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Kristen Fife's Blog

A Recruiting Career (And Why Your MLIS Might Be Good For It)

2015-02-24 10:48:03

I've had a couple of people ask me lately about careers in recruiting, and my team is hiring a recruiting coordinator, which is one of the career paths to becoming a recruiter.

There are three general types of recruiters: corporate (working exclusively for one company, may be a full time or contract employee; bound by strict conflict of interest parameters for candidates outside their employer’s scope), agency (working for an employment/”temp” agency with multiple customers that have a variety of job openings to fill), and an executive recruiter who generally handles positions at the Director, VP and C-level exclusively. Within all the categories of recruiters, there is actually a singular job function called “Sourcing” (or Researcher) who has the specific goal of developing candidate relationships, both immediate and long-term.

There are two sorts of sourcing activities: reactive and strategic. Reactive is when there is an existing job opening to be filled for a specific role. A recruiter that has existing relationships with hiring managers is often able to start sourcing before a requisition is officially “open”. In the corporate world, they may know of someone that has put in their notice, or be privy to annual/quarterly headcount planning, or have gotten a head’s up from the hiring manager that an opening is “in the works.” In the agency instance, usually an Account Manager works directly with the hiring manager, often they are contacted as soon as the need is identified. Once a requisition (job opening) is “officially” open (meaning all necessary approvals are obtained, job description is finalized, meeting with hiring manager to define the role is concluded and it is posted externally), the clock starts ticking. For job seekers, generally the first *two weeks* are the critical time to get into the candidate pipeline. (This is why job agents are absolutely key if you are actively seeking.) Reactive recruiting is almost exclusively what happens with agencies, and is probably 75%+ of what corporate full lifecycle recruiters deal with. It is hiring for a very specific set of skills for a singular job or profile (although there may be multiple openings for the same job.) When sourcing for candidates, recruiters are looking for professionals that fit within the parameters of the pre-established role/s. This is probably where most job seekers fall in the spectrum.

Strategic (sometimes called “opportunistic”) recruiting is more about anticipating future needs and having candidates on hand or accessible that may be interested for a role. This is a very large portion of what Executive recruiters do – they build long term relationships with very senior candidates, and then they look for potential positions that might be of interest. (I’d like to note that many candidates believe that there are “personal recruiters” that will work in this capacity with them; in North America, it is very rare.)

Sourcers (or Researchers), who may be employed by any of the types of recruiting organizations mentioned above, are dedicated to strategic recruiting and deep market research. They may be brought on board to help with a particularly difficult or niche role for a somewhat singular need. If you have an MLIS or have done a lot of market research, this may be a good career path. You generally search for candidates and may or may not engage with them; you hand them off before the interview process begins.

Some of the channels for finding candidates:

• Employee Referrals – Considered across the board to be the single best source of qualified candidates
• Internal Applicant Tracking System (Candidate database of people that have applied in the past: this is a great resource because it has historical data, and a recruiter knows that candidates have expressed an interest sometime in the past)
• LinkedIn-the de facto professional networking site worldwide. Caveat: LI has been changing up its pricing model and many people are becoming unhappy with the site. Still huge for now, but that may change in the next couple of years. It is a significant cost for businesses to have recruiter accounts
• – this is hot with recruiters because there is a free resume database they can query

Sourcers and truly knowledgeable/dedicated recruiters will use advanced search techniques:

• Google as a way to find talent based on a variety of factors such as articles (either written by, interviewed for, or commented on), blogs, conference papers, patents, portfolios, online sites like Github,, or industry directories
• Social Media profiles such as can be found on Twitter and Facebook using very specific search parameters
• Telephone sourcing- calling into target companies to build contact lists (ie after hours, and going down the corporate directory)

Recruiting is a pretty positive industry. In general, we help people find jobs. There are very few downsides to it. If you have an interest in an HR career, it is a good foot in the door. If you have a degree in Library Science, Sourcing is actually a really good career move and is very hot across the country.
What should you expect if you are considering recruiting?
• Spending a lot of time on the phone and on email. A LOT. I usually spend 2-4 hours on the phone most days interviewing/evaluting candidates.
• Working with databases of some sort. You need to be able to pick up on basic technologies and be organized in how your approach managing information.
• A fast learner with superior verbal skills. If you get into a specialty like medicine or technology you have to be able to learn about the specific industry overall as well as how your positions fit within the greater scheme.
• Recruiting, like being a doctor or attorney, means you are always “on”; everyone is either looking for a job or knows someone that is. You will get questions on resumes, career development, interviewing techniques, salary negotiations, etc. Keep business cards handy at all times and be gracious. If the thought of this bothers you, recruiting probably isn’t a good fit.
• Narrow career path: recruiting has only a very few career paths. That being said, it is one of the few careers where you can double your income very quickly if you are good in a very short time, and isn’t dependent on having a degree. The downside: if there is a market downturn, recruiting is one of the first roles to be eliminated.
• There is a major sales and marketing aspects to recruiting. Discussing salaries is about negotiation; engaging candidates (and hiring managers) and making an offer is about the art of persuasion. Writing job descriptions is all about marketing.
• You will have to become knowledgable about a lot of legal requirements and be expected to adhere to them.
• You will make a LOT of valuable contacts, from hiring managers to students. If you put the effort into keeping your network up and work to maintain a good reputation with your peers, you will rarely be without a job.
• There is a lot of project coordination/management and it can get very busy (sometimes overwhelming) and you have to track a lot of information simultaneously, have it well organized and at your fingertips.
• Metrics-driven. Your performance and success is based on how many hires you have and how quickly you fill positions; if you are in the agency world the majority of our income may very well depend on it. That being said, recruiting can be a *very* lucrative career.

Recruiting is *not*:
• A used car salesman-type job.
• Career coaching or an HR Manager role. You are not going to be developing careers for people. Once you help them land, you will move on. That isn’t to say you cannot move into one of these roles, but that is not your primary focus as a recruiter. (Although in many smaller organizations HR Managers do handle recruiting.)
• In the corporate world, recruiters are very consultative with managers and HR. In the agency world, they are very much transactional and surface-skimming in terms of involvement with the client.
• A free-for-all. Recruiters (regardless of their country) have strict legal guidelines they must follow, and a high degree of confidentiality is required.
• About sitting around on social media posting jobs and waiting for the right applicant to come through the door.
• Repetitious. It changes daily, sometimes even hourly.
• A career for someone needing a lot of direction and constant external feedback/validation regularly.

If you want to learn more about recruiting, there are a couple of industry web portals. is our main gathering hub is a great resource to learn more about Sourcing.

If you have questions, leave me a comment!

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Chris Bloomquist: Re: - A Recruiting Career (And Why Your MLIS Might Be Good For It)
2015-04-23 18:25:16

Well written, on point, and a great play by play on what our profession is all about. I like how you separated the different types of recruiting as well, as they clearly have a different life cycle and connotation.

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