10 Tips to Surviving as a Corporate Recruiter

So you want to be a corporate recruiter... I'm not even going to ask why. Now that I’m about a month away from my one year anniversary, I've learned a thing or two about how to survive this adventure. As with any career there are pros, cons, and pitfalls to avoid. One thing I know for sure - recruiting is recruiting - no matter what side of the business you're on. If you're serious about going in house, I hope you're as lucky as I was to find a place that you can actually enjoy coming to every day. I am surrounded by four of the smartest recruiters I've ever worked with, a great boss, and I get to recruit for a fun, fast growing company. Life is good.

For those contemplating a move in-house (or maybe you’re already there, you lazy sell-out) here are some tips to keep you safe and sane.

  1. Every requisition you’re working on is THE most important. But none are more important than the one belonging to the hiring manager that’s standing at your desk. These guys will sneak up on you. Don’t kid yourself – these co-workers of yours are clients in disguise. Treat them accordingly. Just like a TPR's clients, they don't care that they are only one out of 30 hiring managers you work with.
  2. Take notes, in pencil. Remember as a third party recruiter you would be working away on a requisition and then a week later find out something’s changed? Frustrating, isn't it... Well, when you’re inside you get to witness these changes first hand – daily, if not hourly. Get your stretchy pants on, there’s going to be some flexing.
  3. Wear your headset. Always. Funny thing about co-workers – they know where you sit. Especially those clients in disguise, your hiring managers. If you keep your headset on, when you catch them sneaking up on you out of the corner of you eye you can start talking as if you were on the phone. Then you can cover the mouthpiece and whisper “GREAT candidate for your (insert job here)!” Act like you’re listening intently, maybe even take some notes, and eventually your hiring manager will walk away. Bonus Tip – turn your ringer off before trying this. Nothing blows a fake call like a real one coming in.
  4. Take your smartphone with you everywhere. No matter how many times you change your path to the restroom (see Tip #5), one of those pesky co-workers is bound to run into you. Smartphones are great because you’ve got two choices – you can A) hold the phone to your ear like you’re talking to that awesome candidate (see #3) or you can be busy emailing or texting candidates. Everyone who’s not a recruiter knows recruiters are idiots who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so they’ll give you wide berth in the hallway to avoid a collision with your silly multi-tasking self.
  5. Vary your routine. I’m talking bathroom breaks here, people. If you are always walking down the same hall at the same time of day, your hiring managers will know where to find you. No one wants to get into a conversation about next week’s interviews (or lack thereof) on the way to the john. This applies to hitting the vending machine or coffee stand as well. They already know where you sit – don’t make it any easier to track you down.
  6. Learn to love referrals. Ah, the employee referral. As long as surveys keep coming out claiming to be the best source of hires, you will be getting emails from your co-workers about what a great fit their cousin/roommate/wife/neighbor/friend is for THE COMPANY. As an agency recruiter you can usually get out of this by thanking them profusely for the referral but darn it you just don’t place rodeo clowns. Internal? It’s not about skills or abilities! The referral is a fit for THE COMPANY! And your co-workers just know their person can learn the job! (there are ways out of this trap, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post)
  7. Don’t get offended when people refer to you as “HR”. No matter how many times you explain your role, co-workers will constantly confuse you with HR. Third Party Recruiters NEVER get confused with HR, but because we share the same org chart us internals are always included in that group. Usually when someone is doing something bad and someone else says “You can’t do that! HR is here!” (Seriously. We don't care.)
  8. Relationships Rule. Just because you work with these people (your clients) doesn't mean you're safe from their wrath. TPRs have to work hard to build relationships with their managers. You have to develop trust. If your clients (co-workers) know that you have their best interest (and the interest of their business group) in mind, they'll be more open to those candidates who don't necessarily fit on paper. I spent the better part of three months trying to get multiple managers to take a chance on one (long term unemployed) candidate. FINALLY, someone hired him. He pipelined $5M in his first five weeks. That team loves me. Bonus Tip - just like in the agency world, you're only as good as your last placement. Keep them happy. Keep the good ones coming. They'll love you for it.
  9. Make friends with the facilities guy. Speaking of relationships, this one is critical - he's got the key to the snack room. That place where they keep all the crap that goes in the vending machine and gets passed out at marketing events. There is also a three year supply of Rock Stars – trust me; you’ll need the caffeine when running from your co-workers.
  10. Get ready to “own” your candidates. Forever. When you bring someone into the company your fingerprints are on them for the rest of the time you’re both employed there. I always get nervous when HR asks me “hey did you hire this guy?” You will be asked that as well. Bonus tip – the only acceptable answer to that question is “No. The hiring manager hired him/her. I facilitated the introduction.”
  11. Wear comfortable shoes. (Of course there’s an 11th tip. There’s always something they neglected to tell you.) When you’re internal you’ll get to see all your candidates when they come in for their interviews. It will often be you running around the building delivering them to this office or that conference room. Yesterday I had eight candidates for 15 individual interviews – I had every conference room in the building booked and we have two floors. Pro – I got a workout. Con – my feet are killing me. Plan ahead.


