IT Staffing – Becoming an IT Recruiter

A series that provides some insight on how the IT staffing industry operates. The series is used to help educate IT professionals – candidates, as well as hiring managers, so they better understand the processes and methods of how an IT staffing firm functions. These are my experiences and I reserve the right to say that your experience may vary.

I was in between jobs when I decided to apply for a job in information technology. The ad was posted on the internet and it wasn’t until later that I realized it was a staffing firm. Seriously, I thought the job I applied to was at the company that called me. It was not. The ad was a job posting put up by the staffing firm on behalf of a recruitment plan for their client. Looking back now, I guess you could say I was a bit on the naive side.

I was called in for an interview with the recruiter. I filled out some paperwork and got asked a bunch of questions by the recruiter. I’ll elaborate on the specifics in a later post. I was then dismissed and told to keep in touch.

Days passed and I kept in touch with the recruiter. It was at this point that the recruiter had asked me, “hey, had you ever thought of doing my job?”  I hadn’t. I was still looking for work and thought, ‘why not, I’ll check it out.’ My world was about to change.

I had gone through multiple interviews with multiple individuals. At this time I was told there were three viable candidates, including me, and two open positions. I met with the Division Director, Branch Manager, Regional Manager and a regional VP out of Chicago.  I also observed the team and met other individuals in other divisions of the company.

After I met with the VP out of Chicago I was told that the openings went from two to one. Later, the Branch Manager informed me they were going with the other candidate. Yes, it ended up down to two of us.

I was disappointed with the outcome and ended up accepting a job offer doing technical work. I wasn’t thrilled with my new opportunity. I let the Branch Manager know that I’d follow up in a couple months when a potential second opening would present itself.

A few months later I reached back out to the firm. I was told to come back in to meet with the Branch Manager and Regional Manager. In the end, I think I’d have interviewed 7 different times. Come to find out, the person they originally hired was brought on as a temporary and that he simply didn’t understand the business. He lasted about 2 weeks. One of the big reasons they went with him over me was because he had IT sales experience. I also found out later that one of the people in the chain of command didn’t think I had enough drive. This latter point points to my personality and lack of coming across as what I’d later consider to be ‘a bull dog’.

I was offered a job as a recruiter for a firm that specialized in the placement of information technology professionals. Given the interview process along with the circumstances of my predecessor, you could say that I was in full-on listening, and learning, mode. I knew I didn’t know the business or what I was doing, but I had some help from a valuable member of the team who really made me understand the business.

It was a tough, demanding, job that gave you a high one minute and a low the next. It was a sprint environment with no room to sit around and relax. People that last in this environment have gone on to work for companies like Google. If you make it there, you’ll impress people with your accomplishments and they’ll realize your value. Having a tough reputation certainly helps you. People would come and go. I always enjoyed telling my story to new hires. “Oh yeah. You thought you had it tough. Let me tell you my story.” I guess you could say I had a sense of pride in being passed up as a hire and then went on to become a top performer. I grew my book of business and was on track to make Rookie of the Year if only the cut off dates aligned in my favor. They wouldn’t. I was later chosen to attend exclusive training with other members of my peer group from markets across the US – Chicago, New York, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Miami and other bigger areas than Madison, Wisconsin. I was the third-highest producer in the class out of about 20-30 of recruiters. I had out performed some of my peers in bigger markets that had been doing the job months, or years, longer than I had. The team in the Madison office became very small. It was two of us. We were a machine, often out-producing our Chicago office where they had triple the staff. Crazy days. Exciting. My proven performance helped me land my current position in corporate recruiting.

The team would eventually grow. Some members of the team responsible for doing client-side sales ended up falling short in expected their performance. Rather than have an unbalanced team – many more recruiters than sales people, I moved over to the client side of the business.

In about three years time I had seen 8 people come and go. I learned how to source, screen and interview candidates. I came to understand the meaning of ‘candidate control’ and realized there is an art to salary negotiation. I worked with clients and wondered how I’d build relationships while dialing a phone 200+ times a week. The insight into the hiring process has been invaluable. It is something I’ll never forget and an experience that provided me with no regrets.

Many of these staffing-related articles are strictly from my experiences in the industry. There are triumphs in the staffing industry that can be obtained by doing things on the level, simply doing the right thing. There are also short cuts and questionable methods used to play the game all in an effort to land the deal and make money. While these questionable methods are not illegal, many of these approaches don’t need to be followed in order to be successful.

I’ll be looking to you to ask questions and provide examples of your experiences with firms, either as a client or a candidate. Even the good ones are not perfect, and hopefully you’ll better understand it all and realize why things happen the way they do. I’ll provide insight into how sales reps work, the candidate screening process, how bill rates and pay are determined, and other valuable tid bits. I hope you find value in the articles.

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