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So You Want to Become a Recruiter

Here's what paths current recruiters said they took and what attributed to their success...

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
July 23, 2020
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So, you have decided you want to become a recruiter? Professions in talent acquisition can be rewarding and exciting at the same time. However, a career in recruiting doesn’t always follow a straight line.  And, there are negatives along with the glory of bringing in that top executive hire who will help transform the company.

Common Career Paths For Recruiters

Recruiting is a lot like sales.  You are reaching out to prospective hires many times through cold calling, cold emails, or LinkedIn messages.  You then need to understand what a job seeker wants in their career, their skills, and what motivates them.  Of course, then the hard work comes of bringing them through the interview process and eventually helping them onboard as a new employee.

Given the many similarities, recruiters were either sales people in a prior career, or have a natural affinity for sales type work.  They are extroverted, curious people with great communication skills, who aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and reach out to someone they think they can do business with.

You’ll also see a lot of recruiters coming from other parts of the human resources organization, or from general business backgrounds across marketing, finance, or even IT.

Recruiting is evolving quickly and so many different skill sets are needed in the next evolution of this profession which makes a multidisciplinary background very important.  For example, marketers are great to build the employer brand of a company.  IT people might make great technical recruiters.

There is no strict career path for talent acquisition.  There aren't even Bachelor's degrees for it. And, there are less and less common personas that make a great recruiter.  Some know an ATS like the back of their hand. Others are master sources, have strong negotiation skills, or just plain organized in a way that allows them to do more in a short amount of time.

What Recruiters Said About Their Career Paths

We also decided to ask current recruiters what paths they took and what they attributed to their success. Whether you're looking to work for recruitment agencies or become and in-house talent acquisition specialist, here is their career advice...

James Jason Mitrade
James Jason, Assistant Human Resources Manager and Financial Analyst at Mitrade
I knew what I wanted to be in HR very early in life because I was a people person. I spent a lot of my time helping others out, socializing, forming friendship groups, and always making new friends. As such, I studied HR in college and the course was quite smooth.
After college, I sought the relevant work experience through internships in four organizations. I was keen to see what my mentors were doing in the real world. Armed with 2 years of experience in the HR field, I applied for certification, and went through recruitment training.
At this point, I felt that I had attained all the requirements for the HR industry, so I began applying for jobs. This is my third job, and, from what I see, I have been ascending the recruiter ladder.
I attribute my success to being patient and following through the entire journey. Recruitment is a tough job that needs serious skills. Therefore, grasping all the steps is the surest way to reaching the top.
Joe Wilson MintResume
Joe Wilson, Senior Career Advisor at MintResume
Prior to my current position I worked as a Senior Recruiter for two international consultancies and a small local company before that. Like many people in the industry I came from a sales background, working as a Telemarketer for banks and loan companies, selling financial and insurance products. In these kinds of hardcore sales environments, I quickly learned the art of selling. As a cold caller I also learned to grow a thick skin when it came to rejection. When I saw an advert for a Recruitment Consultant position, I immediately noticed that my skills were transferrable and appropriate. Recruitment is a sales industry; you identify a need with your client and match it to an appropriate product – the candidate. You call the candidate and identify a need (more money, new opportunity etc.) and match it to an appropriate product – a vacancy.
I would attribute my success as a recruiter to those years I spent as a Telemarketer. During those years I earned my most valuable skill – listening. As a Recruiter if you take the time to listen to your client and candidate needs you will never fail. Listen, learn and understand.
Darrell Rosenstein The Rosenstein Group
Darrell Rosenstein, Founder of The Rosenstein Group
After many years as an executive headhunter in California I’ve recently started my own firm, the Rosenstein Group. The main traits/skills that have allowed me to be successful as a recruiter:
1. Focus on the candidate’s experience. A recruiter is only as helpful as the level of talent they can access. Part of that comes from successful networking approaches but a lot of it is making yourself known as someone top level talent wants to work with. If you’re able to bring out the best in your clients, your business will grow and they’ll find jobs more quickly, so it’s really a win-win.
2. Stay current with technology and trends. Finding success as a recruiter means being able to find more qualified candidates than companies can attract on their own, so it’s important to stay up to date on where the best candidates are looking for jobs and how to get in contact with them.
3. Track and analyze your placement statistics. You can (and should) go deeper than your percentage of successful placements. Track where you find candidates, how far they get in the hiring process at the places they interview, and how long it takes them to find a suitable job. Use this data to refine your process as you go. Again, the more successful you are at quickly placing candidates, the more attractive you’ll be to top-level talent.
Julie Rathert Mechanism Ventures
Julie Rathert, Senior Recruiter at Mechanism Ventures
I started my career in Higher Education Administration Admissions. I decided I needed a change and asked my colleagues and peers what kind of career path would require a similar skillset to matching students to the appropriate educational program. A number of people mentioned that recruiting would be a great avenue. I made the leap and my first position was an entry-level role within a technical recruiting agency matching candidates to the appropriate open position. From there, I was recruited to become a Corporate Recruiter and have spent the better part of the last five years recruiting for startups in the tech space.
I attribute my success to the genuine enjoyment I get out of connecting with people and building relationships. Being able to successfully partner with a hiring manager, while always being an advocate for candidate experience is a balance I have honed over time. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that networking with the amazing people in the recruiting space didn’t play a huge role in getting me where I am today!

These recruiters went after their passions and are enjoying successful careers. The key is to think about your abilities and how that lines up with certain job descriptions. Whether you knew since you were a child that you wanted to work with people--or decided later on in life--we wish you well in your endeavors.

If you would like to know more about recruitment careers and other HR paths, check out this article on the optimal HR career path.

Want to know more about recruitment?

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Phil Strazzulla

Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2022, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

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