Are You Really Meant to be a Recruiter?

After reading Howard Adamsky’s article entitled “Something On Your Mind?” I decided to take him up on his challenge. After 14 years of recruiting, I have much to say, and ERE is a great place to start. (Besides, I’m tired of Howard taking my angst and turning it into his articles, so it’s time I did one myself.)

I have been a recruiter most of my career and my work has been project-oriented; sometimes working with Howard, sometimes not. He was the one who introduced me to this profession, but I am the one who had to make the decision as to whether this was something I could be passionate about. I soon came to realize that I love recruiting and feel what I do is very important.

The question I pose is simple: Do you feel the same way?

Over the years, I have worked with many different recruiters and I often wondered what made them decide to get into this profession. Nobody says, “I want to be a recruiter when I grow up.” So how did they get here? Frankly speaking, it has been my experience that quite a few of them really shouldn’t be doing this, but since there is no bar to entry, our profession takes all who wish to be here. That is not always a good thing.

If, for example, you are one of the many people who jumped on the bandwagon to become a recruiter during the dot-com era because there was a lot of money to be made, you might want to rethink that decision.

Truth be told, I was not altogether unhappy when things started to go downhill in the last bust. Why? Because in many ways, it was akin to a forest fire, or a natural phenomenon that would burn off the deadwood (i.e., recruiters there for a quick buck who do not care and never will).

I see what we do as important. As recruiters, we not only have the responsibility of filling positions with great employees but we have the added responsibility of helping our candidates make decisions that affect their futures and their lives. That is a big responsibility, and I take it very seriously. On some level, it’s almost like helping someone find their mate and this is a huge deal.

Realizing the important role we play in other people’s lives as a recruiter is key, because people’s jobs are one of the most important aspects of their lives. We spend some of our best, most productive time at work, so we better be passionate about what we do or we are not going to be very good at it. We probably won’t be too happy either.

My own personal choice of clients has been one of careful selection, both for me and my candidates. I have always been very selective about choosing clients. I can assure you that I discuss all aspects of the position, good and bad, with my candidates. I have turned down many projects after meeting the executive team and seeing they were not serious about the importance of recruiting or of making the right hiring decisions.

As such, I believe that if I would not work there, the candidate should not work there either. I need to sleep at night and can’t very well tell a candidate that a position is a great opportunity unless I really see it that way.

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As recruiters, we can’t always be sure if this is the “right” company and if they will really take care of their employees. However, learning to ask the right questions and doing your research will help you make an educated decision. This will help you feel good that you did your best for the company and the candidate by creating a hire that is mutually rewarding and in place for the long term.

As recruiters, we have to keep that thought in mind not only for ourselves but for the candidates whose lives we will ultimately change. The decision is really theirs to make, but if you are a really good salesperson (because that’s what recruiters are) you have the power to persuade them in one direction or the other. That is a power that should not be abused.

I have recently made the decision to stop doing project work and take a full-time position with a Fortune 100 organization. I was tired of going from one contract to another, always working myself out of a job and never quite being a part of the team. I researched a lot of companies and came up with what I felt was my A list. I then aggressively pursued those companies and landed a great position with an organization I can feel good about and honestly tell candidates this is a great career environment. Can you say that about your organization?

An Honest Assessment

Having said all of this, I would hope you will take stock of how you operate and ask the following questions:

  • Do I really believe the work I am doing is important?
  • Do I have both the client’s and the candidate’s best interests at heart?
  • Do I really understand how my influence can affect other people’s lives?
  • Did I get into this profession for the right reasons or was it just the money?
  • Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my career?

If you have answered “no” to any of these questions, I suspect you are not jazzed about the culture, the mission, and the opportunities you represent. This is very unfortunate because what you do as a recruiter is more than just build great organizations. You also radically change the lives of the candidates who put their trust in your honesty and in your judgment.

That power is a very big responsibility. Change can be difficult, especially if you have been doing something for a long time.

