Don’t Forget These 5 Recruiting Skills in the Social Recruiting Fervor

scared to askRecruiting, as many of us know it, has undergone a transformation in the last few years. In fact, there are recruiters coming in to the workforce now who only source within LinkedIn Recruiter, or who’ve never had to keep a physical (read: paper) file on a candidate. Some of the changes that have rocked our industry over the last six to eight years have been great ones. Some could use a keener eye, but I’m not here to criticize.

What I want to do is point to the things that haven’t changed; I want to talk about getting back to recruiting basics. Because not everyone can afford the fancy social recruiting suites and very few can veto the boss when he says no to a perks program. These are the skills that every recruiter should know and all recruiters used to know. These things obviously work with the new tools and platforms … but they’re effective without them. So let’s get back to the basics.

Here are five things not to forget in the social recruiting fervor.

  1. How to connect. Connecting has become something we can say we did at the click of a mouse, but it’s really much more than that. So many recruiters are sitting behind a screen all day that they’ve lost what drew many of us to the industry in the first place: the people! The recruiters of ye olde tymes went to user groups (physical ones, in buildings), hung out at college career fairs, went to networking receptions, and asked their neighbors if they knew anyone for a COBOL position. And the only reason people didn’t throw these recruiters right out on their hind ends was because they knew how to connect, how to figure out what someone liked or didn’t like, and size up a prospect by the way they behaved in a crowded room. Connecting, via phone or face-to-face, made so many recruiters simply stellar at their jobs. It still can. With all the data you receive on your target audience, how much do you know about your placements? Where’s the “social”? Today you can see the “connector” in a different way, that recruiter who goes the extra mile to make an introduction or walk the hiring manager through new technology. They’ve got skills.
  2. How to research. The new crop of recruiters may never believe this, but the Internet used to be hard. But we didn’t know it was hard. All we knew was that the person we needed was out there, somewhere, and we had to write a Boolean string (or something that looked like one) to find that person. Online certifications, resume databases, college graduation logs, business journals, tech journals, old school recruiters, and especially sourcers knew how to scour them all. Now unless a free service can boast at least a million profiles, we’re not even interested. The new crop of very sophisticated services out there not only find these people based on social bits of ephemera, they score them, deliver them and usually we even get a picture. But the irony is that you should still know how to research -why?- for the same reason the 49’rs headed into the hills when their companions were panning “fool’s gold” in the stream. If something is really precious, it’s not coming to you on a silver platter, you have to search. And with more sophisticated results, you have a better pool from which to search, keeping you one step ahead of the other guys.
  3. How to pitch. Before you could find out everything about a town online, down to the school’s Facebook page, people were far more reticent to move to far-flung or remote places. As a recruiter, if you were trying to sell someone on taking a job in Lenexa, Kansas, and they lived in Dayton, Ohio, it took actual pitching skills. Skills that would do Mad Men proud. You had to call in the Chamber of Commerce, pull school stats, show them the airport situation, and bring them out one, maybe two times for a visit. It was a long-tail sale, and recruiters did it just as well as anyone. But even when no move was involved, job seekers weren’t keen to move and risk company loyalty the way they are today. So convincing them that this move was right for them took a little psychology, some charm and a lot of information. Recruiters who retain this skill know when to use it to their advantage with the even-more-plentiful resources social media and a global Internet provide. Pitching serves pretty much every profession well, so today’s recruiter is probably tapping marketing to get some incredible employer branding.
  4. How to ask. Asking is sorely underrated these days. You probably thought I was going to say “How to sell,” which is still important but the “ask” is the part that seems to be fundamentally missing from the social cycle these days. We have calls to action and social selling; nurturing campaigns and inbound marketing … but sometimes people just want to be asked. All this beating around the bush isn’t speeding things up. Old school recruiters knew when to say “Are you in?” and the best ones knew exactly the answer they would get. While none of these sales-supporting endeavors are bad, when you don’t have the skill of being able to say “I want you to take this job, because it will be great for you and good for me and my client will love having you in the position. Let’s move” — well, you’re not a recruiter are you? Today’s recruiters know when to ask, whether it’s being direct in a direct message on Twitter, or picking up the phone to clear up a thorny hiring situation, the ask is tough, but crucial.
  5. How to persist. Recruiting isn’t always easy today and it definitely wasn’t easy a few years ago. But smart recruiters knew that they had seen bubbles before, weathered recessions, and had hires fall through, yet they persisted. As we go through different yet just-as-frustrating situations today, the skill of persistence needs to stay in our arsenal. Persistence tells the recruiter to ask for the hiring manager to take just one more look, the candidate to take one more call, and the client to take just one extra hire for the quarter. Persistence is built into the DNA of a good recruiter, so persistence today looks more like continuing to pursue that purple squirrel candidate even when others say it can’t be done, or the persistence to implement assessments in your organization to address a cultural problem.

What old school skills are you planning on using in the new social world?

