You’ve Got to Get to Know Your Industry Better

The No. 1 statement of hubris I’ve heard from other recruiters has been, “I do awesome and I don’t need to know my client’s business to do it.” I’m sure there’s a few hiring managers reading that right now thinking, “Yup, and that’s why you actually suck!”

Sure, they’re not going to say it to your face, but I will for them.

If you don’t know your client’s business, what they do, how they do it, and why they do it, you’re a paper-shuffling, numbers-touting clerk, not a recruiter, headhunter, talent acquisition specialist, or staffing agent. 

For those of us focused on recruiting/staffing, there can become a tunnel vision of target, search, acquire, always looking to hone any one or all of these skills to their fullest. But when you start to hit the ceiling on the process, systems, and psychologies used, you may have forgotten to develop your understanding of industry. Ironically, it’s something your hiring managers and others in the company are more than happy to discuss, if you’re willing to listen. Like all humans, we want to discuss with others interested in the things we do. This allows you to create better targeting, better searching, and 100 percent better acquisition.

It all begins with targeting or profiling. It’s normal for the recruiter to pick up a job description from a manager and review it for content in conjunction with Legal. It’s normally something done after having a sit-down discussion with the hiring client about their needs. Even if you take copious notes, and record the discussion for later, what can you really understand, and how can you interject or point to additional potential requirements with probing questions if you don’t understand how the components the hiring client uses interact? If you aren’t aware of trends in their industry, how can you help them keep ahead? How are you really adding value? If you can cover those pieces up front, your targeting will highly improved, reducing time spent on candidates who are less likely to be picked up for interview.

Being able to create better target profiles will reduce your searching and review time as well. When you understand your hiring client’s industry, it allows you to know the hidden search terms. As a loose example, you know they want someone with HTML5, but you know CSS will also be included, though it may not be specifically called out. Knowing what a strong candidate actually is based on a resume and a phone call has a lot more to do with knowing what your industry considers “strong.” It’s not just years of experience, but what types of experience? Are you offering them a step up? Do you actually know if you are, or are you just taking your hiring client’s word for it? One of the worst complaints I’ve heard from software architects is having a recruiter call them about a Line Dev, or Jr/Fresher Coder role. Those recruiters may just have been search and spamming/calling, but it shows they didn’t even do light research on their targets and just wasting their and the company’s time.

All of this effort to learn is ultimately to hire someone to work at your company. One party is agreeing to be onboarded by the other party. You not only need to know those people, but their professional motivations, their aspirations, and their industry to effectively negotiate. This includes negotiation through the interview process and final negotiations as required. If you don’t understand that DC Techs work all hours and you call for a chat when they’re sleeping, you don’t know their industry. You might wake a cranky bear and get an earful.

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Lots of recruiters will say, “All that doesn’t matter, I create relationships.” If you don’t have a conversational understanding of the industry you’re supporting, how can you claim to “create relationships” and to “form bonds” with people in that industry? Even a junior sales agent first learns to create a bond through association. Perhaps that’s really why corporate hiring clients tend to prefer working with outside agencies over their internal teams? As a sales-focused person, the third-party recruiter knows to take advantage of every advantage.

And if you’re still not convinced of the value of knowing your hiring client’s industry and business, let me give you a short analogy most will get. When you stand on a football field and look out at all the stands, there are a lot of people out there, each one a cheerleader, many an armchair coach or quarterback. Hundreds of thousands of millions of them. They have value to the game and it’s outcome, but the ones with the most influence are on the field and sidelines playing and providing guidance. They are the ones who know their industry. Don’t be the fan-in-the-stands recruiter; be the Special Teams coach.

When a recruiter doesn’t understand the industry, terms, and concepts, they can be an embarrassment to you and a frustration to your target audience. So if you’re not a recruiter and you’re a hiring manager, help reduce global frustration levels and help educate a recruiter on an industry they support today. 

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Growing up a military brat, John Reagan was always immersed in diverse environments.  After some time in HVM Warehousing, his interest in people and technology was recognized by a friend and recruiting mentor, Michael Sullivan. After helping Mike successfully launch Sullivan Group LLC, the impact of the dot-com bubble lead John Reagan away from recruiting and into customer support. He worked at Microsoft PSS on contract, where he regularly exceeded all KPI expectations and confounded his managers with his depth of technical knowledge. took a liking to John during an interview and found his vision and ideas interesting. This landed him a permanent role in its customer support team. It was there that he realized the core of any successful business is customer service. 

Bringing with him the personalized, focused approach taught to him under Mike, he quickly rose through the ranks of the Speakeasy Call Center to become corporate trainer in four short years.

Once again, his recruiting mentor called upon him and his technical understanding to help bring order to a chaotic group. This time it was at Siemens Business Services, hiring A- contractors for Microsoft, where he would stay for the next four-and-a-half years.  Successfully helping fend off the efforts of three major recruiting agencies, helping to lead Siemens into technical prowess among vendors. Since he was in such a strong position with Microsoft, his request to work remotely from Las Vegas was approved.  Times were good, for a while.

After the housing market fallout and the Great Recession began, he was forced into a long, government-sponsored vacation. At the end of the vacation, he started a contract with an Amazon subsidiary. Then with Avanade twice, the Venetian, Capgemini, and more recently IBM where he was assisting with their assimilation of acquisition teams. Each time, his skill, ability, and understanding of the operations growing. Not from just one perspective, but from all the perspectives encountered. 


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