Finding Calm in the Chaos: Stress Relief for Recruiters

When do we say enough and allow ourselves a much-needed pause to regroup and regain our efficiency?

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Mar 8, 2024

Does thinking about your week ahead invoke anxiety? Ever have Recruiter dreams about deals falling apart? Candidates not being prepared? One of my recurring dreams is forgetting to document my activities and not getting credit (paid) for my work.

In general, I feel like the word “stressed” is highly overused. But, whether you’re in an agency or a corporate recruiter, the stress is real. Recruiting is highly rewarding, but it’s also packed with pressure.

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining about my job. I genuinely love what I do, and at a leadership level I expect to manage a fair amount of stress. I’m betting many of my peers reading here will be able to relate, and I’m hoping that something here encourages you to take positive steps towards getting your work-life harmony in check.

The Ripple Effect

We all know that unmanaged stress can have consequences beyond the impact on mental and physical health, including anxiety, burnout and other stress-related conditions. A significant toll is also taken on professional performance. Stress can cloud judgment, reduce focus, and impair decision-making abilities. In the long-term, failing to manage stress can lead to decreased job satisfaction, lowered productivity, and even your own attrition.

Recently I felt very overwhelmed with a variety of tasks: filling my jobs, keeping up with AI tech and all the trainings, launching a new segment of our business, prepping for a podcast engagement, a webinar presentation, and writing articles for our community, all while trying to stay active and engaged with multiple networking groups where I’m on committees, all at least an hour’s drive from my house.

If you’ve been recruiting for even just a couple of years, this probably already resonates with you.

As agency recruiters on commission we thrive on workload, more roles to fill means potentially higher earnings. I’ve always been an agency recruiter, and my friends and family have come to know through the years that sometimes I’ll bail on plans because a mound of unexpected jobs comes in all at once. They’ve all heard me say numerous times “I’ve gotta work while I have the work.” This in itself is stressful for me, flaking out on plans last minute.

In corporate recruitment, recruiters play a strategic role in shaping the workforce, the more effectively you match talent to internal roles, the greater your contribution to your company’s success. Your performance also often influences job satisfaction and attrition rates. Oh, and bonuses are tied to all of that. No pressure!

When do we say enough and allow ourselves a much-needed pause to regroup and regain our efficiency? I could step back from committee obligations, but I love not only the camaraderie within the groups, but also believe in their missions and want to support the causes. I could have called in contract recruiter reinforcement, but by the time I realized I should have asked for help, I was about through the storm. I could refrain from pursuing speaking and presenting opportunities, but I’m just now starting to put my voice out there and don’t want to lose momentum.

So, I began to reflect on what aspects of my job are the most stressful to figure out what steps I could take to alleviate some of the pressure. I put these down on paper, then committed to go back after a couple of days of stewing on solutions and come up with a more balanced work-life plan for myself.

Top of mind stressors that I think every recruiter can relate to:

  1. High expectations from candidates, hiring managers, your employer and yourself.
  2. Wanting to find the perfect purple squirrel unicorn for your hiring manager.
  3. Managers asking for senior level talent on a junior level budget.
  4. Balancing the need for speed in hiring with the desire to ensure a thorough vetting process. Particularly in agency recruiting where you have competition working the same jobs.
  5. Managing extensive candidate communications. It’s overwhelming at times to try and respond quickly to everyone, but don’t ghost your candidates. It’s your job to respond.
  6. Dealing with candidate unpredictability, and yeah, they definitely ghost us.
  7. Coping with job rejections for candidates, some who have hung in with you for weeks, hoping to land the role. I hate having to tell a good candidate that they weren’t selected for a position that they really wanted. It’s heartbreaking.
  8. Keeping pace with recruiting technology advancements. AI training, anyone?
  9. Putting in weeks of work on job orders that get shut down or put on hold indefinitely.
  10. Losing jobs to the competition (The worst!!)
  11. Carrying massive empathy for the thousands of our peers who have been laid off this past year, still struggling to land a role due to the enormous talent currently available.
  12. Having time for anything else: networking, hobbies, exercise, pets, friends & family obligations all suffer.

Strategies for Stress Management in Recruitment

Prioritization Techniques

Effective stress management begins with mastering prioritization. I’ve heard two people mention “The Eisenhower Matrix” in different conversations this week, so I had to look it up. The premise is, you divide your tasks into four categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. For recruiters, this means focusing our time on tasks that directly impact the hiring process, such as interviewing key candidates or meeting client deadlines, while scheduling or delegating less critical tasks. Have a partner or coworker that can help 30 minutes a day when you’re drowning? Even if it’s just for resume formatting, it helps! Recruitment-specific tools, like your ATS, can help prioritize positions that are critical to fill or manage candidate communications more efficiently. You should be able to group message candidates with job updates at once. It’s critical to set realistic expectations with candidates, hiring managers and your employer when adding onto your plate.

Time Management

Getting a handle on your time management is another key to stress reduction. Strategies such as batching tasks, or call-blocking —grouping similar activities together—can significantly enhance efficiency. For instance, setting aside specific times of the day for candidate outreach, interview scheduling, or follow-ups helps you focus and streamline your desk. I’m not the best at sticking to call-blocking, but I know many recruiters and salespeople who are committed to the process and do exceptionally well. For productivity, Todoist is ranked as a top task management and to-do list app.

