Ten Things Great Recruiters Don’t Do

All month I have been tracking what recruiters could do to differentiate themselves from the pack. If marketing and brand image are important for organizations, they must also be important for all recruiters. Even though many recruiters feel as if the hiring manager has all the advantages, there are many things you can do to add value to the recruiting process. If you are only looked at as an administrator, a person who facilitates the hiring process by quickly screening a bunch of resumes, you are in career limbo. By following the 10 things I list here, you should find yourself in the running for the title of great recruiter.

  1. Don’t dismiss any candidate without carefully considering the long-term impact. Even though you may not be the market for the particular expertise he or she has today, you may be tomorrow. Take the time with every candidate to understand their skill level and motivation. Be sure you keep all good candidates in some special database where they can be accessed whenever a position comes available. This pool of people should constitute your prime source of candidates for the difficult placements. Ask them to come in for additional interviews or assessment if you are not sure of their skills and keep in touch with them for at least a few weeks. I have found many recruiters who let a candidate out of their sight, even briefly, and then had the opportunity to place them where it was a perfect fit.
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  3. Don’t tolerate a manager who will not define what he or she is seeking. Easy to say, sure, and hard to do. Yet, if you let a manager give you a sketchy job description or an inadequate sense of what the job requires, you cannot do your job. Getting a thorough understanding of the duties, responsibilities, and skills required is obviously critical to your success. Probably half of all early turnover is caused by the mismatch of candidate to job function. This is usually caused by an inadequate assessment of the job and what kind of person could best do it. Don’t just listen to the manager, also ask peers and those who will work with this employee what they think. Go back to the manager with any discrepancies and question everything you doubt or have a concern over. Once you have worked through the issues and both you and the hiring manger understand the kind of person you are seeking, your job is easier and your success is virtually insured.
  4. Don’t stop attending job fairs, seminars, and other public events. It’s easy to fall into the activity trap: review resumes, call candidates, schedule interviews, assess results, make offers. But this is NOT value added. This is administrivia and will not help you move ahead. The game is finding great people for open jobs quickly. You can hasten this process, build contacts, strengthen your reputation and make good hires if you stretch yourself. Attend everything, keep your eyes and ears open, pass out business cards, join associations and basically get out of the office are much as you can. Your primary interface should be with potential employees. Are you spending over half of your time away from the desk? Are you adding 2 to 3 candidates a day to your databanks? Are you anticipating need and going where THOSE people are? IF not, you are not in the running for greatness.
  5. Don’t defend or try to place the candidate who impresses you but who doesn’t have the skills to really be a candidate. Be firm, ruthless, decisive and fair. Let candidates know where they stand and why. Never give in to the need just to be liked. Your job is to put people into great jobs. Your hope is that people will come up to you and say thanks after. You should be a bit like that disciplinarian teacher you used to hate, but now appreciate. You only do people favors when they are genuine and meaningful. When you let the marginal candidate know that they are not going to make it, you open the door for other possibilities and for actually helping that person move on to something more suitable. Whenever you pass a marginal candidate on to a hiring manager you increase the chances that the manager will find you ineffective and that the candidate will either “bomb” or fail on the job. No one wins.
  6. Don’t fall for the sweet talker. The world is full of con artists. Protect yourself. Seek out references, use your contacts to learn more about a candidate, and thoroughly interview them. Send people for assessment when you have doubts. More than once I have been burned by giving a candidate the benefit if the doubt. Any hiring manager who gets an unqualified candidate from you will never forget. Worst of all, they will never remember the 50 great people they hired because of you!
  7. Don’t ignore technology. Whether you like it or hate it, technology (resume tracking systems, career boards, Internet searching and all that stuff) are here forever. We will never again have the “good old days” which were never that good, after all. Make sure you gain skills and continuously increase those skills in using all the varied technology.
  8. Don’t forget that assessment — objective assessment through tests and skills demonstrations — is more valuable than your “gut.” This really ties into point number 5 above, but amplifies it. Again, whether we like or not, there is quantitative evidence that testing and assessing people decreases turnover. Fit and skills CAN be measured. Enough said.
  9. Don’t always follow the job spec to the letter. Be creative and insightful enough to recommend the marginal candidate. Creativity is as important as everything else I have said for a recruiter. You must be able to identify the mix of skills that will make a candidate successful in a particular situation or organization. IF the manager wants 5 years of experience but you have a super candidate with only 3, go for it. If the job calls for Java programming along with other things and the candidate has it all but that, take a chance. Sell the candidate to the manager and coach the candidate on how to handle any objections.
  10. Don’t ignore technology. Yes, I am repeating myself because this is IMPORTANT!
  11. Don’t overlook the global marketplace. It’s a small, small world. Talent abounds. A great recruiter suggests strategies to mangers that may be unusual: move a job to India because that is where the worker is, go for telecommuting because that is where the skill is, go for a immigration/visa candidate because it is the right solution. Stretch and stretch your mangers — nothing risked, not much gained.

Have a great day!

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 ERE.net, 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 kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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