me, “There is a person for every job and a job for every person.” How true !!! The key is that all parties (candidates & employers alike) have realistic expectations. For example, you cannot purchase a Cadillac for a Kia price. Unfortunately, too often the parties do not have realistic expectations and then struggle in understanding why the role is still open.

Employers want to hold recruiters accountable for results. This sounds great. Unfortunately, recruiters often times have to work within broken processes. One, a process that is not candidate friendly. Where the candidate has to go through a difficult registration apply process that can take 15 to 45 minutes…maybe even longer. A process with no early human intervention. A process where they go through a basic online screening questionnaire for fit, an online assessment for cultural fit, plus a skills tests, all prior to having contact with a person. Even worse, the candidate has no idea on their status, whether they are in or out…moving forward in the hiring process. Other examples include the recruiter submitting qualified candidates to the hiring manager with no timely if any feedback. Or they tell the recruiter they want to interview the candidate, but given their schedule, it cannot happen for 4 weeks or longer. They then interview the candidate, but provide no, to little feedback after the interview. Or they like the candidate, but say they need to see more candidates. Or they say the candidate does not fit, but cannot tell you why. During the onsite interview, the candidate has to wait long periods to meet with the hiring manager and/or HR. Just note the interview for the candidate and the employer starts in the lobby of the facility. It can go bad for either party at that time. The candidate may not feel that they are being treated special and the employer unknowingly is sending the message to the candidate that hiring talent is not important. Sound too familiar. Well it is. Hiring managers and employers picked up some bad habits during the 2008/2009 recession. They have started to behave like candidates are waiting in line to become their employees. Great talent have options. They need to be courted if you want them as your new hire.

Recruiters need to be great sales people. They need to sell the opportunity to the candidate and the candidate to the hiring manager and HR. They need to subtly drive the process. They need to prepare both the candidate and the hiring manager for the interview. They need to eliminate surprises. 
Hopefully, you are now starting to see some of the challenges in holding recruiters accountable. All stakeholders are part of the same process. The only way it can work is where there is a partnership and everyone is in concert working towards the same goal…making timely good fit hires. Everyone in the process needs to be measured and held accountable. Not just recruiters!! Also, there needs to be a system (ATS) that can track results and identify bottlenecks and issues as they occur. Recruiters need to become subject matter experts in the use of the technology. The days of pen and paper and Excel Spreadsheets are long gone. Today’s world is driven by business analytics. 

A good recruiter has to act as a change agent. They need to facilitate these corrective actions in order to have an efficient/effective process. Obviously, this is more than just talking on the phone with candidates.

Recruiters tend to be over worked. All employers are attempting to do more with less. A recruiter handling 15 up to 100+ professional job requisition load is not uncommon. They have to be able to multi task and be a good planner. Some can cope with this level of work, but many cannot. Is this level of requisitions the right number? I would question this number if you are attempting to drive a great candidate experience and hire great talent. However, the right number is a function of the open assignments (i.e. many openings for the same job in the same market), the availability of talent (active vs. passive candidates), the mapped employment process, and the complexity of the search. The answer, is it depends.

Lastly, today’s recruiter needs to be able to source qualified passive candidates. Unfortunately, many are unable to master this skill. Most recruiters are skilled at driving candidates through a mapped out employment process. They are especially good with handling active candidates. But for these difficult-to-fill roles in hard-to-fill markets they struggle. They are lost. It may be due to that they lack the passive candidate sourcing tools (i.e. LinkedIn Recruiter, Jobvite, Simplyhired, Jobs2Web…) or they lack the skills in using these tools effectively. It may be due to lack of experience. I can honestly say, most recruiters do not like this part of the job. Individuals that master this piece of the role are highly desired and are in high demand in the marketplace. There simply is not enough recruiters with candidate sourcing skills to go around.
After all of this, do you still wish to become a recruiter? It is a great job, but necessarily the right job for everyone. To be good, one has to master many skills and where many hats. One has to have thick skin and be able to accept hearing the word, no. On the other hand, there is nothing more rewarding than helping people and putting together a happy career marriage. I hope to see you as a recruiter. And remember, hiring great talent is the key to business success.