The undervaluation of the non-tech recruiter 

I started my career in recruitment in July 2010 in Dublin, as a so-called “multilingual recruiter” and by December 2010, I was yearning to move into IT recruitment. 


Why? I hear you say… Well, in order to hit my monthly target of 15K€, I had to make 7 placements, whereas my colleagues in IT only had to make 1.5 placements. 


But then, why did I never move into an IT recruiter role?  Every time I was looking for a move in the last 10 years, I tried to make the move to tech recruitment, but somehow my experience in non-tech recruitment made me a strong candidate, going through up to 5 interview stages (true story), only to be passed over for someone who had tech recruitment experience (even if it was only 6 months, 7 years ago). 


On the Irish in-house recruitment market, there’s a very clear distinction between tech recruiters and non-tech recruiters. They’re called, multilingual, G&A, corporate or sales recruiters and somehow hiring them is never a priority for companies (unless 85% of their staff is sales). You can see the jobs being open for ages, then put on hold and never get hired for in the end. And when the non-tech recruiter finally gets hired, companies expect miracles from them because they’ve delayed hiring for so long. I once started in a company mid-October and was given the target of 15 sales people to start before Christmas. 


The non-tech recruiter really is the poor relative in recruitment: 

  1. Salaries are lower  

    Salaries are much lower; we’re talking 10-15K€ lower for the same level of experience. If you’re on the agency side, fees are also much lower. The justification for that is that tech people are hard to find, to engage with and to hire, the recruiter’s own technical knowledge is also valued and reflected in the salary. 

    Non-tech recruiters, regardless of how hard the jobs they recruit for are (hello German sales executives) have knowledge and expertise that is harder to quantify. Sales candidates never ask us to tell them which are the Pokémons and which are the programming language, so somehow knowing all the reptile named programming languages is a skill worth paying more. 

  2. You want resources? What do you mean tools and budget? 

    I spend a lot of time on the online recruitment and sourcing community and they are bursting with tools, extensions, software, AI, automation that I want. But man, they’re expensive! I can barely get budget for a LinkedIn Lite licence and whatever ATS I’ve got access to. And when I get a  trial for a tool, say Nymeria, it is painfully obvious that these tools work much better when looking for tech people (because these people have a higher online presence, so there’s more information to find about them); so when comes the time to build a business case, the results are not amazing; sure if the tool gives me an email address 20% of the time, that’s still 20% more than without the tool, but it’s hard to sell to the finance team that you need a tool that doesn’t really help you 80% of the time… 

  3. Not being valued as a function  
    Because it’s been said times and times again that “finding developers is so hard”, tech recruitment as a function has gained some intrinsic value within businesses, however non-tech recruitment remains seen purely as a cost-centre. Case in point, the number of non-tech recruiters that were made redundant when the COVID crisis hit us. At one point in my career, I was told by a sales exec: “I pay your salary”. I mean, really? Is that how little value you think recruitment bring to the business? And on a personal basis – you ungrateful brat, without me, you’d still be in your crappy old job. It’s all well and good to have developers and tech people building the product, but it’s not going to sell itself, invoices are not going to send themselves, and on a micro-level, salaries and commissions are not going to pay themselves

  4. Having higher targets than tech recruiters “because your roles are easier”. 

    Wait a minute… My marketing roles that have 7 rounds of interviews, that “internationalisation” role that’s a mix of project management, data analytics, vendor management and that requires 3 languages, and last but not least, the 3 German sales exec and 3 Dutch sales execs are “easier”?!?! I challenge any tech recruiter here to go and hire a German sales exec in Ireland, especially in Dublin, and see if it’s easier than hiring a techie. 


