The last few years have been a roller coaster, especially in the technology sector. In 2021, the tech industry was booming. Companies struggled to find enough tech talent to meet the insatiable hiring demand—and there weren’t enough recruiters to go around. In fact, the need for talent acquisition was so intense that at one point there were more job postings for tech recruiters than software engineers.
That’s when I decided to jump in. I had a background in commercial recruiting, but not in tech specifically. Fortunately, the industry was open to recruiters with nontechnical backgrounds, so I made the leap. I started out at DISYS, where I learned the basics of tech recruiting, before landing my current role at Cruise, an autonomous ride-hail company that currently operates in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin.
These days, I support commercial operations at Cruise, focusing on both technical and nontechnical roles within central operations. It’s a challenging job, but it keeps me engaged and on my toes—I love it. However, I’ve also learned that tech recruiting isn’t for everyone, especially when you consider recent Big Tech layoffs, hiring freezes, and fears of a recession looming over the industry. To succeed, you need a deep understanding of tech, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to navigate a highly competitive and constantly evolving landscape.
Breaking into tech recruiting is no small feat, especially during hiring slowdowns—but it’s not impossible. Even though I pivoted during a more prosperous period, the skills I picked up are relevant in any economic landscape. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to get into tech recruiting, including the skills and experience needed, tips for navigating the industry’s ups and downs, and strategies for building a prosperous and personally fulfilling career.
The Right Reasons to Get Into Tech Recruiting
In the last year, competition for tech recruiting roles has grown increasingly intense. According to a recent study by 365 Data Science, HR and talent sourcing are the positions most affected by layoffs at major tech companies. I’ve seen it firsthand—about half of the people I worked with in the staffing industry who pivoted to tech recruiting around the same time I did have since lost their jobs.
Naturally, layoffs increase competition for recruiting jobs. These days, you see hundreds, if not thousands, of people applying to a single recruiting role. But I don’t mean to be wholly discouraging. It is possible to break into this specialty and do well in it, especially if you have the right stuff and come prepared. And since highly skilled tech roles will always be in demand, there will always be a need for tech recruiters.According to a report by CodinGame and CoderPad about the state of tech hiring in 2023, 23% of tech recruiters plan to bring on more than 50 developers in 2023. While that figure is down from 35% in 2022, it still demonstrates robust demand for technical hires—and for recruiters who can find them.
Still, given the conditions, it’s important to make sure you pursue a tech recruiting role for the right reasons. Here are a few:
You’re passionate about technology. To be a successful tech recruiter, you need to have a strong interest in everything tech—especially the area you are recruiting for. You will be interfacing with subject matter experts daily, so it’s important to be proficient in domains such as software development, systems administration and architecture, and databases.
You thrive in a fast-paced environment. Recruiters have to work fast, especially in IT. Because technology changes rapidly, so do the needs of the company. The skills you might have looked for in a tech professional even a year ago may no longer be relevant today. Also, chances are high that candidates are interviewing with several companies at the same time; if the recruiting process is too long and arduous, you run the risk of losing promising talent along the way.
You can sell the organization. At its core, recruiting involves selling both the position and, more importantly, the employer brand. This is especially important in today’s working environment. As I mentioned above, candidates want to join a secure company in which they can grow professionally. That’s why one of my priorities is clearly communicating to candidates why Cruise is a great place to work. My goal is to make them feel comfortable and confident that we have a culture in which they can thrive. I emphasize that because we’re a subsidiary of General Motors and have raised over $15 billion in funding, we have the growth and stability many candidates are looking for.
There are also plenty of wrong reasons to enter the field.
You think you can make more money. Tech recruiting can be a lucrative field because it’s more specialized and requires a complex expertise level. But while money can be a motivating factor, it shouldn’t be your only reason for shifting into the industry. First of all, you’re not automatically guaranteed more money; there’s a pretty wide salary range for tech recruiting roles, depending on your location and experience. It’s also an unpredictable field, as the recent streak of layoffs shows. Plus, money isn’t everything. I have friends who have moved into nontechnical recruiting roles this year that pay less than what they were previously making, but they’re happier. They’re more content and are getting a lot out of their roles. It sounds clichéd, but money alone won’t make you happy.
