Comparing the Competencies Between a “RINO” and an Exceptional Recruiter

Jun 3, 2013

Recruiting is a unique field because it has no entry barriers. Unlike most professions, you can become a corporate recruiter without any formal certification, registration, recruiting experience, or even a college degree in the discipline. Because becoming a recruiter requires no formal qualifications, you probably won’t be surprised to find out that in practice, there is a wide variation in the capabilities of individuals who hold the corporate title of “recruiter.” Many corporate recruiters are truly outstanding, but unfortunately in some corporations, many other recruiters can only be classified as what I call a “Recruiter In Name Only” or a RINO (pronounced as rhino).

In many cases, you can’t blame the recruiters themselves because there are no published standards that would tell an individual recruiter whether they met high recruiter standards, or alternatively, if they were really only a RINO who spends most of their time on administrative tasks. I have high admiration for professional recruiters, but at the same time I admit that I have some level of disdain for those who masquerade as recruiters. It’s not that their administrative work isn’t important, it just doesn’t rise to the level where what they do should be called exceptional or even professional recruiting. So in order to clarify the distinction between the two types, I have put together a quick checklist of competencies to help hiring managers and recruiting leaders differentiate “real recruiters” from a RINO. Individual corporate recruiters can also use this checklist to guide their professional development and growth.

14 COMPETENCIES FOR IDENTIFYING a  R.I.N.O. (Recruiter In Name Only)

Corporate RINOs spend an inordinate amount of time on administrative tasks that should be done by appropriately named recruiting coordinators. Exceptional recruiters should prioritize their time away from these RINO factors and instead toward the follow-up list of competencies and actions that identify exceptional recruiters. Some of the 14 differentiators that can be used to identify RINOs include:

RINOs focus on …

  1. An active candidate focus — they may spend nearly 100 percent of their time working with active candidates. Because these candidates are actively looking, “they will find you,” so most of the work involved is really sorting and verification, rather than the more difficult finding and convincing.
  2. An internal focus — a RINO recruiter is internally focused on knowing and following their own corporate recruiting processes. As a result of this 100 percent internal focus, they don’t research and analyze the recruiting approaches used by their talent competitors. That competitive analysis information could successfully be used to counter competitor recruiting actions.
  3. Cost conscious — RINOs focus on costs rather than increasing revenues or ROI. Their cost per hire approach pushes them to use the cheapest rather than the most effective recruiting sources, tools, and approaches that produce high-quality hires with a higher ROI.

How RINOs Spend Their Time

  1. Job posters and scrapers — active candidates can be easily attracted using newspaper ads, the corporate website, and major job boards. As a result, RINOs spend a significant percentage of their time writing job announcements, posting open jobs, and then harvesting the resulting active candidates. It doesn’t take any level of professional skill to get most of your hires from job boards.
  2. Requisition managers — pseudo-recruiters spend a good deal of their time creating requisitions and getting approvals for them. Unfortunately a requisition whether approved or not has nothing to do with actual recruiting. A RINO loves process, so these individuals certainly won’t start any recruiting effort without an approved requisition.
  3. Schedulers — even though scheduling can be better done by admin staff or on a scheduling website, RINOs allocate much of their time to scheduling interviews between managers and candidates. It makes them seem busy but scheduling is a waste of an exceptional recruiter’s time.
  4. Vendor managers — RINOs feel comfortable letting outsiders do their recruiting for them. And because managers like using third-party recruiters, RINOs do little to limit the use of this expensive external approach. As a result, they spend a significant percentage of their time managing vendors rather than actually recruiting and their costs.
  5. Offer-letter assemblers — understanding an individual candidate’s expectations are critical to successful closing. Unfortunately, RINOs are not experts in candidate closing so they restrict themselves to creating canned offer letters that are not designed to sell the candidate.
  6. Reference checkers — only occasionally does reference checking require an exceptional recruiter. In most cases RINOs only manage reference checking vendors or they make shallow reference checking calls that yield only positive results.
  7. They attend events looking for actives — RINOs spend a significant amount of time attending events like job fairs and campus career events that are created exclusively for active candidates. They may enjoy meeting people but the net result of this time-consuming approach are active candidate resumes that are probably already in the firm’s database.
  8. They sit in — RINOs love meetings, so they attend them at every opportunity. They also frequently look for opportunities to sit in on candidate interviews, even when they add no real value.