Leveraging Technology

Obviously, technology plays a key role in streamlining recruitment workflows. Project management tools and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can automate and organize many aspects of the recruitment process, from tracking candidate progress to managing job postings. These technologies not only save time but also ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, allowing you to focus on the human-centric aspect of your work without being overwhelmed by administrative tasks. Something as simple as using Calendly for scheduling can significantly reduce time going back and forth with candidates for scheduling interviews. If you have a task that you feel is too time-consuming, look for an AI tool that can speed your process. So many tools are currently free or inexpensive. I outlined many of them in a previous article here, SourceCon.

Building Resilience

Developing a resilient mindset is essential for handling work pressures. I reference several books below that I’ve found powerfully motivating on this subject. Techniques such as mindfulness and stress-reduction practices can fortify mental health, improving focus and decision-making under pressure. Setting aside time for physical activity, ensuring adequate rest, and pursuing hobbies or interests outside of work can also help build resilience.  Additionally, fostering a growth mindset—viewing challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than insurmountable obstacles—can transform the way we approach stress and adversity.

I’ve been a vocal advocate of mediation for the past 10 years. Up until the pandemic, I attended at least two week-long meditation retreats a year and was a regular practitioner with meditation groups in my area. Since in-person get-togethers came to a halt in 2020, I’ve yet to reemerge myself into the group meetings and retreats, and I can feel a profound negative effect on my mental health as a result. I’m committed to getting back to my regular practice in 2024.

Here’s a quick “are you stressed” quiz published online from Berkley, if you’re interested in a simple assessment.

Two popular apps worth mentioning are Calm and Headspace. I use Calm just about every night to silence the monkey chatter in my brain when trying to sleep. I’ve yet to make it through an entire sleep story before falling asleep.

Encouraging Team Collaboration

If you’re on a team of some size, implementing weekly brainstorming sessions where team members share sourcing strategies and problem-solve together can be helpful, especially if you have newer recruiters on your team. This could include peer review of candidate shortlists or collaborative sessions to refine your recruitment processes.

Finding Balance

The strategies above are about finding balance, using technology smartly, communicating effectively, and maintaining your physical and mental well-being amidst the demands of our profession.

Finally, for all the stressors it entails, recruiting is a great profession for many reasons, so let me end on a high note with a few.

  • For me, the fulfillment of positively affecting candidates’ and employers’ futures is #1.
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest AI recruitment technologies is thrilling, although sometimes exhausting.
  • Each day brings new roles, industries, candidates, and challenges from which to learn.
  • I enjoy networking and collaborating with diverse groups across various fields.
  • We keep our brains sharp with negotiation and problem-solving skills.
  • I love mentoring those new to our game, and coaching candidates on their job hunt.
  • We have a lot of autonomy. Our desks feel very entrepreneurial.
  • Financial rewards. It’s a tough gig, but pays well for those that can adjust to the grind.


What I’ve learned from this past months’ reflection is that I need to get my tasks in order, ask for help more often when I need it, and continue to learn and make the most of AI tech.

I hope that I’ve given you a new nugget or two for creating a more balanced and healthy work-life harmony. Check out some of the books below for some powerful motivation. These are all on Audible.


“Drive” by Daniel Pink: explores the impact of intrinsic motivation on our actions, performance, and satisfaction. His insights into autonomy, mastery, and purpose provide a solid framework for creating fulfilling work environments. Loved this book.

“The 5AM Club” by Robin Sharma: The 20/20/20 method is introduced. Wake at 5AM and spend your first 20 minutes exercising, followed by 20 minutes of journaling or mediation, ending with 20 minutes learning something new every day.

“Atomic Habits” by James Clear: focuses on the power of small habits and their cumulative effect on success and well-being.

“Drive” by Daniel Pink: explores the impact of intrinsic motivation on our actions, performance, and satisfaction. His insights into autonomy, mastery, and purpose provide a solid framework for creating fulfilling work environments. Loved this book.

“You Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist and triathlete known for his personal story of overcoming poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse, to become one of the world’s top endurance athletes. He proves that anyone can overcome their limitations through determination and hard work. Beware: much R-rated language

“Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment – and Your Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent figure in mindfulness and meditation. A great starting point for individuals new to mindfulness, it provides foundational techniques and understanding.

“Relentless” by Tim Grover and Shari Wenk: focuses on the mindset of high-performing athletes and how their pursuit of excellence can be applied to any field. He shows how adopting a relentless mindset can help in overcoming the stress of difficult demands by focusing on resilience, determination, and the pursuit of excellence despite obstacles.

“Top Biller” by Steve Guest: provides insights into the recruitment industry from the perspective of a top-performing Recruiter. He offers practical advice on dealing with the pressures of our job and achieving success.

“Elon Musk” by Walter Isaacson: Love him or hate him, and while not directly related to stress management or recruitment, I was inspired by learning of Musk’s relentless work ethic and willingness to always be in the trenches doing the hard work with his teams. It’s a profound book on resilience in the face of adversity. Like Goggins’ story, he’s repeatedly bullied and challenged through this life, yet still he rises.

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