A recruiter’s work is never done.

Someone once said this to me but I don't think I truly understood the extent of what she meant – until I became a recruiter myself.

You might share the same sentiment even if you’re not in the recruitment business. Descriptions and designations aside, we’ve all been apportioned our fair share of hard work, with varying degrees of ups and downs, peaks and valleys in our careers. Most of our waking hours are devoted to work, and I don’t know about you but I’ve had nights too, when I would wake up to a sudden work-related thought like an epiphany of some sort. I refer to them as night flashes of inspiration (call me crazy!).

Point is, the work never really stops. It becomes a way of thinking and gradually, if you’re doing something meaningful that makes your spine tingle at least a little each day, it becomes a way of life. And you’ll keep at it despite the number of times you get knocked over because you know why you’re doing it.

Being a recruiter has changed me in more ways than I can articulate in writing. Though I must say that I'm often surprised by the responses I would receive when asked about my line of work. Admittedly, a switch from PR to recruitment isn’t the most common in my circle so curious looks and queries are anticipated. But I used to think along similar lines too…

You mean you get to screen people's CVs and interview them for jobs? That's so cool!

I bet you receive lots of applications! Can't be hard to fill jobs then, right?

So, I'm guessing everyone wants to be your best friend!

OR the flippant "Oh, you're a headhunter..." said with the kind of inflection that hints at all recruiters as pain-in-the-neck sales people

There’s a lot of talk about the profession. Recruitment can mean a lot of things and like any other industry, a misconception or two is expected. 

While many have come to see the value of recruiters as a necessary resource and business strategy, we do get a handful of the unreceptive and some who seem to be under the impression that it’s an easy gig. It’s not.

It’s also not just a numbers game (as some seem to think of agency recruitment), and neither can it – I dare say – ever be replaced or replicated by algorithmic robots. If anything, it’s a complementary partnership and I’ll touch on that shortly...

#1 The ‘anyone can do it’ misconception

‘When I grow up, I want to be a recruiter!’ is probably not something you’d typically hear from a child. And perhaps it’s true what they say about recruitment…whether an experienced professional or wide-eyed rookie, it’s an industry that people tend to ‘fall’ into and through passion, discover their life's work. But to do that means to survive, and from what I’ve learned and observed, that takes multiple layers of strength, some hardcore soft skills (as paradoxical as that sounds), steady drive and a high threshold for disappointment.

It’s crunch time all the time, every day which calls upon proactive effort and creativity to keep the flames of the craft alive and more importantly, to stay relevant amidst the vagaries of the market and against extensive competition.

But don’t people just use online platforms like LinkedIn and job boards? How hard can it be to find and match talent?

I know, it should be easy as pie right?! But it should also be known that people aren’t commodities. They aren’t like products we can purchase online. Keyword search…make a selection…add to cart and boom! End of story. There’s a methodology around it that relies almost entirely on people’s responses and their gamut of emotions at every step.

For instance, we could do everything right. Take a thorough job brief, put out a compelling ad, shortlist the best in market candidates, set them up for interviews and watch them soar through to the offer stage in record time. Yet, the final say lies precariously in the hands of unpredictability... ‘influencers’ beyond our control, e.g. opinions of family members or colleagues, better offers, counter offers, a change of heart, etc.

#2 I hear it’s a numbers game

Not quite. Just like change, I believe opportunities too are a constant. Sitting around and simply flirting with possibilities won’t get us anywhere. Numbers are just numbers until we put ourselves out there and make the effort count. It doesn’t matter how many phone calls we can smash out in a day or how many positions we can fill in a month. What matters is the value at the back of it. There’s always a next step, doors waiting to be opened, amazing people to meet and journeys worth committing to.

Sure targets are set and essential. They’re there to help us create the momentum we need to stay effective and on track each week. But if I’ve learnt anything from the people around me, it’s that relationships aren’t ‘transactional’. The tough part beyond merely filling a job is finding the right person, and the conviction, emotion and passion involved in taking the time to unearth the qualities that aren’t immediately evident on paper and then deciphering what they mean to the job at hand. It is only then – once you've overcome the strain – that the outcome feels truly rewarding.

#3 Technology a worthy successor? 

Trust and human connection. No piece of software could ever reproduce our human capacity for nurturing relationships. There’s a lot of hoop jumping through the hiring process…behaviours to pick up on, the many layers of negotiations, expectations to manage, not to mention the usual back-and-forth feedback dance. How do you think a robot will fare navigating through all that…the minutiae of job values and market sentiments, to nuances of conversations? How will it adapt and personalise its approach to ease a client’s frustration or counsel a distressed candidate in a dilemma?

It goes without saying that technology has shaped and automated a lot of what we do and I’m not going to deny its advantages in streamlining the recruitment process. But while algorithms and Boolean searches may point us in the right direction or help us cast the net a little wider when sourcing, it can only take us so far. And we’d only be limiting and stifling ourselves if we solely depended on online tools to function.

Closing thoughts

I was once asked in an interview what I thought to be the greatest challenge in business, and my answer was PEOPLE. I may not have a cut-and-dry response to what the future may bring but if I had to sum up my stance on the aforementioned misconceptions, that would be it. It’s a massive challenge that an "easy and automated game of numbers" couldn’t possibly wade through.

Recruitment is more than just something to past the time or make ends meet. It’s an irreplaceable service based on a set of values and with good old-fashioned human interaction at its crux, a romance if you like. And that’s how it has to be due to the many intangible and intrinsic pre-requisites that can’t really be taught in the same way that you’d train someone to use a machine.