How to Find a Great Recruiter, Part 2

Poaching From Other Firms

The very best recruiters are employed at other firms where they keep their skills up-to-date. Those most relevant to your needs are most likely sitting behind a desk at one of your talent competitors. If you want great recruiters you need to become comfortable with hiring them away from other firms. If your recruiters are resistant to poach recruiters from other firms, fire them on the spot!

  1. Ask candidate finalists you lose who the winning recruiter was. When you lose a candidate for a hard-to-hire position to a competitor, call them up and ask them the name of the winning recruiter. Do the same when you hire a recruiter from a competing firm (ask them on the first day who their former firm's top recruiter was).
  2. Poach from award-winning firms. If you are not sure which firm has the best recruiters I suggest you begin by looking at firms that win awards for great recruiting. Be aware that great recruiting firms also treat recruiters well, so it will be difficult to pull them away. Start with the ERE's ER Excellence Awards and assume that any firm that even applies has great recruiters. The IQPC RASBIC Awards have lower standards, but the winners are still top firms. In particular, focus on recruiters that are assigned to the "hard to fill" or executive-level positions.

    Be careful of assuming that firms that are listed on best-place-to-work lists have great recruiters. Because their brand strength is so strong, they might not actually need great recruiters. If all else fails, you can close your eyes and throw a dart and hit a great recruiter at powerhouse recruiting departments like FirstMerit, Valero, Wachovia, Intuit, Booz Allen, Pepsi, GE, and Southwest Airlines. Also consider recruiters who used to work during the late '90s at powerhouse recruiting firms that have since become weenies, like Cisco, Trilogy, Ariba, Merrill Lynch, TI, Corning, and Intel.

  3. Target firms that are in trouble. Nothing makes a recruiter feel more useless than a hiring freeze. Use your contacts and competitive intelligence to identify which firms are currently under a hiring freeze and target their recruiters. Also look at firms that have announced layoffs, mergers, product failures, stock price crashes, or major leadership changes. Recruiters, like sales professionals, like to be able to sell a good story and a good opportunity — and firms in a state of turmoil make that more difficult.
  4. Recruit them from executive search firms. Executive search professionals generally have the aggressiveness and the results orientation you need. Unfortunately, the best are generally well paid, so it takes a good package to convince them to go the corporate route. Unless you're lucky enough to find someone that is tired of the travel and grind, poaching executive search types is easier during an economic downturn, when third-party search work is harder to come by. Don't be subtle here, ask your managers who the best recruiters are at the search firms you have utilized for your own hires, and then target them. Also be sure to consider those who "fail" at executive search, because even executive search firms' failures are superior to most corporate recruiters in aggressiveness.
  5. Use benchmarking as a recruiting process. Encourage your recruiters to constantly call other recruiters to benchmark best practices. Don't just ask about the practices, ask about who designed them and who excels at using them. Utilize that information to develop a who's who list. Realize that by sharing your best practices with recruiters and other firms, you are likely to pique their interest in joining your firm.
  6. Just buy recruiter names from names researchers. If you want to know the names of recruiters that work at specific firms you can buy them from name generation or unbundled search firms. If you're good at selling a candidate but not as good at finding their name, this is definitely the way to go. (Zimmerman and RW Sterns are examples of firms that do this work.)
  7. Buy mailing lists from recruiters associations. Many local recruiting associations will sell you their mailing list of members, which tells you which firm they work at. If that doesn't work, attending their events will certainly expose you to the best recruiters in the area.
  8. Inquire about a position opening. One of the easiest and most effective ways to find the names of recruiters that can recruit for your particular job openings is to check your competitors' websites to see who is hiring for these same positions. Simply have one of your employees in that position call the firm and ask which recruiter is handling that position. Then have your recruiter call them and try to convince them that you have a better opportunity.
  9. Target military recruiters. Selling a military career is hardly ever easy, so it makes sense to target successful military recruiters that do it every day. If you have "ethical issues," recruit them as they retire. Otherwise, just walk into any recruiting station and go at it. Military recruiters have incredible discipline and their lack of fear alone makes them a worthy hire.
  10. Recruit them from outsource firms. There are many outsource firms like Hewitt and PWC that do a great deal of HR work. Because turnover rates among outsourcing firms are rather high, they generally have a team of great recruiters trying to draw people into this relatively dull and generic work. This means that their best recruiters are good at selling a generalized product, so they will probably excel in your environment.
  11. Check out the FAQs. Ask a question on a competitor's job site and recruit away the recruiter if they answer the question well.

Target Alumni from Public Recruiter Training Firms

Unfortunately, most recruiters learn the trade by trial and error, but there are a small percentage of sourcers and recruiters who were trained by the best in the business. If you can hire one of them, the rest is easy. Target current students, ask for alumni lists, or just post that you're looking for someone who went through their training on discussion boards that are frequented by recruiters.

The two trainers I would look into:

  1. James Duran. The "godfather of recruiting," James Duran is simply the best trainer of sourcers on the planet — even Google utilizes him. Although I have no relationship with him, I routinely commend his work.
  2. AIRS. They are by far the largest recruiter training organization and they have literally thousands of alumni. Although they have focused on Internet recruiting, they have recently expanded into other areas, including referrals, recruiting strategy, and employment branding.

