5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started in Recruitment 

I started my journey in the world of HR & Recruitment back in 2016 as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new entrant into the industry. After working in recruitment, then Learning & Development, and finally moving across into HR technology, I look back on my early recruitment days and one thought echoes: 

As a junior recruiter, I worked harder – not smarter. 

As a new starter, I made many mistakes, but I learned a lot from the wonderful mentors I had and from my own experiences along the way. While hindsight is 20/20, here are 5 things I wish I knew when I started in recruitment.  

1. Booking in a day of back-to-back interviews isn’t efficient, it’s silly.

In my first few weeks, I thought dedicating a day solely to back-to-back interviews would be efficient. So I went and booked in 5 one-hour long interviews, one right after the other. By the time I got to candidates #4 and #5, I was mentally exhausted and had forgotten the key questions I needed to ask to assess the candidates. 

There are two ways I could have better managed my initial foray into interviewing. First, I should have scheduled in breaks between the interviews. Studies show that even brief breaks from a task can dramatically improve someone’s focus and performance. 

Second, I should have used more tightly structured approach to interviewing. Interviewing multiple candidates is easier to manage when using structured interviews – where candidates are all asked the same job-related questions in the same order and then evaluated using the same evaluation guide. This method of interviewing also reduces some bias in the process. Looking back, running structured interviews with short breaks would have certainly saved a significant amount of mental load and made the process fairer for the candidates I interviewed last that day. 

2. A resume filled with great experience doesn’t always equal a great performer.

When reviewing the CVs of my applicants, I would get so excited whenever I saw a candidate who had worked for a “Tier 1” Company. It was easy to fall prey to the idea that if a company was performing well and had a great reputation, then every employee that works there must be equally impressive on an individual level. 

It’s easy to be impacted by this halo effect. However, my career in recruitment showed me that a certain number of years of experience or a desirable company name on a CV don’t always equate to a great candidate. In fact, years of experience has a very weak relationship to job performance. 

There are more reliable ways to assess candidates, like with structured interviews and using job knowledge tests or work sample tests. It’s also important to gain an understanding of their cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, and personality to help determine their potential fit and success in your organization. Together, these predictors will paint the strongest picture of how quickly and effectively your candidate will be onboarded, and how they will perform in the role.  

3. Creating an engaging candidate experience is just as important as filling the vacancy.

The candidate market is tighter than it’s been in a very long time, with some countries experiencing record-low unemployment rates.  When I moved into Learning & Development and trained recruiters, one of the key skills that was attributed to successful hiring during tough candidate markets was the ability to build relationships and trust with candidates. This is in part done by providing useful feedback to both successful and unsuccessful candidates alike.  

Ensure that you build trust with your candidates, communicate with them each step of the way, and provide meaningful feedback. This includes information on how they performed on their assessments, interview, or other metrics. Regardless of whether you offer them the role, transparency is the difference between positive and negative candidate experience for many applicants. 

4. Rigid role requirements cause you to miss out on great candidates.

As a recruiter, I worked with collaborative and kind clients. But every so often I would get a request for what we referred to as “golden unicorns.” These were candidates our clients asked for that we knew didn’t exist on the market. For example, I got requests to find candidates who had 10+ years experience using a technology that was only invented 5 years ago.  

Like many recruiters and talent acquisition professionals, I’ve endeavored to hunt down elusive golden unicorns with limited success. I wish I could go back to my past-self and advise her that years of experience don’t make for a star employee. I’d tell her instead to focus on things like a candidate’s ability to learn, their ability to problem solve, their ability to manage their and other’s emotions. I’d also ask her to consider fit within the team and organization. At the end of the day, these are the traits that lead to being a top performer in most organizations. 

5. Don’t rely too much on your gut without the evidence to back it up.

I’ll never forget my excitement after finishing a 15-minute phone screen with a candidate and getting that feeling in my gut that I had spoken to a “rock star” applicant. While your intuition is important, it’s critical that this intuition be backed up by evidence and science. It’s equally important to recognize that your gut feeling could have been a result of how prepared that candidate was in answering common interview questions, or how quickly that candidate was able to build a relationship with you.  

To prevent hiring what might be referred to as a “Jekyll and Hyde” candidate – someone who performs wonderfully in interviews but doesn’t perform the same once in the role – it’s important to ensure you can back up your intuition with work samples, evidence from scientifically validated psychometric assessments, or other scientifically-backed means. This can be the difference between having a feeling that someone’s great or knowing that they’re going to be great. 

 

In retrospect, there was a lot that I could have done early in my career as a recruiter that would have helped both clients and candidates find a great match. I know that as the hiring landscape and recruitment technology continues to evolve, I’ll continue to learn more about how to find and hire strong candidates.