A recruiter’s life – easy?? – hah, think again.

As an HR recruiter, the one thing that I hear often is –‘Aree aap HR mein ho. Naukri dilwala doh please. Appke toh baayen haath ka khel hai.’ (Oh, you work in HR. please, get me a job. It’s so easy for you)

If only it were that easy! If only I were Harry Potter and had a magic wand that I could wave and create jobs to match the expectations of candidates. Sigh! Sadly, I am no magician or wizard. I have not a single drop of Harry Potter-ish blood in my veins. So, I cannot conjure up a job or pull one out of my hat. The life of a recruiter doesn’t work that way. To people what seems easy is in reality one of the most labour intensive work fields. Trust me when I say that my life as an HR recruiter is no cakewalk.

Let me give you a sneak peek into my professional life.

Yes, I am a recruiter. But, my work is more than just getting people jobs. People constantly assess my work based on the ‘Glamour factor’. Yes, you read that right; I did say ‘glamour’. In the last decade and a half since I founded Rian Placements (www.rianplacements.com), I have often had people tell me that – ‘aapki job toh badi glamorous hai. Bada power hai aapke paas.’ (You have a glamorous job. You wield a lot of power).

What glamour are these people talking about?

Is it glamorous to sit in front of a temperamental machine fourteen hours a day? I say temperamental because even our machines i.e., laptops get a break every once in a while when we shut them off or god forbid, when they throw a tantrum and decide to randomly shut down (often in the middle of some important work). The machine gets a break. But, we don’t get a break because when one instrument breaks down often the other instrument i.e., our mobile; lights up. Perhaps, ‘lights up’ is a milder term. At times, it ‘blows up’ and rings non-stop. You can only imagine how irritating it is for our families.

And, as for power, tell me, what kind of power can we exercise if we are agents/middlemen or conduits between two parties who will enter into a contract? Our work is to facilitate between the client and the candidate and consequently it is us recruiters who have to adjust to the schedules, whims and dictates of both parties. Nothing ‘powerful’ in that, is there? It’s not like we have a say much of the time. Coordination between parties is a massive and constant source of pain for us. Back and forth, back and forth, like a table tennis ball we keep trying to align schedules and interviews.

Now, some people who look at us from the outside think that what we do is –

  • Have thousands on connections in the corporate industry at our beck and call
  • Tell companies what candidate is a fitment to what job within their organization
  • Introduce the candidate to the company and get him recruited
  • Charge a hefty fee for the placement and dust our hands off of the deal.

Hah! If only our life was that easy! If only the process of recruitment was that simple.

So then, what is it that we actually do?

As a recruitment consultant/head hunter, our job starts with client mandates. These are much preferred because it means that we cut down the competition. Let’s not forget that for every position that we source a candidate for, there are often multiple consultants working on the same brief. And, the competition is fierce. Hence, mandates are an essential and much appreciated part of our job. They give us leverage. However, it’s not often possible to get mandated requirements. Additionally, the fastest consultant to send in resumes stands to gain (Pretty much like the fastest finger first in KBC). Trust me, when it comes to recruitment, the adage – The early bird gets the worm – has loads of truth.

Let’s take a detailed look at what all is involved in our work.

  • Business development (BD) – just like any other service dependent company, we recruitment agencies also do BD. Clients don’t just fall off trees and drop into our laps. Heck, even the apple did not land on Newton’s lap. It fell on his head and possibly hurt him and that is exactly what our BD work feels like at times – a pain in the head.

We seek appointments with CHROs/Talent acquisition heads of companies who in turn are sourced via referencing, lead generation and often cold calling. Then we present our company and services to the HR departments. These presentations are no less than an intensive interview. We are questioned about our team strength, our TAT (turn-around-time) for any Job description given, our search and closure methodology, positions closed in the past, references of clients, etc. It’s only after the closure of this entire cycle that we sign an agreement with a client. Many times we tie-up with start ups or companies that have a lesser known presence (hey, don’t judge our choices. We have staff to pay. Any business, at times, is good business) and consequently when the time comes to raise an invoice for a placement, we do not get paid. Yep! That happens sometimes. The company reneges on its commitment. It takes all kinds to make the world, doesn’t it? Often, there is nothing that we can do in this situation. So, glamorous or powerful – our work is neither, not by a long shot!

