Perks of the job: International development recruiting

Would you consider getting into international development recruiting? What does being a recruiter entail? Photo by: Devex

Working as an international development recruiter is rarely what an aspiring aid worker sets out to do. If you talk to most recruiters in our sector, including myself, they will probably tell you they fell into the role one way or another.

I started my career in international development doing business development and project management for a USAID consulting firm. Like many positions similar to mine, in addition to writing proposals and backstopping fieldwork, I was also responsible for identifying talent for our proposed and existing projects.

As I considered my next career move, I thought about what I enjoyed most about my work. And I realized it was the recruitment. I loved the rush of locating the perfect candidate for a position, even when we thought they would be impossible to find. I loved connecting with a wide range of professionals and hearing about where they’ve been and what their career aspirations are. I also realized how critical the role of recruitment is to international development and thus how rewarding it can be. So I guess you can say recruitment found me.

Here are five reasons why I love working as an international development recruiter, and why you should consider this often overlooked career path, too.

1. It’s not just human resources

Because talent is so directly linked to an organization’s ability to win funding, the role of recruitment in international development is often considered more of a business development role than a human resources one. In fact, many recruitment positions report to business development or project units instead of HR.

Human resources is often (unfairly, in my opinion) maligned as a profession and this reputation trickles over to recruitment as well. However, recruitment, particularly in this sector, requires just as much marketing and sales savvy as it does HR know-how.

2. You learn about a wide range of sectors and regions

While some recruiters may specialize within a certain area of expertise or region, working as a recruiter often exposes you to a wide range of sectors, technical areas and parts of the world.

In order to be an effective recruiter, you have to get to know your programs intimately. This includes getting familiar with cultural and political realities of the project location and understanding the technical approach and deliverables. You may not become a technical expert in any one area, but you will always be learning.

Getting familiar with multiple sectors and roles in international development and what skills they require can also be very valuable for someone just starting out in their career who isn’t sure yet where they want to focus.

3. You get to meet a lot of people

Recruitment is all about connecting with people and building a strong network of relationships both within and outside your organization.

Within an organization, you are likely to work closely with people across different departments, including at the leadership level, helping them with their unit’s recruitment needs. Externally, you are interacting with hundreds if not thousands of professionals globally and getting to know their stories and career aspirations.

When you bring a new staff member on, it’s often you they will thank for helping them get the job. These connections will follow you even if you change roles or employers. For a people person, working as a recruiter can be a very gratifying career choice.

4. You have great job security

Experienced international development recruiters are always in demand. In fact, there are about 20 international development recruiter positions posted to the Devex job board right now. It’s also one of the most frequently requested profiles for the Devex candidate sourcing service, where we help organizations identify top talent to fill vacancies.

Salaries also tend to be higher and unlike many positions on the program side, you typically don’t need to have a graduate-level degree to find work.

Recruiter positions are often based in a home office but increasingly organizations are placing recruiters in field or regional offices as well. You can also find work as a short-term consultant to help an organization staff up a new project or to help out on proposal recruitment.

5. It is very rewarding

My favorite part about recruiting is matching up the right candidate with the right job. The success of development projects relies heavily on the people running them, so recruitment plays a critical role in the effective delivery of aid.  

You may not be working on the frontlines, but knowing that a natural disaster victim is getting the clean water they need to survive because you quickly identified a water and sanitation specialist with the right language and country expertise can be rewarding in its own right.

It also feels good to help people find jobs doing what they love. That’s why I love being a recruiter.

If you work as a recruiter in international development, what do you love about your job and how did you find your way to recruitment? Please leave your comments below.

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About the author

  • Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.