Three Ways to Be a Rock Star Recruiter

I’m sure you read “Top 10 Indications That You Are a Dinosaur (Old-School) Recruiter.” Sullivan is correct when he reminds us that change is a constant in our profession and that we must change with the times or fade away.

But as I read that article I thought, I’m not that old yet! Well, time to start a blog. Then the strangest thing happened. Someone else wrote another article that said just the opposite! Howard Adamsky’s view on “Recruiting, Innovation, and Thinking Differently” left me pondering which approach would suit me best.

Certainly, both Sullivan and Adamsky have created a very interesting juxtaposition. At January’s meeting of the Arizona Professional Recruiters Association, almost 100 recruiters from all over Phoenix showed up to hear several tenured recruiters present their opinions on the subject.

One thing was immediately clear: Not one recruiter in the building had yet hired someone they met on MySpace. Now, I’m not saying MySpace isn’t a reasonable tool to help find people. I just question how much time and effort you would have to put in to get one hire.

Any recruiter who relies on any one set of tools is doomed to fail. I’ve recruited for large companies, small companies, and those in between. Give me a phone, a pen, a pad of paper and an Internet connection, and I’ll find you hard-to-find people. I’m able to do this not because I have a blog, but because I dig under stones and find people who no one else has.

The best recruiters I have ever worked with have a knack for finding names, hidden sources, getting referrals, and making things happen. ZoomInfo is a fantastic tool if you have the gumption to use it right. ZoomInfo lists just about every CEO and every other executive officer at every company in its database. How many of those people have you called? If you called 50 CEOs and could creatively build a relationship with a few of them, how many referrals could you get? And how many of those CEOs might think, wow, I want this recruiter to work for me!

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There is a simple solution to the problem of the best way to find candidates, and it does not (yet) require all of the new gadgets cited by these experts. If you are a good recruiter, if your CEO loves you, if your numbers show that you fill lots of positions and your hires stick around, you did it because you had a large bag of tricks to draw on. You knew that, even though you posted the job and got a few good resumes, you still had to search for more. That’s where your bag of tricks comes in.

If I were to drop all of the techniques that have made me successful and switch to just new technological tools, I would fail. My number of hires would plummet.

To be a “rock star” recruiter, you have to do three things:

  1. You have to be able to build a relationship with a stranger. You can practice this anywhere. Try getting into a reasonable discussion with someone in an elevator or in line at a sandwich shop. See what you can learn about them. Make some judgment calls and probe lightly with an open-ended comment and I’ll bet you that you can strike a nerve and get them interested in talking to you. Tactfully manipulate the conversation in a way that gets you the information you want. Who knows: you could be talking to a dot-net developer at the software company across the street. After all, they eat lunch at the same place you do!
  2. You have to be good at selling. You’re not selling vacuum cleaners or water filtration systems. You’re selling a new way of life. If you have a candidate interested in talking to you, you have let them know that your motivation is to be their advocate. After all, it makes no sense to get someone into a job only to have them find out you sold them a bill of goods. Besides, I want their referrals. Conversely, never oversell a candidate to a manager.
  3. You have to have the knack of finding hard-to-find people. In any given year, you have several types of hires including slam-dunks, referrals, and direct responses. But to be a rock star recruiter, you must have some hard-to-find hires. These are the passive candidates who were not even looking for a new job. You might have seen their names in the paper, read articles or white papers they wrote, come across a quote from them on a product?who knows. You might even have found them using some of the newest technology. But no matter what, to be a 100K+ recruiter, you have to be good at turning over stones.

Successful recruiting is just that simple. You are a recruiter. You have a bag of tricks. Some recruiters do just enough to get by. Others go beyond and use all the new tools and gadgets. Still others rely on tried-and-true methods that work (and effectively at that!).

I propose that before we jump on a bandwagon, or conversely, ignore it totally, we realize that the answer is somewhere in the middle. You just might get your next hire from MySpace after all.

Jason Dupree has more than 10 years of Technical Recruiting experience both in corporate recruiting and the staffing industry. He has recruited for companies such as, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Calence LLC, TRW Space and Electronics, NCS Pearson, and RHI Consulting. Jason has also recruited across the country, having lived in Phoenix, Los Angeles,and Washington, D,C. He has recruited everything from manual labor and administrative positions to Molecular Beam Epitaxy Engineers. Jason has also lead recruiting teams at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Calence LLC, and TRW. He has been instrumental in implementing multiple recruiting strategies such as referral programs, direct mail, and online career fairs and has successfully implemented Applicant Tracking Systems at NCS Pearson, and Calence LLC. Jason is currently a Sr. Technical Recruiter with ProNet Solutions in Phoenix and he is serving his second term as president of The Arizona Professional Recruiters Association.


11 Comments on “Three Ways to Be a Rock Star Recruiter

  1. If you haven’t read this yet, read it. It’s one of the best articles on recruiting that I’ve seen on ERE. I agree with all of it!