  • Job descriptions (JD) – Once we sign on a client, based on the directives received from them, we prepare the JDs. Yes, it’s true that the client does send us JDs to propose to suitable candidates, but, many times the JDs leave out more than they state. The information that they leave out is vital for our research and sourcing, such as – age bracket for the candidate, gender, language proficiency, soft skills, personality or psychological makeup of the candidate, aptitude skills, etc (I leave out more than I mention here but you get the drift!). We assess a candidate on not just the benchmarks given in the JD but also on a plethora of other factors. Often, these factors are more important. Contrary to what people believe our job is not to ‘match the right candidate to the right job’. Our job is to match the ‘psychology of the candidate to the psychology of the hiring manager’ so that the individual fits into the corporate ethos of the company. That’s a tall order because it means that we not only need to understand our candidate well but also need to know the hiring manager well. Now with tens of clients that we deal with on a daily basis, you can only imagine how many hiring managers we need to keep updated about. And, they are constantly changing! Not ‘easy’ keeping track.


  • Sourcing and research – Once we get the JD from the client and assess it for ‘hidden yet mandatory factors’, we get to work. We post the job on various HR tech portals, social media sites and groups and also on our company website. Depending on the JD, we mobilize our referral network. Then we sit and actually search for resumes – yes, this does mean that we comb through hundreds of resumes online and on multiple portals to filter suitable candidates. And, this is in addition to the resumes that we receive on our email IDs in reverting to the job posts. After filtering through these hundreds of resumes (this is mostly applicable to junior or mid level mandates or positions that attract more candidates. The senior level/C-suite hiring is an altogether different ballgame), we come up with a shortlist. Believe me when I say that sourcing is a process of constant learning and evolution for a consultant. Our education never stops. And, each time that we get a requirement that is slightly more technical or complicated as compared to our skill set; we scour the internet for information on the work segment. We learn. That’s essential. How else will we know what kind of candidate to look for? Quite difficult, trust me.


  • Interviewing / verificationShort listing suitable resumes is just 30% of our job done. What follows is an ardours process of calling up each candidate and interviewing them in detail. The interviews are conducted on phone and via VC to assess the veracity of the information given on the resume. Often, these interviews eat up a large chunk of our personal time. A candidate could tell us – ‘I am in office. Call me tonight at 9 pm. I will be home then and we can speak’. What can we do but adjust? Our personal and family time be damned!

When we interview a candidate, we take detailed notes on their profile – their skill set, CTC, expectations, notice period, etc. We prepare a detailed MIS of the same to which is added our personal assessment of the candidate – their family background, their communication, general personality, their achievements, track record, etc. At times, we re-design the résumé of the candidate (free of cost) before we present it to the client. Believe it or not, but a consultant’s worst nightmare (well, apart from a candidate absconding on the day of joining) is to get a resume ‘screen rejected’ just because the information was not presented in a professional manner. This happens and in this case although the process of finding that candidate was difficult, the rejection comes pretty ‘easy’.

  • Interview scheduling – Upon receipt of a shortlist from the client on resumes that we have proposed, we get to work to set up the interviews. You’d think this was the easy part, right? Well, wrong! Setting up an interview means not just coordinating the actual meeting but also prepping the candidate. Remember, it’s us who know the client company, the hiring managers and the process better than him. So, after we confirm a date with the candidate, we prepare them for what they would be facing. We advise them on attire, company background and culture, the expectations of the hiring manager, the process of the interview along with possible questions and, we also prepare them for any aptitude or psychometric tests that they may face. Phew! Quite a lot, right? But wait…that’s not all. It’s not enough to tell a candidate about the questions that they can expect; at times, we need to suggest best answers as well. C’mon, don’t judge us here! Its human nature to hedge bets, right?

Imagine, going to all this trouble for just one candidate and then being told that he did not make the cut and is rejected. This is the story of a recruiter’s professional life – ON A LOOP!