Build a Brand

There is no better long-term way to attract recruits — or recruiters — than by building your external image as a great place to work. Incidentally, it also turns out that some of the approaches you take to building your employment brand can also be used to attract great recruiters.

Some of those approaches include:

  1. Write articles. Just by writing articles about the great recruiting approaches and tools that your firm utilizes, you will attract a significant number of inquiries from recruiters who want to get better.
  2. Give speeches. Making presentations about excellence in recruiting is an excellent way to attract recruiters. Simply collect business cards from those with the best questions and comments after your presentation and utilize them to develop a who's who list.
  3. Get on the best-place-to-work list. Because recruiting with a great brand is so easy, getting your firm on a best-place-to-work list will cause recruiters, as well as thousands of other applicants, to approach your firm.

Internet Sources

It's always smart to utilize the Internet to find recruiters because the very best recruiters utilize it to learn and to continually improve. Be aware, however, that the very best recruiters do not utilize the Internet directly to find their own next job. They generally rely on referrals or networking for that.

  1. ERE's Job Board. The very best of all niche recruiting job boards. It is a benchmark that recruiting leaders utilize to determine the overall strength of recruiting. Post tough recruiting jobs on it and you are sure to get responses from very good recruiters.
  2. List servers and chat rooms. Many of the best recruiters can be found providing answers on the various recruiting chat rooms on the web. Ask your recruiters that participate in these forums to identify the groups with the best answers and participants. Start with ERE's discussion groups (especially "ASK Maureen"), but also look at Yahoo! groups and industry specific groups. Consider posting one of your own toughest recruiting problems on the list and target those that respond with an excellent solution.
  3. Appear on answer sites. The best professionals of any kind don't frequent job sites, but they do frequent sites that provide them with information on how to do their current job better. I call these sites "answer guy" sites. Ask your own best recruiters which sites they utilize for learning and gathering additional information. Then try to have articles about your best practices appear on these sites, or post a link on them to your own jobs site. The best learning sites include ERE,, Duran HCP, Interbiznet, and Global Learning Resources.
  4. Do a Google search. Type in the line
    "technical recruiter" +Microsoft +engineering

    and see if you don't get the names of technical recruiters that recruit engineers at Microsoft. You can also type in the name of a particular recruiter and get their "Google score." There are few more reliable predictors of excellence in recruiting than an individual recruiter's "Google score." If you're looking for employed people who are not currently in job seeking mode, this is the approach to utilize. ZoomInfo is also an excellent service that helps you find people without resumes. Boolean searches on Google, Yahoo!, and MSN can also be utilized to identify individual recruiters and their personal websites.

  5. Use business card exchange services. is a business-card collection service which allows you to buy, sell, or trade business cards in order to acquire the names of targeted individuals. Since all recruiters are constantly spreading their business cards, it makes since that these type of databases would be full of recruiters.
  6. Use your corporate jobs site. Keep a recruiter job open on your website and convince the best applicants to sign up to your "push" job announcement service. Then when you have an urgent need, push out jobs to these individuals.
  7. Social networks. Because recruiters build relationships, they routinely participate in online social networks. I personally participate in the ERE and LinkedIn networks. Although some strive to "pad" their number of contacts, generally speaking the best recruiters have an above-average number of links. Referral networks like Jobster can also help you identify recruiters.
  8. Blogs written by recruiters. Some of the best recruiters write blogs about recruiting. Rather than trying to hire away these powerhouse recruiters, use the blogs to identify best practice firms and bright recruiters that post comments. Some blogs are sponsored by ERE, while others are company sponsored or are independent.
  9. Job boards. Most great recruiters don't utilize large job boards, so be careful of the recruiter that you find when you post an opening on these large job boards. Niche boards designed specifically for recruiters are fine.
  10. Search articles. Search the Internet for articles written by recruiters or about recruiting. Use the authors as a referral sources and capture the name of any individuals they mention.
  11. Hiring announcements. Check your competitor's website for announcements about recent new hires. Call and congratulate them and ask them which recruiter was primarily responsible for their placement. If a key recruiter is turned down for a promotion, it is also important to target them while they are still unhappy.
  12. Mine job boards. Many recruiters will post specific jobs to local job boards manually, so that responses do not go directly to their ATS. Mine all local boards, harvesting the name and contact information for recruiters if provided.
  13. Post to professional/technical forums. Many recruiters mine blog postings and newsgroups for potential candidates. Identify which forums are most likely to be monitored and have a member of your professional/technical functions develop a world-class response to questions published online. Have them use your email address or an email alias created for this purpose. Sit back and wait for the recruiters to contact you!
  14. Create a dummy resume. Work with the type of folks you need a recruiter to be able to recruit to develop the perfect resume. Throw your contact information on it and publish it somewhere. Resume boards may present legal issues, but personal websites would not. Again, sit back and wait for the best recruiters to contact you.

These ideas should help you get started at finding more great recruiters to work at your firm. I'll continue with more ideas for acquiring talented recruiters next week, in Part 3 of this series.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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