So you call yourself a recruiter…

November 17, 2018

Written and published by Ken Brown


I’ve been a recruiter professionally since 2003 however I think I’ve been recruiting my whole life. Without realizing it, many of us play the recruiter role time to time. This usually occurs when we play the role of ‘connector’. Whether it is trying to find a romantic partner for a friend, or trying to find someone to repair a family member’s vehicle, we often work on behalf of others to help them find someone that can help them execute on a task or a series of tasks.


In its essence, recruiting has two primary functions, search and qualification. Both aspects require patience, perseverance, a willingness to be the unpopular person in the room and ask the tough questions and have the tough conversations. This is why so many people fail in recruiting. They think recruiting is just finding someone and putting them in the open position. Wrong! The majority of the recruiting industry today is doing just that. They find a resume and send it along. Boom! Done! On to the next one.


Admittedly, when I first started, as we all do, I relied heavily on intuition and ‘gut feeling’. The sad thing is that many recruiters, while they get better at questioning people, fail to evolve beyond professional question askers. If you don’t believe me just ask a recruiter that you know what exactly is involved in their candidate qualification process. My guess is that they would say they ‘just know’ the candidate is great. I did it myself for many years. You have this delusion that because you have a friendly, positive and productive conversation where the candidate successfully answers all of your questions that he or she is now qualified for your job. The irony is that recruiters are unwilling to admit the bias they have towards any candidate based solely on the fact they will be receiving a large commission check should this individual be hired.


In this article, I’m going to outline how to leave bias behind and go from being a good recruiter to a being a great recruiter. I’m going to structure my advice around the two main tasks of recruiting which are location and qualification.

Locating the Candidate


Often time referred to as sourcing, this task for many companies is a job in and of itself. It is a never-ending influx of resume grabbing. As recruiters in the modern world, we rely heavily on Internet-based outlets like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, CareerBuilder, Monster and LinkedIn. The sad thing is that this is what everyone else is using too and thus you won’t get great results if this is your only method. These online sources are most definitely a part of an overall greater strategy.

The first step to becoming a great locator is to have a process. That process should also be programmatic. Let me explain. Different positions have different levels of difficulty. Difficulty is a complex equation comprised of market conditions, a client’s tolerance for compensation as well as a slew of other variables that open or shrink your candidate pool. That candidate pool size, along with other factors like how digitally connected your candidate pool is will all influence how difficult it is to locate the person you are seeking.


The first step is to remember that every search is different and should be treated as such. Just because it was easy to locate someone the month before who was an accountant doesn’t mean it will be easy this month. Tax season may have started, or ended, or a big company may have moved to town and gobbled up a bunch of resources. You never know so don’t make any assumptions.

The second step is to order your sourcing process and group the levels to which you ‘escalate’ your search and bring in new tools. This is the programmatic side. Create your first step in the sourcing process. What are the avenues that have a free or low cost and require little to no time? When you use those methods as your first step and they yield results then great, you’re done. You can move on to the qualification process. If you still have not found that seemingly perfect candidate, you need to programmatically escalate the sourcing methods to incorporate additional avenues of locating someone. You need to continue to do this until you’ve exhausted all of your sources or found your candidate, whichever comes first.


As far as sources I’ve already named a few. I could write not just a book, but a series of books on the ways to locate candidates as the list goes on and on and is literally endless. So in lieu of using LinkedIn’s entire cloud storage writing my list, I’m going to give you the major categories (as I see them) and let you build your own list. The first major category is the internet. Yes, the entire internet. The sub-categories of the internet would be resume databases, job boards, paid advertising via Google AdWords, sponsored messaging via LinkedIn, blogging, social media, search engines and niche user communities. Sometimes these strategies combine to become their own method. A good example would be writing a solid blog with a call to action at the end and then posting that blog in private pages on social media and online communities.


The second major category is in-person recruiting. Finding ways to get in front of people in the real world. is a great place to start. The third major category is working referrals. Referrals are where the gems are. Truly. Good recruiters source, great recruiters work off referrals. Referrals are great because they come with a reference and an inside look at a candidate’s past and qualifications. Referrals connect you to ‘working candidates’ that are so good at their job, and so well paid, they would never consider applying for your job posting. The candidates you should really want, at least initially, won’t want you. They are working happily and would only consider a personal approach from an experienced recruiter.


Qualifying the Candidate


So great, you’ve now found that awesome candidate with the Ivy League education and stellar references. Congratulations! Now be willing to work against yourself. Seriously! Be willing to work against yourself. Say it out loud. Be willing to work against yourself! Literally, do your absolute best to unwind and tear down all the hard work you just did! I know this sounds asinine however it is an essential skill to being a great recruiter. In the first part of every process, you locate the candidate. You search and search and search, sometimes spending thousands on advertising and hundreds of man-hours. When you finally find a great candidate you switch gears from ‘locater’ to ‘gatekeeper’, conducting the questioning and qualifying yourself.


In this phase of the process, it is important to be very intellectually honest and do your best to try to poke holes in the candidate’s story. Ask the tough questions and don’t be afraid to dive deep on red flags. Check ‘off the book’ references. Administer skills tests. Bring in an SME to validate applied knowledge. Give them an IQ test. Find out their DISC profile. Give them a motivation assessment. Baseline their personality against those of your client. When you’ve exhausted all the screening options make sure you analyze the results. Look for trends and try, actually try, to find a reason to disqualify the individual. Be tough on them. Do not relent. Make it your job to be the underwriter. This is exactly how you go from good to great.


Your gut will tell you do not qualify to this extreme because you worked so hard and spent so much time and money locating the individual that you don’t want to disqualify the person and go back to square one. It’s frustrating and often times hinders us from being productive and moving forward. At least that’s what we think. The truth is that being your own best ‘devil’s advocate’ when it comes to a candidate’s background will give you the ability to ‘hire the best’ candidates in the market. If you are a tough qualifier, only the best will pass your filter. You can never test, screen, filter, and reference check too much. There is no such thing. Be tough and find the best people. This is how you can truly be of value when you recruit.


In summary, if you want to go from good to great, don’t be commission focused, be value-focused.


If you currently work in the recruiting industry and you are ready to make a jump from the minors to the majors, Hire 10 may be just the executive search firm to take your career and your skills to the next level. Email your resume to [email protected] for consideration.


Good luck and happy hunting!


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