Is good recruiting about experience, expertise or talent?

One thing that many years in the recruitment industry has taught me, is that actually in the big scheme of things we know comparatively little. Yes of course we know our industry, our marketplace and even our industry sector very well, but anyone who professes to know much more than that is, quite frankly, stretching the truth a little!

There is more to know about the recruitment industry are than any of us involved in it can ever hope to learn – social recruiting has shown us how recruiting methods can change so fast - but that is the joy of the job! There is always more to learn, more to discover and there is certainly more knowledge to absorb whether it be product knowledge, industry sector knowledge or the latest social media tool (of which I am sure there will be many!). Someone once said, “the more you know the less you understand” and that is so true - it keeps us on our toes and constantly searching out a greater understanding of everything involved in recruitment.

You could define experience as years spent in a particular job or trade, but this on its own does not then guarantee expertise? Too many people in our industry make that assumption!
It never ceases to amaze me that someone can do a job and for many years and ultimately not progress at all – I know that many of you will have come across these ‘lifers’ who have have been in their jobs or companies for twenty or thirty years and who are still turning out are poor quality work. One would have thought that they would improve just by default being in business for a period of time and doing the job day in day out, but unfortunately (and very disappointingly) this doesn't appear to be the case with some people.

To truly succeed in the recruitment industry, with a huge responsibility towards our candidates and clients alike, recruiters need to be looking constantly for improvement, inspiration, the taking on board of new ideas and knowledge and learning about sector and industry information. Recruiters don’t have to reinvent the wheel they just need to make sure that they have it revolving in the right way.

You don't have to be the world's best recruiter to really stand out (unfortunately) - in fact those who are perceived as the best recruiters are sadly few and far between. There is however one common denominator that that every recruiter should be working to; every recruiter owes it to their candidates and their clients to become the best recruiter they possibly can.
It would be great to think that one day everybody that wants to use a recruitment agency or recruiter would be guaranteed to come out feeling that they had great service, they've been well dealt with and they feel confident that the recruiter will strive to do what is best for that candidate or client alike.

The trouble is that for our sector this is a long way off!!
Recession aside, it's still too tempting for some recruiters to stay firmly entrenched in their comfort zones, never venture outside their office and still not go out and develop their network and information base. There are still many recruiters at companies that just sit there in their office on a desk with a phone and a computer doing a poor job. Many look no further than just earning a living and don't worry about the quality of the work they are putting out into the business world.

Light at the end of the tunnel!! Hooray!

At the other end of the scale there are recruiters who show immense expertise after an initial period of time in the business, and they prove that it's possible to have a natural affinity for recruiting and dealing with clients dealing with the candidates. This affinity combined with strong vision, creativity and ideas make these recruiters a pleasure to work with. However whilst their work may show great skill the recruiter won't yet have a real depth of knowledge - they have the expertise but the detailed industry or sector knowledge takes many more years to get, and there is no substitute for this. This takes time.
In between these two ends of the scale there are many recruiters who have spent numerous years learning the trade and constantly striving to increase their skill and knowledge levels. They recognise that this in ongoing and will continue to try and improve.

So experience and expertise do complement each other, and to be truly proficient at recruitment it must go hand-in-hand. But then factor in the naturally talented recruiters – have they developed lengthy experience and expertise? Often they haven’t, they seem to have a natural affinity for developing and managing people relationships at all levels.
Many recruitment companies shy away from these types of individuals, but in the social media friendly society, they are probably some of the most important people in the next generation of recruiters we are now seeing in our industry.
But whether it is expertise, experience or talent, one thing is a nailed-on certainty - you never stop learning in recruitment. You never stop seeing surprises – we are in a business where our product has a mind of its own and can answer back. The unexpected will always happen!

[Originally posted on my blog, Sirona Says]

Views: 136

Comment by Charles Van Heerden on August 19, 2009 at 4:58pm
Andy, all of the dimensions you highlighted are required. I would also include empathy and in dealing with applicants, which could be part of talent. With technology in a perverse way the role of the recruiter has been made more complicated as the number of applicants have increased, not necessarily the quality.

There are a number of good recruiters that I know. They take the time to get to know their clients, to be generous with their time with applicants, sharing information and feedback and even staying in touch with their placements for months and years. Building trust with your clients and applicants is fundamental which requires strong relationship building skills.
Comment by Andy Headworth on August 20, 2009 at 6:20am

I agree - empathy is key. Experience tells us that core recruiting skills are now needed more than ever. The recruiters that know how to use these skills will succeed, and thrive in any market, including this recessionary marketplace. You are absolutely it is all about relationships.
Comment by Mat von Kroeker on August 20, 2009 at 12:12pm
Hey Andy--- good advice and a great reminder of what to stay focused on.

