How to Become a Recruiter: A Talent for Finding Talent

illustration of a fly fishing pole catching people on a line

There’s no counting the number of respectable careers out there that can lead someone to success. But there’s one that stands out if you’re looking for a career that puts your ambition, work ethic and people skills to good use: recruiting.

But how do you become a recruiter? What skills and education are needed? Is it the right career for you? Keep reading for data and expert insight to answer all your burning questions.

What is a recruiter?

A job recruiter—sometimes called a talent recruiter or, informally, a “headhunter”—is a human resources (HR) professional tasked with identifying and pursuing candidates for potential job openings. Talent recruiters can work directly for an organization or business, or they may provide their services on behalf of a third-party organization like staffing agencies. Recruiters play a key role in filling important, hard-to-fill positions where competition for qualified candidates is strong.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? Working as a talent recruiter is a surprisingly fulfilling career that you can feel proud of each day, according to Tracey Russell—a national recruiter for Naviga.

Now that we’ve got your attention, you’re probably wondering one big question: How do I become a recruiter? With insights and advice from professional recruiters and up-to-date numbers that don’t lie, we’ve compiled all the information you need to learn how to become a recruiter and put your skills to good use.

Why should I become a recruiter?

Even if you’ve never considered a career that’s focused on finding careers for other people, there are plenty of perks that’ll have you thinking this career path would be a great fit.

First and foremost, talent recruiters have the opportunity to bring in above-average annual earnings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for human resources specialists like recruiters was $59,180 in 2016.* But your earning potential doesn’t end there. Experienced recruiters who are in the top 10 percent of earners make over $100,000 annually, as reported by the BLS.*

While earning a salary like that is definitely not the norm, strong earning potential is not unheard of if you’re willing to put the work in, according to Scott Singer, president of Insider Career Strategies. “If you work for a staffing firm and you’re commissioned, the money can be really good, really quickly,” Singer says.

But the rewards of recruiting go beyond the money. Many recruiters find satisfaction in knowing their day-to-day work makes a significant difference in the lives of others.

“One of the huge perks to becoming a recruiter is getting to make a positive impact on someone’s life,” Russell says. “I love being able to help someone land their dream job and ultimately change their life for the better. It’s a very rewarding job and can make you feel very accomplished.”

Do successful recruiters need a certain personality?

You’re intrigued by the earning potential and the possibility of a career that genuinely make peoples’ lives better. But you may be wondering if you’re really a good fit for the job. Which personality types thrive in this people-oriented career? The ideal personality for a recruiter is an extrovert who has thick skin, since much of recruiting is outside of your control, according to Russell.

But your decision to become a recruiter should not be limited by your personality type. “A wonderful quality of this profession is that so many different personality types prove to be highly successful,” says Jason Hanold, managing partner of executive search firm, Hanold Associates. He adds that those who are naturally curious, well-meaning, transparent and a bit skeptical tend to do succeed in this career.

What skills do recruiters need?

Personality is one thing, but it will only get you so far in any industry. There’s no question that if you want to be a successful recruiter, you need to have the soft skills that go along with the position.

The BLS lists decision-making skills and interpersonal skills as being important for recruiters. These will come in handy as you’d spend much of your time working directly with people and making decisions about which candidates are truly the best fit for a particular position. It’s also important to be detail-oriented since recruiters need to keep track of many clients and candidates and their specific qualifications.

Active listening is also an important skill in a successful recruiter’s arsenal since they need to be able to fully understand what a client needs and what a candidate truly has to offer. Strong written and verbal communication skills are also a must, according to Hanold.

What education do I need to become a recruiter?

Soft skills and the right personality traits are great assets, but what does it take to actually become a recruiter? Unlike many other careers that may require a certain degree, there aren’t any particular education prerequisites to becoming a recruiter.

“The education level depends on the position,” Russell says. Not all employers will require a degree, but the BLS reports that recruiters typically hold a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, business or a related field. Whether or not a degree is the right choice for you, it could enhance your marketability in the competitive job market.

What experience do you need to become a recruiter?

Next in line after the education component of becoming a headhunter is work experience. One of the biggest questions many aspiring recruiters wonder is: Do you need experience in human resources? The simple answer is not necessarily.

“Often, becoming a recruiter is one’s first role in HR, so previous experience in the field is not necessary,” Hanold explains. However, he adds that having the context of HR experience may be helpful.

Even if you don’t have direct experience working in HR, you may still have past work experience that applies to your recruiting career. Skills in customer service and other people-oriented fields can show employers that you have the interpersonal skills it takes to be a worthwhile addition to their recruiting team, according to the BLS.

In addition to job experience, you can take advantage of networking and continuing education opportunities through organizations related to recruiting. While there aren’t any designated memberships that employers seek in candidates across the board, Singer suggests joining the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

SHRM offers a number of professional certifications to boost your resume. Membership will not only allow you to connect with other professionals in your industry, but it’ll also show prospective employers that you’re serious about your recruiting career. Singer also recommends seeking out local recruiter groups as a great option for improving your resume if your HR experience is lacking.

Are you ready to become a recruiter?

Now that you have a better idea of how to become a recruiter, can you see yourself filling those shoes? A recruiting career comes with plenty of positives that has Hanold asking, “Why would someone NOT want to be a recruiter?”

If you can’t come up with a decent answer to that question, then you owe it to yourself to consider this career path. Learn more about how you can take the first step toward becoming a recruiter with Rasmussen College’s Human Resources and Organizational Leadership degree program.


*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in November 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2017.

Will Erstad

Will is a Sr. Content Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen College. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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