Recruiters Are at Risk of Burnout

While there is no such “surgeon general” warning for recruiters, the intensity of both the volume and the quick deadlines have been known to cause burnout for many recruiters. Once a recruiter hits the burnout phase, the individual, the organization and, when applicable, the client greatly suffers.

The ensuing problems can be quantitative and qualitative as time-to-fill slowly but surely lengthens and the candidate fit quickly becomes weaker.

There are various signs that recruiters and recruiter managers can use to identify burnout, and then a variety of ways to address and prevent it.

Article Continues Below

Here are the top five signals that a recruiter may be headed toward crash and burn:

  1. Over-reliance on tools that are the “usual suspects.” An energized recruiter will look everywhere for the best candidate. While this search includes major job boards, all good recruiters know to look in the less obvious places. If a recruiter is only looking at the usual suspects or refusing to use alternative methods (e.g., cold-calling, niche sites, LinkedIn), this is a danger sign that they are burning out and losing the vigor required for a comprehensive search.
  2. Conducting less-thorough research. While this symptom is closely related to the first, it is worth highlighting on its own. Recruiters, who are not creatively researching areas such as competitive companies and other potential industries to find candidates, are displaying another potential sign of burnout.
  3. Disinterested in the hunt. Recruiters are curious and inquisitive people by nature. They like the process of the hunt, and often see recruiting as a giant game of hide and seek. If a recruiter seems to have lost that drive for the chase, it could be a signal that they are nearing the point of burnout. One of the more tangible signs that the drive and curiosity has waned is a lack of interest in brainstorming. Recruiters on the hunt like getting ideas from others and talking about their searches, so if they shy away from brainstorming with others using defensive phrases like “done that, didn?t work,” it is not a good sign.
  4. Over-use of technology. Generally, recruiters like talking to people. If the recruiter is relying too much on technology in order to avoid live contact with others, this is a problematic sign. Knock-out questions are fine, but we?ve heard of recruiters trying to automate entire screens! That means a critical part of the process (selling the position) gets left out. A recruiter who is not engaging with people is not engaged.
  5. Unusually quick pass-through of candidates to hiring manager. If a recruiter is passing through a very high number of candidates, it means that they are not adding value to the process as much as they could and are focused more on finishing than candidate quality.

Once recruiters or managers of recruiters notice these signs in themselves or others, there are several ways to address the issue. Here are three sure-fire approaches to help alleviate recruiter burnout:

  1. Get creative again. Recruiting is an innovative process and requires an atmosphere and management style that is conducive to spurring creativity. This includes frequent breaks using areas where recruiters can go to look away from their screen and talk to others, and even games that distract the mind. All these help productivity and resourcefulness. If a recruiter only sits among four gray walls for hours and days, burnout will ensue.
  2. Do new assignments. Recruiters who always look for the same types of jobs can lose that creative spark. Those who do new assignments for different types of roles can get that spark back. For example, if you spend most of your time on information technology, from time to time take on the challenge of filing an administrative position for someone. Why? IT searches are more about specifications, while administrative searches are more about fit. The assignment will get skills rounded, thinking challenged, and creativity fresh. And the reverse scenario works too. Those recruiters used to searching for the “fit” positions will get re-energized by the challenge of looking for the needle-in-the-haystack technician.
  3. Make brainstorming part of the process. For recruiters (and any creative process), bringing others into the solution can be immensely helpful. For managers, assign one recruiter as a subject matter expert to another. For recruiters, ask this of your colleagues. This can help both recruiters to have excuses to help each other and keep both energized with a different perspective.

While these strategies can be implemented when signs of burnout become visible, they are best used as preventive measures. With these methods in place, recruiters will remain creative, sharp, and inquisitive.

Jill Zoromski ( contact at ) joined Capital H Group, a human capital consulting firm, in 2003 after 20 years in human resources roles in the financial services industry. She created the national recruiting practice for Capital H and runs the centralized recruiting center in Milwaukee.


5 Comments on “Recruiters Are at Risk of Burnout

  1. IMHO, the risk of burnout can be reduced by minimizing the amount of administrative work done by recruiters, e.g., interview scheduling, as well as eliminating the necessity of providing excessive amounts of documentation (‘paperwork’) of the real work they do- it should take up no more than 5% of a recruiter’s time documenting what they do the other 95% of the time. Ideally, anything low-touch/low value-add should be outsourced, leaving the recruiters to do the high-touch/high value-add work which (while it can still be stressful) tends to be both more interesting and a more valuable use of the recruiter’s time.


  2. Good article, Jill. I do wish we could all resolve to identify ‘recruiter’ as either corporate, or TPR. Regardless, your five points that might indicate burnout are right on, and may apply to both groups.

    What I find interesting, as a TPR manager, is that some of the five points are often found in highly-productive TPR’s. Rather than a sign of burnout, they might be a sign of someone who really knows their niche, knows where to look, has learned to narrow both the job requirements and candidate skills needed to those which are critical, and has learned how to shorten the entire process, successfully. Maybe we’re onto something here!

    Fortunately, in the TPR field, send-outs, offers made, and cash-in rule the day. Mere activity, sometimes errantly viewed as productivity, does not count for much without the resultant revenue.

    Good article, focusing on things we should all keep our eyes open for.

  3. Great article and good comments from Keith.
    If recruiters can focus on strategic aspects of recruiting and get help on administrative side, it would sure avoid the feeling of burnout.

  4. Jill’s points are dead-on however there is the issue of performance which Jim brings up. If a stellar performer or, at least, good producer suddenly winds down like that and exhibits those signs…and the productivity wanes also (quality of candidate decreases, fill rates are less, etc) – then it is burnout.

    If someone exhibits those signs and was not a good producer, or exhibits those signs and only gets certain types of candidates, etc…then they may just be poor performers. The remedy is coaching and performance enhancement techniques.

    And to Jim’s point – it is the send-outs, offers made, cash-in, and quality of business/candidate that drives success. He is right on with that.

  5. I know one thing, if I even try to take a couple days off I feel like I am neglecting my clients and I am losing placements. I have 3 weeks of vacation banked up with my company and wish I could take a breather.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *