What does an experienced recruiter “look like”?
When hiring a recruiter(s) to build a talent strategy for your company, would you know the questions to ask to determine if they have the ability to successfully do the job like any other top talent you’re in search of? I pose this question because I see a multitude of job postings for “experienced” recruiters with five years of experience. To me, this is an oxymoron. I wonder how anyone can think that five years constitutes “experienced”, but maybe I should be asking what they consider “experienced”.
I had great search training, broke the 100k barrier in my third year (in 1995), had lots of clients, and I was just beginning to really know what I was doing in year six. I was really just a toddler. Each year I matured, learned more, and got better at my craft. Recruiting is a complex process when done properly, and it concerns me that companies that wouldn’t consider hiring a sales rep with five years of experience would hire a recruiter to build a talent process who only has five years of experience. There seems to be a considerable disconnect here and I’d like to try to get to the bottom of it.
How to recognize an experienced recruiter: My Assertion
I posed the question of experience to a number of recruiters I consider “experienced” to determine if I was either barking up the right tree or someplace out in left field. One of them has six years, one has 10, and the rest have at 15-30 years in the industry. They do both retained and contingent work. Here are the three responses I found most interesting and believe they say it all:
- That’s a good question. For me it feels like I am still not an “experienced recruiter. Mainly because I truly am learning new things and meeting new people every day. But a basic level of experience for me came somewhere in my 7th and 8th year. That’s when I went on my own. From that point on it seems like I am tweaking and learning incrementally with no end in sight to being completely “experienced”. (He has almost 30 years in the business)
- That is a tough question because there are so many variables. I will say it is a lot tougher and more complicated than most people think.
- Having real impact on the process and recognizing where the hard problems lie and chasing those. The experienced recruiter relishes in addressing and fixing any high impact problems that exist.
Into the Looking Glass
I received one telling response I think may be a contributing factor to my original inquiry. It was from the retained recruiter with six years of experience, the first year and a half of which she worked for a staffing company doing technical recruiting. She was the only one who didn’t have the time for a thoughtful response. I’ve had a few conversations with her and she feels like she knows much more than her responses to me indicate. I think, looking back on my own career, I probably thought I knew “everything” at six years. In hindsight, of course, this was not the case. Maybe the more we know, the more humble we get? Maybe the more experienced we become, we realize how little we actually knew in our past? Perhaps the reason for this is that we are more secure in who we are and our craft.
At five years, could I have implemented a talent process? Yes. Would it have been truly successful and effective? Probably not. My concern is that companies think they can hire recruiters low on experience and training to implement complex processes and find and attract high-level candidates. It’s imperative that organizations get clear on what they want to accomplish with respect to talent, that this process is aligned throughout the organization, and then hire professional recruiters high on experience. And remember, you get what you pay for.