Greg Johnson (@RecruitinGreg) had a simple question on LinkedIn the other day where he asked the following question:

I get a lot of messages from people that are wanting to get into recruiting asking for advice. These are some of my favorite conversations to have! So, what’s your advice?

I love the topic, and now that I’ve been in recruiting for more than 22 years, I feel semi-qualified to answer it.

7 things to know if you work in recruiting

There are a lot of opinions about what recruiting is, what it could be, how it should be done. Is it about people, tools, or metrics? Here are my thoughts on that (Note: my response to Greg at the time was an EP; this is the full album with hidden bonus tracks):

GEM Recruiting AI
  1. First, no one should get into recruiting as his or her first “real” job. How can you have empathy with job seekers and be committed to getting them to a better place if you have no frame of reference? Work somewhere else for 3-5 years, get a sense of work dynamics and yeah, gain some maturity. Because …
  2. Being mature is really important. No one should work in recruiting without a huge amount of empathy and patience. Those are THE key soft skills to being successful. You also have to be able to resist the impulse to tell people what they’re doing wrong with their career until you fully understand their path and if (IF) they really want to hear it. Pick one of the following three phrases, whichever one works, and use it as your mantra with your boss; with your peers; with your internal and external customers; with your candidate (especially with your candidates):
    • Listen more than you speak.
    • “Be still and know.
    • Shut up and listen.”
  3. At first, stay away from jobs that are recruiting AND sales. Starting off in your career as a “jack of two trades” DOESN’T mean “master of none” — it means sucking at both. “But Paul, recruiting IS sales” is the usual pushback I get to this. That may be true for some, but probably not for most. And for newbies trying to work in recruiting? It’s a recipe for disaster.
  4. Forget everything you THINK you know about recruiting, because it’s probably wrong. Don’t see owning a job requisition as something that makes you special or better — see it as a duty that you have to do your best to be worthy of. See every req as Mjølnir and you’ll be fine (Look it up!)
  5. A TON of people on Greg’s post said “trust your gut.” I love my fellow recruiters, but y’all couldn’t be more wrong. How can newbies trying to work in recruiting have a gut? If you’re just starting out, do the reference checks YOURSELF. Call people at the company who AREN’T the people the candidate listed. What if someone passes all that but you still feel hinky about them? Write a note and check in on them six months later. Adjust gut accordingly.
  6. Every hire should be a win for the organization and a win for the person — EVERY one. Get the person as much money/time off/etc. as possible. Get the company the best person for the amount of money they’re willing to spend. Yes, you get EXACTLY what you pay for.
  7. Here’s the most important thing to remember — people do three (3) things in this life, and they are sleep, work and “other.” How many of us are lucky enough to influence a THIRD of someone’s life? Or, someone’s HAPPINESS? When people complain about the “bad recruiters” who don’t communicate well enough, or often enough, or vent about the “idiot” hiring managers who hired someone else even though they were CLEARLY more qualified, you need to know that these are all expressions of “why am I being denied happiness?” So, be kind to these folks. Don’t take it personally. Do your best to communicate at all times. Under-promise to people you interview, then over-deliver whenever possible. Don’t take the easy way out. Stand up for the candidates you believe in, and your customers as well.

A career that can reward — but also can punish

Recruiting has given me a career and a ton of personal satisfaction. But, it’s not for everyone.

If you DO decide to work in recruiting – DO IT. It’s a career that rewards passion, commitment and truthfulness. It also punishes the disinterested, the “half-assers,” the equivocators.

Think long and hard before choosing. I hope you choose well.

Paul Miller

Paul Miller has been in recruiting for 20 plus years, working in staffing and as a consultant for Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking here!