7 Traits of Great Recruiters…

So… you want to be a recruiter… or… you want to be a better recruiter?

Well listen closely my friends…

I speak conservatively to 5 recruitment people a day – Consultants, Managers & Owners. Well I don’t speak conservatively… I conservatively speak… if you get my drift… Geez… how 70’s is that? Drift…

bestrecuiter2These Consultants, Managers & Owners come from different niches and from different sized companies. That means over the past 5 years I have spoken to in excess of 5,500 recruitment professionals… OK… I may have spoken to a couple of you more than once, but it is still a shit load of recruiters in anyone’s language…

So, you know what? Over the journey I’ve kind of worked out the magic formula… the traits and idiosyncrasies that all of the very best recruiters possess. Forget about the process, your social media coverage and market reach… forget about the number of times you pick up the phone in a day… and forget about your ability (or lack thereof) to update the database and complete reports. *Disclaimer… when I say forget about the above I mean forget about them for the 3 minutes and 42 seconds it takes you to read this blog…

Come along for the ride with me… look at the list below and ‘tick off’ the ones you have… and work on the ones you don’t.

  1. Commercial Acumen – To be a great… a truly great recruiter you need to understand business. You need to be aware of the commercials behind your desk. Break-even points. Profitability etc. I’ve banged on about it before in other posts, but it’s key and will help drive other areas like urgency, activity & time management…
  2. Passion – You need the fire in the belly! The desire to wake up every day and work your market. Passion feeds you the energy you need… and you need a butt-load (not sure there is a hyphen in butt-load… but… anyway), you need a butt-load of energy to be a successful recruiter. If you don’t have the passion and drive to be successful you need to find it… or get out.bestrecruiter1
  3. Resilience – The best recruiters have this in abundance. The number of things that can… and do… go wrong in a day in the life of a recruiter are many & varied (and I’m putting that nicely). Resilience is a magical trait that allows you to move on from disappointment and tackle the next assignment with the same vigour and positivity.
  4. Empathy – Guess what? It’s not all about you. It’s about your candidates and clients… and if you don’t understand their drivers and motivators you just can’t be the best… sorry you can’t.
  5. Bull Shit Radar – No hyphen there… you know what? Candidates and Clients lie… not every time… not even most times… It kinda feels like most times, but believe me it’s not… stats show that clients and candidates lie to you about 36.87% of the time… I made that stat up, but I’m tipping I’m pretty close to the mark! Fact is you… yes you… need to be able to sort out the bull shit from the truth. The best recruiters can do this. How’s your Bull Shit Radar?
  6. No Fear – Most deals that don’t happen can be avoided. I think I said that backwards… what I meant was… You can avoid most deals falling over… no actually the first time was better… Most deals that don’t happen can be avoided. ‘How?’ I hear you ask… Well funny you should ask, because it’s all about asking questions. If you ask the tough questions early in a process you can control it much… much better. Sometimes the answers aren’t what you want to hear… which is why many recruiters are too scared to ask them… but wouldn’t you want to know a deal is dead in the water early in the process – rather than later? It gives you more time to focus on the real deals. In my opinion (if I was cool I would have said IMO), FEAR or lack of it is one of the absolute must haves for the very best recruiters.bestecruiter3
  7. X-Factor – Do you have it? What even is it? If you ask Danni Minogue, Redfoo or any of the other judges it’s the ability to juggle flaming samurai swords whilst riding a unicycle and singing Ava Maria. But for me it’s a combination of points 1 to 6 coupled with a knack for getting things done. If you have 1 – 6 you will be a very good recruiter… throw in the x-factor and you become great!

There you have it. My 7 Traits all Great Recruiters Have… If I were really smart I‘d make it into a sexy acronym… say… like… FREXCAPB and make a fortune on the e-book deal… but clearly I’m not.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what traits or attributes define a great recruiter.

Have I hit the mark… or am I way off? And more importantly… Do you have FREXCAPB? It’s starting to grow on me…

Craig Watson


17 thoughts on “7 Traits of Great Recruiters…

  1. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

    People that work in agencies aren’t really recruiters. Recruitment is what inhouse recruiters do.

    What you should have done is called this blog ‘7 Traits of Great Candidate Traders…’

        1. Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

          According to businessdictionary.com the definition of a recruiter ia as follows:
          ‘An individual who works to fill job openings in businesses or organizations. Recruiters will work from resumes or by actively soliciting individuals qualified for positions. A recruiter’s job includes reviewing candidate’s job experiences, negotiating salaries, and placing candidates in agreeable employment positions. Recruiters typically receive a fee from the hiring employers.’

          Mitch… this suggests that inhouse practitioners are not real recruiters… although I don’t agree with that.
          I enjoy our little banter… don’t you?

