On Becoming a Great Recruiter, Part 1

Over the next eight weeks, you have a chance to learn what it takes to become one of the top recruiters in the country. This means you'll be able to make at least $150,000-$175,000 per year; you'll be seen as a true career consultant by your candidates and a true partner by your clients.

Bottom line: What this means is that you'll make more placements with better people more quickly while negotiating on opportunity, not compensation. However, to get to be a high-earning, well-respected recruiter, you'll need to try out the techniques presented in this article.

Most likely, many of them will run counter to your current approach. It's in these areas that you'll have to work harder to overcome your beliefs and still try out the ideas. This is how you grow, and getting through these rough spots is the key to personal change management. So, put some extra effort in here. But enough of the talk. Let's get started on getting better.

First, I want you to write down the one single thing you need to do to become a better recruiter. Whether it's making cold calls, taking the assignment, negotiating offers, or whatever, I want you to focus on improving this one skill over the next eight weeks. This focused intensity will allow you to extract something meaningful from each of these articles and apply it directly to your work. Feel free to email me the area you've chosen for personal improvement, but beware if you tell me now, you'll need to tell me in eight weeks how you got better.

Here are the eight key topics we'll be covering during this series, and a few tips to get you started right away.

Benchmarking your performance. Since this a project, and not just a series of articles to read, you'll first need to figure how good you are today. Take this recruiter diagnostic right now to get started. At the end of the project, you'll take the same diagnostic again to see how much you've improved. We'll also be taking a big survey as part of this. It will be the first to collect critical recruiter performance metrics like requisitions handled by recruiter, sendouts per hire, placements per month, and income. Sign up here if you want to be part of this important study.

Taking the assignment: To ensure that you don't exclude the best people from consideration, you'll need to convert job descriptions into career opportunities. I call these "performance profiles." Preparing these will instantly create a partner relationship with your clients and allow you to become a true career consultant for your candidates.To get a feel for this, the next time you take an assignment, ask your hiring manager client these two questions: 1) What are the two or three things that a person taking this job needs to do to be considered successful during the first year? and 2) Why would a top person want this job? At the end of the meeting, ask your client if he would see a person who could do the work described even if the person had fewer of the skills or less experience than what was listed in the job description. This will get your client to start thinking about performance rather than years of experience or skills.

Active candidate sourcing. You can find great, active people if you know the secrets of maximizing the effectiveness of job boards, aggregators, job posting management systems, web analytics, and your applicant tracking system. Here's a test to see if you're even in the game. Assume you're a top candidate who is only going to use Google to find a job. Put in the generic title of the job, the core skills, the word "jobs," and the location. Did your job show up on the first page? If not, figure out what search terms a person would have to use to find your job within five minutes. This will give you some clues on how to redesign your ad strategy driven by the need to find your jobs quickly. Of course, if your ads are boring, it doesn't really matter.

Passive candidate sourcing. My mantra is that with a phone and ZoomInfo or a list developed by Shally Steckerl, you can find three to four top people for any assignment within two days. You've got a month before we get to this topic, but start tracking these metrics now: number of cold calls per day, percentage of returned calls, number of people open to considering your opportunity, and the number of good referrals per call. Now, track the same metrics for these referrals. What you'll discover is that working the referred list is three to five times more productive than working the cold list. So, the secret to passive candidate recruiting is getting good referrals. We'll show you how when we get to this upcoming article.

Using the interview to assess competency and create opportunity. Some of you think that the primary purpose of an interview is to assess candidate competency. This is only one of many competing objectives. In my mind, there are even a few that are more important. One is to enable the recruiter to identify areas of job stretch to the candidate while the interview is being conducted. Of course, you need to have prepared a performance profile before the interview and also be able to conduct a performance-based interview.

Together these two techniques allow you to conduct this type of career gap analysis in real time. Not only will you gain instant respect from the candidate, but more importantly, you'll be able to recruit the candidate based on opportunity rather than compensation. Try this as a starter: Ask your top candidates if they would be open to exploring a career opportunity if it offered 20-25% job stretch and job growth even if the compensation increase was modest. You'll discover that most will say "yes." Then, of course, you've got to prove it. But proving it is why you must be great at interviewing to be a great recruiter.

Using the interview to defend your candidate against managers who make dumb decisions. Another important purpose of the interview is to prevent good candidates from being excluded from consideration by those who conduct superficial or biased interviews. If you've ever lost a good person because someone on the interviewing team was unprepared, emotional, or a weak interviewer, you know how devastating this can be. Equally as bad is having great candidates not even be considered because they didn't have the right skills, experience, or academic background. Good interviewing skills can minimize these types of non-hires.

Knowing the job and conducting an in-depth, performance-based interview provides the recruiter with the evidence needed to overcome these types of bad decisions. Here's a test you might want to try out to prove this. First, ask your hiring manager client what it would take for him to see and hire a candidate from you if the person had half the experience listed on the job description. He'll probably say, "Demonstrated proof the person has done exceptional work doing similar things required on the job." Then, ask the manager to describe some of these typical projects. Now, use the interview to get the proof you need that your candidate has done exceptional work in these areas. This test also demonstrates a core secret of great recruiting: By getting the hiring manager to switch the hiring decision to performance objectives rather than skills, you can cut your sendouts per hire in half.

Advanced recruiting and negotiating offers. Handling objections, overcoming concerns, dealing with counteroffers, and candidates saying "no" are part of the daily grind of every top recruiter. In this article, you'll discover what you need to do to cut lost placements by 50-75%. While you won't close every deal, you'll have the tools and techniques to improve your odds. Remember that if a deal turns sour in the final stages, you have to do the search over again.

Here's how to get started on this: Start keeping track of why your candidates say "no" or opt out of the process, whether it's at the beginning, midstage, or after an offer is extended. Bunch these into groups and put a graph together from most common to least common. (FYI this is called a "Pareto analysis.") The top two or three of the most common concerns probably represent more than 50% of all of the problems. So if you eliminate these, you'll be 50% more productive. For now, just write down what you normally do when you hear these problems, and the outcome. In the article, you'll find two techniques to eliminate these problems. The first is to have a well-developed, clever counter every time a candidate raises one of these concerns. The second and better approach: Anticipate the counter in your pitch or presentation before it gets brought up.

Keeping the deal closed and tracking your performance improvement. The fight for top talent is intense, so expect a counteroffer or a competitive offer. How you keep deals closed is part of being a good recruiter. Getting hiring managers involved in this stage is vital, as well as some serious handholding and visualization exercises. Keeping deals closed at the end actually starts at the beginning by converting boring job descriptions into compelling career opportunities. Collectively, this is how good recruiters earn big bucks. In this final article, we'll tie all of the pieces together into an easy-to-use checklist. You'll use this as your personal improvement guide and, in combination with the survey and diagnostic test, you'll have your own career game plan locked in place.

Once you successfully complete the exercises contained in the interactive series of articles, you'll be a better recruiter and on a faster personal growth curve. Once you experience it yourself, you'll be able to confidently say to any top candidate, "Would you be open to explore a situation if it was clearly superior to what you're doing today?" Better yet, 90% will say "yes" to your offer. Of course, now you have to prove it. But showing you how is the whole point of this series on becoming a great recruiter.


By Lou Adler, reprinted with the permission of Electronic Recruiting Exchange
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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