First Steps Taken to Forming National Recruiter Organization

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Sep 29, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

A small, but committed group of well known and highly regarded career recruiters is laying the foundation for an independent national recruiting organization.

So early in the formation it has yet to have a name — Professional Recruiting Association is the temporary working title — the intent is for the organization to do for recruiting and sourcing what the Society for Human Resource Management has done for HR.

“The mission is 100% to advance the profession,” explained Ben Gotkin, one of the two leading promoters and principal consultant with Recruiting Toolbox.

There’s a strong feeling among recruiters that no group on a national stage represents their interests and meets their needs, he said. This isn’t anything new. He and his co-promoter CareerXroads partner Gerry Crispin said in separate interviews that discussions about forming a professional association go back years.

But it wasn’t until a few months ago that more concrete steps began to be taken. Then early this month, Crispin and Gotkin hosted a teleconference with several dozen senior recruiters in which the outlines of an organization were detailed. They presented the results of a small survey of recruiting industry leaders that showed broad support for an organization with a defined body of knowledge, national conference, peer reviewed content, and local chapters or member communities.

Gotkin summarized the issues the 76 survey participants said were important to them: “(There’s) concern across the industry around things such as education; around networking and community; around advocacy; around representation; around the growth and development of the profession.”

The survey also showed a number of points on which there was less agreement: who would be allowed to join; whether there would be classes of membership; the importance of having a standard of conduct and how one might be applied.

“This conversation’s really been going on for a number of years,”Gotkin said, at least “since the demise of EMA.”

Demise of EMA

EMA — Employment Management Association — was an early recruitment-focused group that, for many years, was the primary voice of career recruiters. Over time, however, its growth had stalled while vendors, consultants and trainers came to play an outsized role in its leadership.

When, near the turn of the century it became a part of SHRM, there was  hope the recruiting organization would be reinvigorated. As an interest group within the vastly larger Society for Human Resource Management, EMA could benefit from an infusion of members, staff and financial support, while still retaining its separate identity.

Not too long after, SHRM restructured its professional emphasis groups, and eventually EMA was folded into a broader talent management sector. Today, there’s a staffing management discipline and a handful of SHRM chapters have staffing management association groups, but nothing like the old EMA.

SHRM’s New Efforts

However, a SHRM spokeswoman said the organization is “moving forward with a strong emphasis on talent acquisition that will join SHRM’s focus on HR strategy, employee benefits and other critical areas of interest to HR professionals.”

From focus groups conducted at SHRM’s Talent Management Conference in April SHRM is “creating a strategy for its new emphasis on talent acquisition.” Beginning next next month, the weekly  e-newsletter Talent Management will twice a month be rebranded Talent Acquisition. And of SHRM’s writers has already been assigned to covering talent acquisition topics.

That may not be enough to appease those on the call and the 96% of the survey participants who said they would join an independent association. More than a few individuals on the call expressed disappointment over what they saw as SHRM’s neglect of recruiters.

Tom Darrow, a staffing agency owner and chair of the SHRM Foundation, commented during the teleconference that “SHRM has not been recruiter friendly.” “I’ve wanted something like this for years,” he added, a sentiment echoed by some others on the conference call.

While frustration with the 275,000 member HR association was at times evident on the call, both Gotkin and Crispin said the intent behind a separate recruiter organization was not to compete with SHRM.

As talent acquisition as an HR specialty has grown, it has also evolved and broadened, Gotkin said, and is now a career path for many. The “recruiting ecosystem is much broader and deeper than it was back then (when EMA merged with SHRM),” he said. “I don’t see us as being a competitor,” he maintained, adding, “We would like to find way to build bridges.”

Over the next several weeks, Gotkin and Crispin will be meeting with recruiters attending the many upcoming conferences to explain the plans for the organization and encourage participation in the volunteer effort. Gotkin invited recruiters and others looking for more information or who want to get in volved in one of the working committees — Governance, Funding/Financing, Legal/Non-Profit Status, and PR/Communications — to email him at

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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