Are You Really Meant to be a Recruiter?

Apr 8, 2008

After reading Howard Adamsky’s article entitled “Something On Your Mind?” I decided to take him up on his challenge. After 14 years of recruiting, I have much to say, and ERE is a great place to start. (Besides, I’m tired of Howard taking my angst and turning it into his articles, so it’s time I did one myself.)

I have been a recruiter most of my career and my work has been project-oriented; sometimes working with Howard, sometimes not. He was the one who introduced me to this profession, but I am the one who had to make the decision as to whether this was something I could be passionate about. I soon came to realize that I love recruiting and feel what I do is very important.

The question I pose is simple: Do you feel the same way?

Over the years, I have worked with many different recruiters and I often wondered what made them decide to get into this profession. Nobody says, “I want to be a recruiter when I grow up.” So how did they get here? Frankly speaking, it has been my experience that quite a few of them really shouldn’t be doing this, but since there is no bar to entry, our profession takes all who wish to be here. That is not always a good thing.

If, for example, you are one of the many people who jumped on the bandwagon to become a recruiter during the dot-com era because there was a lot of money to be made, you might want to rethink that decision.

Truth be told, I was not altogether unhappy when things started to go downhill in the last bust. Why? Because in many ways, it was akin to a forest fire, or a natural phenomenon that would burn off the deadwood (i.e., recruiters there for a quick buck who do not care and never will).

I see what we do as important. As recruiters, we not only have the responsibility of filling positions with great employees but we have the added responsibility of helping our candidates make decisions that affect their futures and their lives. That is a big responsibility, and I take it very seriously. On some level, it’s almost like helping someone find their mate and this is a huge deal.

Realizing the important role we play in other people’s lives as a recruiter is key, because people’s jobs are one of the most important aspects of their lives. We spend some of our best, most productive time at work, so we better be passionate about what we do or we are not going to be very good at it. We probably won’t be too happy either.

My own personal choice of clients has been one of careful selection, both for me and my candidates. I have always been very selective about choosing clients. I can assure you that I discuss all aspects of the position, good and bad, with my candidates. I have turned down many projects after meeting the executive team and seeing they were not serious about the importance of recruiting or of making the right hiring decisions.

As such, I believe that if I would not work there, the candidate should not work there either. I need to sleep at night and can’t very well tell a candidate that a position is a great opportunity unless I really see it that way.

As recruiters, we can’t always be sure if this is the “right” company and if they will really take care of their employees. However, learning to ask the right questions and doing your research will help you make an educated decision. This will help you feel good that you did your best for the company and the candidate by creating a hire that is mutually rewarding and in place for the long term.

As recruiters, we have to keep that thought in mind not only for ourselves but for the candidates whose lives we will ultimately change. The decision is really theirs to make, but if you are a really good salesperson (because that’s what recruiters are) you have the power to persuade them in one direction or the other. That is a power that should not be abused.

I have recently made the decision to stop doing project work and take a full-time position with a Fortune 100 organization. I was tired of going from one contract to another, always working myself out of a job and never quite being a part of the team. I researched a lot of companies and came up with what I felt was my A list. I then aggressively pursued those companies and landed a great position with an organization I can feel good about and honestly tell candidates this is a great career environment. Can you say that about your organization?

An Honest Assessment

Having said all of this, I would hope you will take stock of how you operate and ask the following questions:

  • Do I really believe the work I am doing is important?
  • Do I have both the client’s and the candidate’s best interests at heart?
  • Do I really understand how my influence can affect other people’s lives?
  • Did I get into this profession for the right reasons or was it just the money?
  • Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my career?

If you have answered “no” to any of these questions, I suspect you are not jazzed about the culture, the mission, and the opportunities you represent. This is very unfortunate because what you do as a recruiter is more than just build great organizations. You also radically change the lives of the candidates who put their trust in your honesty and in your judgment.

That power is a very big responsibility. Change can be difficult, especially if you have been doing something for a long time.

I have a son who is a senior in college, and we talk a lot about what he wants to be when he grows up. Fortunately, he has a pretty good brain and many options. The number-one thing I try to instill in his mind is that you don’t trade money for misery; you have to feel good about your job.