Two Essential Recruiting Skills to Master Today

I have been involved in more conversations about the future of recruiting than I care to remember. At first, they seemed productive, but they soon became noisy and infused with bloated egos; hardly the thoughtful and introspective dialogue for which I had hoped. As of late, I have given up on those conversations and get most of my exercise running from those in the predicting-the-future business.

On the other hand, I believe that the future is now and perhaps the best way to predict the future is to invent it. With this in mind, I put on my man-of-the-future hat (mostly just tin foil, a proton wave atomizer, and some wires) because I have very strong thoughts about what type of recruiter will be met with great success.

As such, I write this article to highlight two very specific talents required if being one of recruiting’s elite might be a part of your plan.

For openers, let’s consider this: there are endless skills that recruiters need to be successful. To start, people and communication skills, drive, comfort with changing technology, and sound judgment just to scratch the surface.

However, out of all that is required for success, the recruiters who will be the most successful will be those who have mastered two very different skill sets and understand the relationship between the two.

Those skill sets are as follows:

  • The capacity to use technology in order to find candidates. (Not that hard really; think science.)
  • A solid understanding of how to architect the deal. (Much harder; think art.)

Those recruiters who reside comfortably at the sweet spot (i.e., the intersection where technological capability converges with the talents required to architect the deal) will be living at the best address in town.

Let?s look at these two concepts and see how they relate to one another.

  1. Using technology to find candidates. This is clearly the easier of the two. I have no doubt that there will be advances in technology so extreme, so pervasive, and so easy to use that it will simply boggle the mind. (Toffler said, “Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.”) I predict that some day, finding candidates will simply cease to be the problem one can encounter today as there will be few places on earth, virtually or otherwise, in which they can hide. Unfortunately, the downside to this will be that a candidate can only get so many e-mails and phone calls before they become totally non-responsive, as the technology that allows you to attempt connecting with these candidates will be countered by technology that allows them to shut you down. Even if your opportunity is the best thing going, a person can only entertain so many different scenarios before they go bonkers. So, to those who worship at the feet of technology, be forewarned: technology alone will not be the answer. It will simply be the tool. Technology will never architect, and close deals. Those are people skills, and therein is the art of architecting the deal.
  2. Understanding how to architect the deal. Clearly, this is the more difficult of the two; the one that takes more subtle skills and engages our ability to create human connections, tests our patience, and expands on our ability to be make things happen. Think for a moment of how hard this can be. Consider the amazing talent, insight, and skills required to identify the right candidate and connect with them on an emotional and intellectual level. To then capture their interest, bring them into the organization, orchestrate every detail of the process, and create a great hire is a beautiful thing and quite different than just racing to fill positions. The uncanny and meticulous application of all that’s needed to bring this endeavor from start to finish, and to then go out and do it again, is what will make for great recruiting. Those recruiters who understand that the human touch is still our primary tool in making a hire are those who will be most successful.

There are three overriding requirements that will allow you to architect the deal more effectively.

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Consider the following:

  1. Take the time required. Making great “over-the-top” hires is no easy task, and it takes time, planning, and the execution of high-quality work. Learn to take pride in every aspect of what you do, because the devil really is in the details. For example, have you taken the time to explain the entire hiring process to the candidate so they will have an enhanced comfort level? Just a small detail but important just the same. Remember, you always do your best work because there are no unimportant openings. Using that as an excuse to do shoddy work is the battle cry of the hack, and we need to rise above that type of behavior.
  2. Listen better than ever before. The organization is engaging you because it needs something and understanding that need is not done in a 30-minute phone call. Invest your time, and educate them as to why they must invest their time as well. For example, do you have a deep understanding of the types of employees who do well within their culture? This is just one small example of listening that will support the chances for not just an acceptable hire, but an absolute over-the-top home run that will delight the client. This is the result we should be trying to achieve on a consistent basis.
  3. Question everything. Few things interfere with architecting deals more than either client or candidate windmills in the sky. For example, I was once asked to help hire 20 of the best account executives in the storage business by a potential client who had far more money than insight into reality. Nice guy, but his vision was absurd and unrealistic. Ask for the “why and how” of everything that does not ring true, and don’t stop asking until you get an answer you can accept because going on a fool’s errand should not be your fate. Once again, it’s hard to do great work if the reality of your opportunity turns out to be flawed.

