The core tasks of a recruiter are finding, attracting, assessing, and managing candidates with the goal of filling certain positions with the best possible talent. If hiring for a high-impact organization or project, a recruiter can have a significant impact through the cumulative benefits of putting the right people in the right roles. This job requires general skills like project management and communication (more so than a specific formal education) and can be trained or learned on the job. The skills you will build up are transferable to other (potentially high-impact) jobs. Recruiters are in demand and usually paid well.
Why I’m writing this:
I have 9 years of work experience in executive search (which is recruitment for leadership roles), assessment, training, and employer branding. I also founded Tälist, an organization that offers recruitment services for the Alternative Protein industry. With this job profile, I’d like to share my expertise on this profession with the EA community and I'd like to encourage EAs to consider this role as a career path for themselves.
About the role:
There are several terms for a recruiter: hiring manager, talent acquisition partner, or simply HR manager. Sometimes recruiting or certain aspects of recruitment are even “hidden” in jobs such as community building or outreach. As with every job title, the understanding of it varies and there might be slight differences in the responsibilities and main focus. For this job profile, I will simply use the term “recruiter”.
Recruiter is a very common role in both bigger organizations (employers) as well as external service providers (hiring agencies). The core tasks are to find, attract, vet, and manage candidates with the goal of filling certain positions with the best possible talent.
Some recruiters will have to do a lot of active sourcing (reaching out to people for example on LinkedIn or other networks and platforms), whereas other recruiters will get plenty of applications and therefore will focus more on carefully vetting and selecting the best candidates. This difference depends on several factors such as the industry, the complexity of the open positions, or how well-known the employer is. In both cases, a recruiter has to invest a significant amount of time in communicating with tens if not hundreds of candidates in parallel, and find a way to do so systematically, efficiently, and professionally. Therefore time and project management, as well as communications are two crucial general skills a recruiter should have.
Pay and demand:
Even though there have been plenty of attempts to automate recruitment, large parts are still done manually. Therefore, there is always a demand for good recruiters who can quickly fill open positions with great candidates. As there is a (growing) talent gap in many non-profit communities as well as in industry, I expect that this demand will not change in the next 5-10 years. Recruiters are also paid well (see here and these for ranges), often combined with a provision model where they directly benefit from placing candidates (although I wouldn’t recommend recruiting as an earning-to-give-career as there are roles that are better suited if you want to optimize for income).
Recruitment requires a varied set of transferable skills, as well as a high level of resilience (outlined in detail below), that will be respected and valued in many roles at different levels. For example, hiring is a key part of starting a new charity/project as you’ll need to build up the team to execute the idea. Alternatively, you can become a project manager in an impactful charity. Recruitment is similar across organizations, which will mean that you can move around easily for new challenges, both within and outside of EA.
In short, if you decide to take up a job as a recruiter, you are not going down a very niche route with nowhere else to go. Instead, you’ll build up career capital that is both well-earning and sought after within and outside of the EA community.
Relevant past job experience:
There are several aspects of being a recruiter, and you might have done things in the past that are transferable to some of these.
Have you ever successfully done any of the following?
- Researching by using boolean search operators - this is very relevant to finding candidates, for example on LinkedIn’s platform.
- Interviewing people - this is a crucial part of assessing people: asking the right questions to gain relevant screening information.
- Assessing using different tools - assessing candidates with tools such as test tasks/work samples is important when it comes to selecting the best candidate from a pool of applications.
- Managing communication with a lot of different people in parallel - this would be relevant for communicating with tens if not hundreds of candidates per role over the course of several months.
- Convincing people to do something - this would be relevant for convincing people to apply and consider changing their career, but sometimes it is also necessary to convince the hiring manager of a promising candidate.
- Managing several projects in parallel - this would be relevant for the project management aspect of the role, as you are usually trying to fill several roles in parallel (with one role being like one project).
What you’ll do day to day:
- Plan the recruitment process with deadlines, feedback loops, and other similar tasks.
- Write & publish job ads.
- Search for promising candidates on platforms like LinkedIn, and reach out to them to convince them to apply for roles they’d be a good fit for.
- Screen applications - review CVs and Cover Letters, and create candidate shortlists.
- Interview applicants.
- Use other assessment tools to further vet applicants.
- Manage communications with applicants in different stages (e.g. already interviewed, pending, to be rejected, and so on).
- Write reports on applicants to inform and consult on the final decision on whom to offer the job.
- Track metrics, evaluate, and optimize the recruitment process.
What is rewarding about this role:
- If you are a “people-person”, this is what you will get money for: getting in touch with people, hearing their (career) stories, communicating & connecting with them.
- Finding the right person can give you a great sense of achievement, and you will (hopefully) have this regularly; a recruitment process usually takes 6 weeks to 3 months and an experienced full-time recruiter can handle 4+/- recruitment processes in parallel.
- Clear feedback loops as recruitment activities are easy to measure.
- High impact: finding the right person for a high-impact project or organization has a lot of impact - and as you will do this regularly, your impact accumulates with every successful placement.
- Steep learning curve - with some general skills recruitment is a job where you start from scratch and can become a professional within 1-2 years (depending on how fast of a learner you are).
- It can be challenging to get enough applications and/or good applications.
- For certain positions, you will have to do a lot of active sourcing and get the numbers in as well as make sure you have high-quality candidates applying. You will usually get an answer from only a fraction of the people you’ve reached out to (5-25%).
- Good applicants are likely to have multiple roles they’re applying for, and multiple compelling offers to choose from. Sometimes people would like to speed up the process or even pull out of the process at the last stage.
What skills and traits will be helpful:
- Being organized / self and project management skills.
- Communication skills (verbal and written) - you will be speaking with a lot of people; doing this and writing in an efficient, professional manner is crucial for success in this role.
- Being a people person will help a lot, but there are certainly very successful introverted recruiters.
- Flexibility, positive outlook & resilience.
Education or Training:
I believe that certain general skills are usually more important for being a successful recruiter than formal education. This also depends on the kind of roles you are trying to fill or the community/industry you are working in. The more you are hiring for experts (vs. generalists) the more you need some basic expertise in this field yourself. For example, hiring a Senior Scientist usually requires that you have a basic understanding of their tasks, and are familiar with the terms used in this field - in such a case, a B.Sc might be required, or at least a big advantage.
There are also more and more degrees specialized in Human Resources and courses particularly for recruiting (or aspects of it). Based on my own experience, this kind of education is not mandatory at all. If a candidate otherwise fits the role this lack of formal training can be compensated very quickly. A more important advantage might be work experience and a track record as a recruiter - or with similar tasks (see above). You should also align with the principles and values of the organization you’re hiring for as you will represent them when working with candidates.
If you have further questions on this career or would like to discuss your fit for this role, feel free to reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org