Attn: Recruiting Leaders — When Hiring Recruiters, You Get What You Pay for

May 16, 2011
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Do you know what an experienced recruiter “looks like”? If hiring a recruiter to build a talent strategy, would you know the interview questions to ask to determine if candidates can do the job like any top talent you’re in search of?

I pose this question because I see a multitude of job postings for “experienced” recruiters with five years of experience. To me, this is an oxymoron. I had extraordinary search training, broke the 100k barrier in my third year, had lots of clients, and I was just beginning to really know what I was doing in year six.

Each year I learned more and got better at my craft. Recruiting is highly complex, when done properly, and it concerns me that companies that wouldn’t consider hiring a sales rep with five years of experinece would hire a recruiter to build a talent process who only has five years of experience. There seems to be a considerable disconnect here and I’d like to try to get to the bottom of it.

Since this is my assertion, I posed this question to a number of recruiters I consider “experienced” to determine if I was barking up the right tree. One of them has six years, one has 10, and the rest have at 15-30 years in the industry. They do retained and contingent work. Here are the three responses I found most interesting and believe they say it all:

  • That’s a good question. For me it feels like I am still not an “experienced recruiter.” Mainly because I truly am learning new things and meeting new people every day. But a basic level of experience for me came somewhere in my seventh and eighth year. That’s when I went on my own. From that point on it seems like I am tweaking and learning incrementally with no end in sight to being completely ”experienced.” (He has almost 30 years in the business)
  • That is a tough question because there are so many variables. I will say it is a lot tougher and more complicated than most people think.
  • Having real impact on the process and recognizing where the hard problems lie and chasing those. The experienced recruiter relishes in addressing and fixing any high-impact problems that exist.

I received one telling response I think may be a contributing factor to my original inquiry. It was from the retained recruiter with six years of experience, the first year and a half of which she worked for a staffing company doing technical recruiting. She was the only one who didn’t have the time for a thoughtful response. I’ve had a few conversations with her and she feels like she knows much more than her responses to me indicate. I think, looking back on my own career, I probably thought I knew “everything” at six years. In hindsight, of course, this was not the case. Maybe the more we know, the more humble we get? Maybe the more experienced we become, we realize how little we actually knew in our past? Maybe the reason for this is that we are more secure in who we are and our craft.

At five years, could I have implemented a talent process? Yes. Would it have been successful and effective? Probably not. My concern is that companies think they can hire recruiters low on experience and training to implement complex processes and to find and attract high-level candidates. It’s imperative that organizations get clear on what they want to accomplish with respect to talent, that this process is aligned throughout the organization, and then hire professional recruiters high on experience. And remember, you get what you pay for.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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