How to Hire a Recruiter

It came up again last week, one of my favorite things to pontificate about: how to hire a good recruiter. This time, I was sitting in a meeting with a team that is planning to revamp their recruiting program this year. We spent hours brainstorming and talking about recruiting strategies that promote accountability, visibility and all of those other ‘ilities’ that look good on a white board. Then the question came up, who’s going to actually fill these jobs? Smack. Just like that, Groundhog’s day. And so started the same conversation that I have been having for my entire professional career.

When I start meetings, I often introduce myself as a recovering recruiter. To some extent, I’m still a recruiter. Recruiting is a big part of my professional DNA. Over the years, I’ve hired and trained dozens of recruiters (agency and corporate). In 2010, I shared my insights on what attributes you should look for when hiring a recruiter. I’ve even published an interview guide and competency matrix on this blog.

The basis of my formula for hiring successful recruiters was created over 10 years ago when I was running a high-end, technical recruiting agency in Silicon Valley. Back then, I hired an industrial psychologist to develop a selection methodology for choosing recruiters with the greatest likelihood to succeed (after lots of failures of course). The psychologist created benchmarks and a psychometric assessment to distill the quintessential traits that make recruiters top performers. Here are the attributes that we used to test for:




This year, as I once again reflect on how to hire a recruiter, there is an attribute that I’ve added to the list: resourcefulness. I still firmly believe that self-confidence, flexibility, and focus are excellent measurable qualities that best predict the potential success of a professional recruiter. But, given the ways that recruiting has moved to the web in the past decade, in 2013 a recruiter truly has to be like MacGyver, consummately resourceful. As such, a major asset of any recruiter today should be the practical application of some technical knowledge and the inventive use of common items – like job boards, resumes databases, applicant tracking systems, Microsoft Office, Google docs, etc.

With the proliferation of available data on the internet, recruiting is no longer about keeping a private database. Especially as an internal recruiter, you don’t get by anymore with who you know. It’s about staying organized, collaborating with your stakeholders and being able to capture and document all of your work. to collaborate and to show your work. Today, recruiting is about being able to process lots of data efficiently and effectively. This means that modern recruiters have to be at the very least familiar with tools that help manage time and information as effectively as possible.

Resourcefulness naturally requires some intellectual curiosity. Recruiters have to constantly look for ways to automate or streamline iterative but necessary tasks. To be successful at any profession, one needs to stay up on the latest trends and tools. This has never been so true for recruiters. It seems like every week there’s a new recruiting tool or new productivity tool on the market. Having a general awareness of what’s out there and how these new tools work is critical to be successful as a recruiter in any field.

So this year when you’re looking to add to your recruiting team remember to look for the must-have attributes in your candidates: self-confidence, flexibility, focus AND resourcefulness. Ask interview questions that prompt candidates to share their technical aptitude and their clever tricks managing their time and lots of data. Find out their recruiting equivalents of duct tape and a Swiss Army knife. What are their “Macgyverisms”?

What critical attributes do you look for when you interview recruiters?


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