What Does a Recruiter Do? An Inside Look

illustration of recruiters looking at resumes on computers 

When some hear the word “recruiter,” they may immediately picture a smooth-talking coach for a college sports team. But college athletics isn’t the only area where organizations are seeking professionals to draw in top-tier talent. Every day, corporate recruiters across the country are working to identify and attract high-caliber candidates to meet companies’ needs.

Recruiters are often the link between candidates and their next job, and facilitating that process can be a rewarding experience. After all, there’s a lot to like about putting others in a position to advance in their career or grow their earnings.

So what does a recruiter do? Read on to learn more about what a day in the life of a talent acquisition professional looks like.

What does a recruiter do?

Recruiters work under the umbrella of the human resources (HR) field. They are experts in the finding, screening and attracting of applicants for open positions. Recruiters own the entire talent acquisition process from end-to-end. This can include advertising the job opening, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates and working with hiring managers to find the right fit. 

Working with hiring managers—whether internally or as a part of a recruiting agency—requires a lot of listening and communication skills to determine which skills, traits or previous experiences should be prioritized for an open position. The best recruiters want to help the team find a new member who will fit with company culture and have the necessary strengths required for the position. Recruiters can also help hiring managers prepare for interviews with job candidates.

Working with job candidates is a big part of a recruiter’s job as recruiters are often the first point of contact with an organization for a candidate. This means that recruiters often act as a brand ambassador for the company, especially when attending job fairs. Recruiters keep in contact with many job candidates at once. This can include negotiating offers and informing unsuccessful candidates that the position has been filled with another candidate.

While those calls may be difficult, overall, recruiting can be a fulfilling career. “Being able to place people in their dream roles and see how it positively impacts their life is very rewarding,” says Zahria Little, executive recruiting manager at JMJ Phillip Executive Search.

Where do recruiters work?

There are two main types of work environments a recruiter may work in. Many large organizations will employ their own team of recruiters in order to fill vacant positions within the company. The other option is to work for a recruiting agency, which works to fill positions on behalf of its clients.

Recruiters employed by a stand-alone business are typically closely engrained in the office culture. This means they’re on the hunt for candidates that will be a good match both for the position and the company. They work with various teams throughout the company to learn about their specific needs in order to choose an optimal candidate.

Agency recruiters often work in a specific area of expertise, such as technology or business positions. This allows them to hone in on certain fields in order to have a deeper understanding of industry trends and skill sets.

Just as there are a variety of work environments, there are also a variety of job titles for recruiters. Here are a few common recruitment-related job titles you may encounter:

  • Corporate recruiter
  • Talent acquisition specialist
  • Employment representative
  • Personnel coordinator
  • Human resources specialist
  • Personnel officer

What are their day-to-day responsibilities?

No matter which work environment you choose, our recruiting pros agreed that your workdays will vary, and you’ll be responsible for keeping up on an assortment of tasks.

“I multitask throughout my day,” says Amy Wolcott, talent manager for Sprout Social. She says she is constantly researching backgrounds, interviewing candidates and sifting through stacks of resumes.

Recruiter Colleen Lauria says that the day-to-day work of a recruiter will vary based on the industry they focus their efforts in. Her day is a mix of networking with colleagues and friends to identify qualified candidates, using social media to generate buzz about open positions, interviewing candidates and meeting with clients to understand their businesses. Lauria also keeps tabs on industry news and trends to stay as informed as possible on developments that might impact her clients or candidates.

What’s enjoyable about being a recruiter?

For anyone that enjoys working with people and helping them reach their goals, recruiting can offer a wealth of rewarding moments. Recruiters get the opportunity to meet many people and learn about their backgrounds, strengths and motivations. Helping the candidate find the best role for them is a great moment for both them and the recruiter. “Landing a perfect job can be life changing. It feels good knowing I’ve played a role in helping people do so,” says Jon Hill, Chairman & CEO of The Energists.

Though it can be hard telling a candidate that the employer went with someone else, it’s also an opportunity for the recruiter to leave a positive impression and make a contact they can reach out to in the future.

What’s challenging about being a recruiter?

While recruiting can be very rewarding, it comes with its fair share of challenges. HR is all about people, and people are unpredictable. There are natural ups and downs that go with the decision-making process for both the employer and the candidates. “It’s important to remain driven despite the things that are taking place beyond your control,” says Little.

Hill states that “information overload” is another factor that can make the work of a recruiter challenging. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the number of candidates out there. This is becoming especially true with remote work opportunities drastically expanding the potential candidate pool. “This can make it difficult to find a spot where you’re expanding your network but not drowning in data,” says Hill.

What skills and characteristics are most important for working as a recruiter?

Now that you know a little more about the job, you might be wondering if you’re the type of person who’d be a natural fit. We’ve identified a handful of critical skills and characteristics for success as a recruiter.

Prime people skills

It shouldn’t be surprising that good communication skills are required to be a recruiter. It’s common for recruiters to spend a large portion of their workdays on the phone talking to candidates. These early conversations are an important starting point for determining if a candidate is good fit for the positions they’re looking to fill.

You’ll also need to interact with the managers or clients needing to fill the position to understand exactly what they are seeking in an employee. Recruiters are often an intermediary between parties that are heavily invested in the conversation at hand—so having the people skills to navigate these conversations well is a huge asset.

Critical thinking ability

A recruiter’s work involves a lot of data and details—from salary ranges, requirements and performance metrics. Recruiters need to be able to juggle a lot of information without getting overwhelmed and figure out what is a priority on a daily basis multiple times per day.

Strong intuition

You can never truly know a person through a few phone conversations or an interview. That’s why recruiters need to have good instincts and be able to detect potential that may not be obvious to others. The reverse is true as well—a candidate may seem perfect on paper, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for the position. It’s the recruiter’s job to make that distinction.

“Great recruiters have a sixth sense about who they should focus their time on,” says Chris Laan, founder of Designer Sheds.

Will to succeed

“Recruiting isn't about just finding a 'butt to fill the seat'—you want to deliver quality talent for your team,” Wolcott says.

The best recruiters are driven to find the best possible candidates for each position they are attempting to fill. It’s easy to find a person to take the job, but finding the right match is much more difficult. Wolcott adds that successful recruiters are always thinking about what’s next for an organization, going above and beyond to meet their needs.

Desire to help

“At the end of the day, this is a matchmaking business built on relationships,” Lauria explains. The best recruiters understand that and treat their candidates with integrity and compassion. They want to make a win-win situation for both the company and the client, so they endeavor to understand the needs and expectations on both sides before making a move.

Resilience

Filling a position is hardly ever a straightforward process. After all, recruiting is all about people. “People are wild cards—you can't always predict what's going to happen,” says Andrei Kurtuy, co-founder & COO of Novorésumé. Even if you have a strong intuition, there will be twists and turns that you just won’t see coming. The best recruiters are adaptable and focused on moving forward and finding new solutions no matter what.

Making opportunities for you and others

So what does a recruiter do? As you can see, there’s a lot on the plate of a recruiter in a given day. But people are still at the heart of it all. Can you weigh the needs and wants of organizations and the candidates that may end up working for them? It takes some skill—but the path to becoming a recruiter is not out of reach.

If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to become a recruiter, check out “How to Become a Recruiter: A Talent for Finding Talent.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen University. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.

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