The heart of an organization is its people. Whether it's a grocer stocking shelves, an engineer designing new product solutions or a nurse providing care, a business can’t build, innovate or help others without them.

That’s where recruiters come in. Behind every company’s success is a recruiter that identifies, selects and hires talented people. While this sounds straightforward, it can be complex — successful recruiting is a balancing act of art and science. Let’s break down the definition of recruitment, different types of recruitment, common steps in the recruitment process and tips on how to recruit great employees.

What is recruitment? Definition and different types of recruiting

The simplest definition of recruitment is the process of identifying, interviewing and hiring employees for jobs. Of course, the reality is much more complex — the recruitment process involves many moving parts, and there are many different types of recruiting. 

Recruitment can take many forms depending on the company’s needs and resources. Large organizations typically employ recruiters within their HR department. In small- to medium-sized organizations, the hiring manager that will directly oversee the new employee may take on recruiting responsibilities. Many companies hire third-party staffing agencies to make hires or use recruitment process outsourcing, which brings in outside recruitment experts to serve as strategic consulting partners. No matter your company’s size or objectives, the main goal with recruitment is to hire great talent. Let’s break down a few different types of recruitment:

  • Internal Recruitment happens when a recruiter fills job openings from an organization’s existing talent pool, such as hiring an existing employee to join another team or promoting an employee to fill a higher-level position. While tapping into a strong internal talent pipeline can quickly fill open positions and reward existing talent, this practice also has its downsides. A heavy focus on internal recruitment may limit diversity and reinforce sameness, potentially stifling innovation and new ways of thinking at your organization.
  • Staffing Recruitment refers to when recruiters who work for third-party staffing agencies place candidates in short-term, temporary job opportunities. “Temp” jobs are common in administrative, industrial, healthcare and IT fields. Many companies also use short-term job opportunities for entry-level positions, encouraging temporary employees to interview for permanent roles when openings become available. 
  • Contingency Recruitment is a practice that only pays recruiters if they successfully secure a new hire for the employer. Contingency recruiter fees are based on a percentage of the employee’s annual salary. It can be a competitive practice in which multiple contingency recruiters are hired to fill the same role. This approach can be helpful when you’re managing a large number of job openings or a position needs to be filled quickly.
  • Retained Recruitment is typically used for hard-to-fill openings, such as senior and executive-level roles. Unlike contingency recruitment, retained recruiters are paid an upfront fee to fill an open position and are responsible for sourcing candidates until the role is filled. In this case, only one staffing agency is typically retained to fill the open role.
  • Outplacement Recruitment connects job seekers who have been laid off to new job opportunities. In addition to job placement, outplacement recruiters provide a variety of services to prepare talent for re-entering the workforce, such as career counseling, mock job interviews and soft skills training. 
  • Specialized Recruitment is common, as the hiring needs of organizations vary by industry, role and size. Some recruiters focus on specific industries, such as tech or health care. Others may specialize in certain roles, such as executive-level recruiting. New recruiters usually start out as generalists and become more specialized as they gain experience and find their niche.

What does the recruitment process look like?

Now that we’ve defined recruitment,  let’s take a look at the recruitment process itself. Once you learn the building blocks of recruitment, you can tailor your approach based on your organization’s specific hiring needs. The entire recruitment process typically includes these steps, also known as full cycle recruiting:

  1. Determine staffing needs. Recruiters work with hiring managers and other HR professionals to determine what positions need to be filled and the skills and qualifications required for each role.
  2. Write job descriptions that contain a concise job summary, responsibilities of the position and qualifications and skills required. Successful recruiters craft compelling job descriptions to attract qualified candidates.
  3. Promote the job posting to candidates actively seeking employment. Determine the channels that will best reach job seekers, such as posting on job sites, sharing across social media platforms and attending in-person or virtual hiring events.
  4. Source candidates through direct outreach and referrals. Sourcing focuses on passive candidates, or those who aren’t actively looking for employment. A recruiter or dedicated sourcer will conduct extensive research to find candidates that are a good fit, then proactively reach out and encourage them to apply. 
  5. Review resumes to find top candidates. While it can be time consuming, recruiters know what to look for when reviewing resumes to quickly identify the best candidates, such as whether the applicant has the required skills and tailored their resume directly to the job posting. 
  6. Conduct interviews. Once the applicant pool has been narrowed down, it’s time to conduct interviews. The number of interview rounds may vary depending on the organization and role. Assessments and reference checks may also take place at this stage. 
  7. Extend a job offer. When a finalist is selected, a job offer is extended and negotiations begin. It’s also important to contact candidates who weren’t selected. Every candidate deserves a response — thoughtful outreach to rejected applicants can make a positive impact on your company’s reputation.
  8. Hire and onboard. Once a candidate has accepted the job offer, the hiring and onboarding process starts. You have successfully made a match!

Where can I find additional resources about recruitment?

Lead With Indeed can be your go-to site for recruitment advice — offering helpful articles, videos, resources and inspiration. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a few more tips that will help you hire great employees:

  • Avoid common recruiting mistakes. Whether it’s an unconvincing job ad, a complicated application process or misaligned expectations, a recruiter can encounter many roadblocks on the path to a successful hire. The key is to reduce as many barriers for job seekers as possible without compromising the integrity of your recruitment process. For example, asking job seekers to re-enter their resume information into an online application may discourage busy candidates from even applying. Read about other common recruiting mistakes to avoid in this article.
  • Promote your employer brand. An authentic employer brand communicates your organization’s story and culture in a way that resonates with job seekers. Recruiters should collaborate with their organization’s branding and marketing teams to craft an employer brand that truly differentiates your company from the hiring competition. Develop content that captivates prospective employees, then select channels to reach them in a personalized way. Learn how to create an employer brand that stands out in this post.
  • Implement diverse, equitable and inclusive hiring practices. Stay up-to-date on workplace fairness laws, be transparent about diversity initiatives on your career pages and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) tools to reduce bias. Be a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion across the organization — it’s important for these practices to be embraced at every level in order to be successful. This will not only greatly expand your pool of qualified candidates — it will foster a culture of inclusivity and belonging too. Explore diversity and inclusion best practices in this post.

Hopefully, you’ve learned a little more about the definition of recruitment. As you can see, recruitment is a complex but critical function of any successful business. The result of your important work will be an organization that can exceed its mission and goals due to its talented workers and employees.

This is part of a series covering fundamental topics in HR and recruiting. Want more? Learn more about what is talent management or what is a job requisition.