10 Things You Can Do Today to Become a Better Recruiter

A few questions, if I may: Do hiring managers run screaming when they see you coming? Do they pray for death each time you drop another 50 or 60 resumes on their desk? Does the team you support break down into deep shuddering sobs each time you have been chosen to fill their openings? (Were you last to be chosen in a game of stickball as a kid? So was I.) Tell me folks, does this sound like your life in corporate America? If not, you must be doing something right. If so, I have just the fix to turn those tears into cheers and have them throwing rose petals at your feet each and every day. If you want to be the best recruiter you can be, loved by all whom you serve, adopt the following 10 precepts as part of your day-to-day recruiting efforts ó and you’ll be on your way to being your organization’s new darling.

  1. Be absolutely sure you really understand the hiring priorities of the organization(s) you represent. Do this by asking the hiring manager the following question, using these exact words: “What are your current priorities in terms of filling these positions?” Take notes and repeat back to the hiring manager what you think she said. Then race forward and put resources into trying to fill the highest priority positions first, the less important positions second, and the least important positions last. (Beware of the hiring manager who says they are all top priority. That may be true, but some positions are always more important than others, so press for clear priorities.)
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  3. Present fewer candidates on open requisitions, and be certain the ones you do present are magnificent candidates who clearly fit the position profile. Sadly, most hiring managers think that more resumes are indicative of something good. That’s flawed thinking. It can only be rectified by presenting a select number of the very best candidates. Throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping that some sticks is not good recruiting and does nothing for your credibility within the organization. But by presenting fewer but better candidates, you will impress your manager with a great hire ó and that’s far more effective than dropping twenty resumes a day on their desks for them to review. Remember, in the case of resumes, less is more.
  4. Work with the powers-that-be to create a highly visible, creative, easy-to-understand employee referral program. Be sure that your employee referral program rewards not just hires, but all activities that lead to a hire, such as presenting resumes. Be sure as well that the ERP is not just a few lines in an employee handbook that no one reads, but also a living, changing entity that constantly has a new temptation and twist for current employees (seasonal changes are great). Remember, ERPs very often generate some of the best candidates: candidates who come up to speed more quickly, stay longer, and are more productive than employees who come from more traditional sources.
  5. Be sure that you support, foster, and champion the notion that hiring managers always hire the best person for the job. Color does not matter, gender does not matter, and planet of origin does not matter. (Alright, planet of origin matters.) Talent is omnipotent, and hiring the best candidate is a rule that should never be compromised ó not for the boss’ daughter, someone’s brother-in-law, and not for diversity either. I do support diversity, but not at the cost of talent.
  6. Build relationships and get close to the people you recruit for. Learn what it is that hiring managers are really looking for in new employees. Position profiles and core competencies are a good start, but they are only the beginning. There is so much more. How many times have you had the “perfect” candidate rejected? It can be quite debilitating: you found the candidate you were instructed to find and that person was rejected. But talk with the team. Review their notes and their assessment of the candidate and look for areas you might have missed. If there is no solid reasoning behind the rejection, it’s time to meet with that hiring manager behind closed doors and see what she really wants. She will respect you for this action, and you will begin to understand what her agenda really is all about.
  7. Develop metrics to measure success and failure in different recruiting methodologies. Never worry about failures! The very act of identifying and eliminating them alone is a major success. Measure such things as source of hire, cost of acquisition, time to fill or anything else that might be important to your organization. Even if this is new to you, begin to track the numbers monthly and a pattern will emerge. Put more resources into what works and eliminate what does not. Simple as it sounds, this is a best practice. And employing best practices is, as Martha Stewart might say, a good thing.
  8. Be aggressive in identifying, attracting, and hiring the best candidates for your organization. Pussycat recruiting does not get the job done. Using only advertising (tons of resumes), agencies (expensive), job boards (lots of work with questionable ROI), or Internet postings (tons of resumes again) will probably not get you to the head of the class. Recruiting is a “take no prisoners” occupation. Don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers or step on some toes. You are there to bring in the best, and that can be a bit messy at times. You will be remembered and recognized by the hires for which you were responsible, so do what you can to make them great.
  9. Network constantly for those candidates who fly below the radar screen. Become an expert in research. Contact people who write articles, do trainings, run workshops, or are just celebrities in their field. Ask them who they know and be quiet. There will be a moment of awkward silence. Do not fill the silence with your words. Just remain quiet. Very often, the person you are networking with will come up with a name or two. Try to get permission to use that person’s name, so that it will be a warm call as opposed to a cold call. Of course, if this person forbids you from using his or her name, don’t use it under any circumstances! (If this sounds like an agency tactic, you’re right, it is. Agency people don’t get paid if they don’t produce, so their tactics are highly effective.)
  10. Grow your influence throughout your organization. The primary source of power for recruiters within the organization comes through influence. Many recruiters see this circumstance as unfavorable, but it is actually quite good! Anyone can tell a subordinate what to do. Most times, if the subordinate is not on board with the directive, he will not carry it out in the first place. However, if you can form relationships with key managers and become a trusted advisor to them, you can work together to identify and attract the very best talent out there and be as instrumental in building a great organization as any other person who is employed by the company. I think that’s a good deal of power. Besides, being part of building a great organization is a very solid accomplishment.
  11. Manage the candidate care aspect of the interviewing process. Everything from the first contact and the correct greeting to a time for lunch and a warm goodbye is critical to how candidates will remember their experience visiting your organization. Be fully prepared for each interview, and treat every candidate with courtesy, respect and good manners. Lead by example, and coach others in this most important undertaking. (For more details on this, see my article entitled, Make Believe they’re Coming to Your House.)