Recruiting is an interesting business in that anyone can get in but few actually become great. I see no reason for this. Greatness is available to all those who reach for it and are willing to think and act differently. Consider this article an invitation for you to achieve greatness.

* * *

Losing Judy

I first met Judy when I was in 2nd grade, PS 241, Brooklyn, New York, in Mrs. Koch’s class. I was eight and she was 33; the mother of a classmate. Strange as it sounds, we became friends. Soon, my parents moved into the same building at 1010 President Street and we became one big family, eating out of each other’s refrigerators and living a wonderful life of eating street pizza and playing stickball. I never thought it would end.

Judy died last month, and it has left me feeling friendless, empty, and alone. She edited everything I ever wrote and was always there to try to explain once again the difference between “then” and “than” for the thousandth time. I mention this here because if you ever read anything I wrote, it was her editing that made it readable. It saddens me to lose her as my editor, but it grieves me to lose such an irreplaceable friend. Bye, Judy.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


7 Comments on “Two Essential Recruiting Skills to Master Today

  1. Howard–Thanks for pointing out the often-overlooked point that recruiting technology is a means to the end, a tool, rather than the end itself. Successful talent acquisition will always be about a carefully-crafted dialogue between human beings; and the Talent Consultant will always see the need to creatively shift gears in a dialogue that can never be completely duplicated or simulated by technology.

    Also, my sympathies to you for your loss of your friend Judy. I, too, am a graduate of Brooklyn College, and your mention of pizza and stick ball brought back childhood memories. Sound like Judy was a treasure–

  2. This was an excellent piece Howard – two things we often forget to thoroughly do in the recruiting process.. Ask Questions, and keep on asking, and of course listen to what the client is saying..

    Sometimes it really surprises me when I hear clients call me after ‘firing’ their recruiters because they really didn’t understand the process.. Is it that they didn’t take the time out to understand? they didn’t know the questions to ask? Or they just are concerned about making a candidate ‘fit’ and disregard what the client actually needed?


  3. We as recruiters love our technology and we easily jump on the bandwagon in favor of the latest tool. I’m guilty of it myself. Thanks for reminding us what our business is really all about………the only factor that isn’t changing and will never change in our business, is the human factor. The art of the deal is really what sets stellar recruiters apart and all the wiz-bang recruiting tools in the world will never replace that talent. Thanks!
    Victoria Jones,
    The Jones HR Group,
    Denver, CO

  4. Howard,
    I am new to ERE. In fact, I have been busy placing people with people since 1976—I came into the use of computers because I found it a unique method for tracking my comings and goings. The computer is a useful creative tool.(Actually I did not want to learn how to use a computer, I came into this world of computers kicking and screaming,it took too long to use the computer when I knew what needed to be done and did it?) I digress…

    Your article is a reminder to us to utilize all of our new toys, but the results are made best in conjunction and successfully by the human touch.

    The successful recruiter, in my opinion, knows their candidate, knows the client, and knows how to negotiate between the two when situations arise. By adding support to the candidate?there are so many ways to accomplish this—and to learn as much as possible about the reason for the opening with the client you have an opportunity to allow both to learn how they operate and can operate with one another under most situations. I have seen how a relationship develops by watching and hearing what each party does during the hiring process.

    The successful recruiter, I believe, is in tune to the needs of both. This is accomplished by listening, probing and closing the whole time creating a new comfort zone where they both depend on the recruiters input?because of trust.

    When a recruiter, I know from experience, works as an extension of the client and has the talent of being the ?agent? for the candidate magic happens. Mainly because you are the, ?Forest of the trees and the tree in the forest? A terrific place to be when placing a person with another person. You have insight and are better able to know when something is off kilter and can stop it before it turns into something that would work against the success for both. You are in charge and in the ?Knowing.?

    Thank you Howard, for the reminder
    Take care,

  5. To me, I can train mechanics and methods but there are some core requirements that I focus on when interviewing recruiter candidates. The best recruiter’s time in and out have creativity, endurance and the ability to adapt quickly.

  6. Thank you for encouraging greatness. I’ve been in the business since 1979, and the chances for greatness seem to be better now than ever.

  7. Howard,
    you have delivered another great article, profound in conveying what we know but usually forget in the day to day. Grief can help us remember what is truly important in all aspects of our lives, even our professional lives. My deepest sympathy,

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