Recruiters who actually know what they are talking about

I've heard people (job seekers, people on the receiving ends of headhunter calls or phone interviews) complain about recruiters who don't know what they are talking about. Specifically, complaining about recruiters that don't understand their functional space. It's not enough to have an idea of what's what in the tech industry. If you are recruiting for positions in a particular functional area (like marketing), understanding that functional space lends a lot of credibility; with clients/hiring groups, peers, candidates and it just makes you do your job better. I've always imagined myself as part of the business versus part of HR so I've enjoyed learning as much as possible about marketing (I hadn't recruited for marketing when I joined Microsoft).

Anyway, all you people who have complained, I hear you. I can't imagine doing a phone interview or discussing an open position with a hiring manager without having strong knowledge of the functional space. And having been here for while (5.5 years...I still can't believe it) and having recruited for most marketing groups here, I've gained a lot of knowledge of both marketing as a functional space industry-wide as well as marketing at Microsoft. Trust me, I'm not trying to pass myself off as a marketer...I know just what I need to know to have in-depth conversations with candidates about marketing plus a little bit more.

One thing I've done to share the love with my fellow recruiters is set up a training titled "Marketing Fundamentals for Staffing: Understanding Marketing and Hiring Marketing Talent at Microsoft". I've given this training before and now we are doing round 2. Topics include industry definitions and taxonomy, the 4Ps, roles and marketing taxonomy at Microsoft, marketing concepts, Value Proposition Lifecycle (think product development lifecycle for marketing), career progression in marketing, resources, tools, etc. This is basically targeted toward any recruiters here that are new to recruiting Marketing at Microsoft (they could be new to Microsoft or new to recruiting for marketing).

It's funny how often I phone interview candidates who are shocked by how much I know about marketing (I'm sure that some of my peers here get the same type of comments from candidates). This makes me wonder what the candidate's other phone interview experiences are like and how in the world the recruiters get any depth of information without being able to ask intelligent follow up questions. And how other companies train their recruiters in specific functional areas. Besides the phone interview, another way to tell if a recruiter cares about their functional space: check out what is on their bookshelf.

I'm not really trying to toot our horn so much as 1) share the importance of functional knowledge with recruiters and 2) encourage job seekers out there that there are recruiters that care about your experience,care about the functional space we recruit for and who just plain "get it".

Comments (6)

  1. paul says:

    Very few people “get it” when it comes to the Art/Science of Marketing. Most people are under the impression that Marketing is sales on steroids or Public Relations for Products. My Father was part of the generation that devised Marketing and they were all young guys who went to collage on the GI Bill after WWII. Advertising was where the best and brightest wanted to be. It wasn’t long before these bright Advertising guys figured out that companies were not producing the Products that people wanted to buy, so armed with sales numbers and demographics they created Marketing. Marketing is mostly research, lots of numbers and analysis in a process of creating Products that people will buy.

  2. Anil says:

    Very good points. I am glad to see at least one recruiter taking the time to understand a functional space and the technology industry. I have also seen that most *middlemen recruiters* are more interested in making a quick buck than making an effort to understand a candidate’s career objectives. In fact, most recruiters do not even look at the top of the resume where one is supposed to write an Objective and a Career Summary or a Summary of Qualifications.

    I also saw another post of yours that mentioned something about certain keywords that recruiters look for. Granted that it is probably the best use of a technology to help you find the right candidate. However, most recruiters just find a keyword and call you up forgetting completely to look at the top of the resume.

    I believe that there are too many middlemen recruiters in the technology industry. The crazy dotcom era and sites like have increased the number, and the ease of, resumes being sent to potential employers. With so many candidates in the market, it is not surprising to see several candidates lying on their resumes just to get the interview.

  3. Heather says:

    Anil…good points. Knowing the right keywords is not a substitute for actually knowing your space. Hiring managers can give you keywords (although I always cringe when a recruiter tells me that they asked their hiring manager for *keywords*…if you know the space, you shouldn’t really have to ask…I’m just saying).

    One thing I’ll disagree on is the point you made about the "Career Summary". I want to see where they worked, what they did, the results they drove and their career progression. I much prefer a well-put-together chronological resume; in which case a career summary is not necessary and it’s not really something I look for. I’m not saying that everyone with a functional resume does this, but many people use them to hide a lack of results or frequent job hopping.

    Middlemen recruiting should become a thing of the past once more recruiting processes are automated. Then the only recruiters that will exist will be the ones that add real business value. Paper-pusing will be done. Just my .02.

  4. Anil says:


    Your comments are very encouraging. I was recently posed a question by a recent MBA grad about HR. I have posted my answer to him on my blog. Your comments are welcome. Here’s the post:



  5. Anonymous says:

    Heather has a great post, Recruiters who actually know what they are talking about.The piece that resonated with me:

    I can’t imagine doing a phone interview or discussing an open position with a hiring manager without having strong knowledge of the functional space.

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