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.


3 Comments on “Thanks for Stopping By Recruiting; Won’t You Stay a While?

  1. Lisa,

    GREAT article! I was one of those who was asked if I ever thought of being a recruiter while I was being interviewed years ago. I took the jump and have never regretted it. This is a wonderful profession. I, too, am a big proponent of getting certifications. One source you did not mention was the national Association of personnel Services ( They provide certifications for permanent staffing (CPC), temporary staffing (CTS) and specialized staffing such as Physician Recruiting (PRC) and Employee Retention (CERS). I would encourage all your readers to look into these certifications.



  2. Lisa –

    Thank you for writing such a great article. I never thought that I would still be recruiting after 11 years, but here I sit today at my desk reading your article.

    I think that you have made some really good points. I recently started my own firm, and a couple of your points are pillars of my personal philosophy. I thought that I would offer my comments on each of your points.

    For Example:

    1. My last company paid a salary that was below market rate, and they would basically hire anyone who would say yes. We were rarely able to attract anyone with experience, and our turnover was staggering. This was a tremendous burden to recruiters like myself who were the top producers in the company, because we spend so much of ‘our’ time developing recruiters and account managers who would not stay onboard long enough to be a positive investment.

    2. I agree with you here as well. My last company was led by an executive team who trained new associates. The problem was that these executives had never worked a desk themselves. They could tell you all about theory, but if you asked them a specific ‘real life’ scenario, they would often give answers that most of the top producing account managers and recruiters would disagree with. Experience helps you to make better decisions, and those who train new associates need to be successful desk performers who can share relevent and valuable insight.

    3. I have never worked for a company that offered to pay for training. If you are not investing in your producers then they might not be growing their skillset. I started my last job 5 years ago this month. I learned absolutely nothing while employed with that company. We did not network, we did not embrace technology, we did not develop our skills. I am a bit embarassed by the fact that I bought into all of that. Now I am playing catch up, and I thought that I was on the cutting edge all of this time. I was when I started in that position, but a lot has changed over the past five years, and I missed all of it, because I worked for a company that didn’t see education as valuable. If you count rehashing new hire training over and over again in weekly meetings my former company would have earned a grade of A+. Was this training useful and relevent? Absolutely Not.

    4. I have been fortunate in the fact that I have worked for companies that have allowed me to perform my job in an ethical and professional manner without pressuring me to work in an unethical way. Customers who buy from you again and again are of great value. Likewise, consultants who stay with you are in the same boat. As much as I might not want to admit it as the founder of my company, I know that my recruiters and account managers will be building their brand as much as mine. When things are great, their brand is out in front and praised (rightly so). When things are not so great, my company brand will be out front (arguably rightly so, but why not the recruiter). If clients have a good experience they will follow the recruiter. If they have a bad experience they will sometimes never work with the company again, regardless of whether the recruiter is there or not. This is in my opinion why it is so important to hire recruiters who will do the best job possible.

    5. Isn’t it amazing how social networking has evolved?

    6. This is a big one. No matter how much we know as professionals there is always something that we can learn. My comment is a bit of a reversal of the traditional learning process.

    I have found that I have learned a great deal from new associates who ask questions about efficiency. New people often see improvements that more expreienced recruiters miss because once you get into the habit of doing things a certain way, you are not always looking to make changes. New associates often analyze the process and as part of that analysis have suggestions about how the process can be improved.

    It’s just important to encourage these associates to ask questions about the process and why things are done a certain way. Most training involves the mindset of ‘this is how we do things’

    I commend the new assocaites who have the courage to suggest change, and change can sometimes pay off for everyone.

    7. In my last position I experienced this first had. My former company doesn’t pay their recruiters right, offers no development, rarely rewards them at all let alone heartily for their results and contributions, and almost always loses great people in the end to other opportunities.

    I was part of a team of ten (sometimes more) account managers in my last position, and it was my company’s ‘policy’ not to give raises, even though everyone didn’t make the same salary. I made a higher base than others who started before me, and newer employees who never produced a dime in revenue for the company made more than me…

    The bottom line is that I was the very top producer on my team for 3+ years, and I worked for a company that would not pay me more than the below margin salary that I earned.

    With commissions I did earn six figures in this position. Some people would say, ‘you had a six figure job you have no reason to complain’ and I admit that is an arguable point.

    For me it was an issue of respect and acknowledgement. I was billing 2M+ per year placing contractors, and other associates who were new to the company were making a higher base. This isn’t how you treat the people who are paying for their seats.

    I maintained the status of top producer in my department but my feelings toward the company and management deteriorated over time. Regardless of what they earn, top producers need to be rewarded. I have been gone from my company for about four months now, and a good portion of that revenue that I brought in for them is gone too. It’s really quite sad.

    Again, thank you for such a great article, and I do apologize to all of you (if any) who have read this far, as I had a lot to say this morning.

  3. Thank you Lisa for your wonderful article and even more for your specific and concrete suggestions. Recruiting has long been the ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of HR, getting little or no respect. I always heard that recruiting was ‘entry level HR’ inferring that anyone can do it, merely as a way station to a more rewarding career. But few people have a greater impact on an organization than the people responsible for finding the next generation of leaders for an organization. And there is a body of knowledge to be mastered as well as skills to be developed to insure that we are completing our role effectively.

    Thank you for reminding us of the critical role recruiters have in an organization. Staffing professionals, hold your heads high!

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