I have a son who is a senior in college, and we talk a lot about what he wants to be when he grows up. Fortunately, he has a pretty good brain and many options. The number-one thing I try to instill in his mind is that you don’t trade money for misery; you have to feel good about your job.

Corinne Adamsky has been recruiting for 14 years, much of it working with Howard Adamsky at HR Innovators. She is now working as a staffing consultant for a Fortune 100 company.


26 Comments on “Are You Really Meant to be a Recruiter?

  1. I think a better title would be

    ‘Are You Really Meant to be the Same Kind of Recruiter That I Am’.

    Overall a very good article but what struck me was what I perceived as an unconscious bias. I will grant that the bias is perfectly reasonable and will probably resonate with a lot of recruiters.

    I bring this up because I do not think that all recruiters value the same things, work in the same way or enjoy recruiting for the same reasons.

    This is mostly just petty nitpicking on my part. The author succeeds in challenging us to introspect and ponder whether we are on the right course – something we should all do from time to time.

  2. This is very refreshing to me. I do love what I do and for the same reasons stated in this article. I know there are other types of recruiters, but honestly I dont like being compared to them. I often share with others that I am not your typical recruiter, because I think that the majority expect you to be like the ‘other type’ of recruiters. I am not here to just fill a position, but to make the best match between client and candidate.

  3. I love this post! Thank you for your thoughts!

    This weekend I was speaking to a group of College Students who will graduate this May. I was encouraging them to find a job/company/career that they are passionate about! And like your typical ?Y-Gen? asking questions, several of them asked me after the session how to find something they are passionate about! I had to sit and think about that, because I know I am passionate about what I do, my company, my career but how do you tell someone else how to find their passion? It took me almost 15 years to stumble into the world of HR to find my personal passion.

    Do we have to work two decades before we find our passion? How do you get others to become conscious of their passion? It is an amazing feeling when you know what you are meant to do! I know there was an Oprah episode earlier this month about people changing careers and finding their passion, and it made me think about this then. There are so many people going about their lives/jobs/careers really hating what they do but feeling almost trapped in it.

    I think the more people that share their stories of their own awakening the more others can learn from it. So, thanks for sharing yours!

  4. Corinne,

    Very interesting article.

    One thing to consider is that organizations change. I suspect that since you have been doing primarily contract work, you haven’t yet recruited for a company that was acquired, did the acquiring or went public (could certainly be wrong though!).

    In my 8 years of corporate recruiting, I have always been amazed by the fact that companies can change so dramatically in such a short time. I have seen companies start small, grow like crazy and recruit like there is no tomorrow. Then they get bigger, more management is hired, they acquire a small company back east and that culture that was so attractive and exciting during your first 18 months begins to change. Now you are dealing with hiring managers who have never worked with internal recruiters before. Many times they only want to work with the agency recruiter they have known for years. So, now you have this whole ‘dealing with agencies’ challenge on top of recruiting for a manager who doesn’t really want your help.

    For me, the writing has always been on the wall. I have said over and over again, if I don’t have fun in my job, I leave. My father is currently battling pancreatic cancer and he is in his 17th month and he’s doing great! But I look at that and say, life is way to short to work in a job that you don?t get satisfaction from.

    Unfortunately, all to often companies transform as they grow. I’ve seen it four times now. The company was not the same place it was when I started. I suppose a lot of that is my fault since I was the one who recruited everyone! But still, you are exactly right. If you can’t look your candidate in the eye and tell him/her that this is truly a great place to work and that your opportunity to grow is limited only by what you can do, then you need to take a step back and do the right thing.

    It’s a tough position we are in right now. The economy is all over the place. Mortgage people are desperate right now. Sales are slowing at many companies and inventories are growing. Many corporate recruiters are just going to be glad they still have a job.

    I’m not 100% sure what the right answer is. But I do know this, if you don’t believe in what you are selling, you numbers will stink!

    Nice article!

