How the Role of Corporate Recruiter Is Evolving

Calling yourself a recruiter doesn’t do justice to what “recruiters” have to do. Here’s a quick overview of where the role was, where it is now, and where it’s heading.

Think about the good old days, way before the Internet. The normal recruitment method was to place an ad in a national or local newspaper or perhaps a relevant magazine. Applications came in, interviews arranged, and hires were made. So far so easy. But the volume of hiring was nowhere near what it is today with job hopping every few years the exception not the norm, as it is now.

The notion of a dedicated recruiter was rare in all but the biggest companies, with the overworked HR manager left to deal with hiring. But as jobs for life became less scarce so the churn rate increased and staffing agencies gradually sprung up to take the burden off HR teams.

Then the Internet happened and life got interesting. Previously the almost set-in-stone route to candidates meant little or no thought or creativity was needed to source candidates. The role was predominantly administrative — handling applications. Now the route to candidates is so diverse that the “recruiter” must develop expertise in multiple areas. Here’s a quick checklist of what a good recruiter must know … and it’s quite lengthy:

Job boards:

  • Do you know every single one for each of the roles you typically advertise?

  • Evaluation of response rates. Not always easy unless you’ve got a very good ATS doing it for you. Are you aware of the technology you can use to post to multiple job boards and/or search their applicant databases.

  • Do you know how to keyword-optimize jobs so they appear at the top of job listings on job boards? (And no, it’s not just repeating the job title five times in the text.)

  • Are you aware of how to use job board aggregators to hire people? Which are the best classified sites to use and for which roles: Geebo, Craigslist, eBay classifieds, etc.

Social media:

  • This is recruitment marketing by any other term. As a recruiter do you know how to use social media to source candidates? Do you have a referral system in place to allow your employees to socialize the details of the job? Can you track the results?


Do you know how you can use a blog — or someone else’s — to find candidates? You sure you do? So where’s your blog detailing the great things your company is doing?

Talent pipeline building:

It’s vital for all but the smallest companies to identify and hook into candidates, even if neither party is actively looking. Do you know how to do that? Do you have a mechanism in place to track potential star candidates in the future you can talk to (no, not just an Excel spreadsheet) ?

Your careers portal:

  • Think of your vacancies in the same way your marketing team thinks about your company’s products and services: you have to sell them to people. What exactly is your careers portal doing to blow candidates away? Do you know how to make the jobs attractive? Do you really know how to write a great job description? Really? Here’s a simple test: if it’s a new role, do you state that in the job description every single time? You should. It impresses candidates to know it’s not just a boring replacement. Do you have video or written testimonials from staff introducing the role?

  • Do you know how to keyword-optimize your careers site so that Google and other search engines start picking it up for certain types of roles you constantly recruit? That’s your holy grail … all your jobs listed on Google, as that means a free pipeline of applicants every day. Do you know how to do this?

  • It goes without saying that you’ll have Google analytics installed and can track back the popularity of your careers portal and each of its subsections to see what people are looking at … right?

  • Increasingly, recruiters, to do their job effectively, must have at least a basic appreciation of what underpins a good careers portal … not just the content but the technical infrastructure behind it. Without that understanding it would be difficult to create the very best portal in terms of what it can do, how it can do it, how fast it can do it, and what information it can store and analyze. A basic understanding of graphical interfaces, databases, Flash, and HTML coding is becoming increasingly beneficial.

Gone mobile yet?

Let’s face it, more and more job traffic will come through mobiles and ‘phablets.’ Do do you understand what can and can’t be done to create a functioning, if slimmed-down careers portal which is usable via a five-inch screen? Have you even got a mobile version of your careers site yet? If not, get on it.

PPC recruitment advertising

Every tried advertising your jobs directly on Google? Not many have. It’s a process of trial and error, testing to see which roles in which locations get a number of applications. It might not work for a one-off role but if you’re regularly hiring certain types of roles (developers, accountants, graduates) then you should be devising a direct search engine advertising strategy.

Lastly, you’re an expert on all data-protection issues in every country you recruit for, right?

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This list isn’t exhaustive, but gives you an idea of the hugely diverse nature of the modern recruitment ecosystem. Part lawyer, recruiter, data analyst … the role is becoming almost too large for one person, which leads me neatly to the role of the corporate recruiter in the near future. In the same way as a large marketing team is split into different areas from research, trade marketing, digital, brand/product marketing, etc., so recruitment will increasingly specialize. No longer will you just be a recruiter but a specialist with, in all probability, a very different title.