  2. This is one of the better articles I’ve read on this blog. I particularly agree with point 2 and the comment ‘You’re selling a new way of life. If you have a candidate interested in talking to you, you have let them know that your motivation is to be their advocate’. So often I hear recruiters reading a laundry list of skills to a potential candidate or using a hard sell approach. The successful recruiters I know truly have both the candidates and clients best interest at heart and look for a win/win/win outcome, the third winner, of course, being the recruiter. This is what can make recruiting a truly rewarding career, where you can truly act in the capacity of counselor/consultant and not just be another headhunter trying to fill a position. To be sure, this is a sales position and you will need to overcome objections, clarify, and all the other things good sales people do, but you must always remember you’re working with people and not commodities.

  3. And that applies in sales/marketing as well, any top notch sales professional has multiple avenues to pursue to get into an account or close a deal. All of your areas apply. Every salesperson worth his salt has a bunch of skills at his disposal.

    This is also why training is so important. Take training from Shally on deep web candidate research, take it from Maureen on deep phone sourcing, attend the ERE conference. The more you learn, the more ‘tricks of the trade’ there are at your disposal. Take some sales training from Miller Heiman. The better you can be at using different techniques or methodologies, the more you can build and close – the more revenue you can generate.

    Too many recruiters rely on ‘post and pray’, ‘inbox recruiting’, job boards or social networking to find people. A vast majority of people do that, leaving a vast pool of candidates largely untouched.

    In competitive markets, the people who perform will continue to get and keep clients. Delivery is the key.

  4. Just thought I’d mention…MySpace can work. It’s free so it doesn’t hurt to try it, and I’ve hired 4 good hires from it and had multiple potential candidates ask questions about the positions and express interest. I’ve had similar responses from Facebook, and I haven’t been using either of these sources for very long (about 6 months). For a free source, that isn’t bad. You are absolutely right though that even if you start getting hires from one source and seeing results, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You have to use ALL the tools available to you to get a good mix of talent to choose from. Great article!

  5. John Goodman,

    I totally agree. In my 10 yrs of recruiting, I have used this approach very successfully and with great personal satisfaction. I particularly agree ‘You’re selling a new way of life. If you have a candidate interested in talking to you, you have let them know that your motivation is to be their advocate’. I always tell my candidates that they are just as important to me as my clients. Therefore I agree that ‘successful recruiters have both the candidates and clients best interest at heart and look for win/win/win outcome.’ This approach is very successful as evidenced by the satisfaction and logevity of my candidates placed with my clients, which makes me feel very good, satisfied and passionate about my profession.

  6. A great reminder that we can’t put all our eggs in one basket. As CareerXroads points out, more and more jobs are being filled thru online channels but the number one way to fill jobs is thru your network. Keep ALL channels open.

  7. ‘The best recruiters I have ever worked with have a knack for finding names, hidden sources, getting referrals, and making things happen.’

    This takes alot of work and some recruiters do not go the extra mile to tie all of these together. I often get calls from recruiters and entertain the call because I am always very curious as to how they found me, if they try and get referrals from me and if they are GENUINE’
    This is one thing I would add to your article Jason. Some of the best recruiters I have spoken with really seem to be interested in the conversation…and then there are the hit and run recruiters. The genuine ones tend to have a more beneficial conversation.

  8. Excellent piece of work. Exactly what I would have written if I were not writing something else. Clear, sensible and right on point. Reality based thinking about what we do every single day as opposed to some of the silly nonsense those who often know little about recruiting would love to sell you. (The fact that none of the Recruiters he spoke of in Arizona hired even ONE candidate from MySpace is frightening to say the least.)

    To read his article is to understand what is important in recruiting. It is about strong and demonstrable results from years of experience picking up the phone, creating relationships and helping others envision the possibilities. It is about relationally based (Read, long term.) as opposed to transactionally based thinking. (Read, short term.)

    Want to be a successful recruiter? Consider reading the article twice and taking it seriously. If shiny new toys pop up, give them a once over but beware of how much time you spend because every moment wasted is a moment not on the phone. With that out of the way, I can go back and try to immanentize the eschaton.

  9. Jason, truer words have never been spoke. The truth is that new technologies . . . or tools . . . or ‘trainers du jour’ make money off of creating demand and then capitalizing on it. Is there value in buying in? Not really, but once in a while. That’s the price you pay as an innovator/early adopter — you inherently understand that most of what you buy will wind up to be bunk . . . and you’re not very price sensitive, but you’re willing to take the risk to find the needle in the haystack. Meanwhile, the more pragmatic market watches how the Innovators/Early Adopters respond . . . and wait for to see if the product/tool/etc. actually makes it through the B.S. funnel.

    That’s not just recruiting, it’s the majority of industries – there’s always a new BI tool, or CRM system, or person that can teach you to find names from a cactus . . .

    But you’re right – I see many recruiters spending 80% of their time playing with tools and reading training material instead of building relationships/persuading/selling with hiring managers and candidates. Instead of picking up the phone and stepping into the fire, I see recruiters reading about how to pick up the phone in the first place.

    Somewhere along the line over the last couple years, the biggest lie in the history of recruiting was perpetuated: That if you have names, you have hires.

    Nope, not so. If you have cool tools, the newest technologies, and a list of names 2 blocks long, you still have no hires. But don’t say that too loud – sometimes the truth hurts.

  10. Jason, I must say this is a great article. I would say, one should try and use every method/trick he/she knows to find the suitable candidates. Awesome piece of work Jason.

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