Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Who makes the best Recruiter…

Posted by sweens on December 19, 2008

I just got back from an interesting lunch with some former and current colleagues of mine.  To be more accurate these people are the ones who have helped me thus far in my career.  It’s always refreshing to get together with them (which has become a Friday regular occurrence)  as we can share different views, opinions and frustrations with the industry that all employs us.  Based on a conversation yesterday I had during lunch time , combined with the lunch I had today, I pose the question of “who makes the best Recruiter?”  Since recruiting technical IT position is all I have recruited to date (with the exception of a few marketing roles) this post is obviously about technical recruiting and perhaps what it takes to be one? 

I look at the people I have lunch with every Friday and we all come from different backgrounds, different educations, different personalities and yet everyone offers something unique to the position of ‘technical recruiter’.  It has been important for me to keep track of where my colleagues have worked and what their experiences have been as many of them didn’t begin their careers with recruitment but have all ended up being successful within the industry.  Where as myself, my professional career has existed souly in this industry.  Many of my colleagues have management in their background from small to large teams.  They came from different industries from health to security to information technology and to agriculture.  We all bring a varied mix of education to the table from University to College to Graduate studies in a variety of subject areas.  So with all that on the table, the question I often wonder about is what makes someone like myself, a University graduate with a degree in political science qualified to be a ‘technical recruiter’ when really I know nothing about technology? 

I don’t think recruiting is a position many people think about when they sit down with their guidance councillor in high school and try to map out their lives, yet so many people find their careers in recruitment.  My friends often wonder how someone who is not technical can be involved in technical recruiting?  Shouldn’t someone with a computer science degree be involved in technical recruitment.  I think they could, but would it be the best fit for them?  I think a large portion of recruiting is personality and how you deal with people.  Your always on the phone or meeting people whether it be clients or candidates.  The ability to represent yourself, your company, your client and the opportunity you have for someone must be quickly demonstrated to any candidate in a short period of time.  In order to be successful I would say that you have to build a very trusting relationship with perfect strangers on a daily basis.  So lets say personality is the first step to being a recruiter.  Let’s back track for a second and look at technical people being recruiters.  I don’t think its a requirement.  But I will say that if you aren’t technical you have to be open to learning about technologies and as much as you can about the industry.  It’s the only way to survive.  The best tip I ever got was to look up the technologies before you started searching for the position and know what each technology is.  Being honest with people also helps you.  My personal strategy has always been to be upfront with candidates in letting them know that I am not technical.  I have found this approach to be successful as people are more open to sharing detailed informaton with me as well as they are open to explaining the technologies they were using, the role they played within the group and how it all fit into the bigger picture. 

I think the benefit a non-technical recruiter can bring to a technical recruitment position is that they will ask a lot of questions (since they need to feel confident in their candidates) but more importantly, they can adapt to numerous roles and grasp a generic concept of the many positions.  Allow me to explain that thought.  I have found so far that technical people seem to specialize in one area of technolgy.  A PeopleSoft programmer knows everything there is to know about PeopleSoft Programming.  Clearly this person is a technical candidate but if he or she was recruiting would they be any more qualified to assess candidates for an Oracle 10g Database Administration position then a polictics graduate like myself?  Probably not?  I think the benefit a non-technical person brings is the ability to understand many technical positions with a view from 50, 000 feet.  But the ability to do that is souly on the recruiter who has to strive to learn the technologies he or she is working with and understand what each specific role is supposed to do.  This certainly isn’t an easy task but it gets much easier as time goes by.  Resumes start to read more simply and you know what searches to do.  Ultimately speeding up your process and allowing you to draw from a larger and quicker pipeline of possible candidates.

While I often wish I knew more about technology, I have come to a realization that it is not a requirement for this job.  But in order to be successful you have to shoulder the bulk of the learning curve and you must learn from each position you recruit because a similarly one is like coming across your desk in the near future….


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