No question that recruiting as a profession is not what it used to be. These changes have flushed a large percentage of well-intentioned and hardworking recruiters out of the industry. Those of us still working in search and recruiting feel grateful to be doing the work that we love, knowing that technology and other offerings now gives employers a plethora of alternate ways to find talent. While the tools available to expedite our own search work have become almost too much to keep up with, the basics of success for recruiters remain much the same as they did 20 years ago.
1. Specialize in a Specific Industry
Clients respect and prefer to work with recruiters that they feel know their industry well. The industry knowledge and contacts gained through the years cuts weeks and months down in time to fill and greatly increases the quality of candidate submittals and hires. Get to know all the companies in your network and who the key players are within each company. Stay current with industry tends via reading trade news and attending national industry events. Understand compensation variations amongst the companies; track company culture and what the pros and cons are of each employer. This allows you to be a valuable advisor to your client in shaping the position. A specialized recruiter starts a search from day one with a deep understanding of where to go to find the ideal candidate.
2. Make Connections with Candidates
Each contact you make with your passive candidates (not job seekers per se; people you approach) is one of the most valuable pieces of building your business/network/brand when you specialize. The best recruiters approach candidates with an open mind, simply to listen, gently probe, and truly understand a person’s strengths and weaknesses, likes, and dislikes about his/her current position. What do they see as their next step, whenever that time may be? What types of positions and industries do they have their eye on? Just. Listen. This is an investment of your time and theirs.
3. Don’t Over-Pitch
Never “pitch” a job to a candidate before you’ve made a strong connection, as you would have no real basis to understand if this person is right for the job. When you specialize, and the candidate is in your niche, they are almost always willing to confide all of these things to the recruiter, because they know we work with many clients and that eventually the right opportunity might cross our desk. They appreciate having a respected yet neutral third party to confide in. It also helps the candidate understand that we care more about making a true match than forcing a placement. In this way, I have candidates I have known for over 2, 5, 10, 18 years. I only approach them every couple of years, typically, and only for very specific roles, because I know them career-wise better than anyone. We stay in touch. I do not wear them out by calling them about every search I am working on. I always get a call back because they know I won’t waste their time. This is one way that specialized recruiters are able to bring forward the best people that don’t return any other recruiter’s calls.
4. Build a Positive Reputation/Brand
Specializing and building a network of industry professionals that know and trust you are the keys to building your recruitment business. You will become known in the industry you specialize in, so make sure you are known for all the right reasons.
Confidentiality: Zip the lip. I have never divulged a candidate or client’s confidential information in the 19 years I have been in search, and my industry contacts rely on that. You will, through the years, become a vessel carrying immense amounts of private details about people and companies, and you must know how to protect each and every piece of information ever imparted to you.
Intent: My intent is to understand the client, understand my candidates, and make a match whenever possible. My intent is never to force a hire to earn a fee. That intent is evident in every communication, and in the eventual result.
Truth: Never portray a client or opportunity to a candidate to be other than it really is. Candidates know they can trust me to be truthful about the pros and cons of each role as it pertains to the candidate’s goals and strengths. That trust is crucial throughout the interview/offer process.
5. Help Others, With No Expectations
Why? It is simply the right thing to do. It centers your work day and work week on doing the right things above all else, even when it is difficult. On a more practical level, if you are constantly pinging your contacts for referrals and other data points, you become tiresome to others and your network will yield less and less. Making time to help people when they need you, even if it is just to listen, for whatever reason, comes back tenfold without fail — perhaps because the most important ingredient in being a top recruiter is being a decent, compassionate human being above all else.
Margot Finley is in her 20th year specializing in the recruitment of sales & marketing professionals for solution providers within the Human Capital/HR Solutions sector, for example vendors providing Talent Management, Performance Management, Learning, Leadership Development, and Workforce Analytics solutions. She's President at Avondale Search International, Inc.
After beginning her executive search career in London in 1993, she moved back to the US and now resides with her two boys and big black dog in St. Augustine, Florida. When not working or spending time with her sons, she enjoys reading, running and photography.
Please visit her site at http://www.avondalesearch.com.