What Are the Qualities a Recruiter REALLY Needs to Have?

My LinkedIn timeline is overrun with people complaining about how terrible a recent transaction has been with a recruiter. I mean, every other post is someone venting in front of the world that they had a terrible encounter with a recruiter.

WE GET IT. Falling slightly behind politics and people that can’t park well, it’s the third most annoying thing in my world. Yes, there are a ton of recruiters out there that give the top 10 percent out there a very bad name.

Think about it: there are zero barriers to entry into the profession. It’s not like anyone goes to college to major in “Recruiting.” Most staffing firms will hire a handful of college grads and just see who survives the cut of micromanaging metrics.

It’s basically like throwing someone out of a helicopter into the ocean a mile offshore and seeing if they can make it back to shore alive.

The key qualities that recruiters need to have

There are very few certifications for recruiting either, and even the ones there are, honestly, are not too hard to get. If you have the cash and a weekend to spare, you’re certified! I have learned the same things via Google and YouTube and didn’t have to pay money to have some alphabets behind my name.

So to recap — yes, there are a ton of very bad recruiters out there.

If you have ever been a manager of recruiting, you had to recruit recruiters, and your future (and sanity) is on the line to make sure that you hire the right recruiters for you organization or on your particular team.

Most recruiters are good communicators and know all the right things to say, but you would be surprised how many still do not. Most know how to talk the talk but you need to figure out can they walk the walk? I have seen far too many times when managers will simply look at the tools they have used, the metrics they had in their previous role, etc.

Just look at the job descriptions for recruiters. The first 4-5 bullet points are just about years of experience, recruiting in a certain space, did you use this specific ATS, or hold a certain metric, blah, blah, blah. This is not to say that you should not at least look at these things, but metrics can change a lot from org to org.

Also, the ATS or tools they have used are things that can be taught very quickly. I have been a part of several ATS implementations, and it’s not rocket science as long as you get in there and start using it.

But when it comes to hiring a recruiter, here are a few key qualities to zero in on that will increase your percentage that you are hiring and landing someone that will make you look like a great manager.

1 – Curiosity

I have yet to find a truly successful recruiter that isn’t curious about what they do.

I know the term “successful” is not a true, defined term. To be curious means that you have an internal catalyst that makes you want to be better, and that you make an extra effort to learn your industry.

Recruiting is not a 9-to-5 job. Curiosity goes well beyond trying to just learn new things about just recruiting. I’m not a technical guy, but I have read books on UX, content strategy, and watched numerous hours of YouTube hours how API’s, Javascript, UI/UX work. Last year, I even got an AWS certification because that is a sandbox that I play in and I wanted to be able to speak more intelligently about the subject.

If you aren’t curious of what you are recruiting on, you’re just going to fall short. You have to commit yourself. If it’s not an interest of yours, you are in the wrong line of work. Go do something else.

2 – Likability

OK, this one may get beaten up a bit because not all organizations need this exact style. Some orgs are really large and recruiters don’t meet a lot of people face to face and just need someone that can drive process and keep things moving.

But ever seen the movie The Internship? Who is the person that you would rather spend five hours in an airport with during a layover? If you are a smaller org that meets a lot of candidates face-to-face, they have to pass the likability test.

It’s all about your gut instinct when you meet a person for the first time that makes you think, “Yes, I really liked that person.” Outside of what they think they know about your company’s “brand,” in that initial meeting or phone call, you ARE the face of the company and what they will now think of as that company’s brand. They have to be likable which leads into the next important quality — trust.

3 – Trust

When making a job move, candidates are changing their compensation, where they commute, the environment they live in, and many other important factors. Their family is making a huge change in their daily routine.

If a candidate thinks you are just pitching smoking mirrors with them, you’re not landing them. You have to be honest. You have to also be willing to show them the negative aspects to paint the entire picture.

Showing the negative is not always a bad thing. The realization of knowing what you don’t do well, and how you are fixing it, is very powerful. If a company doesn’t know what they are doing wrong, they will never fix it. It takes a smart organization to realize their deficiencies and that they are making strides to fix things.

A good recruiter knows how to actually listen and process what someone is saying. What are their top needs in a new role, and can you make sure that your company can honestly fix their current situation? I love asking the question, “On a scale of 1-10, where are you with happiness of your current role?” Whatever they answer, what would make it a 10?

Really dig to figure out exactly what they want in a role. If they had to write their own job description, what would it look like? If your organization can’t provide what they need, be honest about it and move on because it will come out eventually.

Remember: It’s always easier to be honest and transparent.

4 – Authenticity

You gotta be you! This should probably be the No. 1 key quality, but these are in no particular order.

People do not want to interact with a robot that is reading a script. When you have a level of authenticity, selling your brand comes natural and candidates can feel that. Write an email like you are having a conversation with a friend. You don’t have to be so damn formal all the time.

The question around “Do I mix personal with professional on social media?” comes up all the time. For Twitter, yes!! Candidates want to see that you are an authentic person that talks about the same things that they do.

At the end of the day, hiring recruiters can be a bit of a crap shoot. Generally more senior (and good) recruiters have a good “brand” of their own, and anyone that knows them will confirm that they are legit. But we are great communicators by nature and shocker, when we say the right things in the interview.

You need to focus on the intangibles. I really could care less if you have used our particular ATS. I can teach you that, but  I can’t teach you to have the curiosity and drive to be better and learn things on your own.

I know it is tough, though. It’s like watching the NFL combine. You can see on the outside some rough skills, but you can’t see how hard they are going to work or how great of a teammate they’re going to be. At the end of the day, try to capitalize on these things and could potentially lead to less headaches down the road.

Happy Hiring!

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Alan Henshaw is a Talent Acquisition Leader and wanna be nerd. He’s curious about Talent Acquisition/Operations by nature, and that drives him to think deeper around how we can all improve. Alan is also intrigued by how technology plays such a large role in our everyday lives and he loves learning how we can incorporate tech into recruiting seamlessly. Most importantly, he’s a Starbucks Gold Member and firm believer that iced coffee is the real key to success. You can follow Alan on Twitter @henshawsburgh or  connect with him on LinkedIn.




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Alan Henshaw is a Talent Acquisition Leader and wanna be nerd. He’s curious about Talent Acquisition/Operations by nature, and that drives him to think deeper around how we can all improve. Alan is also intrigued by how technology plays such a large role in our everyday lives and he loves learning how we can incorporate tech into recruiting seamlessly. Most importantly, he’s a Starbucks Gold Member and firm believer that iced coffee is the real key to success. You can follow Alan on Twitter @henshawsburgh or  connect with him on LinkedIn.

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