Recruiter by Practice, Not by Trade: What I Learned from My 6-Month Stint as a Corporate Recruiter

If you read my bio above, I know what you’re thinking: Why is a salesperson writing a blog post about recruiting? What insights and knowledge could she possibly offer? Well interestingly enough, I was a recruiter in a past life (pre-Greenhouse). But I wasn’t really a recruiter by trade, per se, but a recruiter by practice.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to get you up to speed: Roughly 4 years ago, I found myself leaving my hometown of Washington, D.C., where I was a Sales Executive for a NY-based startup, and moving to good ole’ Dallas, TX for a new adventure. There, I launched the fifth city market as a Sales Manager for my then-employer, training and managing a team of Account Executives in the floral industry. Dallas soon became the fastest growing market for the company and was therefore a big success! Pretty cool, right?! Well, it didn’t stop there.

In mid-December 2013, I received a call from my then-manager, asking if I would be interested in moving to our company’s headquarters in NYC to take on a new role: Corporate Recruiter. The company was developing a new training program, in which successful Inside Sales Representatives would train in-house to become Account Executives and launch new city markets around the country. They wanted an experienced salesperson to lead this effort, and the idea of building an inside sales team from scratch definitely intrigued me. So a week later, I packed up my bags (and cowgirl boots) and moved to the Big Apple!

So there I was: new to the city, zero recruiting experience, and tasked with hiring 8-12 Inside Sales Representatives per month. No big deal, right? Wrong. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Countless questions swirled in my mind:

  • How do I write an accurate and effective job description?

  • Where do I find applicants—and how can I entice the good ones to want to work here?

  • Is there an efficient way to keep track of candidates I speak with? (I know Salesforce from being in sales, but that wouldn’t work!).

  • How long is too long to not respond to a candidate?

  • Which types of questions should I ask in the interviews?

  • Who else besides me should interview the candidates?

  • Are roundtable conversations the best way to collect interviewer feedback?

  • How do I put together a comprehensive offer letter?

  • What is in a proper relocation package?

  • AHHHHHHH!!!!

As I worked through these questions, I was able to learn much more than just their answers. My main takeaway? The recruiting field is complex. Very complex. So much thought and strategy goes into every last thing recruiters do—from sourcing, to structured interviewing, to nurturing hiring manager relationships, to offer negotiation. And every last piece of the puzzle comes down to one (scary) truth: You are the person that everyone is relying on to bring in the best talent through the door so that the company can grow, profit, and succeed for years to come. (No pressure!).

That said, here are 5 additional takeaways from my enlightening experience as a corporate recruiter:

1. Organize all the moving parts

Unfortunately, throughout the six months, I lived in emails, spreadsheets, and a light-weight applicant tracking system (ATS) and relied heavily on my memory—a very dangerous combination, to say the least. Coming from a sales background, I was used to operating in one robust system—Salesforce—but at the time, I didn’t have a recruiting-based equivalent. In the end, I realized that if I had had a single comprehensive ATS that could organize everything, including my pipeline management, interview feedback, and communication with various stakeholders—all in one place, then I would have been able to be that much more successful in my role. In recruiting, there are numerous moving parts, and so you must consider a strong recruiting technology to help you get organized and do your job well.

2. Candidate experience is EVERYTHING!

I learned that a great candidate experience is just like providing a great customer (or employee!) experience. You can think of it all in the same way. In today’s competitive job market, candidates have the upperhand, and so as employers, we need to attract and impress candidates to bring in the best ones and build a successful team and business. Looking back, I didn’t do the best job at this. I will admit there were times I forgot to follow up with candidates, and there were other times where hiring managers would show up late for in-person interviews and when they arrived, I completely lost focus, which only ended up hurting the candidate (not cool).

From the application to extending an offer, we must ensure the candidate’s time with us is positive, memorable, and well-spent, or else they’ll see this negative experience as what it would be like if they were actually employed there.

3. Recruiting is a company-wide effort

Employee referrals. Hiring goals. Take-home assessments. Culture fit interviews. Offer letter approvals. All are often part of the interview process but are rarely just the recruiter’s responsibility; everyone is involved. Especially in today’s job market, where the power line between companies and candidates has taken a complete 180, it is so important to have every single employee as pumped about recruiting as your talent team is. My key learning here? Taking deliberate measures to foster a company-wide recruiting culture where everyone feels a sense of ownership will ensure you can make awesome hires—and that much faster. And, it’s worth noting that in companies like these, employee referral programs have stronger performance—and we all know that referrals are the #1 source of new hire quality, showing higher retention rates and producing higher profits and performance.

4. Avoid “gut feelings” and “spidey-sense”-based decisions

My feedback roundup meetings were horrible. Plain and simple. I would corral the interviewers into a clear glass room (no joke), ask “What do you think?” and be overcome with mixed reviews, changing opinions, lack of direction, and unclear outcomes. As you can probably guess, interview questioning was not consistent either. As a result, we often made hires based on gut feelings, which 9 out of 10 times turned into poor hires. This wastes time, resources, and not to mention a lot of money. What I learned is that you really should take the time to implement a structured interview process as a way to get all stakeholders on the same page and help you be clear on what you are looking for in an ideal candidate—and then ask the right questions accordingly. Structured interviewing really is the key to hiring success.

5. Thoughtful and focused interviews will result in better hires

I wish I could say I provided my hiring managers with beautiful, templated information packets for each candidate they met. Instead, I would print out the candidate’s resume, lay it on their desk, and say, “The candidate is waiting in Room A.” Safe to say, that didn’t really set up those interviewers for success. Sure, some experienced interviewers might have go-to questions and can hold a conversation, but how do you ensure your interviewers—whether seasoned or not—aren’t asking the same things over and over again? And, further, how do you ensure they’re covering all the traits, skills, and experience that need covering, so that you can get a clear picture of who the candidate is and whether they’re a good fit? In addition—and I’m being serious here—How do you know your interviewers aren’t spending their entire 45-minute session talking about rock climbing?

Providing detailed interview kits containing the candidate’s background, a consistent feedback scoring tool, and a library of specific questions tailored to the role, to the team, and to the company’s culture will set your interviewers up for success right from the start—and be sure to nip any off-topic conversations in the bud before they even begin. If you don’t, it can come back to haunt you—in the form of poor Glassdoor reviews, frustrated interviewers and hiring managers, and, worst of all, bad hires!

Final thoughts

My 6-month stint as a Corporate Recruiter taught me several valuable lessons that I have carried into my sales career, such as being better organized and task-oriented, focusing on both my personal and employer’s brand, negotiating with purpose, and setting clear expectations with those I work with. It has also given me insight into C-level decision-making like human capital planning, budgeting, and project management. Needless to say, I have the utmost respect for those in talent acquisition and owe my current success to that experience.


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Ashlee Newcomb2

Ashlee Newcomb is a Mid-Market Account Executive at Greenhouse, introducing talent acquisition professionals around the world to Greenhouse's product line and community. Previously, Ashlee held roles in major gift fundraising, corporate floral sales, and high-volume recruitment. In her free time, you can find Ashlee cheering for the Nittany Lions (We Are!) and trial & (hopefully less) erroring new concoctions in the kitchen! Connect with Ashlee on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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