We’re already beginning to see it happening with people assigned to different areas of  specialization for major employers. Some focus on graduate hires, some on the nuances of hiring at board level. This trend will continue. “Generalist” recruiters will try their best to wear multiple hats as the dedicated recruitment manager at smaller companies, and the larger employers will split their ever growing recruitment teams into specialist roles. There will be a specialist psychometric tester, a member of marketing will be seconded to HR to focus purely on SEO for your careers site, a web developer will sit almost permanently in HR to work on a near continuous process of improvement to the corporate careers site and it’s mobile sibling, integrating the latest technologies to give them the recruiting edge.

“Sourcers” will have the sole job of evaluating, purchasing, and using job boards, the best staffing agencies, and CV databases to actually get the candidates. In turn they will hand them over to specialist assessors for evaluation via detailed psychological and psychometric testing. The days of the simple interview will be long gone.

Once hired or possibly even before offers are made, the candidates will then be handed to specialist “checkers” for validation of references and detailed background checks. Overseeing all of this will be campaign evaluators who, a bit like management consultants, will be constantly analyzing the whole department to spot bottlenecks, assess the success/failure rates, analyze the costs of hiring campaigns, as well as be responsible for continuously scanning the market for new technologies and tools to help source, evaluate, and secure the best people, faster.

So anyone fancy any of these new job titles on their business card?

Talent Evaluation Consultant

Recruitment Search Engine Optimization Manager

People Validation Executive

Careers Portal Developer

Sourcing Assistant

Nick Leigh-Morgan is the CEO and founder of iKrut, the world's first free enterprise-level applicant tracking system. He has more than 18 years experience in the recruiting industry, covering staffing firms, direct employers, and now web-based recruitment software. You can view iKrut at


14 Comments on “How the Role of Corporate Recruiter Is Evolving

  1. Great article Nick and quite witty suggestions on the new positions. In the nearest future some of them might become real, if they haven’t yet. The only thing that bothers me is the fact that today’s employers tend to require multitasking skill from most employees, therefore they aren’t very predisposed to dividing recruiters responsibilities for more people, although it could make recruiters’ lives much easier!

  2. Thanks for this article Nick! It was very informative and illustrates the big picture for recruiters. We do so much more than just handle phone calls! I will use this as a career checklist for myself and for my trainees.

  3. Thanks, Nick. We won’t tell you what every managing director and founder of a free applicant tracking system must know, and you
    won’t tell us “what a good recruiter must know,” OK?



  4. Hi Nick —- I get concerned when companies take the most critical recruiting positions (sourcer) and turn them into “contract managers”. I see the potential for the same thing happening to the rest of HR. Outsource everything and then in-house HR can manage the outsourcers. Don’t understand the logic.

    My recommendation is to start admitting that there are employees that are critical and actually can make/break a company’s ability to perform. The rest are core or support employees.

    The critical positions (and it will vary by industry/company)need to have a lot of attention. I would have one recruiter/sourcer handle these exclusively. The larger companies would have one each per division. But my point is that the most critical positions need the best dang recruiter in the world! That recruiter needs to be imaginative and find the people that aren’t looking and they need to be the ones that are putting a pipeline together for these critical jobs.

    With all due respect to technology and outside recruiting firms I have strong feelings that recruiting needs “touch” — and the only ones that can do this is someone in-house.

    Frankly I would test out outsourcing the hiring of support and core jobs. Admins, maintenance, purchasing reps, accountants, etc. You get gobs of these people and for the most part they can be handled via an “employment” process. Mostly administrative.

    But critical jobs are the focus — and because they are tied so closely to the business strategy of the company they need tender-loving care in-house.

    BTW I’m not defining critical as Directors and VPs. That’s another can of worms but I don’t include it in this response.

  5. @ Jacque: Well said.
    I think recruiters need to handle the high-touch, high-value add activities (counseling, mentoring, streamlining/improving hiring practices, CLOSING, etc.) that can’t effectively be no-sourced (eliminated), through-sourced (automated), or out-sourced (sent away). My rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t pay someone at least $50/hr for a given recruiting task, you can (and probably should) “transource” it as just mentioned, for U.S. minimum wage-cost or a lot less, and what you have left you should pay at least $50/hr for someone to do…One additional point: recruiting is fundamentally “putting quality butts in chairs, on-time and within budget”. There are many other useful things which HELP recruiting, but AREN’T recruiting. They’re to recruiting as marketing is to sales. A number of the things mentioned here and often discussed elsewhere on ERE fit in this category.



  6. I want to beat this one point to death. HR and recruiting need to stop thinking about employees as one big blob. HR certainly doesn’t want to say this — but the fact is that there is a hierarchy. Some positions “bring home the bacon” as far as hitting company strategic goals. Others are supporting that effort. Instead of trying to give everyone the same amount of attention —- farm out the support positions and give the key talent your best shot in-house. I know a lot of companies don’t have very talented people in recruiting. Many times recruiting is the job that HR beginners are put in. But if a company doesn’t have a solid few real, real, real top notch recruiters — then hire some. Don’t try to force-fit the recruiters you have into that role unless they really fit. I’m out of here!

