Confessions Of A Successful Recruiter Posted at 0:00, Mon, 24 August 2015 in Industry Insights

Ok…huddle in, I want to share with you some trade secrets that have been gleaned for close to 16 years in the dark art of recruitment…

Before you roll your eyes and prepare yourself to also read a passionate defence of an often-maligned industry let me assure you this is not a ‘woe is me’ tale.

Neither is said ‘Successful Recruiter’ an autobiographical account of ego grandstanding and a world according to me viewpoint. The rich tapestry of talent acquisition is woven with a myriad of personalities and opinion and this is certainly no claim to the sole magic formula or blueprint.

This post is about ‘The Secrets Of Success’ and the aforementioned ‘Recruiter ‘is a composite gleaned from the hundreds (possibly thousands of recruiters) I have worked alongside, managed, reported to, respected and and thankfully only a few I have actively avoided.

Easing back into the proverbial recruitment rocking chair of a few years of experience (I do remember faxed CV submissions!) I reflect on the evolution, revolution and in some cases devolution in the talent acquisition market. Over this time a lot has been written about the challenge to, demise of and need for iteration of the recruitment industry (of which I will not attempt to address in this blog given the plethora of commentary by some well informed and respected professionals who offer some thought-provoking insight and others who simply have an axe to grind about recruiters and provide a whinging platform for others to rally round – not constructive/not interesting).

I have aimed to distil via my interactions in the industry to what I believe makes a really successful recruiter and highlight attributes that demonstrably and consistently have driven a great outcome for all parties.
Let’s assume you have assimilated the Recruitment 101 manual that regurgitates the perceived traits that a good recruiter must possess…you know the ones I mean: persistency, sales focused, be a people person, work hard play hard, multitasker, be driven……..Yawn! Zzzzzzzzz! I am not questioning the validity of these rather trite descriptions, they are just a little…well, self-centric. We work in a services based industry that surely is about providing counsel, expertise and solutions to others not introspectively rehashing an outdated stereotype.

The recruiters that I have had the pleasure to work with that have long and successful careers have quickly read the tired old recruitment manual, placed it back on the bookshelf and written their own personal oeuvre to recruitment that places both candidates and clients front and centre and challenges the stereotype every day. They excel not at the obvious, stereotypical or classroom trained school of recruitment but they embrace the high touch, service-led approach because that is what they truly enjoy about the job.

Give a S&@% – be intellectually curious
Showing a heightened level of awareness backed by market knowledge and intelligent questioning raises your credibility stock immeasurably. We have all heard about the importance of the 80/20 rule, 2 ears/one mouth approach when it comes to business interaction…shame it is so often ignored. In my experience and wherever possible people do business with people they like. Certainly give your opinion, insight and perspective but respect that the person in front of you has taken time out to talk about what is most important to them….themselves or their business. It occupies their thoughts every day….let it occupy the majority of the time with you.

Provide a solution that reflects what your client or candidate needs
If you have applied the first point, listened and understood and thus provided a strong sounding board through a proper business conversation rather than a recruitment conversation (very different interactions) you will be much better placed to actually help that person/company. By applying latitude and flexibility and building a career path or commercial model that aids both parties you again will show you have comprehended and tailored what is right for them. This will not only enhance the relationship-building process (critical in today’s market) but increase the strong likelihood of your services being recommended again and again.

Pay it forward
Great recruiters have a default switch in their brain that is not – as some commentators would have you believe – fixed permanently to ‘How can I make money from this’. The best ones in our profession have an intuitive trigger that is set to ‘How can I help or improve this situation?‘. Without sounding too much like a recruitment hippie I am a firm believer in business karma. Be generous with your advice, network and brokerage of business relationships that sit above the immediacy of a current recruitment transaction. This is not a gratuitous plug more of a gentle endorsement, but something I am confident and proud that we do at MitchelLake and have done for 15 years is exactly that. One of the greatest statesmen that lived summed it up perfectly. “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill.

Be genuine and responsive…in every interaction
Know where your limits stretch to and either aim to improve on them or feel comfortable recommending other recruiters (I know… shock! horror!…something I have been ‘guilty’ of in the past) or partners that can provide the best advice. Humility and responsiveness across all channels of communication speaks volumes about not just the type of recruiter you are but more about the type of person you are.
Undeniably the market demands and talent landscape have changed. As we have moved quickly from the information age to the networked age the recruitment industry needed to equally adapt. Access to information is unprecedented and social media platforms have given focus, profile and a voice to those who previously sat on a dusty ATS system or whose network extended to only those they had had direct or referred contact with.

With this dynamic shift has come a plethora of tools, systems, data science-led analytics, social, SEO, digital strategies, online employee referral companies, specialist job boards each trying to reinvent the wheel with ‘new’ products and businesses…the list is a long and mind boggling one and technology has become an incredible enabler of one or more stages of the process.


You would not throw the Aston Martin car keys to a pre pubescent teenager or your Gran for that matter. The performance ride of that particular journey is entirely down to the experience, skills, awareness and subtleties of navigating an often very undulating and fraught road.

Place the right human behind the wheel and you are far more likely to get to your destination much more smoothly. Clients and candidates rightly have incredibly high expectations of recruiters when it comes to handling a business critical appointment or highly sensitive career transition.

Before joining my previous company I was a candidate trying to create a personal brand that resonated and build a referral network that could get me that killer job. My own experience and insight highlighted some alarming naivety and arrogance from recruiters, internal TA and hiring managers (that’s for another blog) but crucially gave me some encouraging rays of light and reinforced my own personal belief.
That fundamentally, however impressive your algorithms are in applying data to recruitment, however pervasive your social media strategy is, whatever you might think the shiny brand and mission statement might represent, The Secrets to Success in Recruitment, are often more innate, altruistic and selflessly driven and as such for some could be harder to achieve. But as my Gran always used to say, before she headed off to the shops in her DB9… “if it was easy Luke, everyone would be doing it!”

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Let us know on Twitter at @mitchellake or @LakerLuke.