Okay, you’ve made the decision to be a recruiter. Congratulations! You are now part of the most unique, most rewarding, and most frustrating profession to ever grace our free enterprise system. The next item on your professional agenda: how to become a great recruiter.
There’s a certain dilemma baked into this question. That dilemma centers upon the uniqueness of the recruiting industry. After all, nobody goes to college to learn how to be a recruiter. There are no “Recruiting Studies” offered at universities across the country.
Since that’s the case, you probably had another job before you became a recruiter. Perhaps you worked in Human Resources. Maybe you’re recruiting in the field in which you previously worked and now you’re placing people who had the same title as you did. Regardless, you’re here now, and the sooner you master the recruitment process, the more you’ll bill.
The essential skills, qualities, and habits for being a good recruiter
While learning how to be a great recruiter, there are three main areas we must examine: qualities, skills, and habits. That’s because you need to master all three if you want to get where you want to go. If you have all the qualities, but none of the habits, then you might get by. You might even learn how to become a good recruiter. But a great recruiter? Probably not.
The same goes for habits. You might have impeccable habits, but if you don’t work hard to improve in the intangible categories, then greatness will elude you. And remember: becoming a great recruiter is a process. You don’t just take a few classes and presto! You’re great.
That’s because there’s a secret/not-so-secret ingredient involved, one that we’ll reveal later. In the meantime, we have seven skills, seven qualities, and seven habits necessary for greatness. And since I like to go in order, let’s tackle the recruitment skills first:
1 — Sales skills
If you’re a recruiter and you think you’re not a sales person . . . think again. In fact, recruiting is one of the toughest sales jobs there is. That’s because you have to sell multiple things to multiple people. Not only that, but you also have to keep selling all through the placement process. Just because you sell it once doesn’t mean that it stays sold. C’mon now, get with the program.
2 — People skills
In your quest to learn how to become a better recruiter, you’re constantly selling. And if that isn’t enough, you’re selling to people on both ends of the process. It’s not like you’re selling a product to a person. You’re basically selling one person (a candidate) to another person (a hiring authority). Either one of them—or both—can object to the sale. So not only do you need sales skills, you need people skills, my friend.
3— Communication skills
If you’re going to be talking with a lot of people and selling to a lot of people, you’d better know how to communicate with them. And not just communicate, but communicate well. You might have heard the saying, “When you feel like you’re over-communicating, then you’re probably communicating just enough.” That saying is absolutely true.
4 — Marketing skills
In order for people to use you as their recruiter, they have to know that you’re a recruiter. That means you must make sure they know about you. Then you have to convince them to use you instead of another recruiter. See how valuable recruiter marketing can be? The recruiter who is a better marketer gains an advantage over the recruiter who is not a good marketer.
5 — Problem-solving skills
Are you going to encounter problems during your career as a recruiter? Does the United States have a spending deficit? How quickly you solve problems and how quickly you solve them is a major factor in your success as a recruiter. If you want to be a great recruiter, then you must be a great problem solver.
6 — Negotiation skills
It goes without saying that you need persuasion skills, in addition to the ones presented so far. In fact, the ones we’ve presented so far involve persuasion skills. And persuasion is also part of negotiation. As you might imagine, this skill is crucial during the offer stage of the placement process. However, the need for it also pops up during other parts of the process.
7 — Time management skills
Obviously, in order to bill the most that you can, you must maximize your time. If you waste time, then you’re essentially wasting money. (Nice thought, huh?) Of course, how you manage your time depends upon how your business model and firm are structured. Are you a solo operator? Do you have researchers and other recruiters in your office? Are you the only “rainmaker” in the agency?
Now that we’ve discussed the skills, let’s move on to the qualities of a good recruiter. These are a bit different, but they do apply to our analysis. Specifically, you apply the qualities you possess to the skills that you have. The greater the qualities, the better the skills.
1 — Confidence
Confidence attracts people. If you’re a recruiter, then must be persuasive. In order to be persuasive, you must attract people to you first. If they don’t feel drawn to you, then they won’t want to listen to what you have to say. If you appear unsure of yourself, then how will you convince prospective clients to give you a job order, or learn how to get clients for a staffing agency? You won’t, that’s how.
2 — Patience
Patience is a virtue . . . and it’s also a quality you’ll need to be a great recruiter. Your quest to learn how to be a top recruiter will take time. Things happen during the placement process. Sometimes, they’re unspeakable things that prevent you from making the placement. And collecting your recruiter fees. And going on vacation. But take a deep breath. Now exhale. Pick up the phone. And show everybody how patient you are.
3 — Persistence
Ah, yes. Patience and persistence go hand-in-hand, don’t they? Like peanut butter and jelly. And chocolate and peanut butter. And Captain and Tennille. (Wait, scratch that last one.) In recruiting, you almost always have to fight a battle more than once to win it. That’s what a fall-off is, after all. To be great, you have to make one more call, find one more candidate, and say one more thing to convince people to perhaps see things as you see them.
