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: 12344

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 21, 2012 at 2:59pm

Thanks Cora - my best blog ideas hit at about 3 am... my new iPad comes in quite handy for taking notes when inspiration strikes! :)


Steve - absolutely. I took a hit for a bad hire recently - 1 one 6 (yes SIX) in person interviews. HM picked this person, then when it took a turn for the worse guess who got blamed??

Comment by Bill Schultz on May 21, 2012 at 3:25pm

It seems that subtlety is not a common quality among third party recruiters, at least not among those who choose to comment here.

I'll agree with that. 

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 21, 2012 at 3:37pm

@ Bill and Simon- True-To be successful in this business you must be direct and not be afraid to ask the hard questions or make the hard statements at the right time. Like-Mr. Client, I will deliver any offer you want me too but I can tell you that it will not be accepted or Mr. Candidate If you are stuck on that # ( $) I can tell you that it is not going to happen. There is no need to allow folks 1 minute to dwell on an issue that is a waste of time for all parties. 

Comment by Bill Schultz on May 21, 2012 at 6:05pm

Thanks, Steve- I will strive to be more direct.  

Comment by Celinda Appleby on May 22, 2012 at 10:00am

LOVE this! So very true, wish I had this when I joined the corporate world!

Comment by Megan Bell on May 22, 2012 at 10:15am

“No. The hiring manager hired him/her. I facilitated the introduction.” - my favorite line...and I'm going to use it!  Nice job Amy, you have quite the wit, which is important as a CR.  

Comment by Steve N Odell on May 22, 2012 at 10:58am

@Simon-. In Amy's excellent blog she made a couple of statements that were a "Ah ha" judging by the comments and probably enlightened many of us.  I don't actively work a desk(I manage those who do) After 42 yr I think I have heard it all. I have a lot of info in this old nogan. As you can tell we have lots of folks on here with different levels of experience. I have trained 100's in the industry.  I comment to clarify what I believe is a required characteristic necessary for success in recruiting. Sorry but some have it wrong. If I impact only 1 person who has an "Ah Ha' moment, then perhaps they can be be a better recruiter. That's why the comment on  not being subtle and being direct. Passive people have difficulties in this industry. Now don't you have some phone calls to make? :) (Sarcasm)

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 22, 2012 at 11:19am
Sorry Simon I realize sometimes my humor is lost on those who don't know me. :) I'll admit I've thought about pretending to be on a call but never actually done it... I'd get caught lol besides the fact that it's just shady.

Thanks so much to you and everyone who has commented... If you got nothing but a good chuckle out of my writing that's enough for me. :)
Comment by HRNasty on May 22, 2012 at 12:54pm


Great post as always, and proves that we don't take ourselves too seriously.  Love this one;   Always wear a headset, “GREAT candidate for your (insert job here)!”  Part Secret Service, part diplomat, part back alley rat.  I agree with number 10, and it seems that when ever we bring in a great candidate that does great things for company over the years, the hiring manager hired them.  When they didn't work out, the recruiter brought them in.  Thanks for keeping in real! 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 22, 2012 at 5:02pm

Thanks Nasty - so true - part secret service, diplomat, back alley rat, therapist, bouncer....


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