Everything You Need to Know About Recruiter Burnout (And What To Do About It)

two men sitting at a desk talking to a coworker virtually

Imagine this…

Your talent team has been working around the clock to source and hire top candidates. At any one time, your recruiters have at least 30-40 open job requisitions to fill, your hiring manager is leaving to join a new organization, and you’ve just found out your budget for recruitment marketing has been cut in half. 

While hypothetical, the example above paints a very real picture of what hiring teams have been dealing with for some time now. The stress of sourcing, engaging, recruiting, and hiring the best talent amidst a global pandemic and an increasingly competitive talent market has taken its toll. So, what happens when your recruiters experience the resulting burnout?

In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into what recruiter burnout is, why it happens, and what you can do about it. But before we do, it’s important to keep in mind that business objectives aren’t the only reason recruiters fall victim to burnout. There’s in fact much more at play than first meets the eye. Let’s get started. 

What is recruiter burnout?

Recruiter burnout is a term used to define the emotional and physical state of exhaustion affecting recruiters and talent acquisition professionals. This burnout can result from several different work-related challenges, and stems beyond the usual fatigue recruiters may experience from their daily workload. Recruiter burnout can be further exacerbated when the work you do feels unsuccessful or your goals feel unattainable. 

Between the pandemic, remote work, and an intense talent market, 61% of recruiters have reported an increase in their stress levels at work. 

The primary reasons for recruiter burnout

Recruiter burnout is not always the direct result of a heavy workload. There is a myriad of factors that breed burnout among your hiring team, but let’s look at a few of the more common (and frequently overlooked) ones:

  • Pressure from the Great Resignation and talent competition 
  • Isolation due to work-from-home/remote work 
  • Pandemic-related job cuts and layoffs
  • The Great Rehire and intense business objectives for hiring teams 
  • Changing recruiting goals and targets 

It’s easy to understand how recruiters could slowly but surely become burnt out, however, organizational impacts can amplify feelings of exhaustion, too. 

A lack of hiring resources

When your team is focused on hiring candidates and filling seats, a lack of resources can greatly impact their ability to source and engage talent while fulfilling all of their other duties, too. Think about the last time your team cleaned up your CRM or organized all of the data in the ATS you use. When recruiters don’t have what they need to do their job effectively, it can lead to broken processes that result in burnout. Speaking of…

Broken recruitment practices 

The recruitment practices your team has are crucial to optimizing every aspect of your hiring process, but when those practices fail you, hiring the best talent becomes near to impossible. Consider your sourcing strategies, engagement efforts, nurturing initiatives, screening and review approach, and more. 

While 76% of hiring pros feel attracting quality candidates is their greatest challenge, 89% of companies lose top talent to messy and prolonged processes. It’s no wonder recruiters burn out!

Wearing too many hats at once

When recruiters have to wear multiple hats at once, it prevents them from focusing on the tasks and responsibilities they have that truly push the needle forward for your business. It also stretches both recruiting teams and their resources quite thin, and can quickly make recruiters feel that they’re unable to achieve certain goals. 

In saying that, around 42% of companies are investing in tools that help to speed up recruiting, which can help hiring teams optimize their processes (like LeverTRM does). 

Not enough of the right data

Otherwise known as ‘analysis paralysis,’ recruiters can be left with either too little data or inundated with all of the wrong data. When hiring a candidate, there are numerous data points and insights you’ll consider, but ensuring you’re looking at the right data, analyzing it, and basing hiring decisions on the right metrics is tough work. 

Without the right data, and a way to collect and organize it, you can quickly become ‘paralyzed’ by data analysis that leads to hiring the wrong candidates for the wrong roles—an easy recipe for recruiter burnout. 

The visible and invisible symptoms of recruiter burnout

While burnout is often characterized by a lack of motivation, restlessness, and job dissatisfaction, there are many seen and unseen symptoms of burnout that plague recruiters. Below are just a few of the more common symptoms that hiring managers and recruiters can experience but also ignore. We’ll break these examples down based on invisible and visible symptoms. 

Invisible or unseen symptoms

These symptoms are often easier to ignore as they build up over time, and their effects aren’t easily ‘seen’ or noticeable. Often, these symptoms manifest in a recruiter’s day-to-day work. They can include:

  • Exhaustion — emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion
  • Pessimism or cynicism — negative outlook on the work being done, the ability to achieve goals, or an unwillingness to participate 
  • Decrease in productivity — inability to remain motivated, focused, or interested in the work 

When it comes to invisible or unseen symptoms of burnout, as a hiring manager, it’s important you pay close attention to your recruiters’ productivity, attitude towards their work, and their work ethic. You may begin to recognize signs of burnout that you didn’t notice before. 

For example, you may notice that a recruiter has grown anxious, struggles to maintain a positive attitude, and appears detached from their work. 

Visible symptoms

Visible symptoms of burnout are easier to spot, especially regarding performance and a recruiter’s ability to show up for their role. As stress and anxiety have very real physical symptoms, it’s just as crucial you look out for visible symptoms of burnout as you do the invisible ones. Here are a few examples of visible burnout symptoms: 

  • Absenteeism 
  • Mood swings 
  • Sleep issues
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Hypertension
  • Lack of physical exercise 

These symptoms are easier to spot, as they usually result in employees taking more sick days or time away from work. You may also hear from employees directly that they’re experiencing physical symptoms of burnout. 

Is it stress, or is it burnout?

Although stress and burnout are terms often used interchangeably, the symptoms of each differ, as do the impacts that they have on a recruiter’s performance. 