4 — Professionalism
This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it, anyway. And believe it or not, there are some recruiters in the world who are NOT professional. (You didn’t hear that from us, though.) Professionalism is part of branding, specifically the branding of you as a recruiter. If you brand yourself as being professionals, people will be more likely to do business with you. And remember: when you’re branding yourself, you’re also branding your firm.
5 — Dependability
This one also deals with branding. Let’s face it: truly dependable people are in short supply in today’s world. If you prove yourself to be dependable, good things will happen. Clients will want to work with you more often and give you more job orders. Candidates will be more likely to treat you as a career coach and partner with you on their next job search. Undependability is the proverbial “kiss of death.”
6 — Being comfortable with risk
What’s more risky than working on commission? (Don’t answer that.) If you work a direct hire contingency desk, then there is considerable risk involved. There is no base salary. If you don’t make placements, then there is no money. Period. To be a great recruiter, you have to be 100% okay with that. If not, you might make decisions that will curtail your greatness.
7 — Being comfortable with chaos
If you thought the risk was bad, welcome to the chaos! Recruiting is a high-risk, high-reward profession with almost non-stop ups and downs. In fact, many good recruiters and industry trainers have referred to it as a rollercoaster, and with good reason. One minute, you’re on top of the world. The next minute, you’re mired in the dumps. That’s why you must be resilient. (Perhaps resiliency would have been #8 on this list.)
Now that we’ve discussed the skills and the qualities, let’s wrap up with the habits necessary for learning how to become a successful recruiter. Having the qualities necessary to enhance your skills means nothing if you don’t practice the correct habits to maximize those skills. So, without further adieu, here are seven habits that can help you to become a great recruiter.
1 — Planning
Here’s another saying you might have heard: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Is that absolutely hokey? Yes. Is it also absolutely true? YES! (Don’t you hate when that happens.) Ideally, you should devote the last 15 to 30 minutes at the end of each day planning the next day’s activities. You should definitely plan which calls you’re going to make when you arrive at the office in the morning. Speaking of which . . .
2 — Phone time
There’s nothing more important to a recruiter than phone time. It’s a rather basic equation. The more you’re on the phone, the more you’ll bill. Most recruiters enjoy talking and being on the phone. That’s why they’re recruiters. However, making recruitment business development calls are among the least enjoyable calls that recruiters make. They’re cold calls, really. But with some practice, some discipline, and some recruiter cold calling scripts, you can attain great habits.
3 — Tracking metrics
Here’s another saying you might have heard: “If you don’t track it, then you can’t improve it.” Once again, that’s absolutely true. (I guess why these sayings are so popular.) Industry trainer Jon Bartos is big on tracking recruiter metrics, and he’s written more than one article about the subject for the Top Echelon Recruiter Training Blog. Once of those articles is “4 Ratios for Increasing Your Recruiting Revenue.”
4 — Prioritization
If you want to be a great recruiter, then you must work “what’s closest to money” every day. Which deals are about to close? Which candidates are closes to the offer stage? Working on what will produce revenue the quickest is the best way to prioritize your desk. Some recruiters have systems in place to identify which job orders are the closest to being filled. That way, they can allocate their time and resources appropriately on a day-to-day basis.
5 — Following through
Not only does following through brand you in a positive fashion, but it’s also good for the health and well-being of your recruiting desk! By always following up without fail, you uncover information that you may not have uncovered otherwise. And during the placement process, every bit of information helps. It’s often just one piece of information that turns a dead-end deal into a successful placement. And a placement fee. And that vacation we were talking about earlier.
6 — Pushing past the status quo
It’s easy to get comfortable being a “good” recruiter. But as anybody who has ready the book Good to Great by James C. Collins knows, moving from good to great is the biggest leap anybody can take. That’s because a person’s comfort level and the status quo keep getting in the way. It’s the same with recruiting. If you can’t consistently push past the status quo, you won’t move from being good to being great.
7 — Continuous training/education
The only way to make sure that you keep getting better is for you to work at getting better. There are all sorts of recruiter training webinars, recruiting blogs, and other training materials available. Not only that, but the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) offers formalized training programs like the Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and the Certified Employee Retention Specialist (CERS) programs. Getting better is not due to a lack of resources. It’s due to a lack of desire.
This all brings us to the end, or the almost-end. That’s because it’s time to reveal our not-so-secret ingredient to becoming a great recruiter. That secret is . . . drum roll, please . . . louder . . . experience!
I know, anticlimactic, right. But one of the only ways to become better and strive toward greatness is to work a desk year in and year out. That’s how you master the subtleties and nuances of the business. It’s how you find out the right way and wrong way to do things. It’s how you develop your instincts, enhance your approach, and move more quickly.
So there you go: 21 skills, qualities, and habits, PLUS a not-so-secret ingredient. You are ready to be a great recruiter. Now go conquer the world!
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