The 10 Essential Skills Every Modern Recruiter Needs to Master in Order to Survive

As seen on 1-PAGE BLOG.

Most recruiters make a conscious effort to keep up with trends in their profession. But the seeming avalanche of next-generation (NexGen) trends in recruiting cover so many new areas, that without realizing it, your skill set may already be out of date.
We all read about these emerging recruiting trends and approaches – including Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, predictive analytics, machine writing, personalized marketing and “automated everything”. And at the same time, we must keep up with a never-ending list of software and algorithms for online sourcing, resume sorting, and prospect-to-job matching.

But beyond simply struggling to maintain awareness of these new additions, the additional question you have to ask yourself is “Can I maintain my employability if I don’t have the skills to operate effectively in this new environment?”

To make matters worse, you need to realize that your employability could also be weakened, because in the near future, you might no longer be able to rely on formally critical recruiting skills that are becoming less significant every day – making cold calls, sorting resumes, manually posting on job boards, answering applicant inquiries and writing job descriptions and offer letters. So if you don’t want to become a “dinosaur” in the recruiting profession, it’s time to begin analyzing how current your skill set is.

Then, you need to develop a plan for upskilling so that you’re ready to hit the ground running – faster than your competition – in this new world of tech-powered talent acquisition.



On top of these trends that will definitely threaten your employability, I’m also predicting a cyclical dip in the demand for recruiters next year. So if you’re worried about job security, it’s time to wake up and conduct a serious “career check.” Start by looking at the recent recruiter job postings from major corporations and see if they are asking for skills in areas that didn’t exist early in your career. And when you are shocked at both the variety and the volume of these new job requirements, I suggest you use the ten NexGen skills that are highlighted below as the basis for your “skills upgrade plan”. Taken as a package, these should keep you fully employable as a corporate recruiter for at least the next decade.
1. Selling becomes the number one high-impact recruiter skill

For years the most challenging yet critical skill was sourcing, because if a company couldn’t find good quality prospects, it couldn’t get good quality hires. However, with so much information about a person now available online and on social platforms, it is possible to find almost every professional around the globe. And with the addition of automated search algorithms, you don’t need a human to find them. Alongside this, the second leg of recruiting – candidate assessment – can now be effectively conducted online, presenting real-life problems virtually. The remaining third leg of recruiting – selling – isn’t yet at this stage, so it thus becomes the high impact remaining skill area.

In order to remain employed, recruiters will have to be able to prove with data that they can effectively sell in four areas. First, you must be able to convince a majority of the identified prospects to apply, and second, you must also be able to convince them to accept an invitation to interview. The third sell involves convincing hiring managers to accept a proposed candidate slate, and the fourth involves convincing a candidate to accept an offer if it is presented to them. The challenge with upskilling in this area is that despite its importance, this is seldom covered thoroughly at recruiting conferences and during training.

Self-assessment question – Do you have a plan for updating your sales skills in each of these important areas? 
2. Internal consulting skills become critical 
As almost all of recruiting’s operations and processes become automated, the freeing up of time and resources will provide recruiting with its long-desired opportunity to become more strategic. Strategic recruiting involves providing “big picture” advice to executives on longer-term recruiting issues like employer brand and talent pipeline building. It also provides more time for directly solving “business problems” through advanced, proactive recruiting actions.

Taken together this means that the very best recruiters will be asked to provide advanced consulting advice and direction to executives and senior hiring managers. The goal of this consulting will be to proactively act in order to prevent any upcoming talent shortages and identify and take advantage of external talent opportunities. Obviously, providing consulting advice and influencing executives to take strategic recruiting actions requires a completely different skillset than most recruiters currently have (or perhaps even have the capability of developing). In order to consult and provide strategic direction, a recruiter will have to be able to persuade with data and numbers and have enough knowledge of business operations to be credible with executives. Building this business acumen and understanding may require some “recruiting consultants” to be embedded in the most critical business units.

