Unpacking “recruitment”

In what is probably one of the most helpful online forums for my profession, a Facebook group called Globe Trotters United, I asked the question: if you could describe “recruitment” in one word, what would it be?” Here were some of the answers, from other recruiters themselves:

  • rewarding
  • exhausting
  • engaging
  • outreach
  • fun
  • opportunity
  • manic
  • potential
  • communication
  • eye-opening
  • jetlagged
  • complex
  • unskilled

I could agree with all of these words, with the exception of “unskilled.” I do realize that it depends on one’s definition of “skilled”, but the word choice was accompanied with the explanation that recruitment merely takes common sense and nothing more, to which I would whole-heartedly disagree with. Sure, it is not rocket science. And common sense is a necessity to do the job. But from my experience, through my own job as a recruiter and especially from meeting so many other recruiters on the road, it seems to me the type of job where one wears quite an endless number of hats.

A good recruiter is someone who understands, loves, and accepts different cultures, languages, and ways of doing things that are far from their own. We adapt to any environment, because we must. We take a hard toll on our bodies, both mentally and physically, when on the road – experiencing intense lack of sleep and completely erratic schedules, talking until our voice goes hoarse and many times in other languages so that our mind is a fog by the end, getting sick and having only the comfort of a hotel room, sitting for hours on endless flights and long taxi rides, and missing out on things at home. All the while, keeping our spirits up and smiling, and making time to enjoy the amazing countries we’re in whenever we can.

A recruiter understands higher education, not just in the U.S. but the education systems of other countries. We research market trends in other countries and keep track of economic and political impacts that may make our job that much more difficult. And when challenges arise, we must get creative and work that much harder to show international students how we will do everything it takes to make them feel welcome on our campuses. We study and brainstorm all of the effective ways to market our universities and programs. We aim to address the needs of international students and to help them become a part of the campus community. We network and negotiate partnerships with agencies and universities while jumping through the bureaucratic hoops that often come with cross-cultural business agreements.

We are educators and advocates. We are strategic miracle-workers and creative brainstormers, and experts at time management. We are admissions counselors, and immigration advisors, and project managers. We are travel agents and meeting planners, and expert packers. We are bilingual, or trilingual, or simply lovers of linguistics. We are speakers and leaders and animated salespeople. We are culturally competent and attuned to current events. We are advisors to students when they are in a bind, or confused, or homesick, or worried, or struggling, or just needing to talk. We are ambassadors for our countries, and global citizens. We are globetrotters, roadwarriors, and we are those who wander and yet are not lost.

When it comes down to it, yes a lot of it is common sense as for many jobs. But they are not all things that are common sense to everyone. I think it seems that way to those who have the skills required to do the job well, who understand international education and marketing, and who understand the incredibly positive impact that international students have when they study in our countries. But I do not think just anyone could do it well without training or with common sense alone.

Of all the words given to describe recruitment, I think “complex” was most accurate. Though at the moment, sitting in the airport after a 12 hour flight waiting for my connection, getting ready to move from this post to editing a presentation that I’ll be giving tomorrow to a room full of students, “jet-lagged” is certainly the most relatable…


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