What You NEED to Know When Starting a Career in Recruiting

Recruiting could be thought of as a fraternity.  When you start out as a recruiter, you are a pledge.  You have to earn your stripes.  If you are smart, you will start with an agency. Recruiting is sales.  It is highly competitive and there is no other place to learn the business than in an agency.

So, when you start your career in recruiting you have a choice. You must work harder and smarter than anyone else. You see, recruiters that are successful have put in their time.  Successful recruiters have built their Rolodex of candidates and clients.  If you don't work hard to build your own, you are going to get steamrolled in this industry.  

From experience, I can tell you recruiters aren't going to lay down and let you take money from their pockets.  They are aggressive and don't let them fool you, they want to chew you up and spit you out.  So, from day one, I need for you to know it is going to be tough.  I also need for you to know, it does get easier, but it takes time.

When I started my career in recruiting I would put in a minimum of 60-70 hours a week.  Weekends were a must.  I needed to do this just to keep up with the other recruiters.  I had a plan every morning.  I had a call sheet ready, and I had my meetings planned from the week prior.  

When I was with an agency, things got worse before they got better.  I watched countless people get promoted over me into higher roles.  Instead of giving up, I worked harder.  I spent more time with the people that achieved success and only became better at what I did.  The longer I was in the field the deeper my network became and the more connections and contacts I had.  

I watched people quit left and right.  Pressure got to most people.  I stood tall.  I slowly became the recruiter that people looked up to when filling roles.  I finally wasn't the pledge anymore.  I was part of the fraternity.

Once I joined the fraternity, it was just the beginning.  I realized quickly that I could never let up.  Someone new hotshot with more enthusiasm wanted what I had.

If you are thinking about a career in recruiting, you have to have thick skin.  You MUST be competitive.  You MUST show perseverance.  You must be a STUDENT of the industry and keep up with all of the latest and greatest.  If you don't someone else will.   It has taken me 20 years to build the Rolodex I have and I am building it every day.  If you have that mind set, this is the right field for you. If you don't there are plenty of other careers.   

I have since left the agency world.  I am a corporate recruiter and have been in recruiting and sales for 20 years.  I am someone that survived it, and recruiting is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable careers I could have ever imagined. If you have what it takes, come join the party.  Most recruiters would give the shirt off their back to help another fellow fraternity brother.  You should know though, you are going to have to pay your dues!

If you like what you read, connect with me on Twitter @WillRecruits and send me a Linkedin invitation.  My personal website is below.  Please click on it and subscribe to my newsletter.  


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Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 12:42pm

Thanks, Will.

A few things I've learned in my centuries (I mean" years") in recruiting:

1) Keep one eye on your back (for knife stabs) and the other on the way out.

2) Loyalty = cash flow

3) When the going gets tough, the tough get going... The smart left a long time ago....





Comment by Will Thomson on November 4, 2013 at 1:02pm

I agree with your first two.  Not sure I do with your 3rd.  

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 1:32pm

Maybe me, too- got it from Despair.com. However, there's a fine line between dogged persistence and just plain stubbornness, and I've crossed it many a time.




Comment by Will Thomson on November 4, 2013 at 2:30pm

When you are getting started out though, persevere when things get tough or you will just become another casualty to recruitment.  

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on November 4, 2013 at 4:27pm

Quite true, That way, you can get to the point where you can truthfully say:"  I'm too old for/don't need this****".

There are things that only experience/persistence (including the acquisition of "scars" on parts of one's anatomy inappropriate to discuss amongst the gentle and delicate readers of Recruiting Blogs) will enable you to learn and do.





Comment by Jai Turner on November 4, 2013 at 5:41pm

Good article...I'm in corporate recruiting too, a little more relaxed. But I do miss the agency world a bit, because it kept me on my toes. I was always on the hustle for the next placement.  CR is pretty "stable"...AR was "risky", but more rewards.  Hmmm...much like stock markets?  LOL

I would have to agree, I think newbies like the money part and helping part,but you have to stay on your game.  When you see someone come in with a "natural talent" the other Recruiters are like "uh oh"...it's a good way to stay on your game though seriously.  Nobody taught me when I first came to the agency role, but I was promoted in 6 months to a manager. I was like "hmph, looks like I'm gonna have to train myself!" :)

Comment by Will Thomson on November 5, 2013 at 8:06am

Thank you very much for responding Jai!  You aren't the first person to mention stock markets after reading this.  :).  That is interesting.  I am a corporate recruiter and it is more relaxed.  I love it.  What I learned in agency recruiting helped mold me though.  

I agree- there are some with natural talent.  Recruiters would say "uh-oh"..  I think people are willing to train you to an extent, but if you want to make it, you have to be observant, ask questions, and stay positive..  

Again, thank you!


Comment by Sangita Singh on November 11, 2013 at 2:19am

Nice article. I also run an HR firm and definitely agree with that "recruiters aren't going to lay down and let you take money from their pockets." Well, a book "How To Start An HR Consultancy Company?" might be also useful for entrepreneurs who plan to start their own HR recruitment and Consulting business. 

Thank you. :)

Comment by Will Thomson on November 11, 2013 at 9:29am

Hi Sangita, I hate to say that it is "every man for himself", but well... it is.  Learn, observe, and adapt.. Quickly!


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