Stress is a normal human reaction that everyone experiences, often in response to changes or challenges (called ‘stressors’) that cause emotional, mental, or physical reactions. In some cases, stress can help you adjust to change or a new situation. 

Burnout, on the other hand, is the result of prolonged stress, anxiety, and a lack of work-life balance. Whereas stress may cause a recruiter to work harder, take on additional tasks, or try to prove themselves in their role, burnout manifests as a lack of motivation, decreased productivity, disengagement, and other seen and unseen symptoms. Essentially, burnout occurs when someone works themselves to the point of mental and physical exhaustion

The long-term effects of burnout can be both mental and physical, taking a toll on one’s body and resulting in a lasting, negative impact on the person’s quality of life. 

There are different types of burnout that recruiters can experience

You may be surprised to learn that burnout comes in many shapes and forms, and you may not see the same signs of burnout in one recruiter as you do another. There are, in fact, 3 distinct types of burnout to keep an eye out for!

  1. Frenetic burnout — occurs when the time and energy invested in a role outweighs the rewards.
  2. Under-challenged burnout — occurs when one’s role is monotonous or otherwise unchallenging, leading to lower motivation, productivity, and mood. 
  3. Worn-out burnout — occurs when one’s work environment is consistently stressful, resulting in the person giving up. 

Recruiters are more likely to experience frenetic or worn-out burnout, especially during challenging times such as hiring amidst a pandemic or when hiring in high volume. 

Overcoming recruiter burnout 

Before you can implement strategies or solutions for tackling burnout on your hiring team, you need to first recognize the triggers that cause burnout among your recruiters. If you’re a recruiter yourself, it’s just as important to remain alert to burnout symptoms so you can address them with your manager. 

For example, you may have an outdated or legacy ATS that’s preventing recruiters from automating time-consuming tasks. With all the manual work recruiters have to do, a solution that allows for automation and talent relationship management could help reduce burnout from manual tasks. In fact, 45% of recruiters believe automation will help optimize their roles. 

Let’s dive a bit deeper into other ways you can help your recruiters overcome (and avoid) burnout. 

Focus on setting SMART goals for your hiring team

It’s easy for recruiters to get burnt out when the goals they work and live by are unattainable. We’ve all experienced the stress that comes with an overly ambitious ORK, and reaching these goals can feel nearly impossible. This is where we recommend setting SMART goals for your hiring team. 

SMART goals focus on what you can realistically achieve: 

  • Specific—your goals should be simple yet specific enough that there’s no confusion as to what your team is trying to achieve
  • Measurable—each goal should be measurable, something you can monitor the progress of
  • Achievable—in other words, every goal should be attainable
  • Relevant—are your goals realistic and aligned with your hiring objectives?
  • Time-bound—recruiting and hiring goals may be timely or executed against in a specific quarter

Encourage work-life balance

Burnout is real. And when it comes to establishing boundaries around work-life balance, it’s a struggle for companies of all sizes. It’s no surprise that many CEOs feel employee well-being has been an area of struggle throughout the pandemic. As a hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to encourage and enforce work-life balance, just as recruiters have to be comfortable setting those boundaries and remaining firm on the need for self-care and wellbeing. 

Provide the right tools and tech stack

There’s quite a bit about recruiting that’s technical. From sourcing candidates to engaging with them, nurturing talent, and everything in between, the work needed to find the right candidates requires the right tools. As recruiters can only do so much manual work, having a tech stack that provides them with the tools, apps, and resources they need can help mitigate burnout and fatigue. For example, if your team is struggling with diversity recruiting, building a DEI tech stack with the right tools and integrations can help prevent diversity fatigue

Have a development plan in place for your recruiters

To avoid frenetic burnout while working to retain your existing talent, having a development plan in place for your recruiters can be the difference between under-challenged and burnt-out recruiters, and ones actively engaged and happy in their role! Development can take many shapes and forms, but ultimately, you’ll want to have some sort of internal mobility strategy for your team and offer learning and career advancement opportunities. 

Support hybrid work and wellness

Even before the pandemic, remote and flex work were becoming more common among organizations looking to offer more work-life balance to their employees. While you may be working remotely still, giving your recruiters the option to choose how they work once you return to the office can result in happier, healthier employees. This is where hybrid work comes in: allow recruiters the option of when they work in-office versus their homes or even remotely from a different city. Sometimes, a change of pace can help mitigate fatigue, restlessness, or a lack of motivation at work. 

Additionally, curating a health and wellness program that supports internal employees can help recruiters ease or avoid the very physical symptoms of burnout—for example, a wellness program that prioritizes not just mental wellbeing but also encourages employees to pursue physical activities, live a balanced lifestyle, or eat healthily can aid in recruiters bringing their best selves to work.

Burnout stats you should know

When it comes to burnout, knowing the signs and symptoms and how to help your team overcome them can be the difference between happy recruiters and an unhealthy workplace culture. Here are a few stats to keep in mind as you work on your own solutions for reducing burnout in your team. 

  • 70% of HR leaders feel the pandemic has been one of the most challenging times of their career, and 98% feel it’s transformed their role
  • Burnt-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day, and 2.6x as likely to be searching for a new role
  • 56% of employees feel their HR teams don’t encourage conversations around burnout 
  • 44% of employees say they’re more burnt out today than they were just one year ago

The right internal mobility approach could help reduce burnout among under-challenged recruiters

It’s critical that your hiring team and managers have a strategy or framework in place to execute internal mobility effectively and to the benefit of both your people and your organization. But how do you put together a strategy that drives internal mobility and keeps recruiters invested in their work? 

Download our free Internal Mobility Guide to learn how your team can create your own strategy for external and internal talent. 

internal mobility strategy