Three Ways to Be a Rock Star Recruiter

Mar 25, 2008

I’m sure you read “Top 10 Indications That You Are a Dinosaur (Old-School) Recruiter.” Sullivan is correct when he reminds us that change is a constant in our profession and that we must change with the times or fade away.

But as I read that article I thought, I’m not that old yet! Well, time to start a blog. Then the strangest thing happened. Someone else wrote another article that said just the opposite! Howard Adamsky’s view on “Recruiting, Innovation, and Thinking Differently” left me pondering which approach would suit me best.

Certainly, both Sullivan and Adamsky have created a very interesting juxtaposition. At January’s meeting of the Arizona Professional Recruiters Association, almost 100 recruiters from all over Phoenix showed up to hear several tenured recruiters present their opinions on the subject.

One thing was immediately clear: Not one recruiter in the building had yet hired someone they met on MySpace. Now, I’m not saying MySpace isn’t a reasonable tool to help find people. I just question how much time and effort you would have to put in to get one hire.

Any recruiter who relies on any one set of tools is doomed to fail. I’ve recruited for large companies, small companies, and those in between. Give me a phone, a pen, a pad of paper and an Internet connection, and I’ll find you hard-to-find people. I’m able to do this not because I have a blog, but because I dig under stones and find people who no one else has.

The best recruiters I have ever worked with have a knack for finding names, hidden sources, getting referrals, and making things happen. ZoomInfo is a fantastic tool if you have the gumption to use it right. ZoomInfo lists just about every CEO and every other executive officer at every company in its database. How many of those people have you called? If you called 50 CEOs and could creatively build a relationship with a few of them, how many referrals could you get? And how many of those CEOs might think, wow, I want this recruiter to work for me!

There is a simple solution to the problem of the best way to find candidates, and it does not (yet) require all of the new gadgets cited by these experts. If you are a good recruiter, if your CEO loves you, if your numbers show that you fill lots of positions and your hires stick around, you did it because you had a large bag of tricks to draw on. You knew that, even though you posted the job and got a few good resumes, you still had to search for more. That’s where your bag of tricks comes in.

If I were to drop all of the techniques that have made me successful and switch to just new technological tools, I would fail. My number of hires would plummet.

To be a “rock star” recruiter, you have to do three things:

  1. You have to be able to build a relationship with a stranger. You can practice this anywhere. Try getting into a reasonable discussion with someone in an elevator or in line at a sandwich shop. See what you can learn about them. Make some judgment calls and probe lightly with an open-ended comment and I’ll bet you that you can strike a nerve and get them interested in talking to you. Tactfully manipulate the conversation in a way that gets you the information you want. Who knows: you could be talking to a dot-net developer at the software company across the street. After all, they eat lunch at the same place you do!
  2. You have to be good at selling. You’re not selling vacuum cleaners or water filtration systems. You’re selling a new way of life. If you have a candidate interested in talking to you, you have let them know that your motivation is to be their advocate. After all, it makes no sense to get someone into a job only to have them find out you sold them a bill of goods. Besides, I want their referrals. Conversely, never oversell a candidate to a manager.
  3. You have to have the knack of finding hard-to-find people. In any given year, you have several types of hires including slam-dunks, referrals, and direct responses. But to be a rock star recruiter, you must have some hard-to-find hires. These are the passive candidates who were not even looking for a new job. You might have seen their names in the paper, read articles or white papers they wrote, come across a quote from them on a product?who knows. You might even have found them using some of the newest technology. But no matter what, to be a 100K+ recruiter, you have to be good at turning over stones.

Successful recruiting is just that simple. You are a recruiter. You have a bag of tricks. Some recruiters do just enough to get by. Others go beyond and use all the new tools and gadgets. Still others rely on tried-and-true methods that work (and effectively at that!).

I propose that before we jump on a bandwagon, or conversely, ignore it totally, we realize that the answer is somewhere in the middle. You just might get your next hire from MySpace after all.

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