The most important tip of all? Don't take yourself too seriously. It's just recruiting... anyone with an internet connection can do it... right? :) All kidding aside, I consider myself very lucky to recruit for such a great place. What survival tips would you share with up and coming recruiters on either side of the deal?

Views: 12299

Comment by Michelle Stair on May 18, 2012 at 8:26pm

Another great article Amy!  Spot on with #2, #6, and especially #7!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 19, 2012 at 4:14pm
Start every sentence with, "you are right." It diffuses the immediate negative you always get on every resume you submit. It's human nature that your hiring manager can pick out any tiny negative on page 3 of the resume because they skimmed the whole thing in 10 seconds to find a reason to say no. Learn to say. "you are right, but look at the current job". A highlighter helps direct the evil eye of the reviewer to the positives, it helps to use green for positives and be sure to use one or two little red marks so they know you saw the negatives. It prevents them from saying, did you read ALL of this resume.
Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 21, 2012 at 9:26am
Of course that was a joke Simon... But thanks for commenting.
Comment by Russ Recruits on May 21, 2012 at 10:08am

Good Piece as always and with tongue firmly in cheek methinks....

Several of these points I was to aproach, beat me to it!

You missed - "chasing an answer", which would also require those extra comfy shoes ! The managers always need said candidate yesterday, then you spend weeks chasing them around for an answer.

Comment by Steven G. Davis on May 21, 2012 at 12:24pm

adding to tip#8. The most valuable time initially will be spent with your prospective hiring managers and their teams, you need to know who will be the right fit for that team and understand out of the gate every team is different! That was the most valuable thing I did with my recruitment team when I took over, the recruiters increased their placements and decreased their turnovers!! Great article for those looking to join the corporate gig.!!!!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 21, 2012 at 12:28pm

thanks Russ and Steve - so true! I once sat in a hiring manager's office resume in hand refusing to leave until he agreed to interview a candidate I'd presented days earlier... of course if we didn't already have a strong relationship and some previous wins I could never have gotten away with it. The more we can show them we understand their business and what's important to them, the more credibility we'll have when trying to fill their positions. Spending time with them, asking questions, etc. is something ALL recruiters should do in house or TPR.


Glad you both got the humor I was trying to convey. :)

Comment by Ken Forrester on May 21, 2012 at 12:44pm

Thanks for taking me through the world of a CR Amy-I always wondered about that.  

Two things that are troubling:

1. CR seems to be more challenging than TPR. More red tape and politics.

2. I think you might be over qualified for that type work and most likely underpaid, given your skills!

I can see you working for LinkedIn or major player in the Industry.  This Industry needs some shaking-up and you strike me as the type of Recruiter that can make a difference for all of us.  

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 21, 2012 at 12:56pm

Thanks for commenting Ken - I don't know if there is more red tape... perhaps just more visible when you're inside. I think as a TPR you're somewhat shielded from that. Different challenges for sure... but I don't know if I'd consider them more challenging. Guess it depends on the viewpoint.

Hmm... not sure I want to work for LinkedIn - aren't they just another job board getting their lunch eaten by Twitter or something....? Kidding. :) But thanks!

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on May 21, 2012 at 1:08pm


Well, now I know I was right to never take those positions offered to become an in-house recruiter! 

Very good post Amy!  Again you have taught us something while making us smile!  This could be a second career for you - because you have so much time on your hands......

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 21, 2012 at 1:28pm

Fun read Amy- 2 things- At least you have the hiring mgr letting you know " I am desperate". Unlike TPR (on contingency) when we have a great candidate for the position they gave us when they were desperate and now they are hiding from us. Couldn't they at least say "we found someone or your candidates suck". Very unfair on their part. It seems they want to blame a bad hire on you as they do with us. We sent them 4 candidates, they made the decision of who to hire and then want you to stand good for their decision far after the guarantee has past. It is advantageous to have the ability to meet all your candidates, We work a National desk so rarely do.  It is a challenging profession regardless which side of the desk you sit on. But it can be fun if you make it that. Good article.


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