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The Difference Between a Regular Recruiter and a Rock Star

by
Tricia Folliero
Jun 20, 2012, 5:56 am ET

From working with recruiters for more than 20 years, I‘ve observed many styles and variations in their recruiting work habits. Some are hunters, some are farmers, and yes, some are clueless. But they all have the same goal: to make hires. I’ve seen some good practices that have been made apparent to me over the years.

Great recruiters don’t just automate the hiring process. They delve into it to find perfect candidates. And they are creative.

Suppose they are recruiting for an “application security analyst.” They search for the industry-related organizations or job certification-related organizations for the position, such as OWASP and CISM, and then search resume databases, LinkedIn, and ATS’s for places it is cited.

Amazing recruiters leave no stone unturned. When they search for a candidate and receive 100 resumes, they review every single resume, even after the position has been filled. That’s because an amazing recruiter knows that these resumes can be used for other positions.

Rock star recruiters learn to partner with their hiring managers and understand their business. They pick up on the lingo, talk the talk, and eventually sound like experts in the field. When they hire, let’s say, a journalist, candidates should believe the recruiter is a former journalist. When they hire an engineer, they should understand the skillset and computer applications needed. It’s that depth of information that should be acquired.

Extraordinary recruiters also learn about their company’s competitors … who are they? What are their environments like? What is their status? Who’s on their staff? And they know how to find them.

Top-of-the-line recruiters keep conversation flowing at all times with their company’s managers, keeping them apprised of the status of their recruiting. It sounds easy, but many managers don’t ever receive an update until a hire is completed.

Recruiting mavens also learn to mentor, coach, and train their own junior staff. Letting your secrets out may go against normal thoughts of self-preservation, but the fact is, you should always spread the wealth. We all know what they say about how you treat people as you go up the ladder: they’ll probably be your boss in 10 years, so make sure you show them respect and share your experience and knowledge.

Great recruiters know that technology is their friend, and they develop and adapt HR tools for maximum usage (ATS, databases). They are also expert at setting up organizational systems to categorize and retrieve resumes. Use your technology!

Most importantly, kindness counts. Great recruiters send a custom reply from a template to everyone who replies from unsolicited direct sourcing contacts. They also try to make sure they exemplify and exude the corporate brand at every level of engagement.

Lastly, rock star recruiters truly engage candidates and elicit information; they know how to bond. They even take the time to distribute good resumes even when there are no current openings. Although I’ve met hundreds of recruiters over the years, there are only the few who constitute the “cream of the crop” and practice these principles  One is my recruiter friend Howard Horder, a true rock star who helped contribute to this post. Once the economy turns around, these few rock stars will be legends.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Mitch Sullivan

    I hate the term ‘Rock Star’ to describe high performers. I wish people wouldn’t use it. And when I say people, I mean Americans.

    I agree with everything you’ve said here, Tricia. Just need some clarification – are you talking about inhouse recruiters, agency recruiters or retained-search recruiters?

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  3. Tom Gimbel

    Some of the best recruiters I’ve had shared these characteristics. They had the drive to learn, to be better at their job and they knew exactly how to go about it. Great recruiters over communicate with their candidates and clients, they read books about the industries that they are staffing and they learn every day from their candidates.

    I would add another factor that separates good recruiters from great….their ability to see the bigger picture. I explain more in my blog post: http://pastfive.typepad.com/pastfive/2012/05/advice-for-recruiters-remove-the-blinders.html

  4. Howard Adamsky

    Excellent article. Gives us all something to think about and consider.

    So good to see you adding to the conversation.

  5. Tricia Folliero

    Thanks for the kind comments!! Mitch–I apologize for using a word you hate. I usually use overachiever, but it loses its effect over time…

    And regarding your question, I wrote this from the prospective of anyone who recruits.

  6. Stephen Turnock

    Good post Tricia. I guess there are bad recruiters and good recruiters. Good ones do all of the above. As a recruitment business I would only add that the process and candidate experience doesn’t stop when a placement is made. Whether a contract job, temp or permanent position we keep in contact throughout. And of those placements they are also future placements down the line, candidates are future clients and today that means they are part of our network and part of the ongoing conversation. Well i’m no rock star. More a purveyor of fine people futures!

  7. Tricia Folliero

    Yes Stephen – that is a great point. Keeping your eye on the bigger picture (future placements) instead of just trying for the “quick sale” is crucial to longevity/success in your field and keeping your brand as a great recruiter intact!

  8. Paul Tseko

    While I truly enjoy having my ego massaged (yes, I am a rock star!), I notice that this, and many articles like it, are written by those who are “working with recruiters for more than 20 years” and not actual recruiters. It would be more refreshing to see some of our true colleagues step up and write these articles (do you really want me to do it?!?!)

    “Rock star recruiters learn to partner with their hiring managers and understand their business. They pick up on the lingo, talk the talk, and eventually sound like experts in the field. When they hire, let’s say, a journalist, candidates should believe the recruiter is a former journalist. When they hire an engineer, they should understand the skillset and computer applications needed. It’s that depth of information that should be acquired.”

    Wrong, Tricia. What you mention is recruiting 101 and my most junior recruiters are taught this, and most will never be rock stars. This is one of many steps in what it TAKES to be a rock star; NOT what a rock star is.

    Thanks for the pat on the back, though!

  9. Tricia Folliero

    Thank you for your suggestions Paul! I appreciate your comments and look forward to seeing any additions you care to add to the column.

  10. Kristy Jones

    HI Tricia
    You are right on with this article, great job!
    Kristy

  11. Keith Halperin

    @ Tom:
    “I would add another factor that separates good recruiters from great….their ability to see the bigger picture.” and not get fired for soing so….

    -kh

  12. Tricia Folliero

    Thanks Kristy! And I totally agree, Keith.

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  14. Mitch Cardoza

    Great article! But where do the Rock Star recruiters live? Like Rock Stars- they live in “MTV Crib Mansions” AKA Best-in-Class organizations that allow them to be creative and have the resources to put their talents to work. We all know of organizations that beat recruiters over their heads with metrics…how many calls, connects, presentations…sure, that is part of the game in the agency, staffing and corporate HR world but if you “Live by The Matrix- You’ll Die in The Matrix” -quote me. Give great recruiters the tools… and enough freedom to brand themselves, your organization AND to be All Knowing Oracles within your Talent Excellence organization.

  15. Tricia Folliero

    Good Point Mitch! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Jim Psaradellis

    Some great and some not so great comments about, and Trish your article comes from a good place.
    As a business owner and external recruiter for me a “rock star” is anyone who can hit their targets month in month out with minumal effort from repeat business (the ultimate complement of success) and I am blessed to have 4 people who are doing that for me at the moment.
    Real “rock stars” chat about everything but business with their clients and the business comes in on the end of that.
    In this economic environment it doesn’t matter who you are or who you know or how long you have been in the business, all that matters is that you have evolved to combine the skills that make clients buy in to you as a person.
    Kindness is a factor but I would say genuine care for your candidates and clients is something that seperates the good from the average – and that’s something you can’t teach!

  17. Tricia Folliero

    Thanks Jim. Your comments are right on target!

  18. Anne Weber

    Really inciteful blog post, Tricia!

    Here’s a link a blog post by Fred Clayton on a recruiter’s tips for hiring great people. Fred is the chief executive officer of Berkhemer Clayton, Inc., a retained executive search firm based in Los Angeles specializing in finance, corporate communications, marketing and general management.

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