    Jason Dupree

  5. Corinne, you have written one of the more resonating articles that I have read on ERE in a loooooong time. (That coming from a fairly avid reader of Howard?s work.) You very succinctly stated what motivates many of us who are in this profession by choice and not by default. Thank you.

    There will undoubtedly be people that will pan it (David Rees?as usual), but they will do so from a general lack of experience in our profession and a burning desire to hear the sound of their own ?voice?. For those of us with more than a couple of years recruiting and who have made recruiting our calling and not just their current ?job? (and speaking from 20+ years in recruiting), several of your points ring true. Thanks for the litmus test.

    I am a recruiter. Someone gimme a phone?..

  6. Corinne,

    Well done! BRAVO I say.

    We should never forget that recruiting indeed IS sales; thus, we have the unique ability to make a huge impact on personal lives/careers and the prosperity/sustainability of our organizations.

    Having a ‘moral’ compass is a critical competency of any ‘good’ recruiter. It is not enough to determine top talent — fit is crucial to personal and organizational success. Having the ‘sharpest knife in the drawer’ is great, but if they slice up the rest of the organization, the wounded will be left and the results can be devastating as morale will be crushed. Same also goes if you bring in a less than competent person – resentment will be abound and no one wins.

    Your comment on trading money for misery hit home with me as I manage a college recruiting program for a Fortune 500 company; I always counsel students at our on-site interview programs to weigh the pros and cons of each offer they receive — I advise them not to be blindsighted by base salary alone as money means nothing if you’re not happy on a day-to-day basis with your job. I encourage them to determine ‘fit’ for the employer by asking them to ask themselves the following questions: is this the right opportunity for me in terms of industry, size of company, position or program, location, leadership and culture. Do I feel the ‘total’ compensation, including benefits, is fair and competitive? Being open and helping students to consider their options will only help with the buy-in of selling your career opportunity and company. Students are highly educated and networked; the straighter you can be with them, the better off both parties will be. I truly believe if ‘fit’ is right for both the employer and student, the deal will be sealed and both parties win.

    Indeed, we have significant power in our careers to either make or break individual lives and organizational success.

  7. I think most of the points, author has mentioned are valid for any job you are in (Are you at the job you love?).
    The critical aspect of recruitment is that it is a ?low entry? domain and people can easily commit mistake to enter into without truly realizing the challenges to succeed in this.

    Currently I am managing a recruitment firm at India and often I come across graduates who want to enter into the filed just because they don?t want to get into technical/other areas.
    As I feel that except in a formal HR education program, recruitment is never part of studies, people wouldn?t know about it unless they are into it.
    Also as recruitment needs more of personal skills like communication, networking, troubleshooting, analytical, most people who are good in these skills assume that they are quite suitable for the job.

    I think the practical aspect of recruitment is that is has its own unique challenges and requires a broader set of skills to make a career.
    There is no harm in entering into it, but you got to be quick enough to realize if you are falling in love to deal with challenges otherwise be wise to move.


  8. While reading this article, I had to admit I have asked myself this question periodically and the answer has been different at different stages in my career and my life. When I first started recruiting, the pay wasn’t very good, and I was doing mostly sourcing. However, I found it interesting, exciting, and team oriented.

    As time went on, the money got much better, I developed partnerships, and eventually turned to contract recruiting and account management. Yes, I was always very careful about selecting my client companies.

    Then the economy took a big downturn, ethics became questionable, and the choice of clients lessened. With an increase in job boards and outsourcing, many companies did not see the need for experienced recruiters any longer.(I firmly believe this has had a major effect on the economy).

    During this time, I actually turned to teaching high school for a couple of years and learned that I was not meant to be a High School Teacher. It just wasn’t me.

    Then I went for my EMBA and now I see recruiting in a new light and at a new level –I see strategic recruiting; global recruiting; retainment as the flip side to recruiting; technology, social networking and recruiting tools catching up to where they should be; green jobs; and virtual employment. I have a vision…

  9. A very good and refreshing article. In essence, it’s always better when you support your product/business 110%. If you don’t believe in your product…it’s very difficult to sell.

