Characteristics of the Craft

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?

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  • 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!

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


17 Comments on “Characteristics of the Craft

  1. Howard- Thanks for sharing you ideas with me/ere community…

    “A Thick Skin. Recruiting is not for the faint of heart..” (TRUE… TRUE…)

    I have made @150 hires as a third party recruiter, and less than 3% were easy (counter offers, relocation, negotiation, etc)….

    If I can give one piece of advice to the community.. SERVICE FIRST (reciprocity) plus NEVER GIVE UP! (BUT, that is tough one for our narcistic, entitlement/suppressed society)

    Thank YOU for sharing..
    Best, Brian-

  2. I think the weight of the components of this mix vary greatly from environment (corporate, contract, contingency, retained, RPO) and culture (nimble vs. lumbering, dynamic vs.static, results-oriented vs. process-oriented, authoritarian vs. empowering, etc.) What Howard describes seems to fit a contingency environment and/or a results-oreinted culture.


  3. Keith:

    You think this article describes a recruiter in a “results oriented” culture? I thought all organizations were results oriented.

    Heaven help us if you are right.

  4. Hi Howard,

    Once again, you’ve nailed it!

    As I told you before, there’s always a desk for you here at The Ingenium Group.

    You are best and your acticles are always a pleasure to read.

    I have already added your article to our training library and will be sure that anyone considering a career in recruiting reads your article first.

    Thanks and be well,

    Mark Henry Saft

  5. Thanks, Howard. I’ve worked at a number over the years where the goal of recruiting was to following the recruiting processes, NOT to “get good butts quickly and affordably in chairs”. They ranged from startups to Global 1000 Companies,but were mainly large. I suspect many of our ERE members work for these companies, or ones just like them.

    Heaven may indeed help us, but “against stupidity (and bureaucracy) the gods themselves avail in vain.”



  6. Interesting paragraph on responsibility. I absolutely feel responsible for the roles I recruit on. However, my sense of responsibility often is referred to as “controlling” the process. Well, when I loosen the reigns in the process to show I don’t need complete control, then all hell breaks loose! 🙂 And I’m the one to blame when it goes wrong. That’s where the tough skin comes in! Great article.

  7. I love the rugby picture correlation! We are a special breed indeed. Thanks for reminding me why I am in this business and do what I do. Looking at the characteristics, as you have broken them down, gets me charged up! I know I am where I belong!

  8. Dawn – I try when I can to go out on the weekend or whenever and shoot some photos for the site (e.g. help-wanted signs and so on). But I really wanted a photo of a contact sport and couldn’t find one around, so I got that rugby photo from a state university. In retrospect I could have gone down to the karate place not far away …

  9. Keith, sadly, you are correct.

    Personally, I sense that so many recruiters are mediocre because they work for organizations that are mediocre. They learn status quo and bureaucracy and is a competitive world, that is a very debilitating experience.

    Kjell A. Nordström, the Swedish Economist said “anything and everything, that is close to average, is a bad idea.” He is right. What can be worse than being average?

  10. “What can be worse than being average? An easy one, Howard:
    NOT being average, or should I say: “not being like US”.


    Keith Halperin

  11. Great article Howard. I especially appreciate your ‘Thick Skin’ bullet point. There’s no room for sensitivity (the way you spin it) in Recruiting!

  12. Howard, I read with much enjoyment. I don’t know which characteristic I like the best; It has to be urgency. Damn Urgency, Bless Urgency. Give me URGENCY everytime!

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