Insight

What Does It Take to be a Successful Recruiter?

by Katie E. Rodgers
Suits
At Helbling, we often discuss career development. As we assess candidates for our clients, we focus on what it takes to be a successful professional in the markets in which we serve. But, we can be equally introspective, analyzing what is needed to be a successful recruiter, so we can continuously serve the clients we represent to the fullest. Not everyone realizes what makes our recruiters successful; it takes a lot more than sifting through a database of candidate resumes.
 
As a marketing professional at Helbling, I see first-hand what it takes. The short answer: our consultants wear a lot of different hats. The recruiter role requires a very curious, determined, competitive, and unique personality. It takes someone who can switch gears easily, having an intriguing conversation about company culture with a candidate one minute and a detailed conversation about compensation packages with an employer the next minute. In one breath they’re letting a finalist candidate know he or she hasn’t been selected, and in the next, they are talking to a potential new client about our search process.
 
The traits that make a recruiter most successful are also those that can put a client’s mind at ease when they hand over the reins and responsibility to find their organization’s next executive. To know that the recruiter they’ve retained is in their corner, thinking ten steps ahead, evaluating not just what is being said but how it’s being said, creating and employing a backup plan, and continuously making themselves available, provides a high level of comfort. The client’s best interests are being protected with care and the utmost discretion.
 
So, what are these must-have traits, and how do they work to a client’s advantage? For one, recruiters have to be:


Meticulously inquisitive and self-disciplined.


- Recruiters get to the root of challenges and situations that impact a good fit between a candidate and a company. Therefore, they keep asking “why” until they can no longer do so. They rephrase and reframe questions and scenarios digging deeper into both employers and candidates to flesh out details such as organizational challenges they are facing or what personal issues may hinder someone from relocation. These consultants also approach the industry with the same level of curiosity. They remain up-to-date on current market trends and upcoming projects looming in the works.

- Recruiters must be fire-starters; they get in early, stay late, and revolve their entire schedules around others’ availability – which often means they must make themselves available at all hours of the day. They anticipate problems and have contingency plans in place. As Managing Director Jim Lord describes, “We’re always playing chess – thinking several moves ahead,” and communicating that effectively to the client and the candidate. Therefore, they also have to be:
 

A perpetual listener and astute communicator.


- People aren’t always forthright with their thoughts and feelings, or they have a hard time communicating them. Recruiters listen for the message behind the message. To be a perpetual listener means to practice mindfulness, which is the key to establishing high emotional intelligence and empathy. Recruiters put themselves in others' shoes, establishing strong interpersonal connections with their clients to understand their demands, their schedules, and the pressure they are under, as well as with their candidates and the difficulties they face of making a change in their career. Increasing empathy allows them to communicate the good news and the not-so-good news, both with the sincerity and kindness that goes a long way in this industry. This brings me to my next point; recruiters must also be:


Emotionally intelligent with a hint of cynicism.


- Recruiters should see everything from all sides, always, but they can never truly take everything at face value – because doing so would not allow them to be proactive in dealing with potential pitfalls. They have to be able to navigate rough terrain for months, operating with a high level of awareness that is almost unfathomable to align everything into place. Yet, despite our best efforts this perfect union can come apart at the seams right at the very end, and sometimes that’s just life. True story: we once had a selected candidate turn down a position because there weren’t enough sanctioned rodeo events within a drivable radius from where the job was based. It is what it is. Therefore, last, but certainly not least, a recruiter must always be:


Humbly confident and resilient.


- Knowing and preparing for the worst-case scenario on every single work assignment can really do a number on the brain. However, successful recruiters do not let it get to them. They remain calm and comfortable in their performance, and they recognize that some things can be out of their control. After all, they are the mediator, the matchmaker, the objective opinion, and the voice of reason. Nevertheless, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” This has to never bother a recruiter, and instead always make him or her think a little bit harder and prepare a little bit better for the next assignment.

I am fortunate to work with recruiters on a daily basis. They are some of the most interesting, introspective, and curious people I know. To establish a relationship with one of them, or with a search firm, is a great idea to boost your market intelligence, expand your network, and gain yourself a new ally.