‘What Nobody Told Me When I Started Recruiting’

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May 19, 2022
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

I’d like to cast my vote for Time’s 2022 Person of the Year: the Recruiter.

The thing about recruiters, though, is that here’s a long-standing joke in our industry: Ask any recruiter how they got into the field and their answer will inevitably start with, “It happened by accident. It certainly wasn’t by design.”

Not so much anymore. Sure, some people still stumble into the profession, but increasingly, recruiting is becoming a sought-out career. 

That’s a good thing. But here’s what’s not. Our industry still fails to provide new practitioners with a solid foundation. 

If you’re anything like me, you most likely started out on the agency side and were taught to smile and dial. The more phone calls you made, the more interviews you could schedule. The more interviews you could schedule. The more offers you could extend to your candidates. The more offers, the more placements, the more money. 

I remember when I had a leader say, “Jeff, just give ‘em good phone.” 

Good phone? What the f@$k is that? Where is my training? 

Well, here is something that I’ve come to learn over the years: Recruitment is so much more than what my early “mentors” “taught” me. It’s just like Texas hold ‘em. It takes minutes to learn, and a lifetime to “perfect.” (In actuality, I do not believe in perfection. Perfection is a notion. It’s the enemy of progress. As Brene Brown clearly articulates, “I’m an aspiring good-enoughist.”)

So, given the lack of formal training in the field (aside from somewhat new certification programs), here’s what I’m here to tell new recruiters: Don’t go at it alone. Lean on your community of recruiting peers. It doesn’t matter if you’re agency, corporate, contract, RPO, consultant. We are not competing against each other. We are collectively responsible for the humans we serve — including ourselves — and their experience in the world of work.

However, in connecting with peers to enable yourself to become a better recruiter, it’s worth keeping in mind some general aspects about recruiting professionals:

Recruiters are skeptics. They deal with people. All day. Every day. And while nothing shocks them, they are constantly baffled by human behavior.

Recruiters are pessimists. Trained to “not put all your eggs in one basket,” they have a Plan A, Plan B, and some individuals will go much further down the alphabet. This is to say that adaptation and resilience are two of the most important behaviors you’ll need to possess if you want to last more than three years in this field.

In her book Betting on You Laurie Ruettimann talks about the concept of a pre-mortem, which entails imagining what might happen to cause a project to fail. This skill should be non-negotiable. Doesn’t matter if you’re writing recruiting plans, working through a process improvement, or dealing with interview feedback. Recruiters need to reverse-engineer everything. Start from the outcome and work backward. Think about everything that can go wrong to figure out a potential solution in advance. 

Recruiters are evolving. They’re like sponges. They listen and learn. And one of the things they learn, eventually, is to assume positive intent. Hemingway says it best: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

Recruiters are problem-solvers. A main goal for new recruiters is to work toward finding their voice, and doing it with confidence rather than arrogance. When this happens, you’ll shift from being viewed as a seat-filler or order-taker to becoming a true business partner. At that point your biggest weapon is going to be your integrity. Job-seekers will thank you for honesty, and clients and hiring managers will trust your advice. 

Recruiters are not all extroverts. We’re not all alphas. We are as diverse as the business leaders, hiring managers, and candidates whom we serve. And speaking of, we are advocates for all of those people. We are advocates for people, period.

Recruiters are… Go ahead and type that into Google. You’ll see a lot of bad stereotypes pop up as search suggestions. A lot of recruiters display such traits. Many do not. You always have a choice.

Finally, I feel compelled to share with you that I’m a very mission-driven individual. I believe that core values are more than just fancy words hanging on a wall. So I encourage you to craft your own personal mission, vision, and values. Here are mineL

  • My vision: We are the people who find the people who take care of your people.
  • My mission: Adapt, react, project, plan, implement, make mistakes, learn. Repeat.
  • My values: Collaboration. Innovation. Integrity. Adaptability. Flexibility.

Love and light, friends. Build your community and lean on each other.

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