Eight Simple Rules for Becoming a Great Recruiter

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to train thousands of recruiters over the years. Most turn out to be pretty good at what they do, but a select few strive to and eventually become great recruiters. Here are eight simple rules that lead to greatness in recruiting. When Learning

  1. Read everything. Scan everything you can get your hands on that relates to a) recruiting, b) your industry, c) business in general, and d) HR in general. It will make your conversations with prospects richer and your candidate assessment questions more productive. But most importantly, it will provide you with names of key leaders and up-and-comers that you can use to use for referral sources.
  2. Build a learning network. Identify a few other recruiters who want to become the best in their field. Together, build a “learning” network to share ideas and best practices. Take advantage of technology to make it work with recruiters from around the world.
  3. Use metrics. Great recruiters follow the numbers in order to continually improve. They track precisely what works and why. You, too, should track the best sources, tools, selling techniques, and learning sites. Treat recruiting as a business and track your business impact and ROI everyday.
  4. Get a mentor. Identify other great recruiters and excellent managers. Then ask several to mentor you. Recruiting is one field where it’s hard to grow without contacts.

When Recruiting

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  1. Rely on referrals. In a fast-changing world, you can’t keep up with the latest changes and the key players on your own. Great recruiters rely on others (referrals) as their primary “finding” tool. Once you realize that top performers always know other top performers, you are home free.
  2. Recognize that you are in sales. Finding the very best candidates is only half of the game. Selling candidates (on the job and on your firm) and convincing managers (to read resumes, to interview rapidly, and to trust your judgment) is what separates the best recruiters from the rest. Take a sales class and build relationships with top salespeople to learn how to get candidates to listen to you and accept your offers.
  3. Do your market research. You can’t sell anything if you don’t know what candidates and managers expect. Hold surveys, interviews, and focus groups to identify what candidates and managers want. Research is the key to any recruiter’s success. What you absolutely must know is: a) when top performers are ready to shift jobs, and b) what it will take to get each top performer to change jobs (in other words, their job-switching criteria).
  4. Focus and prioritize. There isn’t time to do it all, so focus on top-performing candidates who are currently employed. These candidates are harder to land, but worth the effort. Next, focus on a) helping top-performing managers, b) filling key jobs, and c) top-performing business units. This will increase your impact, visibility, and learning speed. Do not, under any circumstances, listen to anyone who tells you to focus on the average. Focusing on the average will just make you average!

Follow each of these rules religiously and you will be a top recruiter. I guarantee it!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



6 Comments on “Eight Simple Rules for Becoming a Great Recruiter

  1. Very insightful! sometimes we just need that little reminder of the skills and tools that are available to us all to assist in improving our recruitment drive and retaining candidates.

  2. Also:
    1) Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open.
    2) Trust, but verify.
    3) Don’t believe the hype- yours or theirs…


  3. I detest recruiting being equated to sales. We are NOT selling people. Every recruiter I’ve trained struggles with the “sales” emphasis … once they stop being a sales person they move from good to great.

  4. @Mike – Not to further irritate you but this is sales from these standpoints. – To be the best we have to be prepared to overcome common objections that we hear daily. For over 40 years I have converted potential candidates that said I am not interested into interviews and placements – Also we have to explain(sales script)how we are different from everyone else or they see us like everyone else. Correct in that we do not sale people, we sell a service and a process that can deliver results. Just my humble opinion. We are at

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