How To

Letter To A Young Recruiter: What I Wish I Knew When I Started

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.
– Aristotle

I remember being a younger recruiter, one who was going to change the world with every phone call and magically match every person I met with their dream job.

Years later, I still aspire to change people’s lives and make magic. Just now, I am much better armed with the knowledge and tools to help me make that difference.

Here’s what I wish I had known when I was starting out…

Start sourcing early

The sooner you realize that “top talent” is actively looking for very brief periods of time and the majority of inbound resumes won’t meet your requirements, the better. Carve out time for outbound sourcing to engage candidates who aren’t actively looking but may be interested in your company. Don’t wait for the flood of resumes from Indeed to make you feel like you’re busy.

Stay On Target

How can you find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Have a solid understanding of the position you are trying to fill: dissect the job details, ask loads of questions of the team. Make sure they are aligned internally  – that initial conversation with the hiring manager is key to a smooth hiring process. I now have a 32% response rate because I get all the information I need before I start reaching out. It will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Always Be Learning

The world of HR and recruitment has transformed so much since I joined the industry, the biggest shift being the influx of technology. Automation has been amazing because you have so much more time to concentrate on making the right connections and actually placing people in positions.  And the profession continues to change, so pay attention or you will be left behind! Learn the industry, read articles, familiarize yourself with all the terms. In short, be a student of your craft. When I started, it was a sink or swim approach and I was learning by failing. These days, you have so many resources at your fingertips: great blogs, webinars, trainings, so you don’t have to learn how I did!

You Know What You’re Doing

If you’re asking the right questions, you’ll have a big picture view of what the team, the hiring manager and the company is striving for. Learn to be confident in your advice, direction, decision making with hiring managers and the actual decision makers. You are the expert in the game of people, not them. Stand up for that candidate you believe in, tell the team they need to respond within 24 hours and learn how to run your process the way you need it to go.

Get Ahead Of The Curve

Learn to pay attention to what is going on in the company you’re sourcing for, from an organizational and business standpoint. If the engineering team is really small, and there’s a ton of tech-debt and people are stressed — it’s a good time to start sourcing engineers. Start talking to people about what’s missing from their teams. Fight for headcount: you’ll be servicing both your hiring manager by proactively showing them good resumes and doing the team a favor. Learn to be anticipatory.

Complacent Recruiters are Bad Recruiters

You only have to Google “Recruiters are…” to see what people think about this profession. Don’t add to the stereotype. There are the ones who don’t know about their messaging, don’t care about the candidates, and don’t have to source or engage, all of which happen often in large companies. You can be different by spending the time to come up with an interesting and personalized outreach. It’s all about relationships, which brings me to my next point…

It Really Is All About Relationships

While they are useful tools, don’t waste all your time in metrics or admin or emailing or scheduling. This industry is about people and your relationships with them. It’s a long cycle. Someone you spoke to two years ago could be a brilliant fit for a major role this year – if you nurtured the relationship and treated them well. Remember: referrals are everything, they are your best source, so be kind, be helpful and remember what you are here for!

A meeting in person is worth a dozen phone calls, so go to meetups, conferences and events and let people know what you’re capable of.


Making a hire is an adrenaline rush – you do it once and you can’t wait to do it again. So whether you’re just starting out, or into your third decade, remember why we’re here: to truly make a difference in people’s lives and livelihoods! Not bad for a day’s work…


Editor: And if you are someone with years of experience, we’d love to hear from you! What works for you? What wisdom can you share?

  • Liz Dierbeck Shickles

    Great article, Lindsey! I would add: When you speak, or write, make sure your voice sounds like the thinking & feeling human you are, rather than a robot. Even with digital communication, people on the receiving end can ALWAYS tell the difference. You’re pitching a career opportunity, and that’s great news to the candidate — so smile “through the phone,” and listen for that human voice on the other end to smile back!

    • Lindsey Dal Porto

      Thank you, Liz! Excellent addition. I completely agree, personalization goes a long way and ultimately contributes to relationship building. Happy recruiting!