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Recruiter Burnout: Everything You Need to Know

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In 2022, 44% of employees say that they feel more burnt out than they did even as little as a year ago — when the pandemic was still in full swing and the world looked even more uncertain.1 Despite this startlingly high figure of burned-out workers, an even greater number — a shocking 56% — say that they don’t feel their HR Department adequately addresses or encourages conversations about the topic of burnout.2 There’s evidently a disconnect going on in the workplace, as workers continue to experience burnout at record rates.
Burnout seems to be soaring lately, and in particular among recruiters. Recruiter burnout, like many other types, manifests as a psychological and sometimes physical response to long hours, variable pressures, and the constant stress of working as a talent acquisition professional. As the topic of recruiter burnout becomes more popular in conversations and think-pieces, more and more people are beginning to realize that if they don’t already have burnout, they may be at risk for it.
Here’s your crash course on what recruiter burnout is, how to identify its trajectory and symptoms, and how to protect yourself (and your colleagues and employees) against it.

Recruiter Burnout: Possible Causes

There isn’t just one cause of recruiter burnout. Rather than a sudden “snap” due to heavy workload (something you might see in the movies when a character quits their job), most people who experience burnout get there gradually. Your trajectory toward burnout is likely based on a number of different factors. Here are a few that may be key to unhealthy recruiter stress:
  • Increased pressure and competition due to The Great Resignation and its aftermath
  • Pandemic and post-pandemic isolation (remote work / working from home)
  • Layoffs and other job cuts (often associated with the pandemic and its aftermath)
  • Hiring teams setting intensive — possibly even excessive or unrealistic — goals for their “Great Rehire” process
  • Recruiting targets and goals constantly changing
  • Insufficient or outdated data to work with
All these factors and more can work on your psyche in concert, ultimately leading to a feeling of psychological — and even physiological — exhaustion and pain. That’s recruiter burnout.

Recruiter Stress vs. Burnout: What’s the Difference?

When we look at why recruiting is so stressful, it’s important to keep in mind that most jobs come with a certain amount of stress, and recruiting is certainly one of those jobs. Normal stress creates a psychological and sometimes even physical response to challenges or pressures. It’s important to note that some levels or kinds of stress can actually be good, as they help us adapt to new situations and rise to conquer challenges. But recruiter burnout is different.
Burnout is a psychological and often also physical response to prolonged, unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety. Poor recruitment processes and a lack of resources can contribute heavily to these types of stress; if you don’t feel equipped to do your job well, you may not be.
A sense of burnout is usually accompanied by a lack of work/life balance, too — the person burning out feels constantly immersed in the intense stressors of their job, with few solutions in sight. When you work yourself to the point of exhaustion in these circumstances, recruiter burnout is what’s waiting for you at the other end of the tunnel.

How Can You Tell If You’re Burning Out?

Although recruiter burnout can sneak up on you, you may be able to prevent it, or address it promptly, if you keep an eye out for common symptoms. Here are some common signs to watch for:
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Decreased productivity
  • Missing work
  • Sleeping poorly
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches (and/or other frequent or chronic physical pain)
Still not sure if you’re burned out? Take our recruiter burnout quiz.

    What Can Recruiters Do About Burnout?

    • Create Boundaries

    Many places of business have begun to adopt creative, holistic benefits packages that take into account the need for balance and boundaries. While your company may not yet be doing this through a benefits package, you can certainly begin setting boundaries for yourself. Don’t be afraid to communicate about what deadlines and goals are realistic, or to ask for the resources you need in order to achieve them. This is one way to significantly lessen recruiter stress, and help avoid recruiter burnout.
    • Prioritize Work/Life Balance

    Another big part of setting healthy boundaries at work is making sure your work/life balance is in good health. If you’re constantly immersed in high stress levels and anxiety, you’re eventually going to burn out — which will cause work performance to suffer, and will likely also increase the time you spend absent from work. It may feel sometimes like you’re overwhelmed with things to do, but taking time out for yourself in healthy proportion to your workload really is best for everyone.
    • Implement Virtual Hiring Events

    Virtual hiring events can be a fantastic solution to recruiter burnout. Most virtual hiring events will offer the ability to interview and hire a larger number of high-quality candidates, in less time and with a smaller overall cost than a regular career fair or other recruitment events. When we ask ourselves Why is recruiting so stressful?, it’s easy to see how virtual hiring events can address a lot of these factors at once.

      Wrapping Up: Chill Out Before You Burn Out

      In an industry as fast-paced and goal-oriented as recruiting, there’s no doubt that you want to keep your mind clear and your head in the game. At the same time, with burnout looming over so many recruiters, you need to prioritize keeping your head above water, too.

      Our advice could be referred to as the Chill Out Before You Burn Out technique: set clear boundaries for yourself and communicate with your employer about setting realistic goals, expectations, and balance.

      Make sure you set boundaries with yourself, too — keep the work/life balance strong and healthy. For example, carve out time to take that guitar lesson, block out 60 minutes per day on your calendar to take a walk, actually sit and have lunch without multitasking, or do some yoga stretches! Minor changes can make a big difference.
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