Self-assessment question – Do you have the internal consulting skills and experience that will be required in order to handle a strategic recruiting assignment with a senior executive?
3. You must become a data monkey 

The most certain of all recruiting trends is that the function is shifting to a model that relies on data-based decision making. For years recruiters built relationships with hiring managers in order to get them to listen, but unfortunately, many of those relationships were based solely on personal bonds. But listening to someone because you like them or even because you trust them is slowly being replaced by a more numbers-based, “arm’s length” relationship. In this less emotional environment, you must justify each individual recommendation with data and business impacts. And this can’t be ignored: according to research by Bersin by Deloitte, the factor with the highest impact on recruiting success is the recruiter/hiring manager relationship.

Recruiters won’t actually have to gather or “run the data” because fortunately data scientists in recruiting will develop the algorithms and provide the key numbers needed. But recruiters will have to assume the role of interpreting that data and turning it into actionable recommendations. That means some in-depth learning about the predictive value of algorithms, correlations and split sample tests.

It also means learning in perhaps the most critical area, which is predictive metrics and analytics. Historical recruiting metrics will be overshadowed by predictive trends and trajectories. And recruiters will have to learn how to use this predictive information to “alert” managers of upcoming recruiting problems and opportunities while there is still time to act. Alert areas will include upcoming talent surpluses/shortages, and identifying when high-value pre-identified targets “that are never looking” actually begin considering a career move. Recruiters will be expected to influence hiring managers with data and business arguments to the point where they will act on a majority of the provided “talent alerts.”

Self-assessment question – Have you embraced big and little data to the point where you can effectively understand and collaborate with data scientists?
4. The capability to recommend technology in place of hiring new employees 

It’s no secret that recruiting and HR have always had a bias towards “hiring people.” But now that both software and hardware can do many of the things that humans can do, the people side of the business must begin considering technology options before they automatically “hire people.” That means that at the requisition stage, both recruiters and hiring managers will be asked to calculate if a technology solution could be a superior fit. And recruiters will have to know the most effective and objective methods for determining when “hiring people” should not be the default action.

Self-assessment question – Do you have an assessment checklist with objective criteria for determining when you should choose technology over a human hire?
5. Skills related to discovering, assessing and effectively using new recruiting technologies

Now that innovators and leading-edge vendors have finally turned their attention to Talent Acquisition, there will continue to be a slew of new recruiting technologies offered. Unfortunately, many of those technologies will not be able to prove that their product or service measurably improves the quality of hire (i.e. the on-the-job performance and the retention of new hires). So recruiters will have to accept a new role involving the early identification and the assessment of these technologies so that your firm can be among the first in utilizing the ones that actually work. Recruiters will have to develop objective “buy/don’t buy criteria lists” for use in weeding out those technologies and services that can’t yet deliver measurable improvements in your firm’s quality of hire results.

Self-assessment question – Do you have an objective data-based checklist for assessing the effectiveness of a vendor’s new technology?


6. Advanced marketing skills and approaches that make your firm stand out
With the implementation of automated Internet sourcing, literally “everybody will be able to find everybody” who is the least bit desirable as an employee. And because these individuals will be “over contacted” by almost everyone, advanced marketing approaches will be necessary in order to capture even a small initial interest in your firm. That means that recruitment marketing must significantly raise its capability to the point where it is on par with product marketing.

Rather than using the current imprecise approach, recruiters will need to conduct “prospect research” surveys. The surveys should statistically determine for each job family how and where active job seekers look for a job. In addition, they should also determine the attraction factors that are necessary in order to get both top actives and top passives interested enough to add your firm to their job search short list. Because personalized marketing is extremely effective, recruiters will also need to learn how to personalize or customize their messaging and sales pitches so that they excite each key individual with a personalized message. And finally, executives will expect a data-driven function to attain higher offer closing rates. So recruiters will need to be adept at first identifying and then meeting the “job acceptance criteria” for each finalist.

