A Recruiter Reveals What It’s Like to Recruit Recruiters

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Jan 10, 2020
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Recruiting recruiters is not an easy task. It’s actually one of the most challenging types of specializations to recruit for. Think about it: You are recruiting someone who is typically in your shoes, a process that can be disorienting for you and for candidates.

I know this firsthand. I often recruit for recruiting roles. And while the most important aspect of recruiting recruiters is to consider each individual’s unique background, interests, and needs (as is the case for any role), there are nonetheless other considerations when hiring for recruiting positions. 

The Mirror Effect

As humans, we tend to get comfortable in the specific roles we play, both in our personal and professional lives. Recruiters are naturally comfortable leading a process, interviewing candidates, and guiding them along the way. So you can imagine the discomfort many feel when the script is flipped.

Many recruiting candidates initially resist receiving help, struggle to let others lead the conversation, and even hesitate to share information about themselves. I suspect this stems from recruiters not wanting to bog down candidates with their own needs, goals, and desires when doing their jobs. Which is exactly why this role switch can be particularly tricky — a job-search requires candidates to look inward and share thoughts and goals. This is hard enough for most people, but even more so for professionals who don’t practice such behaviors in their daily professional lives. 

The Paradox of Loyalty

Internal recruiters are among the most loyal company employees. After all, their job is to attract talent to the organization and entice people to join by sharing stories of how wonderful the company is. They are often known in their organization as “cheerleaders,” employees who advocate for and encourage others to join the firm. They have to live, breathe, and buy into the organization’s mission, vision, and values to do their job well.

But things can get tricky when they find themselves on the other side. On one hand, they may feel committed to their current (sometimes even former) employer. On the other hand, their readiness to move on can cause frustration and anxiety in that they may feel an intense burden to justify leaving. It can be tough for them to put loyalty aside.

Basically, their desire for change requires them to be selfish, albeit in a good way. When you spend your entire career looking out for other people’s careers, elevating your own can seem uneasy, strange, and arduous.

Payback’s a … You Know the Rest

In candidate-driven markets like today’s, recruiters are often the recipients of bad behavior as candidates ghost, yell at, lie to, berate, and manipulate them. Of course, these are the same complaints that candidates have had about recruiters for years.

At the same time, no one knows more than recruiters about what it means to be a good recruiter and a good candidate. So you’d think that recruiters who now find themselves applying for jobs would know better than to act poorly. 

But that’s not always the case. Many will still perpetuate the cycle of negativity, behaving like the bad candidates they’ve complained about. We would all be naïve to say that tit-for-tat behavior — “they were mean to me, so I get to be mean back” — isn’t happening. We must also recognize where this comes from.

Even if you disagree that recruiters have originally fostered mutual animosity between themselves and candidates, we don’t need to get into a whole chicken-or-egg debate. I am a big believer in conducting oneself with kindness at all times, and as recruiters, we have to articulate how we want to partner with and be treated by candidates throughout the process — especially when those candidates are recruiting professionals. This is a chance to elevate the profession, and sure enough, I believe that in 2020 we’ll be discussing how to improve not just the candidate but the recruiter experience. 

In other words, the way you engage with recruiting candidates can ultimately help them become better recruiters themselves.  

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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