    Not only so…but we have to have a strong desire to help others while keeping their best interests in mind.

    Thank you for reminding us.

    Great article Corinne.

  10. I’ll chime in too… Good article!

    I started recruiting thanks to the low bar of entry, and I performed ethically and well, but I never loved it. Although it wasn’t my ultimate calling, it served a noble purpose in that it provided for my family, which is more important to me than serving candidates and customers. Don’t get me wrong – candidates and customers were important, but my real driving purpose was my paycheck. I don’t think that made it wrong in any way, because I did perform well, use good judgement and work within high ethical standards.

    Although I appreciate those recruiters who do it for the love of it and the respect for the vocation, but I don’t see it as a requisite.

    After 7 years of working against my grain (I don’t like meeting new people that much, and I’m not a big fan of the phone – go figure), I have managed to transition into a career that suits me better. I don’t think that made me a fraud while I was recruiting, though. It made me a responsible provider for my family.

    If the point of the article is that you’ll be happier doing what you love, I would definitely agree. But if the point of the article is that in order to perform well and ethically, you must be passionate about the work, I would have to disagree based on my own experience.

  11. ‘Do I have both the client’s and the candidate’s best interests at heart?’

    This is what sets recruiting apart (and above) most other professions. What other profession tasks (burdens) itself with this far-ranging goal?

  12. Corinne,
    I totally agree. It doesn’t make sense to just throw a job at someone, and I think it is truly rewarding matching up the right career with the right candidate.

  13. Comments regarding students and starting a career: As some observed, giving advice is not easy. The brighter and more intelligent the student (or anyone for that matter), the greater the possibilities of an interest and success in several careers/vocations. Even finding the right field can be a challenge, much less the right job.

    My rules of thumb are – 1. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to try things… being wrong is worse than a few job changes. 2. Know that with the speed of modern and future modern life, with a few exceptions, you’ll need to retrain and possibly change careers 3 or more times, or about every 10 to 15 years. 3. If you think you know the field – start at the top and work your way up. Try for the best position in the best firm that will give you exposure and training in your field. Neither money nor any other consideration should be of major concern. (Caveat: Know your field, and don’t skip over key training positions. Sometimes money and title are seductive, but leave you without a real foundation for your career.) Every job is like a postgraduate degree course. If you were smart you didn’t choose your school on the basis of how fun/cheap/convenient it was. Once you’ve left school, every employer becomes your alma mater. Business reputations count. And they count for a reason… as increasingly recognized, many, if not most critical job skills are acquired through on-the-job training and experience.

    And of course, the cardinal rule – do no harm. Every person, every student is different. I always offer what I think are constructive ideas to people starting out. But we all know there is no magic formula in the work world. Life’s tough, and globalization is making it tougher. As always, self-knowledge is the greatest asset in finding happiness and satisfaction.
    Onward and upward,

  14. After reading the article ‘Are you Meant to be a Recruiter’ and then reading the response from Amanda Calvert where she comments ‘the majority expect you to be like the ‘other type’ of recruiters’, I am genuinely curious to know what characteristics or things these other recruiters do to give this industry a bad name.

    I’ll be honest, I was brought into the recruiting industry by a family member who started her own recruiting business from her home, and I worked from mine. I have never worked in a formal recruiting environment, and I honestly do not know what the ‘other type’ of recruiter’s characteristics consist of. I have been recruiting for myself for the past five years and have received similar comments both from my clients and from my candidates, that I too am not like the typical recruiter. While I thank them, I have never come out and inquired exactly why they say that. I assume because I have always taken a personal interest in both of their needs, plus I think it has helped that I have not had someone standing behind me forcing me to put deals together knowing it was not the right fit. I do also believe my lack of a formal training environment has made this business difficult for me at times, but I have muddled through, stuck with it, and have been able to provide a nice income and a schedule to accommodate my busy family.

