How to Hire a Great Recruiter

July 21st, 2011 by jpassen Leave a reply »

During a presentation for a prospective customer a question came up: how can we hire a great recruiter? This is something that I’ve been thinking about for nearly 15 years. I’ve been a recruiter. I’ve hired and trained dozens of recruiters, both corporate and agency. Today, my company builds applicant tracking software for corporate recruiters. Recruiting is a incredibly popular profession and everyone has their own opinion on what makes a great recruiter, most of which I tend to agree with. Over the years, I’ve developed my own formula for what makes a great recruiter. Since the economy is showing signs of improvement and more people are hiring recruiters again, I’ve decide to share my thoughts on what makes a great recruiter.

My method was cemented 10 years ago when running a high-end, technical recruiting agency in Silicon Valley. I wanted to hire people based on the potential as opposed to their actual experience. I knew I could teach a talented, motivated person to be a recruiter and I was tired of guessing if people were actually going to be successful. So, I enlisted the help of an industrial psychologist to develop a methodology for choosing recruiters with the most probability for success. First, we had to figure what specific qualities to look for. This ended up being one of the most enlightening processes of my career. The psychologist’s team ran a series of tests to refine the characteristics that made top performers tick. We learned that in a fast-paced, high volume, technical environment self-confidence, flexibility and the ability to stay focused were the top three traits that our best recruiters had in common.

Working with the psychologist proved priceless.  Together, we developed a schedule for our interview teams to follow and each person on the team knew their role. We created interview score cards and outlined behavioral interview questions to each of the traits making our roundtable sessions efficient and decisive. In just weeks we improved our interviewing techniques and as a result began hiring people that stayed longer and produced more.

The system and the science worked. I still firmly believe that self-confidence, flexibility, and focus are the top quantifiable traits that best forecast the potential success of a professional recruiter. But there’s something that has continued to bother me, something that makes a great recruiter that I’m not sure you can learn or even test. I’ve been trying to put this into words, and during this meeting it came to me.

The best recruiters I’ve worked with can identify with with the behavior, intentions, attitudes, and feelings of their contacts.  They have the ability to recognize, review, and manage their own emotions and use this information to guide their actions. Top performers develop a finely tuned analytical engine that’s continuously processing information to find an optimal solution. Finally, they have the ability to identify and control their emotions and solve problems without being overwhelmed with massive amounts of information.

Hiring a great recruiter is as important as ever. As the economy continues to grow, talent will become harder to attract and hire. Hiring a recruiter for their connections or because they have been a recruiter for decades should come second to looking for the candidate with the right traits. A great recruiter will have the self-confidence to become productive almost immediately, the flexibility to be successful in a changing environment, and the ability to focus on getting the job done at all costs. While it may be difficult to determine whether or not a recruiter will ultimately have the mind set to improve their performance, it is well within reason to assume that you can determine whether they are empathetic and have a fair amount of self control. Remember, great people attract great people. You have every reason to take the time to hire a great recruiter.


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