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How to Become a Recruiter


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As remote work becomes more and more of a thing, recruiters are increasingly vital to remote-leaning companies.

If you think of yourself as a “people person” drawn to the HR world, then becoming a recruiter might be a good, rewarding career fit for you. Yes, these are the people who write the job descriptions and post the jobs, but there’s a lot more to recruiting than that.

“You are essentially the gatekeeper of culture,” says Ariel Chan, a former recruiter for ClearLink, a media company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and owner of The Penny Hoarder. “So it’s extremely important that you’re vetting them properly because it could make or break their whole team structure or their team culture.”

If that sounds interesting to you, the good news is that there’s not necessarily one right way to become a recruiter. Finding the right balance between experience and personality will help you find your way into this career path.

So what should you think about if you want to become a recruiter? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

What Is a Recruiter?

Recruiters work in the human resources department and help hiring managers fill new and vacant roles. They’re responsible for finding qualified candidates, conducting initial interviews, creating and posting job descriptions, extending job offers, and more.

HR recruiters may also be referred to as talent acquisition specialists, recruitment coordinators, corporate recruiters, hiring specialists, HR generalists and other titles.

What Do Recruiters Do?

A recruiter is like a matchmaker for a company. They know what the hiring manager is looking for and they do everything they can to find that perfect fit. They talk with potential applicants, but they are also adept at networking with peers and other recruiters to find candidates by word of mouth.

What Is a Typical Day for a Recruiter?

Recruiters handle many different duties during a typical day, everything from conducting phone interviews to coordinating with hiring managers.

“I want to stay on top of what new resumes are coming in, so I do dedicate a chunk of time in the morning to reviewing resumes, seeing if there’s anything interesting,” says Chan. “If there’s something interesting, I’ll request phone interviews. The rest of the day is filled with phone interviews or meetings with hiring managers.”

Recruiters also schedule interviews, review resumes, meet with hiring managers, research candidates, update job descriptions, post jobs, talk with candidates and more.

Because of all the time you’ll spend interacting with candidates and hiring managers via Zoom, on the phone or in person, you should be comfortable with your communication skills. It doesn’t hurt to be an extrovert, but plenty of introverts work as professional recruiters as well.

According to Glassdoor, where users self-report salary data, early-career recruiters earn about $41,000 a year, and experienced recruiters can earn up to $73,000. The average pay is $52,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the annual median wage at just above $63,000 in 2020, with a 10% growth in demand for this occupation over the next decade.

After all those meetings, initial phone screens, and chats with hiring managers, perhaps the best part of being a recruiter? Making job offers!

How to Become a Recruiter

There isn’t just one path to this promising career. Here’s a quick overview before we go into more detail:

  • Focus on your education
  • Keep your sales skills sharp
  • Know the types of recruiting jobs

Focus on an Educational Track that Builds Recruiting Skills

Recruiting is all about interpersonal and communication skills, so consider a bachelor’s degree program that helps with those areas.

After reviewing the profiles of more than 100,000 recruiters, LinkedIn found the most common bachelor’s degrees were:

  • Psychology
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Sociology

LinkedIn also noted that, in some cases, a bachelor’s degree isn’t as important as it used to be.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily the type of bachelor’s degree,” Chan says. “It’s about personality, work ethic and communication skills. If you communicate well with your potential candidates, as well as your hiring managers — that’s the most important thing in being a successful recruiter.”

Your safest bet is to earn a bachelor’s degree that’s geared toward working with others. Then get as much experience in those fields as you can while in school, whether that’s through job shadowing, an internship, a part-time job and so on.

Keep Your Sales Skills Sharp

With little experience, you might not be able to jump right into a recruiting role out of college. One great alternative? Sales.

Sales and recruiting are essentially two sides of the same coin. As a professional recruiter, you’re selling your company and a position to potential candidates. Both jobs use many of the same interpersonal skills.

Good salespeople get to know the other person and how their products or services could help them. A good recruiter might approach an applicant about one specific job early in the recruitment process. Then after talking with them and reviewing their skills and qualifications, the recruiter recommend that person for another job opening within the company.

Seasoned salespeople who are looking for a change may do well to consider the possibilities of a recruiting career.

Know the Types of Recruiting Jobs

Recruiting positions are as varied as the industries recruiters work in. Recruiters are out there every day looking for people to fill sales, management, IT, pharmaceutical, legal positions and much more. Corporate recruiters work in almost every industry.

If you have an idea what field you would eventually like to recruit in, you might want to look for temporary work in those fields while in college or during your free time. The more experience and familiarity you have with IT, the more likely you are to land a role as an IT recruiter.

But if you can’t get that perfect role right away, don’t lose heart. It’s never a bad idea to take whatever recruiting role you can get while you build the experience to land that ideal position. Like other careers, the dream job in recruiting doesn’t happen overnight.

Finding Success as a Recruiter

Here are some expectations to have and ways to keep advancing in the field.

Stay Connected

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, staying connected on social media, online networking, and recruiting services is incredibly valuable as a recruiter.

You’ll need to master platforms such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn. They’ll be incredibly useful, helping you connect to other recruiters, potential candidates and other companies, and stay on top of ongoing trends in your industry.

“LinkedIn has something that’s specific for recruiters who are searching for people, and it allows you to filter and search pretty much anyone who has a LinkedIn profile that is willing to be found,” says Chan. “We actually do find a lot of people through LinkedIn Recruiter, especially some very niche roles that aren’t easy to come by.”

When you need to fill positions, these contacts will be a great lifeline. They may know someone who is a great fit and may have even interviewed them, which would already give you a head start on what you need to know.

“With other recruiters, we do things like candidate sharing pretty often,” Chan adds. “I have colleagues that have moved on to other companies as well, and we’re constantly thinking of each other. So that sort of connection is pretty important as a recruiter.”

Another great way to stay connected is through job fairs and networking events. Once you’re in the recruiting industry, make sure you are always looking out for those types of social events to build your network.

Keep Learning

Once you’ve landed that first recruiting job, make sure you are always looking for new opportunities to learn. SHRM and HRCI offer recruiting certifications that will help you build your resume and learn some of the hard skills associated with recruiting.

Think about joining a professional recruiters association like the American Staffing Association or the Top Echelon Recruiting Network. These organizations will help you connect with other recruiters to network, learn, and strengthen your recruitment and hiring process.

Take the opportunity to also develop your skills with recruiting software. Learning how to use these platforms will help you find and track applicants efficiently, making your job easier and helping you fill open positions quickly.

As you network, you can also find out best practices through other recruiters. Ask questions about their strategies for the recruitment process, job interviews, and how to find the most qualified candidates – then think about whether any of those methods will work for you.

Like any career, continuing education is an important part of learning and growing as a recruiter.

Be Aware of Common Pitfalls

Chan gives one note of caution for recruiters who are starting out: “Burnout happens pretty fast. It can be really overwhelming when you’re handling so many different roles at the same time,” she says. “You’re working with a lot of different personalities and a lot of different communication styles with different hiring managers. Some like certain things and some don’t. So being able to cater to those individual styles is something that I’ve had to learn along the way.”

She also encourages new recruiters to be seen as a recruiting partner instead of an “order taker” in their company. She says there should be an equal relationship between the hiring manager and the recruiter.

“This is my expertise, so if I feel like three rounds of interviews during the hiring process is plenty and this is the salary range we should go with, I hope the hiring manager hears that,” Chan says. “A lot of recruiters will have to learn as they start to further themselves along their career. And that’s how they can really set themselves apart as a great recruiter versus someone who just does the job.”

Robert Bruce is a Senior Writer for The Penny Hoarder.

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