Other RINO Characteristics

  1. Use the same process every time — years ago research by AIRS uncovered the fact that most recruiters use the same exact hiring process for every job. RINOs are uncomfortable trying new approaches, so they literally use the exact same sourcing, screening, and interviewing process for every job (in some cases, over several years). This “one-size-fits-all” approach damages recruiting because success requires varying the approaches, tools, and sources so that they “match” the job family.
  2. No follow-up — after a hire has been completed, they “drop the hire over the wall” and consider their job to be done. They do not follow up in order to later determine the quality of hire and whether the hiring process that they used could be improved.
  3. Generalists are often RINOs — although there are obvious exceptions, in my experience, many HR generalists simply don’t have the aggressiveness, interest, or skill sets that are required to avoid earning a RINO designation. Some generalists rely on agencies to mask their lack of interest in recruiting.



Exceptional corporate recruiters can be identified because they produce high-quality hires in key jobs by spending most of their time doing things that hiring managers and RINOs can’t or won’t do. If you aspire to the highest level of professional recruiting, here is a list of the key identifying competencies and actions to look for:

Exceptional Recruiters Focus On …

  1. Rapid learning — the best single indicator of an exceptional recruiter is rapid learning and benchmarking. Rapid learning and benchmarking are absolute necessities because not only do the recruiting market and best practices change frequently but talent competitors are continually updating their recruiting practices. So exceptional recruiters are continuous self-directed rapid learners and avid daily readers of both business and recruiting information.
  2. Becoming a business expert — research has shown that the best HR people are businesspeople first, and the same is true in recruiting. As a result, the second most accurate identifier of an exceptional recruiter is their in-depth knowledge of the business, the product, customers, and the product competition. Without this business foundation, they cannot work effectively with hiring managers or top prospects.
  3. A sourcing focus on not-actives — rather than sourcing the easy-to-find and sell active candidates, they instead focus their sourcing activities on identifying and convincing the top currently employed individuals to become candidates at their firm. Incidentally, they don’t call them passives because they realize that these prospects are almost always quite aggressive and demanding. Not-actives may be interested in future external opportunities but they must be approached first.
  4. A focus on selling and relationship building — exceptional recruiters realize that even if great sourcing or a strong employer brand brings in top-quality candidates, they know that the best candidates still have multiple job choices (including staying at their current employer). So these recruiters build their selling skills and focus on building relationships that allow them to build trust, identify, a candidate’s job acceptance criteria, and then sell top prospects on applying for and accepting a job.
  5. They prioritize jobs and candidates — the best realize that all hires don’t have an equal business impact. And as a result, exceptional recruiters prioritize and focus on high-impact candidates and the highest-impact jobs (i.e. mission-critical jobs, revenue-generating jobs, and hard-to-fill jobs) that require the highest level of recruiting skills. They never prioritize recruiting based solely on the date of the requisition.
  6. A focus on diversity — they understand the added business impact of diverse hires, so they develop skills and best practices to identify and sell diverse candidates. As a result, their hiring managers find diverse candidates in every candidate slate.

