You know those chatty people? The one who goes beyond the polite pleasantries of "hello how are you" in the grocery line but actual has a conversation about one of the random stimuli that a grocery store is full of, from your outfit to the apples you're buying? Yeah, that's me. I am exceptionally chatty. I actually like conversations, unlike most of you who are just rushing from task to task. I like getting to know people and learning about their perspectives on their job, the world and sometimes just the band on my t-shirt. I may not always agree but I always learn something. 

That's why our companies make their learning and development budgets - so we can go have conversations and learn something in the context of (hopefully) smart people who can push us to test our beliefs and do something better than we've done before. After attending many of these recruiting conferences and meeting a lot of great people, I've had the opportunity over the last year to take my own ideas to the stage to talk about the principles I think more recruiters should know about. And with that, I've talked to some really smart people who have challenged and applied some of my ideas. I appreciate both perspectives because in reality, I'm more of a scientist than a do-er. I'm the person who actually has time to look at the data and come up with ideas because I'm not doing it every day. I get to watch the best in action and pull all of those ideas into my head for these best practice-type posts like the one I'm writing right now. 

Now this post in particular was inspired by a conversation with one of those people I've met along the way - Fiona. She called me last week and simply asked: what do you think makes an exceptional recruiter? Here's what I came up with off the top of my head:

  1. Subject Matter Expertise: If you recruit developers and you don't know your Java from your C++, it's time to start reading. You need to know the key acronyms that are specific to your candidates work. No, I don't think you need to know how to code, but you do need to speak their language so you don't sound like an idiot and burn bridges before you even have time to build one. 
  2. Set Expectations: A great recruiter takes the time to explain the recruiting process upfront, especially the timelines. See, most candidates have no idea how recruiting works, who the decision maker is or who they should and should not talk to in the recruiting process. This applies to everyone in the hiring process including hiring managers.
  3. Regular Updates: A great recruiter over communicates and realizes it's rude to ghost (aka abandon) your candidates for weeks at a time, expecting them to just sit around and wait. No news is news to someone who really wants your job and you are responsible for delivering it. 
  4. Understands Communities: Exceptional recruiters really understand the value of their network and they find ways to nurture it, whether that be running a selective talent community to help their candidates network or sending gifts during the holidays. The exceptional recruiter goes above and beyond to make sure that the people they work with know how valuable they are. They know that connections are the currency that determine a recruiter's worth.
  5. Do Not Send Job E-mails: Exceptional recruiters have caught on that generic blasts of jobs, ranging from USPS temp worker to CTO, don't work when it comes to reaching top talent. Rather than this "one e-mail fits all approach," an exceptional recruiter sends personalized e-mails about the things that the candidate might want to hear about. They try to grab attention instead of being part of the noise by being a helpful expert instead of a spamming annoyance. 
  6. They Read: A best-in-class recruiter is always looking for new strategies and reading the latest ideas. Exceptional recruiters will seek out 1 new idea at least once a week, if not once a day, just to become better at their practice. (If you need ideas to find these stories, you're already on a great site for that. You can also check out or Make it easy on yourself and sign up for their RSS feeds so you can get the information sent directly to your inbox, folder it and read them all once a week. 

So what would you add? What do you think makes an exceptional recruiter? 

Views: 1013

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on December 15, 2015 at 8:12pm

I got some very interesting and related answers when I posed the following question on FounderDating:

Comment by Mukul Agarwal on December 16, 2015 at 7:37am

Point 3 is most to take care of. 76% of candidates have mentioned that they have never heard back from recruiters after first round of interview. 

Comment by Paul Miller on December 16, 2015 at 10:43am

The best recruiters I know are excellent listeners and have an abundance of empathy, combined with the natural curiosity of a detective. Oh, and at some time in their lives they've had a terrible job, so they understand how that feels and relate to their candidates that much better. 

Comment by Katrina Kibben on December 16, 2015 at 11:39am

All really good points. Paul - great point about empathy. I definitely should have included that; it's an important one. Thanks for commenting!

Comment by Paul Miller on December 16, 2015 at 11:45am

Thanks. I liked the article, made me think about it for the first time in a while. 

Comment by Nicole Antonio-Gadsdon on December 17, 2015 at 3:31pm

Cheers for the brainpoke post! Adding to # 6 They Read.  To this super valid point I add They Read Deep and Wide! They are curious - reading deep into their subject matter keeping up with the latest and the current.  They read widely - across disciplines - complementary business disciplines and seemingly unconnected subject areas. With this breadth of knowledge they can connect with almost anyone on any topic.

An exceptional recruiter is more of a conversationalist than an interrogator.  In a recruitment context, conversationalists get more valuable and interesting information from their interactions with people.


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