Self-assessment question – Do you know how to offer personalized recruitment marketing, so that you can more effectively attract and hire top talent?
7. Understanding the financial implications of and business case for a hire

Because hiring managers will be aware that recruiting has made the shift to a data-based decision-making model, they will no longer accept “gut recommendations” or “let’s do it the same as last time” recommendations from recruiters. In each case after presenting the data to support a recruiting recommendation, hiring managers will expect recruiters to go a step further – that is to also show the business impacts of the top 2 choices. Executives are already expecting all business units (including overhead units like HR) to present the quantified business impacts of all major decisions, so recruiters will have to add to their data-based arguments and business impact advantages of option #1 over option #2. This means that in most cases recruiters will have to show how much their recommended Talent Acquisition action will result in increased corporate revenue.

With increasing requests for budget funding for new technologies, executives will also require a much more stringent business case before they will invest in new recruiting technologies. As a result, not just leaders but everyone in recruiting will need to know how to quantify the impact of what they do in dollars or revenue (and not just reducing costs). And for each new technology purchase, the projected improvement rate in the quality of hire will also have to be quantified, revealing its direct impact on corporate revenue.

Self-assessment question – Do you have the knowledge required in order to build a business case and to show the impact of your recruiting recommendations. 
8. Skills for influencing new-hire retention 

Executives and recruiting leaders are already expecting all aspects of Talent Management to be interconnected. That means the old days of “dropping new-hires over the wall and forgetting them” are gone. The interconnected approach expects recruiters to maintain their initially strong relationship with the new hire for at least three months after they start to maximize retention. Since most recruiters don’t have retention related skills, they will have to develop them in order to play their shared role in measurably reducing new-hire turnover. Incidentally, reducing new-hire turnover will also help the recruiting function because that position won’t have to be refilled as quickly.

Self-assessment question – Do you have the skills required in order to determine which new-hires are at risk of leaving and the effective steps to follow for minimizing their turnover?


9. The ability to prioritize and focus resources becomes critical 

It’s crucial that the recruiting function “matches” the priorities assigned by executives. And because it is routine for executives to put a higher priority on certain strategic business units, and high-impact roles, recruiting must learn to follow these priorities and to focus its best resources accordingly. That means recruiters accustomed to servicing the easiest jobs first or that have historically preferred to “treat everyone equal/fair” will have to learn to adopt a model that focuses on high impact, high priority recruiting.

Self-assessment question – Is your role or department structured, and do you have the required business insight, so you can focus on the highest priority business units and jobs?


10. The ability to adapt and learn fast

There is a name for the volatile world that we operate in, and it’s called VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). The best way to describe a VUCA world is one with a constant but hard-to-predict wave of change that comes from surprising new areas. And since no one is predicting less volatility in the future, it makes sense to learn how to thrive in this environment. The first trait required here is adaptability. If you’re adaptable, you learn to expect constant change, and rather than resisting it, you welcome it like a breath of fresh air. The second trait required is rapid self-directed learning. With this skill set you assume that what you know now will change and be obsolete within 18 months. You need to identify the best places to learn (usually blogs) what’s happening on what I call “the bleeding edge of knowledge”, and whenever a new discipline or skill catches you off guard, you update your learning sources to minimize the chance of the same thing happening again.

Self-assessment question – Do others seem to know about new technologies and breakthroughs before you? If so, try to identify their learning sources so that you can learn faster in the future.



When you examine the volume of new technologies and approaches that both corporations and vendors are developing these days, it can be mind-boggling. As a recruiter, one option could be to wait until each new technology is implemented before paying attention to it. However, waiting too long could be fatal. If you don’t have the basic skills and knowledge that are required to fully understand new technology solutions, you might get passed over and not initially be assigned to utilize it. Even if recruiting leaders alert you that you need to learn a new technology, the odds are that because many are so complex, the time they allocate for learning will be way too short for you. Instead, you must realize that in most cases, in order to be fully confident in your knowledge and skills on a new technology, you must begin to “ramp up your skills” months before the company finally offers the limited training that it can afford.

The key lesson for most recruiters and recruiting leaders to take away is that in a rapidly changing world of recruiting, you can become a “dinosaur recruiter” in months rather than years. And the best way to prevent becoming obsolete is to create a plan for acquiring the required skills and knowledge to stay ahead, and be ready as new technology lands.


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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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