How Exceptional Recruiters Spend Their Time

  1. Direct sourcing — a primary indicator of an exceptional recruiter is the percentage of their hires who come from direct sourcing. Because they are primarily targeting currently employed individuals who are not in the job market, they realize that none of their prospects will apply to an open job nor will they have an updated resume. Direct sourcing approaches, which includes finding and evaluating a prospect’s work online, searching LinkedIn and social media profiles, proactively seeking out employee referrals, and even cold calling. Obviously direct sourcing requires advanced relationship-building and selling skills that most recruiters simply don’t have.
  2. Identifying not-obvious prospects — although every recruiter sorts through resumes, when exceptional recruiters sort through resumes, they find the hidden or “not-obvious” prospects who everyone else misses. They look beyond the obvious job titles, degrees, and experience that top firms to find the highly qualified that others have overlooked. They also excel in selling skeptical hiring managers to the point where they will agree to interview these “not-obvious” candidates.
  3. Building a candidate pipeline — rather than waiting for a requisition to open, exceptional recruiters are continuously recruiting. They are forward-looking and proactive, which requires them to be continually sourcing and selling top prospects for future openings. They don’t require a resume in order to begin recruiting a top prospect, and they also proactively alert hiring managers of sudden talent opportunities, even when there is no open requisition to fit the prospect. Exceptional recruiters also coach top-quality candidates who were not hired in order to maintain their interest and to place them at a later date. They also excel at convincing skeptical hiring managers to consider someone who has already been rejected by another manager.
  4. Identifying and using the best sources — exceptional recruiters use current data to identify the most effective sources for a particular job family (i.e. referrals, boomerangs, social media, etc.) and then they use the most effective sources exclusively.
  5. Using the best communications approaches — exceptional recruiters identify the communications and messaging preferences of those who they are trying to recruit. As a result, they vary their communications tools and approaches (i.e. mobile phone, text, video, social media etc.) so that they match the preferences of their target prospects and candidates.
  6. Quality-of-hire follow-up — exceptional recruiters know that without metrics, you can improve. So after a hire is completed, they follow up to track the performance and retention rates of their new hires. They use that information and data to improve their own hiring approach. They also know the negative impact of a bad hiring experience so they periodically assess the satisfaction levels of the hiring managers and candidates who they work with. They also conduct a failure analysis after all major recruiting failures.
  7. Hiring manager coaching — they use data to convince and coach hiring managers that they work with so that the hiring manager will also continually improve both their approach and their results.
  8. Global recruiting — while RINOs only have U.S. recruiting capabilities, exceptional recruiters find the best talent everywhere in the world and include them in their candidate slates. When appropriate, the best recruiters convince hiring managers to allow global and high-impact candidates who won’t relocate to work remotely.
  9. Expedited recruiting — exceptional recruiters realize that top candidates will get multiple offers, and as a result, they are likely to be in the job market for only a short period of time. So they develop the capability of rapid hiring when it is needed to land a quality candidate who has another compelling offer.

Additional Exceptional Recruiter Characteristics

  1. They become visible experts — exceptional recruiters realize the importance of building a personal brand, because they know that many top prospects will conduct a personal assessment on them before proceeding. As a result, they proactively make their recruiting and business expertise visible on social media including LinkedIn, as well as through their own blog, through speaking and writing articles, and through instructional YouTube videos.
  2. They convince recruiting leaders — in addition to doing their recruiting job, exceptional recruiters help their leaders build effective business cases for additional funding. They also help to convince their leaders to fund the latest recruiting technologies/tools and to adopt effective recruiting metrics.
  3. Beyond recruiting — the very best recruiters realize that the recruiting function doesn’t work in isolation, so they work closely with other related talent functions (including onboarding, retention, employer branding, professional communities, and compensation) in order to improve and integrate the entire talent management process.
  4. They don’t get caught up with fads — recruiting has its share of fads, some good and some not so good (i.e. Friendster, Jobster, Facebook, Tweetajob, MySpace, etc.). As a result, exceptional recruiters try new things but they quickly use data to sort out “what works” from what happens to be popular at the moment.


Moving beyond competency assessment, recruiting leaders should also consider that in my experience, the output assessment of individual recruiters is almost universally weak across all major corporations. The time for excuses has passed and before the next recruiting boom gets underway, every recruiting leader should begin planning and taking steps to develop a standard scorecard for assessing the performance and outputs of individual recruiters.

I have provided a possible competency assessment checklist here, but in my follow-up article that will be published on on 6/10/13, I will also provide a sample of an individual recruiter scorecard that can be used to assess individual recruiter performance.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who aspires to be a professional to continually assess themselves against a set of competency standards. Whether you use the two competency checklists that I have created or if you choose to develop your own, individual recruiters need to at least once a year assess whether they are moving towards becomin exceptional or slipping into a RINO role. Recruiting managers can use these competency checklists to assess their current recruiters or for hiring new ones.