One critique though-- I started reading this article as just another recruiter professional patting-themselves-on-the-back for being the stand-out go-getter. I believe it's an individuals prerogative if they want to be "lifers’ who have have been in their jobs or companies for twenty or thirty years and who are still turning out are poor quality work." Who's determining the "poor quality work"?? A poor quality Director at a poor quality company?? I'm a go-getter as much as the next guy-- make many placements, always looking for new business where ever it might be, emmersing myself in social media and learning constantly about the business-- but to read another story of "if you're not doing what I'm doing-- if you're not doing [insert laundry list here], you're a bonified LOSER--- just get's irritating. You can give advice without judging others.
Comment by Fran Hogan on August 20, 2009 at 12:14pm
There is no typical recruiter which is one of the things that makes our industry so interesting. Many different personality types have, and still are making money in our industry. However, to be truly successful and survive the ups and downs of the business, I believe you must have resiliancy and the ability to ride the waves. Whether its the waves of an ever changing economic climate or changes in the way we do business.

It certainly helps to come into the job with "a natural affinity for recruiting". There are so many facets to recruiting with more being added every day. Fear of change has hurt so many of the recruiters I have known. Hurt them to the point they are no longer a part of our industry. Fear of changing an industry or discipline speciality , learning new tools, systems or methods.....fear of failure.

Having the core skills along with the desire, willingness and hunger to learn all help make you a good recruiter. I truly believe that you get back what you put out there. Being empathetic and kind to everyone regardless of whether they can make you money pays dividends that can't always be counted on the bottom line.
Comment by Darrin Grella on August 20, 2009 at 12:40pm
I like the fire Mat with one T. On the flip side to your comment it gets irritating to see people with so much talent and potential and throw it away. I would suggest that 70% of recruiters are just a level above the stereotypical used car salesman.

Thanks Andy for the post. It takes leaders like yourself to bring your "A-game" every day and be the example. I feel that people who strive to be the best in their niche or area of expertise should know it good enough to step into the actual field and do it themselves. Several examples come to mind but I think of Jim Durbin - Social Media Headhunter (@smheadhunter). Jim has been recruiting in SEO/SEM and Social Media for a number of years, grew in the business and is now also owns an SEO consultancy. Now that is an expert in his field. I am not an affiliate of his by any means. Now he really does not posses the soft skills, zero empathy. So go figure.

Thanks again for sharing.
Comment by Andy Headworth on August 20, 2009 at 12:48pm
Mat von Kroeker,

Thanks for the comments. Interesting that you see the article as you did - my intent was of more of an observational piece on recruitment.

Maybe the sunny weather just had me me thinking philosophically about our industry??
Comment by Andy Headworth on August 20, 2009 at 12:52pm

I totally agree with your comments. Where would our industry be without the diverse nature of recruitment consultants? :-)
But change is inevitable, whether it be the sytems, online or even the way candidates perceive recruiters. Core skills obviously do remain, but the ability to adapt is seemingly becoming key to our industry. I subscribe to your belief as well, that you only get out of it, what you put in.
Comment by Andy Headworth on August 20, 2009 at 1:02pm

Thanks for the comments - you raised an interesting stat there. If someone like yourself believes that 70% of recruiters are just a level above the stereotypical used car salesman, where does that then put the client or candidate perception? Better or worse?
Over here in the UK, the comparison is made between recruitment consultants and estate agents, and this always comes up when candidates and clients alike start to make comparisons at the bad end of our industry!
It makes me mad when people do that, because it is usually from a position of absolutely no knowledge whatsoever!

And anyway there are good used car salespeople and good estate agents out there , they are not all that bad ...... are they? : )
Comment by Michael Glenn on August 20, 2009 at 2:53pm
Some of the the best Recruiters are the ones that understand the importance of marketing their jobs and candidates in the economy.
Comment by Harold Ensley on August 20, 2009 at 10:12pm
I've always felt that client management is the crux of recruitment - not being their buddy - but applying solid communication and project management skills to each search. I think professionalism goes a long way, and too few in the trade have it. Combine profssionalism with staying recent on sourcing tactics - and that's a potent combination.

There's perhaps two problems with the image of recruiters, to begin with, it's an ancient profession - like 'hooking' - and any slimy schmuck can pretend to do it. The experience is either great or leaves you feeling dirty and cheap. Second issue - many see recruiters as gatekeepers, or barriers, and resent any interaction. I have no answers, but only hope that new technology will choke out some of the bad weeds.

Recruiting as hooking... maybe there's an interesting blog article in there.


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