Multitasking: The Key to Success

Sally’s day at the office: “I get in early before anyone else, grab a latte, and write a quick post for our recruiting blog. At the same time, I check email and notice that three new candidates have sent in resumes. I also notice that two managers have opened new jobs, and I need to discuss those with them.

By 10, I have set up appointments with both managers for the end of the day. I have also scanned the resumes and have decided to telephone-screen one of them. I called and left a message.

Meanwhile, my boss has called a short meeting for 11:30 a.m., and then I have a lunch meeting with an agency vendor who is doing a critical search for us. There are still a bunch of open positions that need to get posted, and I need to find the time to do a search for potential candidates, as well. Maybe I can squeeze that in later on today. I have candidate interviews from 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m., and then I have to update the ATS with my notes. At 4:00 p.m., I have to meet one of the hiring managers to discuss the new positions, and then on to meet with the next one at 4:30 p.m. Maybe by 5:00 p.m. I’ll have a minute for investigating a potential vendor. I’d like to call a few references and search the Web about them. Maybe the reference calls will have to be tomorrow.

My husband calls at 5:00 p.m. to see when I’m getting home. Right now, it looks like not before 7:00 p.m. because I have to write back to a few candidates about their status and clean up a dozen little odds and ends. I may also have to take a call from China regarding a position I am filling there. And first thing tomorrow morning, I have to post those new positions that both look like bears to fill!”

I am often asked what the most useful skill is for a recruiter. I have been thinking a lot about that for a while and certainly salesmanship, technical skills, market knowledge, and communication are at the top of the list. But, first has to be the ability to multitask.

All of the best recruiters I know, like Sally above, this is what makes them successful and differentiates them from those recruiters who seems to move serially through tasks and get flustered when asked to do more than one thing at a time. Multitasking, in my definition, means the ability to do many different things simultaneously with ease, to “go with the flow,” and accept the inevitable forces of change.

Here are some challenges that only the agile will be able to effectively conquer.

Sourcing is a Bear

Despite the economy or because of it, it is more difficult to find people with the skills we want than it was a few years ago. There is a mismatch between the skills hiring managers and recruiters feel are (or should be) available in the marketplace and what they actually find when they start to look. And, even though job boards teem with candidates and firms are inundated with resumes, not many get hired. Candidates report increasing frustration with the level of customer service they receive and wonder what kind of super-person actually got the job that sounded so perfect for their own skills and experience.

The recruiter’s ability to source quickly and well, communicate openly with candidates, and provide impeccable customer service will be a hallmark of the best.

Value Propositions and Branding are Essential

We are a brand-conscious society, and many candidates are attracted to the organizations with high public visibility. Firms with positive reputations and strong name recognition seldom have much trouble selling themselves to candidates. Look at Microsoft, Starbucks, or Google. They may have trouble finding great candidates, but they have much less trouble convincing them to accept an offer.

Unfortunately, only 50 or so organizations fall into the positive-reputation, strong name- recognition category on a national basis. The rest of us have to get better and better at building niche brands and determining what our value proposition is to candidates. Then, we have to tell our story in a convincing and fun way.

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Being able to know and sell the value propositions of various positions seamlessly to candidates, as well as to keep both the hiring authority and the candidate in the loop and informed, are key skills that require both flexibility and multitasking skill.

Free Agency is a Fact

Whether forced upon a person or voluntarily entered into, free agency (contracting, consulting, working part-time, and “temping”) is a growing factor for recruiters to deal with. Many people simply don’t want 40-hour-per-week jobs as regular employees, especially highly skilled Baby Boomers and lesser skilled Gen Ys. Many have decided that job security is an illusion, and the only way to be really secure is to work for themselves.

Many will enter and leave the workforce many times during their careers and will serve in many ways. The agile recruiter firm will find that a mix of regular, temporary, and contractual employees will serve them better and offer them the flexibility they need to deal with good and bad economic situations.

A great employment department will lead this agility movement.

International Recruiting

I get calls all the time from organizations that are “going global.” The recruiting group is asked to start ramping up hiring in China or India or New Zealand or Germany. And, most recruiting departments haven’t got a clue how to start.

Time is wasted as they struggle to figure out an approach and get things underway. Management may often see this slowness to respond as incompetence or a lack of motivation. So, it is as important to figure out how to take on a new challenge as it is to manage the perception of your function within the organization.

Agile recruiters will deal across time zones with ease, be culturally competent, and manage the communication process with skill.

I could go on, but I think we all can see that the ability to multitask, be adaptable, and carry a positive attitude are critical success factors for any recruiter.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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