Working in staffing and recruiting early in my career taught me a lot about people and business.
For example, every day, hundreds of resumes crossed my desk, and I eventually realized something surprising: Many of the best candidates often have the worst resumes.
Not every top-notch software developer or account executive knows how to put together a perfect resume. And in staffing and recruiting, if you don’t realize this, you’re going to overlook a ton of great talent. That’s why it’s important to take a little extra time, read between the lines of the resume to figure out someone’s strengths and skills, and find great candidates everyone else missed.
This is only one of the many powerful lessons I learned during my time as a recruiter. Here are some of the other insights I gained from this challenging work that could help professionals in any field.
1. Absorb all the business knowledge you can, no matter your role.
As a recruiter, I needed to clearly communicate job descriptions, requirements, and specifications to candidates. That required working closely with hiring managers to gain comprehensive knowledge of various business processes. Today, the knowledge I gained in that realm serves me well.
The lesson: Absorb all the skills and knowledge you can in every role—even if they seem irrelevant to your work at the time. There’s a good chance they’ll come in handy at some point in your career.
2. A hustling mentality will serve you well in any field.
In most staffing and recruiting positions, you’re relying heavily on commissions. So if you don’t place, you don’t eat. In this high-pressure situation, you learn how to hustle—networking, ruthlessly prioritizing, going to dinners and lunches, meeting people after work hours when you have to, anything to get the job done. I’ve carried that hustling mentality with me throughout my career.
3. Genuine relationships are everything.
Beyond matching candidates with job openings, staffing and recruiting is about building relationships. Today, as CEO at Place Technology, the relationships I’ve built are invaluable—especially because many of the people I connected with then are C-suite executives now.
In relationship-building, above all, it’s really important to stick to your commitments. Whatever someone is expecting of you, make sure to follow through. Failing to do so is the quickest way to seriously damage a relationship.
As is true in many commission-based fields, staffing and recruiting can have a bad reputation because some people within the industry place candidates quickly in poor fits just to get paid. This strategy will burn you in the long term. If your placements don’t work out, hiring managers will eventually choose to source employees elsewhere.
This example illustrates a universal business lesson: Genuine, long-term relationships—and the referrals that come with them—are always more valuable than short-term gains.
4. Sales experience will serve you well no matter where your career path takes you.
Really, everything in staffing and recruiting is a sales pitch to some extent. Essentially, you’re selling candidates to companies and vice-versa. And you’re selling yourself as someone who can find the right candidate to potential clients.
Being able to sell anything—whether it be a product, yourself, or an idea—is universally valuable in business.
5. Every professional should be able to illustrate where they’ve been and where they’re going.
In my staffing and recruiting days, I found that the best candidates have personal goals and a well-defined career path—they can effectively tell their professional story.
When I interview a job candidate, I always ask them to tell me their life story. When someone can’t do that, or if they just rattle off a series of random facts and go down various rabbit holes, I find it extremely concerning.
6. Interviews aren’t just about technical skills.
At my company, we recently hired a new salesperson. Aside from her technical ability, I was impressed by her politeness and thoughtfulness. She thanked me for meeting with her, and when I connected her with our chief technology officer, she moved me to BCC so their back-and-forth wouldn’t clog up my inbox.
It was a simple, courteous gesture that showed intelligence and common sense. Hiring managers and recruiters notice small things like this and use them to gauge the non-technical value of an employee. Every professional should work on their technical skills, but also their people skills and general attitude.
7. How to deal with human behavior and emotions.
People are complex and working with them can be difficult.
In staffing and recruiting, your job is, essentially, to get to know a candidate as a person and a professional, learn what type of person and professional a company wants, and match the two. That’s easier said than done—you need to read between the lines a bit on both sides.
There are so many unpredictable factors when working with people. For example, even when you think you’ve found a great fit, sometimes a hiring manager and candidate simply don’t see eye-to-eye once they meet. It’s also fairly common that, right before a candidate accepts a new job offer, their current company swoops in and gives them the raise or promotion they wanted.
While human behavior and emotions are largely unpredictable, you get pretty good at dealing with complicated people problems working in staffing and recruiting. This, too, is incredibly valuable in pretty much any professional position.
Working in staffing and recruiting changed the course of my career.
I fell into staffing almost by accident, but the experience ended up having a huge impact on my life. Working as a headhunter is what ended up inspiring me to start my first business, Talent Rover. But even more importantly, it taught me so much about every aspect of business, about how to communicate, and about hustle. Though it was extremely challenging at the time, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.