  • Negotiations – This is often the most difficult part of our job. Once a candidate is selected, the negotiations for salary, perks, incentives, notice period, etc start. Trust me, these are oftentimes more lengthy than the process of selection. This is also the part where we need to hand-hold the candidates and advise them to have realistic expectations. Given a choice, tell me which consultant would not want to get their candidate the highest possible salary. It means more commission for us, right?

But, along with the candidate, we have a responsibility towards our client. We need to maintain a balance and create a win-win for not just both those parties but also for us. So, essentially it needs to be a win-win-win situation. At times, that’s quite hard to achieve.

  • Offer and acceptance – Now, this is the part that is quite often out of our control. Even if a candidate accepts an offer made, there is no guarantee that he will join. Yep, we are shackled to his will!

There are times when candidates tell us in advance that they will not be joining and in such cases we have time to prepare a backup strategy. However, many a times, candidates renege on an offer a day prior to joining. Or, worse still, they simply abscond on the day of joining and stop answering calls. Yes, this happens! For all the good manners and etiquette that these candidates seem to embody prior to getting the offer, their personalities undergo a 180 degree change. Strange, isn’t it? But, it’s true. When this happens, you can only imagine how ‘difficult’ and not ‘easy’ it makes our job. Not only do we cut a sorry figure before our client but we also, after the entire and lengthy process of getting the candidate a job, lose our hard-earned money. Our income is dependent on the joining, remember?

  • Getting paid – Who doesn’t like payday? Sadly, our paydays are slightly different than those of the candidates that we place. The candidates get paid after the first month of service. But we, we get paid once the conditional guarantee period is over (in most cases). Now, what is this conditional guarantee? Conditional guarantee means that for a candidate that we place, we undertake a guarantee to the client that the individual shall not leave their employment for a period of 3 to 6 months (the period differs from case to case). If the candidate leaves before that, we do not get paid. If by chance the client pays us before the guarantee period gets over and the candidate resigns/is asked to resign, we need to refund the fee received. Yep! No freebies in our line of work. So, you see, in a nutshell, the uncertainty around a placement does not stop till the guarantee period is over. That’s additional stress when you consider the number of candidates that we juggle on a monthly basis.

So, you see, definitely not ‘easy’.

As the above proves I have my work cut out for me. But, that’s not the challenging part. The challenge is that even though I may be willing to put in 200% effort, the closure of a single placement is dependent on factors that are out of my control. As an agent, it is my constant endeavor to manage the parties that will enter into the contract. But, the management requires finesse. It’s a difficult balancing act. A recruiter cannot be too pushy or too complacent. We have to contend with very rude candidates at times or we get yelled at by our clients. Can we be rude in return or can we yell back? Hell no! We are agents, remember? And, we are in the service industry. So, we can be firm but we need to be polite at all times.

A recruiter cannot stick to a time schedule for recruitment. We need to be available when the candidate is available for an interview and sometimes that is late in the evenings or on weekends. Erm…hello…we have families too!! But, they take a back seat, all in the name of work. Is t fair to the family? Heck, no. It’s not. But, as I mentioned, sometimes things are not in our control. Additionally, for the majority of women in the recruitment field, work does not end when we leave office. Only our shift ends because once back at home, our second shift starts the one where our spouses, children, home and family take precedence. Can’t ignore loved ones, can we? They are who keep us sane.

So, the next time when you meet a recruiter, think about this article. Think about the mammoth labor that goes into placing just one candidate. Think about the effort that a consultant will put in should you ever need a job. Respect them for that. Respect them for their commitment, their sacrifice of family-time, their dedication towards getting you a win-win.

Their work is about ‘you’ and they will go all out to ensure that you are happy. So, don’t be flippant and say – ‘Appke toh baayen haath ka khel hai.’ (It’s so easy for you)!

It’s not easy – definitely not. Yet, they will do it day in and day out and, with a smile.

Image credit – femina.in

About Sonal Singh

I believe that life is a repertoire of anecdotes. The various situations that we encounter, the many incidents of every day, the people we meet, our conversations with them; all make life a melange of tales. And, that is what I attempt to capture through my writing. My cooking is no different! It reflects my love for travel and my love for innovation. The kitchen is my happy place. So, even though by vocation I am a recruiter (www.rianplacements.com), by passion I am a writer, home chef and a hodophile.

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