3 Things a Successful Recruiter Must Do by @cb_Shaun

shaun austinMy first SourceCon is in the books and I had an absolute blast! I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I came with high hopes of new knowledge I might gain, but more importantly the people I would hopefully meet and relationships I would build. Thankfully the conference didn’t disappoint.

Sure, some of the sessions were better than others, but it was a great conference overall and I leave with the knowledge to be better at my profession than when I came.  I personally admire the courage and time that every speaker was willing to give; it’s not easy giving a talk to hundreds of people and making yourself vulnerable to the critiques of others.

For me, the high point of the conference was having a chance to meet and interact with Johnny Campbell, Jim Stroud, Glen Cathey, and Steve Levy among others. Individuals that I’ve followed their blogs and admire the content, thoughts, and best practices they bring to the industry. It was also a ton of fun talking with and networking with other recruiting and sourcing professionals from around the country and world! Hopefully I will see many of you again at future events.

As I was at the airport this morning walking to my gate, I ran into Steve Levy again and we got to talking at the gate about the several topics in recruiting. We were talking about future SourceCon’s and when I mentioned an interest in speaking, and he challenged me to do it. My first response was “I’d love to, but I don’t know what I’d talk about”. He gave me kind of a funny look and a face that basically said to me “I don’t buy it. Quit BS’ing yourself and just do it.” Sure enough, as we continued to talk, Steve said, “there’s your topic”.

I’ve been in recruiting for close to 5 years now (both agency and corporate) and from the very beginning, I thought everything I was doing was basically the bare minimum requirements for a recruiter. Things like staying in touch and giving constant communication, being genuine and taking an interest in helping people, and actually taking calls from my candidates (the basics right?). For some reason though, I would get constant feedback and compliments from candidates I helped, and I still keep in touch and hear from many of them years after the fact. After attending SourceCon and hearing from the panelists about things they like/dislike about recruiters, and even some of the topics on Candidate Engagement, I realize that some of these things may not be so basic for many in our industry.

So I decided I’d at least share my thoughts on a few key must have’s if you want to be successful as a Recruiter.

1) Honesty/Integrity/Character – If you don’t do anything else right in recruiting, at least be honest and a person of integrity and character. Too many recruiters will lie and deceive and/or will handle every interaction in a way that speaks very loudly that you only care about making a quick buck. That’s not a long term winning strategy though. If you genuinely care about helping people and show them you have their best interests at heart, they will come back to you throughout your career and you’ll receive far more value from that long term relationship.

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2) Take their call – this one is especially for you agency recruiters (and no I’m not pointing the finger, I am still fond of and love my agency days even though I made the swap to the dark side). I know you’re always on to the next candidate and the next call that will take you one step closer to a deal, but you’re burning a lot of bridges along the way. I guess early on I didn’t realize it was rocket science. If my phone rang, I answered it. Seems pretty simple right? Over communicate with your candidates; even no news is better than crickets. One of the panelists from yesterday even described it and I’ll paraphrase “how was I a fantastic candidate a week ago, and all of a sudden all I hear is crickets and I can’t even get a return call?” Put yourself in their shoes, if you were a job seeker and couldn’t get any feedback or updates, how would that make you feel?

3) Learn your craft – regardless of if you’re an agency recruiter or a corporate recruiter, you’re in sales. You’re selling yourself, your company/client, your job… it’s sales. If you’re product was a pencil, or missile systems, or even a software product, would you blindly go into your sales calls without understanding your industry or your product? Why then do so many recruiters try to pitch jobs or find candidates without spending some time to learn the skills or industries you recruit within? If you recruit technical talent, you don’t have to teach yourself to code, but at least learn how to talk the lingo or learn about the interests and mindsets of those you recruit. That might help alleviate the constant complaint of recruiters pitching jobs that make zero sense for a candidate’s background. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the IT Recruiter that screens candidates like this “um…do you have 5 years’ experience with uh…c pound?” Don’t do it. Be a credible source and a person of value for those you recruit and support.

To me, these things are the basics that are a given for any recruiter. If you’re reading this, odds are you probably already know these things as well. My challenge to you is to take these things back to the field with you. Look at the recruiters around you and if you see them violating these core concepts, share the knowledge with them. A simple google search on what people think of recruiters will show you the industry isn’t always very well respected. Let’s change that. Let’s change the reputation of the recruiting industry to be “You know what, the recruiter may or may not have ultimately landed me a job, but at least they took a genuine interest in me, understood what my skills were and what I’m looking for, and at the end of the day they did their best to help me”. Doesn’t that sound a lot better than “I use a recruiter as a last resort” or “I view a recruiter as a necessary evil”?

If you made it this far into the blog post, please share your thoughts and comments about what I wrote. I’m constantly learning and evolving and love a good recruiting debate!

Shaun Austin is a corporate recruiter for CareerBuilder supporting the Site Technology group. With a background in agency and now corporate recruiting, Shaun has sourced and recruited technical talent and currently recruits the Software Engineers and Agile Project Managers that build the suite of CareerBuilder products.


6 Comments on “3 Things a Successful Recruiter Must Do by @cb_Shaun

  1. Shaun – good for you and your first step!

    I’m convinced that the hardest part of being better at anything is trying something new – even if the possibility exists that you’ll fall flat on your face. One thing that all of us old time “let’s see if there’s another way of doing that” folks have in common is that we STILL know that R&D often results in “failure” which of course we don’t call failure – one door closes, many more open.

    This is what our profession is about – finding the doors that might open.

    So Shaun, what will your second post be about?

  2. Hi Shaun,

    Good blog about the basics of being a sourcer/recruiter. I guess there are a lot of recruiters out there who just do the thing that they think is good. And that seems to be the thing that makes them stand out from all the other recruiters who are just in the game for one thing: money. I always say there are two things a good recruiter needs: people knowledge is 1. And the second: an unhealthy dose of curiosity.

    And as a reaction on your point of knowing what your candidates do in their work (and I agree: you shouldnt know how to code), I think you should be honest to your candidate and tell them that (in this case) IT is THEIR profession and recruiting is YOUR profession. So you cannot judge him by his skills because you don’t have the skills at all.

    (P.S. I’m Dutch, so my English words and sentences could be a little bit messed up)

    1. Thanks for the comments Timon! 100% agree with your point on having an unhealthy dose of curiosity. That is great for many professions and definitely bodes well in recruiting.

      While developing is not my profession, it’s not hard to at least research general topics in WikiPedia and understand how they use the terminology. If you’re in sales, you have to understand the lingo of your product and target prospects. They understand I won’t know how to read their code, but I can at least understand conceptually the difference between Ruby or C# or even front end versus backend focused work. The common complaint among devs is they get pitched jobs that are not even remotely applicable to their background or interests (but the recruiter isn’t knowledgeable enough to understand that because they haven’t done their homework).

      1. Agree to that Shaun. You should know the basics but never pretend you know what they’re doing for real. That’s their job 😉

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