Career Profile: Recruiter

Recruiting is a terrific career for people who want to help organizations connect with the talent they seek.

This career profile interview is with recruiter extraordinaire, Kristen Fife.
Seattle Recruiter Kristen Fife
Hello, Kristen! Please give us a brief summary of your recruiting experience.
I have been a recruiter in the Seattle area for over a decade. My experience has included technical recruiting (software engineers and related roles), legal, and healthcare. As a corporate recruiter, I also hire into roles across companies such as accounting/finance, HR, marketing/sales, etc.

How did you get started in this career?
I started as an administrative assistant supporting a group of recruiters at Microsoft, then as a recruiting assistant, an HR coordinator, a content manager (databases), and a Researcher (a form of Sourcer). From there I stepped into the agency world (which is a preferred career step in tech and healthcare), then into corporate recruiting at several employers. I currently straddle that world as part of an agency providing full onsite RPO services to a small, privately held software company. This means I’m employed by the agency but function as a corporate recruiter for the client.

For someone wanting to start a recruiting career today, how do you recommend getting experience?
There are a few avenues.
– I’d say go for Recruiting Coordinator positions. It is a very fast career track to recruiting.
– If you have a B2B or B2C sales background (business development or account management, not retail) it is often a good transition to agency recruiting.
– If you have been a hiring manager in your industry for a significant amount of time (roughly 5+ years), you may be able to transition to a recruiting role as well.
– An analyst role doing in-depth research and analysis for a specific industry can also be a good step into a Sourcing/Researcher role.

What is the difference between agency recruiting and corporate recruiting? If someone works at an agency, how would they land a corporate recruiting role?
Agency recruiters work with a variety of clients, or sometimes one major client. They can focus on contract placements or full time placements (or both). It is very fast paced, highly transactional, and compensation generally has some sort of base plus commission, which can be quite lucrative. Depending on the company, they may also be responsible for developing new accounts via cold calling and networking. Often there is not a lot of contact with the hiring manager. Corporate recruiters are more involved in the business overall. They form close relationships with hiring managers, work directly with Human Resources, and are often involved in projects such as employment branding and marketing. Often agency recruiters end up working for one of their clients; keeping in contact with the general potential client pool is also a great way to keep your avenues open. Networking with other recruiters is key.

What are some professional groups or websites that you recommend recruiters join to stay current?
The Electronic Recruiting Exchange,, and are probably the best industry websites. There are a ton of LinkedIn groups (depending on what you are looking for). I highly recommend joining the recruiter groups on Yahoo by state: look up your state such as WArecruit or TXrecruit. Also, The Recruiter Exchange can be a good resource. It’s very important to network in your local recruiting community to keep up on trends and news as well as share candidates (i.e. trailing spouses/partners, referrals, RIF employees).

What personality traits and skills are important for recruiters to have to be successful?
– While you don’t need to be a bona fide extrovert, you *must* be comfortable talking to people. This includes spending many hours on the phone talking to candidates and networking in both ad hoc and formal situations (I spend an average of 10-20 hours a week in phone screens).
– It is also important to recognize that being a recruiter means you should expect to always be asked questions about resumes, jobs, “Can I send you my resume?” or “I have a friend that is an X, can you help them?” It’s like being a lawyer or physician.
– Time management is also huge for recruiters, as each requisition (job opening/order) is a mini-project that you are managing and you are in various points along the way with each one.
– Recruiting is not necessarily an 8-5 job; you need to be comfortable understanding that you may have a candidate that can only talk in the early morning, or in the evening, or over lunch and be flexible to accommodate those needs. You need to be comfortable being accessible most of the time for your candidates and hiring manager.
– Much of what we do involves databases and research so familiarity with them is huge (although this can be learned.) Learning to source (find candidates) effectively is a huge skill that many recruiters never develop, while others devote their careers to it. Understanding your strengths is key to success.
– Recruiting has a plethora of legal guidelines that must be learned and to which you must adhere.
– Integrity and honesty are HUGE in the recruiting world. You are an extension of your employer, and you are in a very public role.
– Being a self-starter and having a strong sense of follow-through is critical, both with managers and candidates. You must be willing to follow and sustain repeatable processes.
– It is VERY IMPORTANT to understand that recruiting is cyclical based on the health of the industry. When job growth slows or declines, recruiters are often the ones that are the first line of cuts.

How much does a recruiter have to know about a particular industry to be successful and how does someone gain that knowledge if they don’t have a particular background?
Industry knowledge can be very helpful, but most good recruiters and recruiting managers understand that an industry can be learned if you have the basic recruiting skill set. It usually takes 3-6 months to learn a new industry, but a solid recruiter can be productive in 1-2 months with mentoring.

How do recruiters themselves find jobs?
Mostly by networking with our peers. One of the biggest mistakes I see is corporate recruiters that let their own professional networks lapse. Know the movers and shakers in your town/area and connect with them. Send other recruiters occasional emails/messages, share candidates with your community, periodically attend in-person events. Stay informed. Volunteer your time at local universities/colleges for career development  activities (i.e. mock interviews), your local unemployment office (panel discussions), and be open to answering questions. Participate in LinkedIn group discussions. Be comfortable and active using social media.

What is the compensation range for this career?
The range is going to vary widely by geographic area, industry, seniority, and type of position (agency vs. corporate). Tech recruiters tend to be at the higher end, healthcare is in the midrange, and temporary labor (office temps, manual labor) is at the low end of the scale. The one great thing about recruiting is that generally you can exponentially increase your compensation fairly quickly. I started in the mid-40-50’s and within less than 5 years had almost doubled my total compensation (in the last decade). That is in the Seattle area, in the tech industry as both an agency and corporate recruiter. I spent a significant portion of my own career as an onsite contract recruiter, which also tends to pay a bit higher. I suggest checking sites like or for going rates. You also don’t need a college degree to be a recruiter, although many corporate positions might require it. If that is the case, definitely start at the agency end.

Any other advice?
Recruiting is not an “easy” career choice; many people have simplistic views of what it entails and don’t understand the nuances of legal/compliance issues and regulations and the fact that recruiters are responsible first and foremost to their clients – the hiring managers. Reputation is EVERYTHING in recruiting. You can get a reputation with candidates and other recruiters at either end of the spectrum, the main thing that contributes to a positive brand is follow through and honesty all around. It isn’t something that “anyone” can do, although it can be learned by a fairly wide range of people.

About Kristen Fife:
Kristen Fife is a Seattle technical recruiter and an industry leader for industry and job seekers. She has worked with organizations such as Microsoft, Xbox, the University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center, Volt, RealNetworks & GameHouse, bSQUARE and Varolii. Fife is a subject matter expert in resume writing, LinkedIn branding, professional brand development and social media use, career management, staffing issues, and trends. She has been quoted in ABCNews, the Seattle Times, AOL, and The Wall Street Journal. She is regularly asked to speak on employer panels in Seattle. She is a regular contributor to (Seattle Times) and SourceCon; she is also on the advisory board for Sourcing7 in Seattle. She regularly blogs and about recruiting and her blog about job search gets several thousand hits a week and contains advice on everything from resumes, interviewing, and compensation negotiation to internships and networking for college students.

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