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Transitioning Into Recruiting: A Comprehensive Guide 

Recruiting is a fast-paced, challenging, and rewarding industry that helps connect job seekers with their ideal careers and businesses with top talent. However, before jumping headfirst into the recruiting world, it’s essential to do your research and understand the industry’s ins and outs.  

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about transitioning into recruitment. We’ll explore the different types of recruiting firms, how to research potential agencies and corporate departments, and how to get started in recruiting without experience. We’ll also dive into compensation plans and the importance of utilizing your former contacts in the industry. Finally, we’ll discuss the importance of knowing how to recruit and staying adaptable in this ever-changing industry. 

Part I: Understanding the Recruiting Industry 

Before transitioning into recruiting, it’s important to understand how the industry works. Recruiting firms can be grouped into three categories: contingent, retained, and corporate departments. Contingent recruiting firms are not paid until a candidate they place with a company is hired, while retained firms are paid a retainer fee upfront regardless of whether a candidate is successfully placed. Corporate recruiting departments are internal departments within a company responsible for hiring. 

There are pros and cons to all three recruiting styles. Because contingent firms are not paid unless a placement is completed, the recruiter can walk away from the search at any time. Contingent search becomes about numbers. The more candidates your client sees, the better the chances of making a placement. There’s no real partnership between you and the client. Think about it as “you get what you pay for”. Due to this model, most contingent recruiters are low quality. Commission-only pay can, however, provide a unique opportunity to earn more if you’re motivated and ambitious. 

Retained recruiters are paid before starting a search. It is typically a three-payment model and the payments can be adjusted depending on the client. You cannot walk away from a project you’re being paid for unless there are details in your contract that allow this. Retained firms are known for their rigorous hiring process and the demand for experience is high, therefore they are usually better quality.  

Finally, we have corporate recruiters, those who act as a department within a specific company. Many companies hire people and call them recruiters without training them on what it means to be a professional recruiter. They give them titles like “Senior Recruiter” despite them having very little experience.  

Part II: Researching Potential Agencies and Corporate Departments 

When researching agencies or corporate departments, useful tools like Glassdoor and LinkedIn can help you find recruiters’ reviews and employee feedback. Evaluating an agency’s track record and success rate can also provide insight into whether you should work for them.  

Additionally, during informational interviews, it’s essential to ask the right questions about the company culture, the team’s background, and current open job opportunities. “Who does the talent team report to?” If it’s HR, this is a red flag. “What are your expectations of me?” “Do you provide training and development opportunities?” 

Part III: Getting a Job in Recruiting Without Experience 

Getting a job in retained firms without prior experience can be a challenge. However, starting in a contingent firm or at a corporate recruiting department is a great way to gain experience, learn different recruitment techniques, and build an impressive record of placements that can improve your chances of getting hired by an agency of your choice.  

Contingent firms are more willing to take a chance on individuals who may not have the most robust resumes. Some contingent firms may lack quality training, so it is essential to do thorough research before committing to any job offer. 

When I was hired for my first recruiting job in 1992, they gave me some video training about the industry (tech) that was worthless in hindsight. The best training I received was from the person I worked for, though he even provided the typical contingent training. I was taught to send as many candidates in as possible to increase the chances of closing a deal. 

Part IV: Understanding Compensation Plans 

Different types of compensation plans exist in the recruiting industry, and evaluating them is essential to understand how successful you can be in a particular recruiting position. Base salary plus commission plans are the most common, but draw plus commission and retainer plus bonus plans are also available. Knowing how to assess the opportunities and possible risks associated with each type of compensation package can help you make an informed decision on what’s best for you. 

Part V: Utilizing Former Contacts in the Industry 

Leveraging former contacts is a powerful tool to help jumpstart your recruiting career. Reconnecting with previous colleagues, managers, or industry professionals can provide useful advice, open doors to opportunities, and lead to partnerships in the future. However, it’s important to know how to approach former contacts respectfully and professionally and maintain good relationships. 

As someone who has successfully transitioned into recruiting, I can attest to the value of prior relationships when trying to break into this field. Drawing upon former contacts can be both strategic and effective in establishing yourself as a reputable recruiter. 

I remember a friend who transitioned from technology sales and leadership into recruiting. He used all his former contacts to help him get up and running. He would also seek counsel from me when he needed help.  

Part VI: Knowing How to Recruit and Adapt 

Knowing how to recruit is the foundation of success in the industry. Keeping up with the latest recruiting trends, applying best practices to attract top talent, handling difficult situations, and adapting to changes in the industry are all valuable skills to develop. Being adaptable and taking a problem-solving approach are necessary to strive in the fast-paced, always-changing recruiting landscape. 

The best way to learn this is through a highly experienced advisor. Don’t take a job with a firm without knowing their leaders’ experience and the type of training they will provide to you. Secondly, you should read. There are books and articles that will help you learn. 


Transitioning into recruiting takes research, dedication, and an understanding of what makes this industry unique. By exploring the different types of recruiting firms, researching potential agencies and corporate departments, understanding compensation plans, and staying adaptable, you can set yourself up for success as a recruiter. Also, remember to seek counsel from an experienced professional recruiter to mentor you along the way. So, are you ready to take the leap and start your career in recruiting? With our comprehensive guide, you’re well-equipped to take on the challenges and reap the rewards of this exciting industry. 

Creator and Host,

Carol Schultz

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