Doing Time in Recruiting

Have you done any time? I asked the unsuspecting young lady sitting next to me. She just stared at me not sure if I was joking or serious, and really not wanting to engage either way. 

Old recruiters tend to be a bit forward. Their time has worn away the niceties and cultural norms society places upon us when you go through the system.

Mine have been gone for a while now.

“Have you done time?”, Is me asking you, if you have ever worked in staffing? Corporate TA isn’t time! Corporate TA is an all expenses paid trip to Disneyland, with the Disney Princess breakfast included.

How long was your sentence? 

It seems like most recruiters do a cup of coffee and get out for parole within a year. A fucking year! I’ve got searches on my desk longer then a fucking year! 

What can you learn in staffing in a year? That you suck at Recruiting is really the only thing I can think of. You don’t even learn the language of what you’re searching for in a year!

I think everyone in talent acquisition should do some time in staffing. It produces calluses, it thickens the skin. Staffing doesn’t come close to giving you all you need for a corporate TA job, but it gives you one thing that is desparately lacking. It teaches you how to fill positions.

I’ve worked in both staffing and corporate TA and I loved both. Both a very different and I loved them for different reasons, but I’ve always been extremely grateful that I had experience in staffing before I went into corporate. Both sides have lifers, and it makes sense. Some people know that one side is just for them and the other isn’t.

So, on this day, hit me in the comments and let me know how long your sentence was, or has been, and let us celebrate our time served!

12 thoughts on “Doing Time in Recruiting

  1. 2.5 yrs in juvenile helping recruit students in online education (so glad I got out of there!) but then I must not have learned my lesson and spent 6 months in the local jail (temp staffing)! Still didn’t learn my lesson and moved up to the “Pen” and did almost 9 years with you (hehe) – I find my time from 3rd party staffing invaluable. Now that I’m essentially working in middle for a MSP I feel like I already know all of the “cards” 3rd party recruiters play. Now I can play a more effective role in candidate selection for my customer and stakeholder and say with confidence that I add a tremendous amount of value helping them navigate that space. I loved my stint in staffing but I’m happy to be in a new role looking at things from the other side!

  2. I did 3 years 3rd party and 22 years corporate. I much prefer the corporate side so that I can work with the people I recruit. And I like a small company where I can have a seat at he table.

  3. I pretty much got a life sentence. Coming up on 20 years I think. Still love it and gives me a buzz (but maybe that was the electric chair) Although I’ve been tempted I’ve never spent any time in corporate TA. Would love to give it a go one day to see how I’d cope or not cope!

  4. I was in staffing for a year. You’re right – not enough time to learn the ropes, but enough time to learn it wasn’t right for me. My mindset going in was “This is awesome, I’m going to help so many people find their dream job!” I was naive in thinking it was all about the candidate versus client, which left me feeling intensely heartbroken for the candidates I couldn’t help. Now I work in the HR software space and love it! If it weren’t for my staffing experience, I don’t know that I would be as successful in this role. (And if I’m being completely honest, I did kind of suck at recruiting..) Thanks for your perspective, Tim!

  5. I did 9 years of hard time. I spent my time going from recruiter in 3 months to Program Manager in 2 years to Program Analyst in another year and Branch Manager the rest of the time. I learned a lot in that time but I am so thankful to be on the corporate side!

  6. I feel a little like Morgan Freeman or better yet, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in the Shawshank Redemption…willing to crawl through the sewage to get free from either side of the recruiting prison( both types are a version of prison hell)!

  7. Hey Tim, great read as always. If staffing is hard time, and Corp TA is Disneyland, what is RPO? House arrest? I look forward to your take.

    • RPO is corporate TA with measures. It’s not staffing because there is no competition, but you do have to perform and fill roles, like staffing. It’s definitely a middle ground. Maybe RPO is your out on parole with an ankle bracelet!

  8. I never did anytime. I did however work as a retail store manager and a retail recruiter for a combined 12 years and think of that as doing time. Retail taught me a lot about filling positions.

  9. I like that you call out a year or less in Staffing as early “Parole”. When interviewing recruiters, less than a year is staffing always told me you did not make it – or did not like the challenge. I wanted 2+ years at a minimum. Most staffing companies weed out non-performers before the 2-year mark.

    • Rick,

      I’m not a not an Aerotek fan, but I’ll give them credit for this! The world is littered with crappy recruiters with 9-14 month Aerotek stints on their resume! They are probably the fastest at weeding out recruiters who can’t make it in a staffing environment.


  10. Tim – I did 3 years in agency/3rd party staffing – I learned a ton during that time….from having proper processes, sourcing, networking, etc. Been doing the corporate TA and HR then ever since..but you know…there is a deep dark part of me that misses it some days. Great article!

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