What I Wish I Knew Before Working as a Recruiter

illustration of a recruiter with a tiny recruiter on their shoulder giving them advice while they sit at their desk representing working as a recruiter

 We’ve all had that friend who seemingly has connections everywhere and can always help you find the right person for your problem. Need a dependable mechanic? They have a buddy that can help. A travel agent? No problem. An accountant who specializes in small business taxes? It turns out their friend-of-a-friend is looking for new clients. These well-connected people enjoy merging networks and bringing talent to where it’s needed most. And if all goes well, they benefit everyone involved.

If you are here reading this article, the well-connected friend may be you. Perhaps you’ve noticed your unique ability to make connections between individuals, and you’ve been wondering if becoming a recruiter would put that talent to good use.

One of the best ways to get a feel for the job is to hear from recruiters themselves. We’ve asked them to share some of the good and the bad that come with this role—as well as what they wish they knew before getting started.

The pros and cons of being a recruiter

Every job has its ups and downs, and working as a recruiter is no exception. Here are a few key pros and cons of the role.

Pro: You genuinely get to help other people

At the heart of the recruiting profession is this basic reality: You help other people. Whether you’re helping an organization desperate to fill a role or assisting an individual as they make the next step in their career, doing a good job has real meaning.

“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.

Con: The recruitment process can be time-consuming and frustrating

Hiring decisions aren’t often snap decisions. A big element of recruiting involves relinquishing control of what the final decision will be and when you will hear it. If you are working as an intermediary between candidates and employers, you can have all of your I’s dotted and T’s crossed, but the timing of the hiring decision might still be longer than you or your client prefer.

Recruiters have to relinquish control, as well as practice and counsel patience, knowing that the timing and result of the hiring decision aren’t only in their hands. Furthermore, sometimes a promising effort just falls apart due to a slow-moving or disorganized hiring organization.

Pro: You have an opportunity to build your network

Through all of your work with various companies and individuals, you are going to make connections with all kinds of people. As your client base grows, so will your reputation and opportunities. Even if the recruitment effort ultimately comes up short for whatever reason, if you’ve had a positive interaction with the company or client, it is very likely you will get a chance to work with them again. This means that every connection has long-term value.

Furthermore, being an effective recruiter at an agency and establishing yourself as a trusted partner can help open doors in your own career. 

Con: Repetition

When trying to find the perfect person for a job, you’ll need to look through a lot of resumes to find the perfect candidate. “Resumes aren’t recognized for their aesthetics,” says Abe Breuer, current CEO and former recruiter for VIP To Go. “Sifting through these data-heavy documents may be tedious.”

For recruiters who thrive on the interpersonal aspects of the role, the process of narrowing down candidates and sifting through what can be a daunting number of resumes can be a source of frustration—but still a necessary step to be effective.

Pro: Clients can find surprising ways to get your attention

Speaking of interpersonal elements, as your reputation grows, you might have some surprises waiting from clients trying to get your attention. “Job seekers are constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to stand out, which means they’re constantly attempting to attract recruiters,” Breuer says.

Breuer notes that he’s seen recruiters receive a host of attention-grabbing gimmicks—think CVs written on cakes, messages relayed in donut form and a whole variety of other delicacies. While this might not always work for the candidate, the occasional treat is hard to complain about.

“Who can say no to a complimentary donut tray?”

Con: Cold calls

When you first start as a recruiter, you are going to have to build your client base whether you are working independently or for a larger company. Oftentimes, this means that the initial interaction has to be done out of the blue. Cold calling/emailing doesn’t always have the highest initial success rate, so you’ll have to be ready to deal with plenty of rejection or non-responses.

“The most challenging aspect of the job is overcoming negative stereotypes others have about recruiters, both clients and candidates,” says Jen Wells, owner of recruiting firm TalentID Group. But Wells explains that you don’t have to be the best cold caller out there to be successful as a recruiter. Great recruiters find the best qualities in people and match them to the opportunities that benefit them and their employers. “When you do that, you change the trajectory of someone’s career and even their life.”

Pro AND con: Negotiations

This element of working as a recruiter can really be a benefit or a challenge depending on your personality and comfort level. You will work to find the right candidate for a job and negotiate a fair salary, but the hiring company may not always have the same view as you. “Negotiating skills are needed,” Wells says. “You will need to be able to negotiate with clients and candidates in order to get job offers that are a good fit for all parties involved.”

If you love the pressure and strategy that comes with a negotiation, this can be a big plus. But for the conflict-averse? Not so much.

What I wish I knew before working as a recruiter

We asked recruiters about what they would tell themselves if they could go back to day one of their jobs. This advice can help you take advantage of the good parts of the job and minimize the potential stressors you may face.

Getting organized is critical

Recruiters balance a lot of different clients and opportunities at one time. If organization isn’t something you currently excel at, you’ll need to find a system that works for you as soon as possible. Wells notes that learning how to be better organized is the first piece of advice that she would offer to any new recruiter.

“Put reminders in your calendar so you don’t forget things,” Wells says. “You can’t keep everything straight when you are interviewing different people every single day.”

Develop an efficient process for reviewing resumes

There are times you’re going to be inundated with resumes, and that level of information overload can become paralyzing. Recruiters need to find a system for narrowing down the candidate pool. Whether that’s an automated system that scans resumes for keyword matches or a more manual approach, you’ll need to have a process for getting over that first step because your work as a recruiter is time-sensitive.

“Remember that less is more when it comes time to find a preferred candidate,” Breuer says.

Get familiar with data analytics

Like the “Moneyball” era in baseball, more industries are utilizing data to discover ways to find potential hires in a more cost-effective way. Wells advises new recruiters to familiarize themselves with the data side of recruiting. “Companies are increasingly looking for talent acquisition managers with experience analyzing recruitment data and leveraging it in strategic ways to help them attract better people, improve revenue and cut expenses.”

A recruiting career for people who love to connect people

Are you a gifted people person? Do you want to help others find a job opportunity perfect for them? Has reading through this list of recruiter pros and cons left you encouraged? If you think this is a role you could thrive in, take the next step with our article “How to Become a Recruiter: The Beginner’s Guide.”

About the author

Patrick Flavin

Patrick is a freelance content writer at Collegis Education. As a former educator, Patrick is passionate about helping students find the professions that fit their skills, talents and interests.

Patrick Flavin

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