    Again though, I am curious to learn what some of the things are that these ‘other recruiters’ do to give this industry sometimes a negative stigma.

  15. From Paul Rees:

    ‘I have managed to transition into a career that suits me better.’

    How have you managed to do that?

    After 13 years of recruiting it often seems like the ONLY way to get a job is by having a resume that quite clearly shows you have been doing EXACTLY the same job for the last 2 – 3 years that you are applying for.

    What did you transition into and how did you get your new employers to ‘get over’ the fact that you were doing something different for the previous seven years?

  16. Great article and interesting thread. I’ve been in the industry since the earth’s crust was still warm, and of all the recruiters I know, none chose the profession… it chose them.

    Just try getting out of recruiting and then you’ll know if you’re meant to be in the HR/Recruiting industry. Almost any other kind of work is dull by comparison, most other job ‘challenges’ are a piece of cake.

    Guess that’s what I love most, is no two days are the same, everything is changing all the time… recruiting is like a box of chocolate.

    Sylvia Dahlby

    >> SmartSearch >> Recruit the Right Way. Right away.
    Staffing Management & Talent Acquisition Software from APS, Inc.

  17. After 13 years of recruiting it often seems like the ONLY way to get a job is by having a resume that quite clearly shows you have been doing EXACTLY the same job for the last 2 – 3 years that you are applying for.

    Wow – that is exactly the issue I am fighting against. Worked with 1 company for 25 years then over the last 5 years 3 more without adding to my skills, in fact they eroded. My problem is how do I do a general CV that sells me… answer seems I can not, companies seem to blinkered these days which is why they have got themselves into a position where they keep having to employ new people every 2 or 3 years.

  18. Brian Thorogood said:

    ‘Worked with 1 company for 25 years then over the last 5 years 3 more without adding to my skills, in fact they eroded. My problem is how do I do a general CV that sells me… answer seems I can not …’

    It seems like after a certain point the only real option you have is to hang up your shingle – get away from the situation where the only thing that a potential ‘client’ or ‘customer’ is looking at is the resume.

  19. Corrine,
    Thanks for your article. I have been recruiting for 17 years and the proof of whether you have a passion for this job is longevity.

    However, I am seeing a sea change where more and more large companies are centralizing sourcing and recruiting either in corporate recruiting mills in headquarters or offshore outsourcing companies. The goal of these recruiting mills seems to be to bring the cost of recruiting down to the lowest dollar and in order to do that, experience takes a second seat to ‘fresh’, translate cheaper, talent identification and assessment staff. In the process, a lot of experience and strong networks are thrown out for the sake of lowering the cost of recruiting.

    I think if this is the future of recruiting, it will be harder and harder for this ‘fresh’ talent to love their jobs. They are being pressured for higher metrics while given mediocre salaries. This atmosphere does not create passion and definitely will not create a new generation of people who love to serve the candidate and the client and feel they are doing something important.

  20. Brian the issue you raise is a common one as I found myself in the same position a few years ago. I have two suggestions for you. First, think about listing your skills at the top of your resume befiore you list your work experience. This could include things you did several years ago. Perhaps you managed teams or projects, implemented an ATS; inlcude anything that helps to show your diversified skills no matter how old those skills may be. Second, your resume will likely not lead to you finding your next job. I pay very little attention to resumes as many people don’t write their own resumes or many resumes are just lacking in detail. The best thing you can do is think about all of the people you have worked with over the years and literally create a list. Networking is the key to finding a great job. Use LinkedIn to help track people down if need be. This is how I found my last couple of positions.

  21. After reading the article ‘Are you Meant to be a Recruiter’ and then reading the response from Amanda Calvert where she comments ‘the majority expect you to be like the ‘other type’ of recruiters’, I am genuinely curious to know what characteristics or things these other recruiters do to give this industry a bad name.

