I don’t write about recruiting much, even though I managed a corporate staffing department for several years and worked with recruiters for several additional years. I don’t write about recruiting because I don’t like it and I don’t think I’m very good at it.
Nevertheless, I believe that recruiting is critical to a company’s success. In fact, I think that the people hired into an organization and the way that they are onboarded does as much to contribute to the profitability of a business as how much employees are paid or how their performance is managed.
But I don’t think I possess the some of the talents that good recruiters need. What are those talents?
1. Sales Ability and Persistence
A good recruiter must be able to sell top candidates on the merits of working for the employer and in the value of accepting the particular position for which the candidate is under consideration. Sometimes this is easy—after all, the candidate probably applied for the job in question. However, often, especially in executive searches, recruiters must convince top candidates to leave positions where they are doing well to take on the risk of a new role and probably a new company.
This is an area where I know I fall short. I do not like to sell. I am too introverted. If people are happy where they are, who am I to tell them they should move?
By contrast, one of the best recruiters I worked with had an outgoing, engaging personality and also had the ability to read people quickly. She vigorously pursued people she thought fit our needs, and she didn’t back down until convinced she couldn’t budge them.
The best recruiters keep a laser focus on what the job in question requires. They assess every candidate against these skills and competencies, and they don’t let themselves get talked into hiring based on the candidate’s charming personality.
Good recruiters also probe until they are satisfied with the candidates’ answers. Often, candidates can bluff their way through an initial response, and it is important for recruiters to push to be sure the candidates have sufficient depth to get beyond a cursory answer to a question.
It takes tenacity to continue to probe on every competency that is important for the role. That is difficult to do in today’s fast-paced environment, where an interview may only last thirty minutes. The best recruiters can balance speed with depth, maintaining control over the interview throughout the process. They can quickly determine which candidates are not qualified, so they can spend more time with those who are.
The recruiter I mentioned above was dogged in her questioning. She didn’t let an issue drop until she understood the candidate’s abilities. And she could pack a lot into a thirty-minute interview.
The other side of focus is open-mindedness. While quick judgments are important in recruiting, it is equally important that those judgments be based on competencies, and not on the expected profile of the ideal candidate. Thus, receptivity to candidates with diverse experiences and backgrounds is just as important as making a quick decision.
Good recruiters are good at outreach into minority communities and other groups where strong candidates might get overlooked. They spend their discretionary time developing relationships that might turn into good hiring leads.
Again, as a strong introvert, relationship-building is not my strength. I could see a good candidate that might not have a traditional background, but I didn’t spend time in outreach efforts.
By now it should be obvious that listening skills are critical during recruiting. The best recruiters listen to the candidates more than they talk. They don’t just run through a checklist of questions. They follow up on initial answers and push until they feel comfortable that they understand a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in each critical competency and skill area.
Most recruiters who are any good can listen or develop the skills to listen. But it takes practice and it takes time.
5. Customer Service
Ideally, recruiters are good at serving their clients, who are the hiring managers. They understand the client’s business well enough to help identify critical skills and competencies.
They also act as if the person they are hiring will be working for them—they don’t hire someone who can’t get along in the organization or who would be a pain to work with.
And they are sensitive to costs, both during the recruiting process and in negotiating the employment offer with the successful candidate. Another excellent recruiter I worked with treated his corporate staffing department like it was his own business and managed his costs as well as his clients’ costs. He could relate well with executives across the company, because they knew he appreciated their problems and would work with them to meet their needs.
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Where I fell short was primarily in sales skills and outreach. I wasn’t pushy enough to find the best candidates. I also tended to let candidates’ initial answers slide, rather than delve deeper into their answers.
Fortunately, I had recruiters who worked for me who excelled in these areas, as well as in the client service needed to find exactly the person the hiring manager needed for their assignments. Well, almost exactly—no candidate is ever perfect. At least I staffed my own department well, because I hired people who had the skills I lacked.
Are there any other skills that you think top recruiters should have?