    The undervalued skills of the non-tech recruiter: 
  1. Sourcing in multiple languages 

    Unlike esoteric programming languages, such as LOLCODE, Brainfuck, Chicken, Arnoldc or Velato, that the proficient person will have conveniently added to their CV or profile, the elusive German or Dutch sales person is not so easily found. While putting keywords through Google Translate may point you in the right direction for your search, it’s really going to take much more research than that to find profiles accurately. I remember spending ages researching terms for managers in German that would be at the correct level of seniority for the role I was hiring for. You’re going to spend ages figuring out how to search or x-ray different platforms that are not in a language that you speak. And if you’re a little obsessive, like me, you’re going to end up with an excel spreadsheet full of keywords in all the languages you’re recruiting for, as well as your own personal CSE for all the platforms you use. 

  2. Sourcing for soft(er) skills 

    When sourcing for hard skills, the process is fairly straightforward, either the skills are on the profile or they’re not. A few years ago, I was at TruLondon and one of the other track leaders was showing his sourcing process and when he asked for a job title, I gave him what I thought was a fairly easy one: Sales executive for UK & Ireland. He promptly produced a list of sales executives… all of them being multilingual. I hear you say, but as long as they speak English it doesn’t matter. Except it does. Not only do hiring managers require a native or near-native level of fluency in the language, but they also want the candidate to be familiar with the culture of their target market. You don’t sell to a French person the way you sell to the German person.  

    That’s actually a skill very relevant to multilingual recruitment: the way you approach an Irish candidate is supremely different from the way you approach a German or a French candidate. Irish candidates expect an Inmail on LinkedIn before getting a connection request; German candidates want to screen you, see your connection request, read your profile and then maybe connect with you to start a soft and slow wooing process; French candidates require you to tell them why you elected to call them for a phone screen (yes, even when they applied for the job, which you’d think they’d applied for because they thought they were qualified for it). 

  3. Market expertise 

    When recruiting for non-tech roles, particularly for sales, the amount of market research that you do is actually staggering. You learn what companies have a new business sales team, which companies use the title Account Manager for people who deal with new business, who outsource their lead generation and who have a team doing it in-house, what’s the talk time, call numbers and targets, what are the sales cycle length, who’s calling their sales people “sales executive” when they’re only doing renewals, etc. It’s a huge trial and error process, and extremely disappointing when you’re hiring for high volume sales roles that require the whole sales cycle experience and a specific market language. 

  4. Agile recruitment 

    So, you thought Agile was just a project management methodology? Think again! I’ve seen Olympic gymnasts less agile and flexible than non-tech recruiters. 

    You thought your requirements were changing, try looking for a native Turkish speaker with fluency in English, with a bachelor’s degree and a valid work permit for Ireland for a 3 months contract, that suddenly turns into a tri-lingual Hungarian, Hebrew and English speaker, let alone the rest of the required experience. And you thought finding developers with Kernel experience in Ireland was hard… 

  5. Product | service expertise 

    If you’re trying to sell a job to a sales person, you better know how to explain your company’s product in a way a 5-year-old would understand, and make the selling points really easy to understand. I mean, who would jump in and say “sure I want that sales job” when you’re not sure you understand what you will have to sell? 

    The amount of product knowledge that a non-tech recruiter accumulates is actually fantastic. Between hiring sales people, support people and marketing people, as a non-tech recruiter you need to get an overview of every aspect of your company’s product and you often end up randomly pitching the product during a meetup or at a socializing event (remember these from the olden times when we could go out and meet with people without wearing a hazmat suit?). 

  6. Organisational expertise 

    Remember that non-tech recruiter with these “easier to fill roles”? The one that’s juggling between 6 market countries, sales reqs, marketing reqs, finance reqs and "whatever that job is" req? Well, that person knows how all of these teams interact with each other, which part they play in the process, and that gives them a great overview to start strategically planning headcount with hiring managers. While this is a task often left to Recruitment managers and their teams' counterparts, I do believe that the insights that the non-tech recruiter brings would add a lot. 


    Now that I’ve written all that list, I really understand how I’ve never had times for automation or learning how to scrape data. Just been too busy. 

    What do you think? Are the tech recruiters really the be-all and end-all in recruitment or are we dangerously undervaluing our non-tech recruiters? And won’t the companies who got rid of their non-tech recruiters when the COVID hit, bitterly regret losing that knowledge?