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How to Hire a Great Recruiter

The most crucial step in developing a world-class corporate recruiting function is to attract and retain top recruiters. There are many types of recruiters in the world, but the best are aggressive recruiters with excellent research and selling skills. I call them “warrior” recruiters. If you owned a sports franchise, it would be easy to see and measure the impact that a great recruiter can have on the bottom line. For one top firm I calculated the impact on revenue of a single world-class recruiter to be over $20 million. In contrast, a poor recruiter can negatively impact your image as well as your revenue. If you want to hire the very best “warrior” recruiters here are some tips to follow:

  1. Recruiter referrals. There are no secret great recruiters. Because the best recruiters compete almost daily in head-to-head competition for top talent, great recruiters know who the other great recruiters are. Start by developing a recruiter referral system. Reward your recruiters for both identifying and referring the best. Develop a “who’s who” of recruiters database and use it to identify the recruiters that you will target for hiring during the next year or two.
  2. Top performer referrals. Your very best employees have already been identified by and recruited by the best recruiters. Ask your top performers which recruiters have been successful in getting them to return their calls and which ones made great sales pitches. Reward them for a making great recruiter referral.
  3. Steal them from top firms. The very best recruiters are seldom unemployed (for long). As a result, they must be “poached” away from competing firms. When you lose a candidate to a competitor, call them up and ask them the name of the winning recruiter. Ask the same question of all of your new hires in key positions. When you hire a recruiter from a competing firm ask them on the first day, “Who is your former firm’s top recruiter?” If you’re not sure where to start…Cisco recruiters are generally regarded as the best in the world.
  4. List servers and chat rooms. Many of the best recruiters can be found providing answers on the various recruiting sites on the web. Ask your recruiters who participate in these forums to identify those with the best “answers.” Start with the ER Forum. Consider posting one of your own toughest recruiting problems and see who responds with an excellent solution.
  5. Ask the experts. The leading authors, speakers and consultants in recruiting almost always known the top recruiters by name. Ask them who was good, who they mentor and who they learn from?
  6. Steal them from executive search. 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. However, because of the economic downturn, they may currently be looking for job security rather than just income.
  7. Convert them from sales. Let’s face it, recruiting is primarily sales. Many firms have had great success in converting salespeople into recruiters. Either target your own salespeople who are facing burnout or target your competitors’ salespeople who are looking for a career change, a stable income, or less travel.
  8. Convert contract recruiters. Economic conditions have forced many contractors to consider jobs with more security. Use your current contractors as a source and ask them to refer others who may be looking for a more “permanent” assignment.
  9. Search professional associations. Top recruiters generally join the EMA and/or other local recruiting associations (Seattle and Atlanta are particularly strong). Attend their meetings and ask for referrals. In particular, look at officers and speakers.
  10. Ask their references. Call the references of your best recruiters (and finalist for recruiting positions) and ask them “who else they know that is excellent at recruiting?”
  11. Cruise job fairs. Although most top recruiters loath going to job fairs, you occasionally get lucky there. Ask around and see who the other recruiters recommend.

Do not, however:

  • Attempt to convert the administrative staff in the recruiting function into recruiters. They seldom have the mentality or the aggressiveness that the job requires. The same can also generally be said for most engineers and other technology professionals.
  • Attempt to convert HR professionals into recruiters. Most HR people can’t spell sales, and are risk-avoiders and “cooperators” rather than competitors. Recruiting and HR should not be related in any way.
  • Expect to find top recruiters putting their resumes on job boards. Top recruiters get jobs through relationships they have build, not by posting their resume.

Conclusion Remember, “a recruiter is just a salesperson with a crummy budget.” So when you’re trying to hire a great recruiter, look in places where aggressive people with great sales skills hang out. There are no college programs where you can major in recruiting, so it takes some creativity and innovation to find the best talent in recruiting. When recruiting recruiters follow the golden rule of recruiting… those with the best recruiters win! It’s really that simple.

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