Do you ever wonder what makes some recruiters so successful while others don’t seem to be able to produce great results?  I’ve been in the business for a long time and worked with many, many recruiters in both agency and corporate environments.  The great ones are happy to share their knowledge and secrets of success and I am an enthusiastic learner.  Allow me to share what I have learned with you and I would love to hear back what you have learned on your recruiting journeys.  What I have discovered is there are 4 basic skills that every successful recruiter has mastered.  They are; sales, smarts, savvy and storytelling. 



Recruiting is basically all about selling… you sell the candidate on the job and you sell the hiring manager on the candidate.  Agency recruiters have to use super sales techniques to cold call into companies and sell the hiring managers on using an agency and paying a fee.  Corporate recruiters also face challenges in convincing hiring managers who assume calling their job out to an agency is the only way to get top tier candidates.  They have to convince their hiring managers to give them time to source, screen and submit qualified candidates that didn’t apply to the posting.  Then they sell them on why they should interview the candidates they have recruited.  Both face the ultimate challenge of convincing that perfect purple squirrel candidate to accept their role which, when successful, can be a feat of infinite magic and a wonder to behold.  This is one of the best feelings a recruiter will ever have… taking a stellar passive candidate, presenting them with their ideal job, arranging all the interviews, negotiating offer details and finally getting the signed offer letter… talk about time to celebrate and pat yourself on the back!  In the agency world we used to ring a bell when that happened and sometimes I feel like ringing a bell now when closing a really challenging req… if not ringing a bell then at least popping a cork.  J



Recruiters have to be experts in their fields.  They are super sleuths like Nick Charles or Jake Gittes (“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”), private detectives prowling the cities and cyberspace… first finding top tier candidates; researching where they work and play, finding contact information and getting them into a conversation before they can even present a job opportunity to them.  Some great recruiters can work without any tools at all… just their intellect and industry knowledge.  I know one recruiter who only recruits for specific industry professionals so he pretty much knows all the players and has their contact information so that when he gets an order from a competitor, he just picks up the phone and starts dialing for dollars.  Other great recruiters use all the tools available.  (I happen to fall into this camp.)  We need tools not toys.  ATS, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Blogs, ZoomInfo, Boolean searches… you name it we use it!  We are building a social network and a personal brand to attract and engage with leaders in our industries.  I love it when I find people using new tools like Pinterest and can speak to them about their interests and interacting with new people who find me on Twitter and Google+. 



To paraphrase a Kenny Rogers song… you won’t get very far as a recruiter unless you know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run.  You never count your money when you’re sittin at the table...  Recruiters are like gamblers in a way; they have to read people and know what motivates them, when and how to approach them and how to give them what they want so that everyone wins.  This is a fine art and a skill that is honed over the years.  Every now and then you will come across a natural born recruiter but most have been seasoned, tried and proven thru fire.  They know what works because they have made mistakes and had great successes and learned from them both.



If you can’t tell a story about the company you are representing or why this particular job is so wonderful for that particular person at that particular time in their career, you probably won’t see stellar results.  On the flip side, you have to tell the candidate’s story to the hiring manager so that they will understand how that particular candidate will successfully meet their needs for their team at that moment.  Great recruiters use their storytelling skills to paint a picture of the role they are recruiting for, the company culture, innovation in the industry, career path, success stories from former people in that role, what it would be like to work with that team, current projects and cool new projects on the horizon that they can be a part of from day one… you get the picture.  Some people think that if you offer a candidate enough money they will take your job.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  People change jobs for many different reasons but in my experience only about 20% or less focus solely on salary… it is usually the type of work they will be doing, who they are working with and if they will be challenged and afforded new growth and learning opportunities.  My hiring managers are interested in why candidates do what they do… what motivates them and gets them out of bed every day.  A passion for what they do and the fire to make things happen and make a difference… that’s what our hiring managers look for in potential candidates, we have even started hiring to our values in some roles over technical expertise, especially in customer care roles.  You can teach technology but you can’t teach desire, drive and a heart for the customer. 

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Comment by Bob Sharpe on June 29, 2012 at 8:37am

Thank you for your perspective on storytelling.  I have used it myself and the results are always good.  It's too easy to simply sell based on facts and I find myself falling back into it all the time.  Most people love a story.  Thanks for the reminder!

Comment by Barry Frydman on June 29, 2012 at 8:50am

Excellent advice

I'm just glad i'm better at recruiting than online poker.

Comment by Clara Irizarry on June 29, 2012 at 9:21am

I think the storytelling perspective is right on.   I use it from the employee persepective.  Although my organization is well renowned, my enthusiams and pride showes through to the candidates we wish to engage.

Comment by Louis Welcomme on June 29, 2012 at 9:29am

Thank you for this Leslie - shall definately share it with our recruitment followers on Twitter!


Louis Welcomme

Comment by Bruce Rowles on June 29, 2012 at 9:48am

perfectly written.   anyone can push a resume - but the storytelling is the key!!


Bruce Rowles




Comment by James F. Jeter on June 29, 2012 at 9:54am

Once I left the fire department, I started recruiting when I was 34. Now, 21 years later, I have 2 questions I ask myself when I am working with a prospective client or applicant.

1) Would you buy the product you are selling? If not, I don't sell it to others.

2)  Treat others they way you would want a recruiter treating you. Now that my children are older, I say, treat others the way you want them to treat you son or daughter.

Comment by Linda Stokes on June 29, 2012 at 10:31am

Great post! I work specifically in Physician Recruitment, and while compensation is certainly extremely important in making the right placement, far more goes into it than just money. My physician candidates usually must uproot their families, make their children change schools, find new a new home, and new friends.  Selling them on the overall opportunity is key. Once we find that "purple squirrel" physician that wants that particular practice opportunity, selling the practice manager on the candidate is another big job.  You cannot do either without great listening and story telling skills.

Comment by Leslie Mason on June 29, 2012 at 11:00am

Thanks for all the wonderful comments everyone!  Looks like storytelling is the front runner.  

Barry Frydman - thanks for the laugh... hard to read the poker machine's tell. :)

Louis Welcomme - always good to hear from our UK friends... thanks for sharing with your tweeps

James F. Jeter - can't go wrong with the golden rule

Linda Stokes - sounds like you have to find a win/win/win for everyone involved... listening is also a key skill!

Comment by Joe Ryan on June 29, 2012 at 3:13pm

Great post but add "persistence" and "refusal to to take "Do I know you?" for an answer.

Comment by Bob McIntosh on July 2, 2012 at 1:38pm


I also liked the storytelling reason for success, and the others as well. Nice article. Makes recruiting sound like a true art.


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