Characteristics of the Craft

Mar 8, 2010

Picture 6Recruiting is clearly not for everyone. Its demands can be extraordinary and its customers unrealistic. Its candidates not entirely truthful and its reward often just the self-satisfied glow of a job well done.

By its very nature, recruiting often creates a sense of contrast and contradiction. Hiring managers want the perfect candidate for the lowest price; candidates want the perfect job for the highest price and the government attempts to legislate a fair and level playing filed. Stuck between these conflicting forces, egos, and politics, is the recruiter: a person who is charged with the overwhelming task of identifying, attracting, and hiring the people required to create a great organization. (What is a great organization?)

Here are a few characteristics required to successfully do this job?

  • A Strong Desire to Make Things Happen. Recruiting is a push business, and if you wait for things to happen, you will be sorry down the road. Hiring new employees is no easy task but if you press on and do what is required, you will be able to come into work and see the results of your efforts in the form of shinny new employees. If this type of satisfaction, born of seeing tangible results makes you smile, this is a very good sign.
  • Strong Nuanced Thinking. Seeing the world in black and white is dangerous. The shades of grey we miss are often where the real hiring decisions are made. Ever wonder why a perfect candidate does not get the job? Ever look at the candidate they finally hire and wonder why they made that choice? If so, I suggest that you step back look more deeply into the organization’s culture: its dynamics, politics, personalities, and long-term survivors. Learn to read between the lines and the smiles and the polite conversation. Hires do not arise from simply matching qualifications with requirements but from complex political, emotional reactions to a given candidate. Recruiting is a place where nuanced thinking can help you to be successful by understanding the real attributes managers want before they pull the trigger.
  • A Thick Skin. Recruiting is not for the faint of heart. Recruiting is not for those who wish to be loved. (If you want unconditional love, get a dog.) Recruiting is not for those who can’t manage conflict and/or ambiguity and/or stress. Recruiting is a contact sport whose rough and tumble playing field can leave us all with the occasional battered ego and feelings of self righteous indignation. If we are to be successful recruiters, we must be OK with that day in and day out type of a life while never giving in to cynicism or losing our sense of humor.
  • Political Savvy. This characteristic has always been my Achilles heel — my inability to relate to the politics. It is not that I did not understand them. It is simply that I did not care about them as much as I cared about doing my recruiting. I lived under the belief that if I did good work, everything would fall into place. Sadly, that viewpoint is naïve and I suggest that you do not make that same mistake. For us to be successful, we must know where the power lies, what is acceptable, what is not acceptable, and how to get the job done without stepping on the wrong people’s toes. I can tell you from experience those in power do not like being told they are wrong, especially when they are.
  • A Sense of Responsibility. Endless things can stand in the way of making a hire. Poor communication, compensation issues, unclear requirements — the list is endless. Successful recruiters will drive the process though any and all obstacles because they feel a sense of responsibility. They feel a sense of ownership for what must be accomplished as well as their specific role in its completion, because bottom line, you either make the hire or you don’t.
  • A Sense of Urgency. Always in a rush? So am I, and that characteristic creates results. Most of the great recruiters I know are not exactly patient people. They understand that deals have a shelf life and burning daylight will do nothing for your career, your hires, or your value to the organization. Take the time to know what is required, make your plan, and execute, because there are the quick and there are the dead. Being quick is a prized characteristic and dozing in your chair can get you wheeled out the door.
  • A Disdain for Bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is means-over-end while great recruiting is end-over-means. Personally, bureaucracy makes me crazy. Forms on desks waiting for a signatures (What do you mean she is traveling? Have someone else sign the damn thing…); compensation people to run numbers again; and diversity people to review who was and was not interviewed. (What do compensation people do all day?)

Other characteristics? I am sure there are, but it is 1:30 a.m. and I need to close a VP of sales for a startup tomorrow!

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