There are many other things you can do to make yourself a better recruiter who is more valuable to the organization you represent. Working with HR to institute workforce planning, coaching managers on interviewing skills, developing offers, closing candidates ó these are just a sampling of what can be done. But if you start with the ten items listed above, you are on your way to being appreciated for the fine work you do and recognized for the difficulties being good at what you do entails.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


9 Comments on “10 Things You Can Do Today to Become a Better Recruiter

  1. Your statement ‘I do support diversity, but not at the cost of talent.’ sounds reminiscent of comments such as ‘I do like black people but not at the cost of having one as a son in law’.

    Diversity recruiting is tougher – no doubt about it and it’s not getting easier. Yet,the number of recruiters who rather not recruit diverse individuals, at the cost of talent, are the majority and are bolstered by your comments.

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  2. Hi William:

    Thanks for your comment. I understand what you are saying and do not disagree.

    I did not mean to suggest that the organization take the path of least resistance when seeking out talent. I supported diversity long before most people even knew that it existed. I simply believe that in the end result, the best candidate should get the job. If a significant effort was not made to utilize diversity as a factor in the thought process and recruiting plan, than shame on that recruiter and shame on that organization.

    Few people support diversity more than I do both professionally and for the simple fact that it is the right thing to do.


    Howard Adamsky

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  3. This is probably one of the better articles I’ve seen on ERE. Most articles I’ve read by the so called experts, John & Lou, aren’t as good as this one. Howard is clear and direct with none of the bazzar terms and phrases used by others.

    Nice job Howard!

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  4. Great Article!

    I really can say that if Corporate HR would follow this program there would be a lot more successful hiring and a LOT more respect for the recruiting department in the business place.

    Good job, this should be posted on the bulletin board in every HR department!


    Keith Hampton
    Volt Techncial Services

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  5. Howard,
    Your article is clear and on target. You have provided a great outline for success. Recruiting takes effort but it does not have to be overly complicated.
    Thanks for a great article.

    Dave Shiner, SPHR

  6. Great article. The only addition I would suggest is to track the ratio of candidates forwarded to managers versus the number of interviews that get scheduled.

    If too many candidates are getting rejected, it’s time for the recruiter to talk to the manager to get a better understanding of what the manager wants.

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