When I tell people I’m a recruiter, one of the first questions they ask is usually about how to get into recruitment… and for those who are interesting in changing careers – how to get into recruitment with no experience.
How to get into recruitment
The truth is that very few recruiters actually plan to get into recruitment. It usually just happens and if you ask most recruiters their story, it will include starting out in another career altogether and then transitioning into becoming a recruiter.
You’ll come across engineers, software developers and marketers (to name a few) who have made their way into the world of recruitment.
The most common degrees recruiters have:
There is no such thing as majoring in recruitment.
LinkedIn conducted a search of 100,000 recruiters and found that the top degrees that most recruiters have, happen to have into five fields – Psychology, Business, Marketing, Human Resources and Sociology.
Mine (economics) isn’t even in there. In fact, I’ve worked with recruiters who have backgrounds in engineering, computer science and marketing. I’ve even worked with a recruiter who had just passed the bar and decided he didn’t really want to be a lawyer.
How do recruiters get started?
Before they got into recruitment, most recruiters usually start their careers elsewhere. The best job to prepare you to is, hands down, sales.
To my corporate recruiter friends who believe only agency recruiters need to know how to sell, I will respectfully
tell you you’re wrong disagree. Whether you’re in agency or in-house, knowing how to sell is the number one skill you need to have to do well in recruitment.
If you really strip recruitment down, it is essentially a sales role – you are selling opportunities using a company’s employer brand to people and selling your candidates’ skills/experience to companies. You are matchmaking through sales.
Having said that though, people who come from different careers do exceptionally well in recruitment. One of the best recruiters I’ve ever worked with was a Software Developer who decided to get into recruitment and found that he was incredibly good it. He knew the software development world so well, that he could easily sell to passive candidates and clients.
The most important skills of a modern recruiter
So we know that sales is an essential skill to have, but today’s recruiter needs much more than that to be successful. The common misconception is that recruiters post jobs, wait for candidates to apply, interview them and close the deal.
And there are recruiter who do this, but sadly, they’re often referred to as the “Dinosaur Recruiter” and on their way out. We no longer live in an age where this post and pray strategy works. Today, recruiters are faced with a shortage of strong talent where they have to take a more proactive approach.
The modern recruiter lives in the space where art meets science.
The Artist is a:
- Marketer who uses the company’s employer brand to attract hard-to-find talent.
- Project manager who not only kicks off a search the right way, but conducts each search efficiently.
- Relationship builder, they act as an advisor to hiring managers while building relationships with candidates. They are obsessed with ensuring a positive candidate experience
The Scientist is a:
- Data obsessed who pays special attention to recruitment metrics in order to improve their trade and identify trends.
- Technology enthusiast who is not only tech savvy, but knows how to use social media to recruit passive candidates. They also know how to automate parts of the recruitment process so they can use their time wisely. Advanced recruiters will start focusing on SEO for recruitment.
- Researcher guide their sourcers who not only learns everything they can about the industry for which they recruit, but knows the jobs they recruit for inside out and has build candidate personas to help them find (or ) the right candidate.
The job of a recruiter is not easy. Corporate recruiters often juggle countless requisitions and hiring manager expectations. Agency recruiters work in an increasingly competitive environment where targets are more challenging to meet.
However, being a recruiter also comes with its perks — one of them being the rewarding feeling of knowing that through your efforts, a star candidate has been matched to an exceptional company. This is absolutely the best part!
How to get into recruitment when you’re light on experience
1. Look for transferable skills
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have no skills to bring to a career as a recruiter. Whether you’re in sales, customer service or in software development, you likely have transferrable skills. Even if all you have to tap into is a part-time job you had while in college, dig into that job and highlight the skills you learned that you can bring along as a recruiter.
2. Create a kick-ass LinkedIn profile
I can’t stress the importance of having a LinkedIn profile if you want to get into recruitment. Whether or not you have much experience, other recruiters have to be able to find you and LinkedIn is the best way to get found. Believe it or not, there are recruiters who specialize solely in recruiting other recruiters (sounds weird) so you want to create a LinkedIn profile that brings out your transferable skills.
Follow recruitment-related content (like this) on LinkedIn so you can learn as much as you can about the industry.
Finally, connect with recruiters in the industry and let them know that you’re eager to learn everything you can.
3. Sell yourself
Becoming a recruiter was an active decision I made. I had no experience but had recruiter friends whose work lives I found so interesting. I took a day off from my job at the time, printed out a list of recruiting agencies in my area (I’m aging myself here) in alphabetical order and cold-called each one to sell myself and ask for a brief meeting with a branch manager. By the time I got to J, I had four interviews scheduled.
I got quite a few who flat out said no, but I was surprised at how receptive most were. Today, I understand that having the ability to cold-call is what they were most impressed with. Yet I was so green, I didn’t even know what cold-calling was much less that I was doing it.
The moral of the story – don’t be afraid to sell yourself and your transferrable skills.
4. Network, network, network
Networking is probably the best way to get a job in recruitment or any other industry. Chances are, you probably already know someone in the industry. If you’re on LinkedIn, you are likely already connected to a few.
The key here is not to ask them for a job, but to learn more about the industry from them. Every once in a while, I get a message on LinkedIn from someone who’s interested in breaking into the industry and they’re not asking me for a job, but rather asking if I have tips, reading material, etc. and I’m always happy to share.
Network with both agency and corporate recruiters as well sourcers, who will be able to share a wealth of knowledge, not to mention that you will be on their radar the next time they’re searching for a recruiter or sourcer.
5. Agency or corporate recruitment – decide on the right path
There’s a clear difference in the lives of agency recruiters and corporate recruiters. I talked at length about my transition from agency to corporate recruitment. I learned the true difference between those worlds as an insider.
Do some research to decide which career path is best for you.
I know a few brave souls who choose to start their own recruiting agencies right off the bat, which is an option for someone who likes learning on their own, but has the network they can tap into.
In fact, I know someone who started their own agency with no experience and has a thriving business years later.
6. Always be better
This one is a bonus tip – once you get into recruitment, don’t be the type of recruiter who settles for being average. Here are five ridiculously easy steps to making sure you’re a successful recruiter.
Get a headstart
Download the recruitment intake form so that you know what an intake meeting should look like and the right questions you should ask.
I also share a ton of recruiting tips on Instagram, so swing by there if you haven’t already!