  7. Nick, this is a great article. I have been in this business since 1980. I have seen a lot of changes. All recruiters, In House, 3rd party, Project, Contract and all are being asked to do much—much more while paying us much—much less and they still complain of our charges. Our margins are vapor thin yet our clients want even more cuts while wanting us to perform in the increasing number of arenas as you identified.

    We are now at the point of being forced to turn customers away. A customer’s HR manager called me in June and said that I was demonstrating a great deal of disloyalty because of our years of business relationship. I told him that he was confusing loyalty with survival. (It is noteworthy that in July the President of that firm called and asked for a new “Quotation for Services” which we made and obtained a new service contract) As a provider of premium critical recruiting services I must maintain top recruiting personnel. I cannot and I will not cut their salaries or their commissions. They work far too hard, conducting in some cases mindless activities, because our clients are convinced, that they will miss some candidate using one or more of these media tools. I am not anti-technology—-in fact quite the opposite; however, between the time it takes to cover the Job Boards, the Blogs, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other media applications and tools providing access to candidates it takes a 30 hour day. I am watching our recruiters, some of those under a year to those with many years of experience burning-out trying to cover all the bases.

    I predict a change is on the horizon —— something has got to give. Perhaps the need for superior recruiting vs the tools being used will cause that change –who knows. Thanks for listening to my tirade.

  8. @Jacque – Agreed. Within a professional services environment (like my firm), we often recruit for openings that have a direct billable rate tied to it. If that position doesn’t get filled or takes a long time getting filled, then there is an exact correlation to the amount of revenue the firm has lost. So yes, its sometimes about the Executive-type level roles and sometimes about, as you put it, “bringing home the bacon”. In those situations, I simply want a really good recruiter knocking that req out with an outstanding individual as quickly as possible.

  9. Interesting perspective on how things have changed, but I would argue that the process of finding top talent has become more simplistic with the evolution of technology. For those of us who remember “the good old days”…all we had was a phone, note pad and pen. However, we did have the ability to purchase corporate directories. Fundamentally, I feel that the standard process of attracting talent is flawed as a direct result of the creation of the first true job board ( But, that’s a story for another day…..

  10. @ Brian T: “how things have changed”- I wonder if there are any recruiting metrics going back over years or decades? Has technology sped up the time-to-hire, lowered COH (in constant dollars, anything measurable? Come to think of it, does anybody (who’s not trying to sell us something) have these figures for 2013 or the recent past?


    Keith “What if Things Aren’t Better or Worse, Just Different” Halperin

  11. Unfortunately recruiting today has become advertising where someone throws a hunk of meat out there and waits to see how many flies land on it. There is very little investment in acquiring quality people, providing training and mentoring, improving hiring processes or being creative and innovative in defining growth opportunities within the organization. This is why, in spite of all the fun benefits Google has, when people start to think about what it is they want to do career-wise, they leave the company after a year. It is a difficult thing to do, stay for the golden handcuffs and die of boredom, or pursue what it is you really want to do. The quality of people in “recruiting” today, in my opinion is at an all time low in terms professionalism, knowledge and communications. In this post and pray,key word search era, in some people’s opinion, recruiters rank lower than used car salesman. With companies encouraging this behavior and individuals volunteering for the abuse by submitting to job posts etc., I can only see things getting worse.

  12. You said it Edward and said it well and true. However why is it I ask myself, why in a world where we can access all there is to know at the click of a button, where media like ERE are doing more to surface best practice than has ever been seen, where conference after conference, blogs, videos and a vast range of tools enable so much, why are we not seeing evolution and progress but in a lot of instances the opposite? This has nothing to do with recession or crisis, cut backs and corporate leaders not investing. This is about having an interest, about wanting to improve and develop. I term the problem being indifference and a substantial lack of abilities amongst those that should know better, or at least have an interest and an open mind.
    I have numerous times had conversations with very senior people In talent acquisition/recruiment and mentioned those that I take inspiration from only to be met with a blank face, – no clue and no real interest leaving me baffled and scratching my head in astonishment, wilful ignorance I believe it is called.

  13. Implementing change involves a four letter word most people are trying to avoid today -WORK. In order to improve processes, strive for knowledge, become better at what you do requires a commitment and a willingness to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and work. Most people today would like to get their hands on Staples Easy Button. I saw a bumper sticker which is probably true in today’s environment which read – when the people lead, the leaders will follow.

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