Recruiter Realness: The Thing About Recruiters…

Editor’s note: You are reading the first article by ERE’s new columnist, Keirsten Greggs, who’ll be giving it to you straight on a regular basis when it comes to what it really means to be a recruiter. In case you missed the post and video introducing Keirsten, you may view it here


Recruiters don’t know enough about my job or industry to assess my skills.

Recruiters are pushy, rude, and only care about making money.

Recruiters make a habit of ghosting and don’t provide feedback.

Recruiters don’t know what hiring managers really want in a candidate.

Recruiters aren’t necessary — an ATS can match qualified job-seekers to jobs.

I wasn’t aware of any of these widespread negative beliefs when I entered the recruiting field 20 years ago, but I was introduced to them right away. 

I also realized right away that this is not how I wanted people to view me, nor did I want to be the exception. I wanted the way I executed recruiting — motivated by quality and merit — to be standard. With that in mind, at the end of each calendar year since then, I have evaluated, reflected upon, and inventoried both my individual and my beloved profession’s wins, losses, and areas for growth.

For the first couple of years, I focused mostly on wins, like how many positions I filled or how many of my bonus targets I hit. But as I matured and settled into corporate recruiting, I became more aware of how recruiters were seldom praised, and how they often undeservingly shouldered all the blame for all that went wrong in the organization when the best talent wasn’t hired or positions remained unfilled. 

I was drowning in the losses. By Year 6 I had fully assimilated into the “recruiting is an HR function” collective, received a master’s in HR management, and shifted my focus to how I could grow as an HR leader. 

Constant organizational changes resulting from mergers and acquisitions placed me at a fork in the road where I had to make the decision to take the HR partner journey or stay on the path to TA excellence. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I chose TA, hellbent on transforming how professionals in my field were viewed both internally and externally. 

In 2012, I was laid off from the organization where I had reached the TA mountaintop. I had amassed a wealth of experience and had reached a point where there was no place else to go but out. It was a friendly split, and I remain grateful for the people I met and the proficiency I gained over those eight years.

In the brief time that I was on the outside looking in and able to accept that there was some truth in the negative view of recruiters, I began expressing my frustrations and criticisms via the #RecruiterProblems memes. When they gained popularity, I was encouraged to start blogging so I could discuss the good, the bad, and the ridiculous through recruiter and stakeholder lenses with more depth and complexity.

Fast forward to today. Like many, I had high hopes for 2020. Late last year, when asked for my TA predictions for the coming year, I offered the following:

  1. There will be a well-earned shift away from TA as a transactional HR function (the sole purpose of which is to put butts in seats) to the multi-dimensional strategic partner that it is. Just as HR has continuously evolved, so has TA. As a result, I believe more organizations will show greater value for and embrace the various roles within TA instead of limiting us to “recruiter” or “sourcer.”
  2. There will be a resurgence of high-touch recruiting models and less reliance on tech as a broad-brush solution for all things TA. While high-tech tools fully equipped with the latest bells, whistles, and assurances to make TA more innovative and cutting-edge pair well with TA activities, high-touch talent selection will bring balance and ensure optimal efficacy to the overarching TA strategy. 
  3. Lastly, recruiting efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) will be more deliberate, intentional, and extend beyond checking boxes and lackluster rhetoric.

I know what you’re thinking: OK, Gen-Xer. This all sounded good months ago, but we’re in the thick of a double pandemic! How about we push your little predictions to the side and worry about what really matters — getting people back to work safely.

You’re exactly right. TA touches every part of an organization’s supply chain and needs to have a voice in shaping how we do this. 

Yeah, but we need tech to hire people!

Right, again. But access to technology can block some qualified talent from opportunities. Let’s be creative in our approach and not let tech be the only means to reach jobseekers. 

Cool, but our organization looks the way it does because we hire the best talent. If we just ramp up our DEIB training, we’ll be set.

Your organization more likely looks the way it does because the talent you hire has close proximity to you. We are overdue for being more deliberate and intentional in setting and achieving diversity hiring goals. We should be thinking about hiring diverse talent into leadership positions — ones that are not just D&I positions. Let’s end the performative, representational, reactionary diversity initiatives that don’t impact the bottom line. And, equally as important, let’s learn to be allies and agitators inside of TA so our biases don’t adversely affect hiring.

None of us could have predicted that COVID-19 would disrupt our lives to the point that businesses would shut down, let alone anticipate the additional disruption brought on by the acknowledgement of how racially inequitable our country and workforce really are. So instead of scrapping processes altogether or scrambling to adjust and redesign our TA strategies, this may be the perfect time to actually manifest my predictions. Because they are worthy goals!

And they are why I will be writing about “Recruiter Realness” for ERE. Hang on folks. You’re in for a wild ride. 


Keirsten will be appearing at ERE Digital 2.0 Oct. 27 – 28. She and fellow ERE strategy columnist Mary Faulkner will be debating the question: “Can recruiting fix your company’s culture?” Register to see Keirsten, Mary, and other great speakers here.)

Keirsten Greggs is a talent acquisition consultant and career coach. In 2017 she founded TRAP Recruiter, LLC, to bring trust, relationship-building, accountability, and a proactive approach back into the recruiting lifecycle. She engages with a broader audience via her blog, as a guest speaker, as a guest on various podcasts, facilitating workshops and training, and as creator of the #RecruiterProblems meme series.

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