You’re ready to hire your first recruiter. Go forth! It took lots of trial and error for me to learn how to hire great recruiters and if you can benefit from my lessons learned, please do.
I’ll start with my mistakes as those are always the best learning opportunities for all of us. Because recruiting came naturally to me when I was starting out, I falsely assumed it would be easy for anyone. There isn’t much barrier to entry on being a recruiter. All you need is a company willing to give you an opening to fill, a phone and a computer. There is no degree in recruiting and not a lot of training is available so it’s mainly self-taught or learned on the job.
I’ve tried to turn all sorts of people into recruiters. My most recent success was turning a bookkeeper into a recruiter which was surprisingly easy. The hardest time I’ve had is actually turning recruiters into recruiters, meaning breaking some of the self-taught habits that were unprofessional or outdated legacy tactics that were somewhat ingrained. Surprisingly, a lot of recruiters don’t want to change even with evidence that their methods are ineffective. They blame their failures on the rough job market versus looking within.
Where am I now? I look for smart people, most importantly, and on people that like to reinvent themselves either through self-study or having a big curiosity about technology, for example. I don’t seek someone out with a particular degree, but I do really love people that “went for it” in college and got biology or math degrees. The most important thing is the “went for it” part and that includes “scrappers” and no matter where they went to school, they made it through, blossomed during that time, and did all this often by working full time the whole way because their parents didn’t have the deep pockets to offer a full-ride scholarship at a prestigious school. I refer to this as grit. But, let’s face it, anyone that’s in recruiting didn’t grow up thinking they wanted to be a recruiter like a doctor, lawyer, or dentist. Smart, gritty people can turn themselves into just about anything.
Along with smarts and grit comes perseverance and not giving up easily when something is hard. People with a victim mentality do not make great recruiters. It’s always someone else’s fault, usually the hiring manager doesn’t get it in some way or they are asking for something ridiculous, the infamous “unicorn”. However, great recruiters don’t get to be victims. They persevere to find the patterns of need their hiring manager wants, and they ask to experiment with finding different job titles to make a skill set versus a job title pattern match. Great recruiters don’t give up and blame others when they haven’t found their mojo on a search.
Lastly, great recruiters are honest and courageous. They aren’t going to sell a candidate on a particular company or opportunity because they also take the long view on relationships and have their customer or employer’s best interests at heart. Candidates end up coming to them because they garner a reputation of being as direct as possible about the role, the opportunity, and that it’s important to them to learn all of this well ahead of time before they even get on the phone to talk to a potential hire. Great recruiters talk about the strengths and weaknesses of an opportunity and they develop the style and class to do this well to benefit all key stakeholders to make the right fit, not just any fit.
I hope this helps you. To find out if a person has the above traits, get curious. Ask them about times they were in a tough spot and how they got out of it. Ask them about a time they felt their company was asking them to lie and how did they handle it. Give them a project! Ask them to send you 5 profiles of great employees on LinkedIn and have them articulate a short paragraph on what makes a great employee. You’ll get a window into how they think. I hope you make a great recruiter hire.