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scared-to-ask photo from bigstock, for use only

Raj Sheth is the co-founder of Recruiterbox, an online recruitment software and applicant tracking system designed especially for growing companies. Prior to Recruiterbox, he founded two other web startups -- a classifieds portal and an ecommerce site. He is a graduate of Babson College and spent the first three years of his career as a financial analyst with EMC Corporation in Boston. Visit his website at


10 Comments on “Don’t Forget These 5 Recruiting Skills in the Social Recruiting Fervor

  1. Raj: Though the overall theme of your post is quite on target, you have missed the mark in some areas, and I’ll just mention two that stand out for me. I don’t know if you have a professional recruiter advising you, but if you don’t, please go find one so that you are well advised on the industry.

    There are many contributors here with 15, 20, 25+ years of experience in search. I, for one, am one of those “recruiters of ye old times”, and never once went to a user group, college career fair, networking reception, or ever asked a neighbor if they knew anyone for a job. I’d love to hear from some of the others on this…

    Second, your comment in point #4, “I want you to take this job, because it will be great for you and good for me…” is NOT how a great, professional recruiter “asks, sells, etc”. Please take a look at this ERE post to see how this is done:


  2. Carol,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and link to additional resources. While I may not have covered every skills that a recruiter needs, that wasn’t really my intent. My intent was to point out that there are lots of skills that make a recruiter great, and it can’t be found in a box of new platforms. Those are certainly useful and I’m not disputing that. What I hope to convey is my respect for great recruiters, both those who are new to the game and those who espouse the skills you point out here and the ones listed above.

    Again, thank you for your comment and stating your experience. Obviously, in a community as geographically and experientially diverse as ERE, there will be divergent viewpoints and levels and breadth of experience. I’ve shared mine and that of professional recruiters I know (there are quite a few who have the experiences you dispute), I appreciate you sharing yours. I enjoy reading the articles to which you refer on a regular basis but I’m sure the authors appreciate your added endorsement. Cheers!

  3. Rajiv, very good article, and you capture a lot of the essence of what made/makes a good recruiter.

    Today’s recruiter sits on the computer all day long, sending out imails and emails, and waiting and waiting and waiting, while they surf the net on ESPN. I had an Exec Talent Leader tell me a few days ago how his team flourishes using Imails. How creative

    Carol – suggest you get out to a user group or conference and learn about the business.

  4. @Raj: Thanks for clarifying. I guess I didn’t really understand your intent. Of course there will be diverging viewpoints and I’m sure some folks have spent time in user groups, career fairs, etc. I just haven’t ever recruited folks at the level that would be in those types of places.

    @Ty: You’re quite funny.

  5. My very first experience in actual recruiting (and when I fell in love with our career) was a job fair with over 4,000 Candidates and I needed to hire 50 of them, while competing with much cooler brand names than the one I was recruiting for (I was successful because I am best at connecting). I had 10 minutes of on the spot training from my District Manager right before the Candidates came flooding in. I was dropped in the deep end and by golly I was gonna swim (persistence)!

    That was 6 years ago, and my training has consisted of mostly on the job trial and error; a few conferences here and there; some really great mentors/supervisors; and a lot of finding webinars and articles and forums to learn on my own and from my peers and those who are considered the experts.

    Though in my 6 years of Recruiting I have had many experiences and exposures to different types (3rd Party, RPO, Internal) and industries, I don’t consider myself an expert at all. I always read the articles that talk about “getting back to basics”, as I feel it never hurts to get refreshers or potentially read something I haven’t heard of before.

    Thank you Raj for the refresher! I appreciate it and I’m pretty sure I need to go work on my “ask” skills now!

    Have a wonderful week!

    PS – I ask my personal network, including my neighbors, if they know of anyone for all of my openings. I’d rather have a referral from somebody I know and trust.

  6. @ Megan: You’re doing recruiting the REAL way- you’re down in the thick of it, and I think your opinions and experience are a lot more valuable to us than that of a lot of self-proclaimed recruiting “Thought Leaders” who spent the last several years talking to staffing VPs, etc and listening to the sound of their own voices echoed back to them. (Of course, there’s nobody like that here on ERE…)


  7. Oh dear. An article that articulates the blindingly obvious and snippy comments from people who should know better. No wonder recruiters like this are seen as on a part with estate agents and politicians. Candidates are not commodities, you can’t get clients to take “just one more call” – the candidate and company are either the right fit or they are not and car crash hires are just that – damaging to everyone. This is not a professional approach.

  8. Raj – Thanks for the great post. While I know, and you know it was not meant to be the “be all, end all” of recruiting, it was a great little reminder about some of the good ole times from years ago, and reminded me specifically about why I am a great recruiter and have enjoyed a long, successful career.

    With 20+ years in recruiting – corporate, agency, contract, management, tech, etc., you name it, I’ve probably recruited for it – from an Entomologist in Cuba to military security specialists around the country. Unfortunately, I have just become among the unemployed from the company at which I’ve spent the last 10 years. Sadly, this company was completely “old school” and despite my best efforts would not embrace any of the social recruiting tools and platforms – not even Facebook and Twitter.

    The idea of hitting the job market without some of these “modern” skills has had me more than a little intimidated. Raj – your article reminded me that it’s not all about the new stuff; some of those good ole skills from the past have value too!

    Suddenly I am feeling a smidge more confident. Thanks again Raj!


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