Thanks for Stopping By Recruiting; Won’t You Stay a While?

  • “I just happened to fall into recruiting.”
  • “I wanted to try something new, so I figured I’d give recruiting a whirl.”
  • “I was asked to recruit at a job fair and really enjoyed the experience, so I decided to make the move into recruiting.”

How many times have you heard similar comments when talking to recruiters or interviewing prospective recruiters for your team? I’m guessing just as much as I do, which is quite a bit.

Now, how often have you heard these lines:

  • “I grew up wanting to be a recruiter.”
  • “I selected my university specifically because of its excellent recruiting development program.”
  • “I wanted to carry on the family tradition of being in recruiting.”
  • “I had several recruiting job offers when I graduated.”

Again, I’m guessing you’ve heard these lines just as much as I have, which is hardly ever.

Recruiting has an ever-present, non-discriminating welcome mat at the door, with talent coming in from a multitude of sources. Unlike physicians or attorneys, who amass deep academic knowledge in their fields and are required to fulfill testing, licensing, and practical experience requirements to formally practice, recruiting is an open-door type of field. With the right attitude, aptitude, drive, and personality, the possibilities from where recruiting talent can come from are endless.

There are scores of talented individuals who have extensive expertise in a variety of fields and real-world settings; fortunately, they decided on their own to put their skills and talents to use in our space.

Serendipity is a great thing, but it is not a sustainable formula for success in breeding recruiting talent without at least some help. What are we doing to excite people about recruiting as a career and drive them to our door?

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And for the talent we do have, how are we keeping it in recruiting? Are we setting out to influence individuals’ career choices and attract people to recruiting versus waiting for luck to deliver? Isn’t it about time we put all the strategies and tactics we use for our clients to work for our own field?

We’ve had some help already. With the War for Talent showing no signs of abatement, recruiting has become a sought-after profession for some. But “some” is not enough. It’s time for us to take up our own cause to make recruiting a destination and not a drive-by career or one discovered by happenstance.

Here are seven suggestions to help us in our own cause:

  1. Simply put, recruit for recruiting. We spend much time extolling the virtues of the jobs our clients pay us to fill to candidates. And what about for our own jobs? Do we invest even a fraction of the effort? When talking to students who may be undecided about a career choice, highlight recruiting. It’s an excellent way to learn a business and what it’s really like to be in a specific role. After all, when it’s one’s job to know the role and the ideal candidate to fill it, one can virtually ‘try”a new role without ever having to “buy” just by staying in recruiting and working on a variety of interesting jobs.
  2. Promote the talent-acquisition part of the talent-management field. Yes, there is such a thing. There is a core body of knowledge that defines talent acquisition, from laws that shape how we recruit to cutting-edge strategies and technologies that talent scout pioneers are testing out every day. Get schooled in recruiting and learn the basics (especially if you “fell” into recruiting and never received formal training). Attend forums and classes sponsored and conducted by recruiting subject-matter experts such as ERE, AIRS, and SHRM. Educational opportunities abound, so don’t overlook them. Even seasoned veterans in the space benefit by keeping up with how the profession is evolving.
  3. Get certified. Consider becoming certified by the Human Resources Certification Institute; there is an entire curriculum dedicated to workforce planning and employment as part of the certification. AIRS and several other reputable institutions offer certification programs as well. Although perhaps sometimes used more as status symbols than for their true purpose of conveying deep expertise, accreditations and certifications in any field mean a lot. As recruiters, we know what it means to an R&D hiring manager when they see the initials “PhD” or “MD” after a name; it is no different when an HR or other business leader sees AIRS-certified or PHR following a recruiter’s name.
  4. Strive for excellence in every aspect of the recruiting process and focus on quality over quantity. Recruiting can be quite lucrative, but it’s a double-edged sword. One can make money recruiting the “good” or “bad” way. Demonstrate integrity, good judgment, commitment to excellence, and innovation in how you recruit, and success will come. This doesn’t mean don’t be competitive and don’t take risks; it means that if are you in recruiting to make a fast buck by placing warm bodies, it won’t take long for your technique to be exposed and your clients to abandon you. Bring more credibility to our art; don’t undermine it by lackluster efforts and results.
  5. Coach and mentor others, including those not in recruiting. Every individual is a talent scout, no matter what the field. Everyone knows great people, so coach everyone on how to turn knowing great people into matching great people with great opportunities. Chances are you will net a few great individuals yourself by raising their awareness of recruiting and helping them feel the passion it brings.
  6. Share your expertise with others. Many articles on ERE are focused on the “how,” but not everything works for everyone. The goal is to share knowledge so colleagues in the field can have the most robust information to help make strategic choices in recruiting. Recruiters know their clients and industries best; share that expertise. You don’t have to be a writer with a column on ERE; it could be as simple as influencing a hiring manager to pilot a new way to attract biostatisticians to the company. Sharing knowledge with others, whether clients or colleagues, will contribute to raising the level of professionalism and credibility of our field. Ultimately, it demonstrates to all that recruiting is a destination and a profession.
  7. Got ’em; keep ’em. Given that some folks don’t plan to come to recruiting in the first place, there’s a likelihood they may not stay when they do come. Recruiting is not for everyone; let’s not be naive. But educate people enough about the possibilities and you just may help turn a “stint” in recruiting into a lifelong, fulfilling career for a talented individual. Build a career ladder in your organization so recruiters won’t feel they need to look elsewhere to advance or develop new skills. Pay your recruiters right, give them development, reward them heartily for their results and contributions, and you just might get them to stay.

Unlike that relative we all have, talented recruiters can be the visitors we don’t mind making themselves at home in our place. And when they do come, do your part to give them every reason to stay.

Lisa Calicchio, SPHR, is Director of Recruiting -- Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson Recruiting, the internal talent acquisition organization of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. In this role, Lisa manages the development and delivery of talent acquisition strategies and execution for Johnson & Johnson?s U.S. pharmaceuticals and biotechnology operating companies. In addition to managing this segment of the business and a significant client base, Lisa focuses on enhancing JJR's consulting capabilities through specialty teams for business analytics, training, and recruitment marketing. Her background includes extensive experience as an HR generalist and recruiting, though she started her professional career "on the line" and held several line positions across key functional areas before moving from sales and marketing into HR.

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