You think you’ll get extra job perks. Big-name companies like Meta and Google were once known for employee extras such as free food and gym memberships. But in 2023, those same workplaces are eliminating freebies. Meta, for instance, ended its free laundry service last year, and has pushed back dinner times and slowed snack restocking to cut costs. Working in tech doesn’t mean constantly getting freebies.
You think you’ll be happier working for a big company with name recognition. Big names aren’t everything. Look for organizations that align with your values. If you aren’t excited about the company or product, it will be difficult to sell a position at the company to others.
How to Pivot Into Tech Recruiting
If you’re certain that tech recruiting is where you want to be, but are new to the specialty, the next step is to put your ego aside and understand that you have to start somewhere—maybe even at the bottom. Here are some ways to approach the transition so you can set yourself up for success.
Leverage Your Network
Utilizing your connections is a great way to break into tech recruiting. Talk to tech recruiters you know (people you’ve worked with, met at events, or connected with on LinkedIn) and ask, “How did you get into tech recruiting?” Remember, networking with recruiters can take place anywhere—at the gym, in a coffee shop, at the dog park, or via Zoom. Focus on building long-term relationships rather than short-term connections.
I regularly use my social channels to network. For example, I post one or two things weekly on LinkedIn that I feel will add value to my network and spark a conversation. From there, I’ll typically get more people following me or asking to connect. I look at these connections as planting a seed for the future. You never know when you’ll need advice or assistance from other people in the tech recruiting industry. Building a community assures that you have people to turn to in moments of need and are always aware of what’s happening in the industry.
Expand Your Knowledge Base
There’s no degree in recruiting, so making your way into this industry—tech or otherwise—is rarely a straightforward journey. I worked in hospitality until 2015 before moving into my first commercial recruiting role. But stepping into tech recruiting was way more of a challenge. I won’t mince words: There’s a lot to learn. There are so many technical terms, so many specialized items to search for on a résumé, and so many programming languages to familiarize yourself with. When I started at DISYS as a contract tech recruiter, I hadn’t really been exposed to much in the way of IT. Luckily, new tech recruiters at the company had a two-week crash course in which we were brought up to speed on terminology, résumé scanning, specific interview questions, and more.
But most companies won’t have the bandwidth to offer training courses for new recruiters. They’ll expect you to already have experience. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to learn tech recruiting skills on your own time. When I first started thinking about a career in tech recruiting, I searched phrases like “how to be a tech recruiter” or “tech recruiting 101” online, looking for articles and books and explainers. It sounds silly, but it was a big help. Nailing the basics is a great—and inexpensive—place to start.
From there, look into LinkedIn Learning courses or find online seminars. Recruit Rise offers a nine-week training course for new tech recruiters and helps match them to jobs. In 2022, I did a SourceCon Academy course offered through ERE Training that helped strengthen my knowledge in recruiting and familiarized me with new innovations in the field—I highly recommend it.
Take on Contract Roles
Contract recruiting roles are also a good way to test the waters. It’s how I got my start. These temporary positions—where you help a company with its recruiting needs for a specific period of time, often six months to a year—can be a great way to learn the ropes and see if tech recruiting is the right fit for you. You can find these roles the way you would any job—through your network, job postings, or by proactively reaching out to companies via email. Many contract roles involve a third-party agency that will match you to top tech firms. Try contacting these agencies directly and letting them know you’re interested in contract work.
While there’s no guarantee that you’ll get hired full time, a contract role gives you the chance to prove yourself. If you’re good at it, there’s a high likelihood you could be considered when a full-time position becomes available—if not with the company you’re currently at, then at another eager for experienced tech recruiters.
The Thrill of Tech Recruiting: A Rewarding Career Path With a Bright Future
The employment landscape may be uncertain, and tech may be in a weird place because of it, but working in tech is still like nothing else. It’s a world of opportunity and enrichment. And when you’re a tech recruiter, you’re responsible for finding the talent that will revolutionize the world. It’s a high-stress job, but an incredibly rewarding one, especially when you find a company that allows you to learn, grow, and thrive.
I really enjoy what I do. I don’t think a lot of people can say they’ve discovered their passion, but I’m lucky enough to have found mine. If you pursue a career in tech recruiting with enthusiasm and optimism—and are prepared to weather the storm of economic uncertainty—I have no doubt that you’ll succeed too.