Recruiting is a skill that can be learned, although like almost every profession, some people seem to have a knack for it that others lack ó and that ability makes them very successful. Most learning is experiential. We do things, see the results, and change what we do to enhance the likelihood that we get the results we want. Very successful recruiters are good at picking up on the elements that make them successful. Often they can’t tell you what those elements are, but they instinctively know. After many years of observing good recruiters, and practicing recruiting myself, I find that there are three basic skills that almost always make a recruiter successful. Sourcing Skills The first and greatest of all the skills a recruiter can have is the ability to source good candidates. Sourcing is complex and requires skills at multiple levels. At one level, the ability to understand the customer’s real needs and to influence and communicate with the customer is essential. But good recruiters also need to understand the industry and profession they are recruiting for, and have access to potential candidates. Most recruiters make the mistake of spending all their time trying to find and get access to candidates who meet the requirements that are written in a requisition or that the hiring manager has told them they want. Highly successful recruiters spend time with the hiring manager and probe beneath the surface of any initial conversations to help the hiring manager calibrate the job requirements with the talent market. By doing this, they create realistic expectations for the hiring managers and reduce the number of people they have to screen. As a result, both the recruiter and the hiring manager have much higher levels of confidence that they are looking for, presenting, and choosing the right people. Having a talent community to draw from that has been built from carefully planned marketing campaigns, a robust website, and other good sourcing techniques is also essential. Filling that talent community with screened candidates should occupy a large percentage of a recruiter’s day. Competitive Awareness and Market Knowledge Great recruiters are also well aligned to the talent marketplace. They know what talent is available and they are always scanning for announcements of business closings, changes in management, rises or falls in profit or sales, or other events that might trigger people to look for other positions. They use whatever tools and information they can to stay in touch with population and career trends. They frequently look at the information at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and they use tools such as those developed by Eliyon. They create maps of where key talent is located and they develop ways to stay in touch with these key people, either in person, by email, or by some other electronic means. For positions with only a few incumbents, good recruiters keep detailed lists of the names and locations of all the people, inside their organization or outside, who could be replacements or additions. Much of good sourcing is based on anticipating what will be needed. To do this a recruiter has to have a deep understanding of the business, the competition, and the general competitive situation. Every organization has competitors. It is the recruiters’ job to know who the competition is ó especially for people ó and watchfully monitor the changing tide of events that may lead them to opportunities to access great people. Selling/Closing Skills These are obvious skills for recruiters but ones that are often not appreciated. It is more and more difficult to convince a top quality candidate to change positions or to move to your organization. Candidates are demanding and seek unique packages of benefits and salary that are often not obtainable given fairly rigid HR compensation and benefit packages. Great recruiters find ways to pre-establish candidate expectations and lead them to ask for reasonable services or benefits that can be met and that do not necessarily cost a lot. For example, a recruiter might offer the services of a local real estate person to help a candidate relocate. This real estate person is not paid by the company but has the first opportunity to help someone find a home and thereby earn a sales commission. It is this ability to cleverly and inexpensively provide value and create win-win situations that differentiate the good from the mediocre recruiters. This is a similar skill to that required to convince a candidate that this is the right organization for them. Closing is always easier when candidates have been screened carefully for interest and fit. It is also important to reaffirm interest and refresh excitement by carefully timing and planning communications, activities, and announcements. These three competencies require a very high level of communication skill and the ability to listen carefully, probe for meaning, and develop messages that can influence both managers and candidates alike. Once expectations are set, execution become much easier and your successes will grow.
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