Recruiter Realness: Top TA Pros Share Their Own Recruiter Realness

This column has typically been about sharing my own experiences. To kick off this year, however, I want to highlight the recruiter realness that other talent acquisition professionals are bringing to our field. 

Last year, Staffing Shark Richard Rosner and I began co-hosting a weekly live chat, “TRAP Chat with the Shark,” to amplify people who are committed to elevating the staffing and recruiting industry. It included a holiday-themed series in which we spoke to 12 leaders in our field. Here’s what I learned — and what I hope you’ll learn — from each of them:

1. A Hand Open to Give Is Also Open to Receive

On the first day, Garry Olive reminded me that a recruiter’s hand that is open to give is also open to receive. Garry has 99 recruiter problems and being furloughed was No. 1 among them. But that didn’t stop him from building relationships, networking, and staying active in the recruiting community. Because Garry loves recruiting, getting job-seekers to their next opportunity, and solving the complex recruiting puzzles at organizations, Garry dedicated some of the time he was furloughed to write a book to assist contract recruiters be competitive in the ever-evolving recruiting marketspace. 

2. Impact Over Intention Matters Most

On the second day, John Baldino reminded me that recruiters have a long way to go to master diversity. If we’ve learned anything last year, it’s that adding “E,” “I,” or “B” to our diversity strategies and conversations is not enough. We’re still thinking about diversity from an intent-over-impact mindset instead of the other way around. We’re hell bent on building elaborate strategies with bells, whistles, and technology to support our efforts, so most of the time the end result is performative allyship, disenfranchised representation, and a dash of tokenism. John reminded me that sometimes keeping it simple and really getting to the root cause of your diversity hiring gaps will yield the greatest, most effective results. 

3. Numbers Are Not Just Numbers

On the third day, Wendy Dailey reminded me that numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Recruiting metrics have always been a bone of contention between organizational leaders and recruiting departments. Sometimes in our efforts to show our value and a direct impact on profits, we recruiters lose sight of the fact that there are actual people behind those numbers. Wendy shed light on the story behind the numbers, which got me thinking about my own use of metrics and that we should be telling more of the why and not just the what. 

4. Recruiting Chooses Recruiters

On the fourth day, Jamie Gaymon reminded me that recruiters with a heart for recruiting will find their way back. There’s still a misconception that recruiting is this lucrative, Wolf of Wall Street-type of money laundering scheme. However, recruiters who love what they do didn’t choose to be recruiters; recruiting chose them. Jamie’s first job post-undergrad was at a top staffing firm. He was doing well there, exceeding his numbers, and had a good number of contractors with whom he had built relationships. He had a successful career for over a decade and then went to do something completely different for another decade. But when the opportunity to switch jobs presented itself, Jamie hopped back onto the recruiting career path and took a role that will allow him to build a recruiting organization from the ground up. 

5. Always Be Recruiting

On the fifth day, Josh Rock reminded me that the recruiter-switch is always on. Always be recruiting. Good recruiters think about everything in terms of recruiting. Listening to Josh talk about his activities outside of work, like coaching and managing the logistics for his sons’ hockey leagues, made me laugh because I could relate to the stories he told — like being at a game or walking through the grocery store and ear-hustling a job seeker’s conversation that resulted in making a hiring connection. That’s what separates great recruiters from the rest of the hiring team. We’re not just focused on filling jobs — we’re focused on connecting people.

6. The Degradation of Candidate Experience

On the sixth day, Celinda Faria Appleby reminded me that we’ve moved away from being candidate-centric. Like many long-timers, Celinda started her career at a staffing firm. If you know anything about staffing firms back in the day, you know they were all about the candidate experience. So much so that many corporate recruiting teams’ candidate-experience practices are built around the methodologies of staffing firms. She pointed out that in our efforts to make the candidate experience more efficient, we’ve actually injected barriers to applying, interviewing, and hiring. To break down these barriers, we have to balance human interaction and automation.

 7. Finding the Right Fit

On the seventh day, Kay Gravesande reminded me that recruiters have a duty to talk to job-seekers about their options. Not every person is right for every organization. Not every person is right for every position. Kay works with young people who have not yet decided on their careers. She encourages them to explore different career paths and seek out options they wouldn’t otherwise. This is great advice. It made me think back to times that I may have oversold a person on a role or steered them away from others in favor of one I thought was a better fit. Yes, part of our jobs as recruiters is to guide and explain why someone wasn’t selected, but it isn’t our job to influence, bias, or steer people in a direction that won’t benefit them..

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8. The Autonomy of TA

On the eighth day, Steve Browne reminded me that HR is there to support and partner with TA. I am proud to say that I got Steve to admit that the two fields are and should remain separate entities. It was refreshing to hear that as an HR Leader, Steve understands the challenges we recruiters face trying to prove our worth, value, and relevancy. We are an integral part of the health and wealth of organizations. Too many times, though, recruiting departments, because we are often misunderstood, are hidden away in HR departments. It was truly a holiday gift that Steve believes organizations would be better by recruiting departments empowered to lead themselves and for HR departments to support and encourage that autonomy.

9. Redefining Professionalism

On the ninth day, Adam Rosenfield reminded me that “professionalism” needs to be redefined if it’s going to remain in a recruiter’s vocabulary. Polished, clean, neat, tidy, well-kempt…these are not words we should be using to describe a person’s appearance. We’re not talking about furniture or a room in someone’s home. As Adam pointed out, professionalism should be less about how a job-seeker looks and more about how they will perform and achieve success in a particular role. 

10. Transforming Views of Recruiters

On the tenth day, Tina Rock and Kevin Scholz reminded me that there are other good recruiters operating as a collaborative team to change the negative reputation that job-seekers and organizations have of recruiters. Kevin described a few instances where a job-seeker or hiring manager thanked him for how they were treated during the hiring process and how surprised he was to learn that they had negative views of recruiters. It took me back to the time when I was looking for a new role and had to come to grips with the fact that I had been working in a bubble where I was insulated from the bad behaviors others were experiencing at the hands of my peers. And so it’s up to us to hold the bad ones accountable and give people who have soured against us a new and more delightful experience. 

11. Mentoring and Coaching for Accountability

On the eleventh day, Joel Lalgee reminded me that having a mentor and a coach is needed to maintain accountability. When you’ve been recruiting as long as Rich and I have, there’s a tendency to rely too heavily on the mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just relax and let it flow.” While our methodologies and processes have served us well and are repeatable and effective, there is always room for improvement. A lot of experienced recruiters serve as mentors to those entering the field but have long since divorced themselves from the idea that they too could use a mentor. What’s more, a mentor doesn’t necessarily have to have more years of experience. Rather, a good mentor might have experience from a different industry or via recruiting for different types of roles. Likewise, a coach who advanced with entirely different subject matter expertise can enhance and guide even the most tenured recruiters.

 12. Authenticity Trumps Popularity

On the twelfth day, Madison Butler reminded me, popularity isn’t as important as authenticity. If you know Madison, you know she’s 100% authentic. If you know Madison, you know that her popularity on professional social media channels can be 100% attributed to authenticity and boldness. Madison got me to reflect on the instances where I stood firm and missed out on recruiting opportunities or advancing in my career as quickly as others. As I listened and learned from her, I reflected on the instances where I suffered in silence, didn’t push back as hard as I could, and kept the peace while someone else received the rewards and recognition. I’m grateful for the example she sets daily, not only for recruiters but for all professionals who struggle to show up as their best, authentic selves.

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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