Recruiting Talent in the Cannabis Industry

As the legal cannabis industry grows, career options have begun to diversify. To help fill their human resource needs, many cannabis companies have turned to recruiters. To find out more about what a cannabis industry recruiter does, Excelsior College spoke with Candice Miles, senior recruiting manager at coNectar Recruiting, a recruiting, staffing, and payroll agency focused solely on providing growth solutions to the cannabis and hemp industries.

Miles describes her role as a cannabis recruiter as both helping cannabis companies find talent and helping people find jobs within the cannabis industry. What this looks like in practice is a lot of networking, and a lot of connecting with professionals who are passionate about cannabis. Miles spends most of her day on the phone, conducting video interviews, and searching LinkedIn and other sources for both talent and companies seeking talent. Since she spends so much time sending emails, making calls, and interviewing people, Miles relies heavily on the writing and communication skills she has honed throughout her education and career.

While Miles is a veteran recruiter, like many of her candidates, she hasn’t always worked in the cannabis industry. However, when the opportunity arose to join a start-up cannabis recruiting agency, she knew she had to make the jump. As Miles recounts, one of coNectar’s co-founders came from a nationally held recruiting agency that, after California legalized cannabis for adult use, announced it would not allow employees to work with any cannabis or ancillary companies. In response, organizers formed coNectar to help new and newly legal companies that are growing and need talent acquisition support but can’t always get it from traditional places.

According to Miles, there are a number of reasons why a cannabis company might need a recruiter. Many companies and operators got their start on the illicit market, where they did very little hiring, and may not now be familiar with operating within legal realms. Miles says these companies are trying to be more compliant and using a recruiter that can connect them with top compliance, finance, and legal talent can help get them there.

Further, many cannabis companies are growing and scaling rapidly and find themselves in need of assistance due to time constraints. A cannabis recruiter like Miles can provide talent within a few days, whereas a hiring manager at a cannabis licensee may not have the extra time to spend networking, reviewing resumes, and posting ads. If that cannabis licensee calls Miles, she will have already done the legwork of pre-qualifying candidates through interviews and reference checks. Ultimately this can save a company on hiring costs, but the savings on time are important as well since an open job can affect the costs of a company and put a strain on human resource allocation.

Throughout her tenure as a cannabis recruiter, Miles has worked with all types of companies within the realm of cannabis and ancillary businesses, from brands that are sold in dispensaries to marketing agencies, packaging companies, extraction labs, and even the companies that make the equipment used in extraction labs. But while these are different positions and types of businesses than she recruited for in other industries, Miles says that the main differences between recruiting in cannabis and elsewhere are not necessarily what you would expect.

According to Miles, if you look at a resume for somebody in the cannabis industry, they might appear to be a “job hopper” due to tumult in the industry. “2019… was a pretty crazy year for cannabis, so people have a lot of short stints at their company, which outside of cannabis can be seen as a negative, but within cannabis, we all understand the nature of the market and what’s caused people to have to do that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they meant to or want to jump from job to job very quickly,” says Miles.

The other main difference Miles sees with the cannabis industry is passion: “In other industries that I’ve worked for or recruited for they didn’t always care if the person had a passion for their job. ‘Why did you get into this industry?’ wasn’t very often a typical question to be asking somebody, but with cannabis it’s always on the forefront of our minds: ‘Why cannabis? Why did you choose this industry?’ And we find the people that really have that passion are those that connect with the companies that we’re hiring for.”

For Miles, the best part of her job as a cannabis recruiter is when she gets someone an offer for a job that they’re in love with. “You get to just hear the excitement in their voice and know you helped somebody,” she says. As far as advice for recruitment and human resources professionals in other industries looking to move into cannabis, Miles says to first make sure you have a passion for it, and then to focus on networking or working with a recruiter that can help get you into the industry. She adds that professionals in the human resources field, in particular, should start looking into cannabis compliance issues because they are going to encounter a lot of nuances that are different for cannabis than for other industries.

Miles wishes that before entering the industry she had known more about the evolution of different brands and cannabis product types over the decades prior. Once she entered the industry, though, she dove head-first into educating herself on everything legal cannabis, from seed to sale, and she encourages her candidates to do the same.

If you’re a professional looking to learn more about the cannabis industry, check out Excelsior College’s 9-credit graduate certificate in cannabis control.