Recruiters succeed even without traditional HR background

This article was written by Terri Mrosko (not me!) and was originally published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer January 25, 2015. I am a glutton for shameless self promotion so I am including this on my personal website. Don’t judge – my mom was thrilled.


Carmen Fontana has been a national recruiting manager at Centric Consulting for one year. Now in her third year as a recruitment specialist, Fontana previously worked in the technology industry for nearly 15 years as a software developer and held positions in IT project management.

“My career has shifted many times over the years, often in unexpected, but good, ways. I hadn’t considered other careers, but I also did not expect this career,” Fontana explained. “I loved the operational duties associated with being a project manager and particularly the talent management aspect. Hence, when an opportunity presented itself to solely focus on talent acquisition, I went for it.”

Fontana holds a bachelor’s degree in science systems and control engineering from Case Western Reserve University as well as a master’s of engineering degree. The master’s program she completed at Case Western Reserve was a hybrid between an MBA and an MS in computer engineering, which Fontana said she has found extremely beneficial in her current career. Through the master’s program, she acquired business acumen to complement her technical skills.

Many of the principles Fontana learned as a systems engineering student are surprisingly relevant to staffing and recruiting, she stated. Instead of trying to find the optimal path for a “widget” through a factory, she is searching for the right candidate to fit a business need with the constraints of time, budget and skillset.

In her current role, Fontana works with the firm’s marketing team to disseminate the company’s employer brand. This may include attending industry events, speaking engagements, writing white papers and search engine optimization. She identifies staffing needs within the organization and figures out if the need can be met internally or if the company needs to recruit externally.

Fontana also develops recruiting strategies for various positions including project managers, business analysts and software developers. She interviews candidates and facilitates their interviews with other team members, and then negotiates and delivers employment offers. Additionally, Fontana implements internal processes and technologies, such as an applicant tracking system, which allow for more efficient recruiting methods.

What it takes to succeed

As a recruiter, you are the very first impression of your company, and you need to make it a good one, Fontana said. A marketing mindset is extremely important for recruiters, as well as an upbeat, approachable attitude. Candidates should see you as their friend, not their foe.

One misconception about a role in recruiting is that people assume that to become a recruiter, you must have a background in traditional human resources. While many recruiters do come from HR, it is by no means a requirement, Fontana stated. Recruiters come from all walks of life.

“I am a perfect example of this – I do not have a traditional HR background. It’s more important to have a firm understanding of your company’s business and what kinds of people succeed within your organization,” she said. “Also, I had many years of experience working on teams and thus understand which personalities work best in which situations.”
What Fontana enjoys most about her career is meeting smart, interesting people on a daily basis. She said that she loves being able to find people she knows will be perfect for Centric and have them become successful in their careers. There is a lot of satisfaction in that, Fontana said.

Her advice for those interested in a career in recruiting is to choose positions that allow you to interface with a variety of people. It will help you learn to match up people to their ideal role within your organization.

To locate recruitment positions within the industry, the single best way to find a job is through networking, Fontana recommended. “Let people know your interest. You would be surprised how much they will help you get connected. In the technology space, social networking such as LinkedIn and Twitter are just as important as face-to-face networking.”