    I believe (and this is only my opinion), that when the term ‘other type’ of recruiter is used, it is referring to reputation. Let me explain. The simple thing to say is ? only in it for the money? or ?no ethics or morals? or ?does not care about anything other than themselves?. All are things that can be said to change the perception on the person and about our field. Some of the most successful people doing any type of job, can be considered to have any of these traits, yet are still the best there is in that profession. The doctor everyone hates but is the best at what he does. The businessman that can make you millions, but you don?t trust him/her for a second. For a time, recruiters knew, they are calling me because they are desperate; lets take full advantage of this. This hurt the industry and soured the image of using a recruiter. Now, before anyone gets on a soap box, I am not saying, we should do it for free, I am saying there was a time, recruiters were looked at like the guy on the corner with the only gas in town and selling it for $18/gallon, you needed it, but boy, you did not like that guy.

    In recruiting, during the IT boom, companies hated recruiters because they needed to use them (no one likes to be desperate, and no one likes to be taken advantage of during that time). Think about it, an IT company is struggling to find the right people, you have the perfect person, but the cost is way more than you expected to pay (way above FAIR market value). But, they were desperate so they paid, but the image being created was, using an outside source will kill your overhead. Staffing companies did this (and unfortunately some still do), it is only a transaction to them (I can say this because I have worked for companies like this, it is not a refreshing feeling I must say). The truth is, our industry is changing with the times (and this is good), but many are stuck in the past (which is bad).

    Today, many companies want to go with the cheapest alternative (forget about experience) and to combat that, many recruiters are selling the intangibles (ethics, relationship, finding the fit, not just a body), this is all good, and will hopefully help change clients impressions of our field, but, we have to get through the cheap is fine, mentality first. And in a way, this is good for our industry.

    Look at Wal-mart, ?falling prices? was their motto for years, now watch a commercial of theirs, ?connivance:, ?green products?; ?name brands you want?; ?clean and friendly service? oh and ?great prices? at the end. The population wants more than just the great price. Companies are going to realize that it?s not just about price and there will be some great recruiters ready to help when this happens.

  22. I love this article. I especially like it because it might make you squirm when you ask yourself if you are in Recruiting simply as a means of providing an income, or if you believe you are doing something with meaning that also provides your income.

    I will freely admit that there are times when, in the moment, I might not be in love with Recruiting. Yet when I take a step back and look over my career in Recruiting I like what I see both behind me and in front of me.

    Yes, companies, clients, candidate markets, economies ? all change without our permission (though hopefully with our awareness). Additionally, I would hope that I change as well: better Recruiting skills, better decision making, better leadership, better business acumen, etc. I know that my role has evolved, WITH my permission, from a know-nothing rookie as a full cycle (get the job order AND find the candidates) individual contributor in an agency to a leader in corporate settings. And I do suspect that I may, some day, decide there is something else in the business world that offers me more stimulation, challenge and reward (my desired definitions of these) – and so I will work to get recruited into that. You see, I was recruited into Recruiting from a role that I loved, with a company that was great to work for, with a boss who valued my work, with co-workers that were trustworthy, professional and fun to be with. And I would never go back.

    True enough – you can make a solid income in Recruiting, and do so being ethical and effective, and still not love what you are doing. Frankly, I say so what? That is not the point of the article. I can earn a living doing lots of things by doing them well and doing them professionally/ethically. Again, so what?

    What I find intriguing about this thread is how quickly folks jump to defend staying in Recruiting solely because it can provide good income. The only person who needs to be comfortable with that choice…is you.

    As for me, I refuse to spend my life doing something that provides a good income but does not provide me with deeper satisfaction.

    No one is saying you have to get out of Recruiting because you don’t love it. Though it’s not a bad suggestion.

  23. I will have to admit that I returned to the recruiting industry due to the money and somewhat by default. I recently relocated and I had not been in the agency environment for about 5 years. After the first month, my passion for this industry surfaced again and I remember the fuzzy feeling when a candidate sincerely appreciates the effort you put in working with them – even if we don’t land them that opportunity. Now, I am looking forward to going to work each day again.

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