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What is the best approach for a career switch from IT to HR-Recruiting?

Kevin at Southern Methodist University asked: 

I graduated in 1999 with dual degrees in Management Information Systems and Organizational Behavior.  I went the IT route and have been working in various Software and Technology positions for most of my career.  I am interested in using my Organizational Behavior degree now.  What is the best way to make the switch?  Based on my strengths and interests in careers, I would like to explore work in HR Recruiting.  How can I use my background in IT to become a technology corporate recruiter? 

Hi Kevin –

Changing careers can be scary, so I commend you for being proactive about this.

The worlds of IT and recruiting are very different, so as you consider this move, please be aware that the employment dynamics of these two professions are quite different:

IT professionals are typically in much greater demand than are HR professionals (companies usually need a lot more IT folks than they need HR folks), and recruiting is a relatively small part of the HR function.  In fact, recruiting is often done by contract recruiters or outsourced to recruiting firms.

In short, when you compare a career in IT to a career in recruiting, you are not making an apples to apples comparison – you are comparing apples to oranges.

Now – with that little warning out of the way . . . .

Your background in IT make you uniquely qualified (in some ways) to be an IT recruiter:

  • You understand the IT function and the needs of IT departments better than someone who has not worked in that environment.
  • You understand IT professionals better than someone who isn’t (or hasn’t been) one.

There are some big differences, though.  IT recruiters are compensated differently than IT professionals.  IT recruiters are, essentially, sales representatives,  so their compensation is based on sales performance (base + commission or commission only) and not on level of technical skill or certification.

A sales career can be personally, professionally and financially very rewarding, but working in sales is VERY DIFFERENT from working in IT support or development.

Will you be comfortable working on commission, making sales calls (some of them cold calls!), negotiating deals and dealing with contracts, schmoozing customers, interviewing and assessing candidates, fielding and responding to their calls, requests and concerns? If you work in IT recruiting (any kind of recruiting, for that matter), you will spend a lot of time in the “grey areas” of business where there is not always a clear right or wrong answer but many options to consider.  Making your customers happy is a top priority in sales, and making and keeping your customers happy can be challenging.

It can also be very rewarding!  I share all of this not to dissuade you from making the switch, but rather to encourage you to do so with your eyes open.

The very best think you can do to find out whether or not IT recruiting (or any field) might be a good fit for you is to talk to people actually doing  that work and find out first-hand what it is like.  This is called going on an informational interview.

I’ve written a brief guide to Informational Interviewing that you can download from the Job Search Guides section of this website. I suggest you review it.

You should also talk to the career advisers at your university and seek their advice.  Tell them you would like to do some informational interviews with recruiters, particularly IT recruiters, because you are considering going into the field.

Also, look on LinkedIn and see if you are connected to anyone (fellow alumni, for example) who work in IT recruiting. Ask for their advice.  As a byproduct, you will make some valuable contacts.

Finally, here are links to a few sites you might find helpful:

The Texas Recruiters Association

ere,net’s List of Recruiter Associations

Hope this helps!

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