To Talent or Not to Talent

 Things to Consider Before Entering Recruiting as a Field

Part 1: Losing My (Type A) Religion

Ask around Binc, and you will quickly learn that a lot of us have very strange stories about how we entered recruiting as a job field.  And yes, you can enter the talent market as a recruiter for your full-time job!  Even though I had imagined recruiting to be something similar to admissions directors at college: some super elite club where you have to know the secret handshake to get in, I learned that this was not the case.

I, for one, had never really considered it as an option despite the fact that I fit a stereotypical mold of what many think of when they imagine a technical recruiter: I’m nerdy, geeky, and enjoy talking someone’s ear off about nerdy and geeky things.

And while you do not need to be nerdy and geeky to do technical recruiting, there are some things that I wish I had known prior to entering the talent industry.  In this three-part series on finding the “Man Behind the Curtain,” er...demystifying the talent industry, I will examine the three main points that I wish I had known earlier in my career.  Namely, I will discuss how both introverts and extroverts can find a happy place in recruiting, the training process for recruiters and why we learn sourcing first, and what I consider to be the great irony in the talent world: recruiters want the one thing that no candidate or hiring manager or company can give them--control.

Today I plan to focus on the third point, or what I call the biggest irony in recruiting: recruiters tend to want some semblance of control, and yet that is the one thing that the talent industry lacks.  This is how I have been “losing my religion” of being a strong Type-A.

So the first thing I have to admit is that I myself have not yet learned how to let go of control fully.  I am the person in your friend group that has the planner with all the different color-coded pens.  I live and die by my Google Calendar and the colors in the Google Calendar, of course, match the pen colors in my physical planner.  My blouses, dresses, hangers, and handbags all face the same way in my closet and are arranged from lightest to warmest and then by color within the same level of warmth, naturally.  I find re-alphabetizing my books to be fun.  You get the picture.  I am the stuff of every laid back person’s nightmare.  I am even the stuff of your average Type A’s nightmare.

When I first entered recruiting, I imagined my hyper-organization would make me excel in the field.  In many ways, it certainly has been a big help.  It is very, very rare for me to be late to a meeting and forgetting one, especially with a hiring manager, is out of the question.  I am able to balance many candidates progressing in different pipelines at different stages relatively easily.  I confirm and double confirm phone screens, onsites, offers, and anything else that involves me being a go-between my hiring manager and candidate.  Handling paperwork, whether that’s related to offers, benefits, training, or anything else does not bore me.  I even revel in creating new processes connected to recruiting.  And don’t even get me started on my love of training.

But I have had to learn that no matter how many times I can confirm an onsite, or check in with a candidate before their start date, or get a confirmation from a hiring manager that they want to move forward with someone, life will always find a way of interfering.  I have had candidates cancel their onsites half an hour before the onsite was supposed to occur or worse, I’ve known candidates who pull out the day before their start date because they decided to take a counteroffer (I’ve even known candidates who came to their first two days of work and then just fell off the face of the Earth).  I’ve exited debriefs with hiring managers giving me two big thumbs up on a candidate and telling me what numbers to offer them only to have them frantically find me after I had already told the candidate that we were moving forward to cancel the offer.  And while it is one thing to cancel on a recruiter, it is an entirely different thing to fail to show up to a one-on-one coffee meeting with a founder after you had confirmed twice.  I’ve seen this, too, and no, they did not offer an explanation or an apology after, if they even responded again.  I have no doubt that anyone who is currently in technical recruiting is nodding along with a knowing smile as they read this paragraph because we’ve all had this happen to us.

All of these issues used to drive me crazy.  Ok, they still drive me crazy, but not in the same way.  I used to blame myself so wholeheartedly for one of these failings that I would end up lying awake well into the night trying to figure out where I went wrong.  What extra email or word of encouragement could I have said to change the outcome?  And then one day it finally hit me.

Human beings are not rational, and hence, we cannot predict or determine an outcome no matter what steps we take as recruiters.  I’m sorry to the social scientists of the world who spend their lives proving hypotheses by assuming rationality, but it’s simply not true, especially at the individual level where recruiters work.  Humans do not always act in their own best interest.  

Instead of begrudging the fact that I could not control the outcome, I learned to embrace it, if not entirely love it (well, it’s not quite true love yet, but you get the idea).  Part of what drew me to the talent industry in the first place was that I was promised I would never have a day that was like any other.  And it’s true.  Each and every day as a recruiter is unlike any day that came before it.  Every conversation with a hiring manager, candidate, or colleague is unique.  I have learned to draw on my experiences and to see patterns, but even so, there is always an outlier just around the corner that throws me for a loop.  Just when I see a candidate zigging, and I expect them to continue zigging, they zag, and I have to figure out how to zag right with them.  Every day is a challenge and a new puzzle waiting to be solved.

Learning to embrace the fact that issues will arise, and that some puzzles are not meant to be solved, has been one way that I can give myself some control.  If I prepare for something to go wrong or to be surprising, it is much less harrowing when it does.  If I know that not every candidate or hiring manager will end up keeping their word, I will take it far less personally when they do not.  I can do everything in my power to make sure my “Ts” are crossed and “Is” are dotted, whether that be confirming a phone screen or double-checking an immigration status, but that will not necessarily prevent something from coming up and making a deal fall through.  Besides, there is something especially wonderful about knowing that you handled a potential disaster like a champ and made the outcome better than it would have been had everything gone smoothly!

And as for those things that come up that you could not fix?  Well, I suggest two things.  First, there is always another color pen and Google Calendar shade to remind you to do whatever it is that you just learned to do in the future.  And second, there is what my good colleague practices and preaches: meditation.  And just remember: it is a major blessing to have a job where you can’t predict the outcome.  Even if you can’t always have control, letting it go and enjoying the ride is something worthwhile in and of itself.