Behavioral Styles and Recruiting: Understand the First and You’ll Excel at the Second

So many articles are written in what’s are called “tip” format ó “10 ways to do this” or “8 ways to be a better that.” These articles can be very helpful at times because they give you a takeaway: a fix perhaps or a different methodology that can be used immediately. Unfortunately, the results are often not what the reader had hoped they would be. One reason for this disappointing outcome is that tips articles do not address the deeper issues relating to behavioral style. One size will never fit all in the delicate arena of recruiting. But if you take the time necessary to look at what is really going on below the surface, you will get a better understanding of why people act or react as they do, and as a result you’ll become more successful in dealing with them. You will also be a more effective recruiter who, as an added bonus, will live with less stress. Recruiting is not an easy job. Consider this:

  • Recruiters are in the service business. This means they have to satisfy the needs of a myriad of different types or personalities, politics, and relationships.
  • Recruiting is a high-touch business. Having good people skills is critical. We touch hiring managers, candidates, and other recruiters regularly in order to meet our objectives.

With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that different ideas, methodologies, and styles of delivery will be met with varying results from different hiring managers and even peers. All of the people we deal with, including ourselves, have different behavioral styles. Naturally there are endless permutations of these styles, but for the most part behavioral patterns can be broken down into four distinct styles. As you’ll see, the differences between the following four basic behavioral styles are profound:

  1. The analytical: These types do a lot of questioning in order to gather endless facts and are not highly emotive (ever see a CFO dance on their desk?). They tend to be reserved, love data in any form, and move cautiously. They react poorly to pressure and take lots of time to make decisions.
  2. The amiable: These types also do a lot of asking. They are a bit more emotive and are very concerned with relationships, harmony, and consensus. They are rarely confrontational.
  3. The driver: These individuals are in-your-face types who will tell you exactly what’s on their mind. They are direct. They focus on results, look at outcomes, have little patience for more than one or two questions, and are not afraid to step on toes.
  4. The expressive: This person is also a teller. They do not ask a lot of questions, but they are highly emotive. They tell stories, try to build on your ideas, and are very concerned about relationships and people-related issues.

Life is, of course, not as simple as being able to plug each person you meet into one of the above mentioned styles. All of us have different traits that make up our own style, and no one really lives in only one style exclusively. But your question now is, “How will all this make me a better recruiter?” The answer is simple. We would all be more effective if we had at least a cursory understanding of the four behavioral patterns, what they mean, and how to deal with people who fit them most effectively. With this in mind, let’s look at an example of how each of these behavioral types might react to a given scenario. Let’s assume that you have discovered a way to save $3 million by developing a more effective employee referral program. How would each of the behavioral styles react upon presentation of the idea?

  • The analytical will ask 300 questions. Answering all of them will do you no good, because each answer will lead to more questions. The analytical seldom has enough data.
  • The amiable will be pleased to hear your idea, ask a few questions, tell you they will get back to you, and put your idea on a to-do list. They might even create a committee to see how everyone feels about the new idea.
  • The driver will ask why you did not implement the idea three days ago. You can never move fast enough to satisfy the driver. “Great idea, let’s get it done by lunch” is their style. Don’t bore them with the details.
  • The expressive will have a lot to say so grab a chair. They can get a bit emotional, very excited, and attempt to make creative adjustments to the program as they talk about how it will affect relationships.

With this in mind, you can see that you must alter your approach with each behavior style to be able to do your job with greater ease and effectiveness. Note too that people are pretty much entrenched in their styles, so I suggest that you do not try to change them. If cornered, they react badly, and that is never conducive for building relationships. Also, it is worth mentioning that the greatest conflict arises comes from mixing the “tellers” with the “askers” (an expressive and an analytical, for example). Armed with this knowledge and using the same employee referral program mentioned above, I suggest you do the following when you wish to have this knowledge of behavioral styles work to your advantage:

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  • Start off by understanding that behavioral styles are an observation of how people act, react, get things done, and like to be approached in the workplace. They are not a sign of intelligence. No style is better or worse than the other.
  • Take a good look at your own behavioral style. This is the first step in figuring out how to be more effective with others. For example, as a driver/expressive, I used to do miserably with analyticals.
  • Keep this information in mind when, for example, presenting candidates to hiring managers or customizing sourcing or capture programs for different hiring managers. We know that as a group, engineers are different than sales execs. Show me a sales exec who is an analytical and I will show you a sales exec who is not making quota. That’s not profiling; it’s just a simple fact of life.
  • Adjust your style when dealing with different groups. Take a bit more time to listen and identify the behavioral type with which you are dealing, and make subtle adjustments. This is easier than you think. It will become second nature to you before long. Aligning with the style of the person in front of you will result in better communication, a reduction in conflict, and better relationships.

Now let’s look at the four different behavioral types and see how best to approach them and make them feel at ease:

  • The analytic: Take it nice and easy. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Have a graph, chart, or spreadsheet ready to hand them. They love to have a hard copy of something to pore over and review. Try to let them know that you are moving forward with your idea, program, or whatever else it is based upon facts and analysis (assuming you did this of course). Do not wait for them to make a decision because it might be a very long wait.
  • The amiable: Be prepared once again for a good deal of questions. Before approaching them, build a base of support from the parties involved and present the idea in company of these people if possible. This will make the amiable feel comfortable and assured that no relationships are damaged. Once again, do not seek permission.
  • The driver: Let the driver talk. Usher them into a conference room away from interruptions. Remain calm and free of emotion. Assure the driver that you are moving ahead as soon as possible. Spare them the details.
  • The expressive: Focus on the plan and the benefits. Be sure to let the expressive talk and tell you what they are feeling. Listen to their suggestions and incorporate some if they genuinely make the plan better. Be sure to address the issues relating to people, and be sure they know that you have given the program a lot of thought and consideration. Do not shut the expressive down. They need to feel as though they have been heard.

Please be advised that this is not a methodology for manipulating people. It is simply a way of understanding that different behavioral types are more likely to play ball if you can relate to how they operate based upon an understanding of what makes them tick. Understanding behavioral style will make everything from presenting candidates to getting feedback to scheduling more interviews to closing deals a smoother road.

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 if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


5 Comments on “Behavioral Styles and Recruiting: Understand the First and You’ll Excel at the Second

  1. Howard, congratulations on an excellent article. I am a big believer in exactly what you are describing – you have to give people information in a way that best suits their style. The more you understand styles, the easier it is to adapt your style to accomodate that of others to get the job done.
    Can you suggest other sources of information? (No, I am not an analytic but I am an amiable!)
    I’d also be interested in a discussion of how behavioral styles relate to Meyers-Briggs scores.

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    It’s like a handy ‘1 Page Cheat Sheet’ for the ‘Predictive Index Behavioral Model’ (TM) for ‘In The Trenches’ usage by *Fearless Recruiters* coming to a telephone near you!


    Eric Nunes
    Organon Pharmaceuticals, USA
    Direct: 973-324-6941
    Toll Free: 800-835-6212 x 6941

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  3. I found this article informative. As Humans, we all need everything neatly defined and labeled.
    To more simply define business personalities into 4 categories is helpful for understanding relationships. I am a combinationa of all 4, at different times. what I would like to know is how to relate to these 4 types in the recruiting process under these and other circumstance.
    1 cold call for new clients
    2 negotiate and close a Recruiting Contract.
    3 sending quality candidates and setting up interviews.
    4 Facilitating and Closing the hire.

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  4. Great! I learned this from Marketing Institute of Singapore. And now I knew where it came from.
    Thank you very much

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