How To Become A Better Recruiter

Want to become a better recruiter and put yourself on a faster personal growth curve? Try these performance-based (SM) Hiring techniques and you’ll start seeing results fast. Once you experience the impact of using a performance-based approach, you’ll be able to confidently say to any top candidate, “Would you be open to explore a situation if it was clearly superior to what you’re doing today?” And 90% of the time, the candidate’s response will be yes.

Taking the assignment: To ensure that you don’t exclude the best people from consideration, convert job descriptions into career opportunities. We call these “performance profiles.” Preparing these will instantly create a partner relationship with your clients and allow you to become a true career consultant for your candidates. The next time you take an assignment, ask your client these two questions: 1) What are the two or three things that a person taking this job needs to do to be considered successful during the first year? 2) Why would a top person want this job? At the end of the meeting, ask your client if he would see a person who could do the work described even if the person had fewer of the skills or less experience than what was listed in the job description. This will get your client to start thinking about performance rather than experience or skills.

Active candidate sourcing: You can find great, active people if you know the secrets of maximizing the effectiveness of job boards, aggregators, job posting management systems, Web analytics, and your applicant tracking system. How to tell if you’re even in the game? Try this: Assume you’re a top candidate who is only going to use Google to find a job. Put in the generic title of the job, the core skills, the word jobs, and the location. Did your job show up on the first page? If not, figure out what search terms a person would have to use to find your job within five minutes. This will give you some clues on how to redesign your ad strategy driven by the need to find your jobs quickly.

Passive candidate sourcing: My mantra is that with a phone and ZoomInfo or a list developed by Shally Steckerl, you can find three to four top people for any assignment within two days. Start tracking these metrics now: number of cold calls per day, percentage of returned calls, number of people open to considering your opportunity, and number of good referrals per call. Now, track the same metrics for these referrals. What you’ll discover is that working the referred list is three to five times more productive than working the cold list. So the secret to passive candidate recruiting is getting good referrals.

Using the interview to assess competency and create opportunity: Assessing candidate competency is only one of many competing objectives of an interview. In my mind, there are a few that are even more important. One is to enable the recruiter to identify areas of job stretch to the candidate while the interview is being conducted. You need to have prepared a performance profile before the interview and also be able to conduct a performance-based interview. Together, these two techniques allow you to conduct this type of career-gap analysis in real time. Not only will you gain instant respect from the candidate, but more importantly, you’ll be able to recruit the candidate on the basis of opportunity rather than compensation. Try this as a starter: Ask your top candidates if they would be open to exploring a career opportunity if it offered 20% to 25% job stretch and job growth even if the compensation increase was modest. You’ll discover that most will say yes. Then you’ve got to prove it. But proving it is why you must be great at interviewing to be a great recruiter.

Using the interview to defend your candidate against managers who make dumb decisions: Another important purpose of the interview is to prevent good candidates from being excluded from consideration by those who conduct superficial or biased interviews. If you’ve ever lost a good person because someone on the interviewing team was unprepared, emotional, or a weak interviewer, you know how devastating this can be. Equally as bad is having great candidates not even be considered because they didn’t have the right skills, experience, or academic background. Good interviewing skills can minimize these types of non-hires.

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Knowing the job and conducting an in-depth, performance-based interview provides the recruiter with the evidence needed to overcome these types of bad decisions. Here’s a test to prove this concept. First, ask your hiring manager client what it would take for him to see and hire a candidate from you if the person had half the experience listed on the job description. He’ll probably say, “Demonstrated proof the person has done exceptional work doing similar things required on the job.” Then, ask the manager to describe some of these typical projects. Now, use the interview to get the proof you need that your candidate has done exceptional work in these areas. This test also demonstrates a core secret of great recruiting: By getting the hiring manager to switch the hiring decision to performance objectives rather than skills, you can cut your send-outs per hire in half.

Advanced recruiting and negotiating offers: Handling objections, overcoming concerns, dealing with counteroffers, and candidates saying no are part of the daily grind of every top recruiter. Start keeping track of why your candidates say no or opt out of the process, whether it’s at the beginning, in mid-stage, or after an offer is extended. Bunch these into groups and put a graph together from most common to least common. (FYI, this is called a “Pareto analysis.”) The top two or three of the most common concerns probably represent more than 50% of all the problems. So if you eliminate these, you’ll be 50% more productive. For now, just write down what you normally do when you hear these problems, and the outcome. You’ll need a well-developed, clever counter every time a candidate raises one of these concerns. The second and better approach: Anticipate the counter in your pitch or presentation before it gets brought up.

Keeping the deal closed and tracking your performance improvement: The fight for top talent is intense, so expect a counteroffer or a competitive offer. How you keep deals closed is part of being a good recruiter. Getting hiring managers involved in this stage is vital, as well as some serious handholding and visualization exercises. Keeping deals closed at the end actually starts at the beginning by converting boring job descriptions into compelling career opportunities. Collectively, this is how good recruiters earn big bucks.

Lou Adler ( is the president of The Adler Group (, a training and consulting firm helping companies hire more top talent by implementing performance-based hiring. His Amazon bestseller Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 1997, 2002, with a third edition coming out Spring 2007) started the performance-based hiring and selection movement. This was followed up with the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio tape program “Power Hiring: How to Find, Assess, Hire and Keep Great Talent” (1998). Adler is a veteran recruiter and founder of CJA Executive Search.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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