          1. Mitch Sullivan on

            Yes Craig.

            I suspect that definition is as old as the hills and was conceived long before there was even such a thing as inhouse recruiters.

            The rise of the inhouse recruitment sector has changed the scope of what agency recruitment is and the way it is viewed.

            What everyone sees now (btw..that would be everyone except agency recruiters) are companies filling a lot of their own jobs from start to finish by working multiple channels, developing an employer brand, selling their company vigorously (and honestly), assessing candidates against set (and realistic) skills criteria and building networks for future hiring needs.

            What agency recruiters do is trade candidates on the fringes of other people’s recruitment assignments.

          2. Mitch Sullivan on

            Thanks Craig.

            All that does is confirm that you don’t have an answer and instead prefer to play the diversionary game of veiled personal insults.

            I’m not going to get involved in that one.

            Sleep well.

    1. Michelle Ackland on Reply

      Mitch I have worked in both agency and internal recruitment and both have the good and bad like any role. I still believe some of the best recruiters are in agency and whether you like it or not the reason many turn to internal is they can’t handle the pace or the pressure. I chose internal because I loved the company and what they stood for but I honestly didn’t enjoy the recruitment aspect. You have obviously dealt with the wrong recruiters within the agencies space which is disappointing for those of us that are passionate about what we do!! I really like my candidates and clients, we work as a team which is why we are successful most of the time.

  2. Darren Ledger on Reply

    Craig – finally someone tells it as it is, explains the true underlying personality traits that make a truly great recruiter. In fact what you have described even sounds like a rather nice person to be around. Unlike those shoot from the hip, no ethical compass, wide boys who learned their trade on a fish market and have a speech impediment which means they over use the term ‘Geezer’ and consider it some form of colloquialism for the word ‘Trust’.

    Best of all it totally blows all of the Big Biller schyster’s out of the water. For the simple reason that you can’t train passion, you can’t actually train or develop commercial acumen certainly not in a 1 day seminar. I’d love to know what The Big Biller Summit gang thought of this post.

  3. Darren Ledger on Reply

    Reblogged this on Recruitment Utopia and commented:
    Craig Watson finally says what has needed saying for years. You can’t create or make a great recruiter. No training course that costs thousands of £’s will turn you from a loser in a big biller because first of all a great recruiter is about personality traits, its about stuff that is already in you. Things like empathy, passion, tenacity and even commercial acumen. These things are not taught, you can’t buy them, you either have them or you don’t. My final thought it that I think an ethical and moral compass is also a major prerequisite. Which is probably why I’ve never been a Big Biller and never will be. Great recruitment for me has always been about delivering an exceptional solution. It has never been about ringing bells and putting fees on a board.

  4. Darren Ledger on Reply

    Oh and I know that this won’t go down well with many people. But I think to be a great recruiter you have to have a strong moral and ethical compass. Which is why I will never be and have never wanted to be a Big Biller, or Fat Moron, or somebody who’s entire life is spent in the pursuit of ringing a fucking bell instead of delivering exquisite solutions that leave their clients speechless.

  5. Andrew Storrier on Reply

    But Craig, in this world of big data, how do you test for FREXCAPB(TM)?

    Might I suggest for number 6, you put an ASX 200 hiring manager’s business card card at the bottom of a jar of bees, first recruiter to fish it out rises to the top of your list.

  6. Peter Legge-Wilkinson on Reply

    Hi Craig, I love reading your blogs and this was no exception but I have to pick you up on one grammatical error (‘cos that is what I do when I read things on the net). It should be “How’s your bullshit radar?”. Mine’s pretty good but I still get caught btw! And the x-factor thing, ever since Warren Ryan talked about it last century (can I say that here) I’ve been looking for it with the hockey teams I coach, I still haven’t found it because it is related to the bullshit radar – i.e. can they back up the bullshit they sprout! But I do love this post!

  7. Michelle Ackland on Reply

    Luke great read as always but one thing I think you missed was accountability, too many consultants seem to think that when things go brilliantly it is all them (what candidate) but when it goes bad it is the candidate and only the candidate.

  8. ocassioconsultant on Reply

    Great read Craig. I was working for a large multinationa recruutment firm a few years back and one of the things which I was really suprised at was the “fear” levels in some of the recruiters, not only when it came to business development but candidate calls too. Really suprised me. All the other points you raised are valid but if your fearful you will struggle.

  9. Jo S. on Reply

    I completely agree with this article, and it highlights to me why I made the right decision to step away from agency recruitment and move to internal. In my personal opinion (and others may disagree… not looking to get involved in an argument) they are very different roles but require both similar and different skills & attributes. However, your above 7 points apply (perhaps on different levels) to recruiters of all walks of life.

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