What Recruiters Do

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What does a recruiter do, anyway?

Recruiters just call you about ‘great opportunities’ that are actually terrible, right? That may be all you are exposed to, so here is a bit about what recruiters actually do. Not all recruiters are great at what they do, just like not all developers are great at what they do, so this won’t all apply to everyone that contacts you.

Wikipedia actually has a pretty thorough page: Recruiter. Aside from that, the first couple of pages of search results that try to answer this question are covered in ads and seem a bit too spammy for my tastes. From Wikipedia, the breakdown is:

  • Job analysis – figuring out actual job requirements
  • Sourcing – identifying candidates to fill job vacancies
  • Screening and Selection – filtering through potential people to find the best fit
  • Lateral hiring – “sniping” people based on their current jobs

True North (a recruiting agency) sums this up as:

Recruiters must be organized, possess strong people and sales skills, and maintain a strong work ethic to be successful. Here are five tasks that a recruiter juggles daily:

  • Sourcing – identifying candidates to fill job vacancies
  • Host Interviews – interviewing potential people to find the best fit
  • Prepare Applicants for Client Interviews
  • Scan Resumes – in-between the rest of things, continually filter resumes for possible matches for all open jobs
  • Maintain Relationships With Placed Candidates – Making sure people stay at a job long enough for the recruiter to get paid, and the person may need a recruiters help in the future.

What you see

Sourcing is the part that most people get to see, and it is the hardest and least-favorite part of most recruiters job’s. Similarly to any kind of sales position, successful response rates to ‘cold calls’ are very low and these are generally not well-received.

Recruiters know that more ‘organic’ means of finding people is better, so they sponsor events like meet-ups and user groups, and they try to make things a fair trade. As you grumble about how the recruiter spends 5 minutes talking about the jobs they are trying to fill, enjoy the pizza they bought for you and listen. Maybe they do have a job for you!

There are going to be some rough edges to all this, so enjoy the pizza and know that if you give a recruiter constructive feedback, they will be happy to hear it and are constantly trying to improve.

What you don’t see

Recruiters much prefer matching up the right person with the right job, and giving you a call with a job offer. Jess Kimmet wrote a good post on this that answers more of “What does a Recruiter like doing?”: What Does a Recruiter Do, Anyway?

I work hard every day to leave a positive impression with everyone I work with. I may not be able to find a position for everyone, but I want them to know that I’m on their side – and I’d like nothing more than being able to call and say, “Congratulations! You got the job.”

Recruiters at recruiting agencies work with multiple companies and are almost always looking to fill multiple positions, so once they know about you and know your qualifications and what you’re looking for, they will contact you when something pops up that you’ll be a good fit for. The more great people a recruiter has ‘on file’, the better of a job they can do and the more the get paid. You being ‘on file’ with more recruiters improves your chances of one of them getting it right.

Working at an Agency

Recruiters working at an Agency are typically working to fill jobs for multiple companies, and are paid based on how well they fill these jobs. Here’s a job posting for Prestige Staffing:

A Recruiter’s job duties include:

  • Successfully recruiting and personally interviewing qualified job candidates
  • Working closely with account managers to plan and prioritize recruiting needs
  • Successfully matching candidates with clients’ employee requirements
  • Confidently and successfully negotiating terms of employment
  • Building and nurturing long-term relationships with candidates and clients
  • Capably multi-tasking in a fast-paced, demanding professional environment

Job Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Excellent oral communication skills
  • Positive attitude and strong work ethic
  • Coachable and enthusiastic about being part of a team
  • The intellect to “think on your feet,” solve problems, and make wise decisions
  • A strong desire to pursue a career in sales and management

Working as an “in-house” Recruiter

Working in-house, recruiters are filling multiple jobs at one company. They are paid a salary and typically aren’t paid based on exact numbers of jobs or hiring salaries.

Google is currently hiring a (probably a lot more than one) Recruiter: Apply Here. Here is what they are looking for:


  • Develop strong relationships with candidates, understanding their needs and helping them find a fit at Google.
  • Keep candidates continually informed with quality communications throughout the hiring process.
  • Solve problems and produce solutions by collecting and analyzing data, identifying alternatives when circumstances change and seeking out additional responsibilities.
  • Keep partners apprised of and involved in work by communicating information and status to project leads and team members, coordinating work cross-functionally and influencing peers, project leaders and/or managers.


  • BA/BS degree or equivalent practical experience.
  • 2 years work experience in recruiting, sales or client service role.
  • Track record of solving complex problems and delivering significant impact.
  • Experience closing candidates and negotiating complex compensation packages.
  • Proven organizational skills with attention to detail and the ability to prioritize and succeed in an environment with competing demands.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills with an emphasis on tact and diplomacy.
  • Proven ability to take initiative, use consultative skills and build strong, productive relationships.
  • Exposure to HR processes, such as interviewing and candidate evaluation.
  • A track record of demonstrating a strong work ethic, integrity and personal accountability.
Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly / @ckdake

Curator of The Recruiter Project