(Editor’s note: With so many new ERE members coming on all the time, we thought that each week we’d republish one popular classic post. Here’s one, below.)
When I attend career fairs, hiring conferences, recruiting events, or through conversations with prospective candidates, I keep learning that the wrong people are attending these events and working as recruiters. As I walked the room at a recent career fair, prior to the event starting, I sought to introduce myself to some of the other company representatives. I was surprised that many of them were unable to communicate at a level that would properly represent their company.
The behavior I witnessed at this event and many others is predictive of how these recruiters behave in the office and how they represent their company through other communication tools such as social media. Later as the candidates flowed into the fair to meet the companies, I witnessed these individuals sitting behind their tables, eating food, talking on cell phones, and displaying body language that suggested they didn’t want to be bothered.
Fortunately, I witnessed several individuals that did exhibit proper career fair behavior and strong recruiting traits. They were the ones that had long lines of candidates and also the ones whose companies are always recognized as recruiting industry leaders. The difference in success was clear.
We can all gain market intelligence by speaking with prospective candidates and finding out where they have applied, who they have interviewed with, and what their experiences have been like. Some of the experiences that I have heard are horrific, yet not surprising. So why do HR and recruiting leaders continually hire or put the wrong people into recruiting positions? I don’t get it.
Each year there are new tools, technologies, and platforms developed to help take “recruiting to the next level,” as the cliche goes. The problem is, all of these wonderful breakthroughs can be fruitless due to inadequate operator behavior. Moreover, if companies and organizations really want to eliminate or lower their agency recruiting spending, then start hiring similar profiles and not promoting an individual out of customer service or demoting someone from another department and sending them to recruit.
Regardless of where your next recruiter comes from, I have developed some essential skills, traits, and qualities that successful recruiters should possess. Aside from the regular “good communication, ability to work hard, team player” skills that everyone wants — here are a few of the most important must haves:
- Strong sales skills — if you haven’t figured it out by now, recruiting is sales. If you disagree, you are in the wrong business. Not only do recruiters need to sell their clients (internal or external), but they need to sell candidates on opportunities and be able to articulate why company X is an employer of choice and why a particular opportunity is not just a great opportunity, but how it is the opportunity of a lifetime.
- Ability to cultivate and build relationships — anyone can pull a name out of a database and place a call. It’s another thing to actually cultivate and build relationships with the candidates we recruit. Perhaps knowing a little about what makes them tick, what their hobbies are, engaging in a conversation rather than just following a script, etc. Social media, smart phones, and other communication platforms have built bridges straight into our personal lives. By creating a more open, friendly, and communicative relationship with candidates, the candidate experience will increase, making the recruiter and company stand out professionally and as an employer of choice.
- Hunter’s mentality — there are so many ways to source for talent these days. There is an abundance of sites, networks, tools, and platforms all built in some fashion to make a recruiter’s life easier. But it is how each recruiter uses these tools that will make the difference. It all starts with the mentality of the individual. Recruiters are big-game hunters, and having the mindset to hunt and be relentless until the hunt is done is a priceless skill set. If a recruiter is going to sit at a desk, log in to Monster and keyword search all day — that is not the hunter mentality you want. You want someone who will use cold calling, social media, Boolean searches, networks, etc. in order to find the strongest and most-qualified individuals.
- Big-picture thinking — simply focusing on single searches each day is great, but having the ability to see how candidates can fit into an organization, the potential value they can bring, or even knowing where a superstar candidate could fit in, even if there is no immediate position available, is invaluable. Moreover, keeping an eye on future tools, technology, and best practices and knowing what is coming down the pipeline will keep your company well versed and competitive in a tough talent market.
- Strong follow-up skills — probably the #1 topic that irks me the most about recruiters – follow-up skills. How hard is it to return a call or an email — I will tell you that it is not hard at all nor does it take a severe amount of time to update a candidate, hiring manager, co-worker, etc. on events. I have heard all the horror stories of a recruiter (agency or corporate alike) calling someone frantically, building them up and setting them up to interview, only to never reach back out to the candidate again. All that does is breed negativity and it is not part of the relationship-building process what so ever.
- Listening — anyone else ever had the recruiter-talk-your-ear-off presentation about how great they are, the database they have access to, successful placements, etc.? Recruiters need to listen first and talk second. Recruiters must possess the uncanny ability to listen and take a proper job order. Too many recruiters run their traps to no end. It’s annoying.
- Consultative in nature — recruiting is a science and there are methods and processes. The majority of hiring managers need to be consulted on these procedures and processes in order to build long-term success and proper process flow. Good recruiters have the ability to advise and push back on their clients if need be. A good recruiter will act as a trusted advisor for their clients, and in return, clients will respect and act on given advice.
- Personable and approachable — how many times do candidates call or meet a recruiter at a career fair and they are nervous on the other line or on the other side of the table. I love taking an approach opposite that which a majority of other recruiters take. I answer my phone calls and return emails. People will call me and are surprised that I even answered my phone. They are even more surprised that I am in a good mood, ask them how they are doing, thank them for their call, and take one minute of my time to let them introduce themselves and follow up with me. My mother always told me that I could catch more bees with honey than I can with vinegar.
There will be people reading this that say they don’t have the time to return calls or emails, that they can’t talk to everyone at a career fair, that their clients are too tough to work with — and to me they are all excuses. No one is perfect. I have probably missed an email or call in my time; however, we can all make a better effort to be better recruiters.
The next time you are reviewing your analytics and you see a high time-to-fill number or whatever data is important to you — put the brakes on and see if what you really need to do is recalibrate your recruiting team and get the right people on board first.