The Best Recruiters Behave Like Detectives

January 6, 2016 Tim Sackett

I grew up in the staffing agency world. My mother started her agency (HRU Technical Resources) when I was 10 years old and worked in the industry before starting her company. I can distinctly remember sitting on her bed stuffing envelopes with skill assessment questionnaires for candidates. She paid me $.05 per envelope, and I thought it was a pretty sweet gig!

When I graduated college, my first job was working as a research assistant to a full desk recruiter in her agency. Pre-Internet, the position was equivalent to a modern day sourcer, minus all the cool fancy tech tools. I had a phone and stacks of resumes. For my first three weeks, I had a 100-call per day goal I had to hit. I couldn’t go home until I finished those 100 calls. That was training!

I’ve worked a total of 15 years in the staffing world, and 10 years in corporate talent acquisition. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned there’s an enormous difference in what makes an agency recruiter successful versus what makes a corporate recruiter successful.

So, what makes a successful agency recruiter? Here are five attributes I look for in my recruiters:

1. Be Rejection-Proof.

You know that guy in college who would continually ask girls out who were way out of his league? He would get turned down regularly, yet still go back and try again. Eventually, one day you see him dating a model. These folks strangely don’t understand the concept of rejection.

2. Keep a Scoreboard.

Great agency recruiters keep an internal and external scoreboard, and it’s constantly being updated. Not only will they compete against others on your staff, but their biggest competition is also the one they have with themselves each and every day.

3. Don’t Hold Grudges.

The most successful agency recruiters will still call back a candidate who no-showed on three interviews. Why? Because No. 4 could make them money. Corporate recruiters hold grudges. Agency recruiters make placements.

4. Be a Detective.

Would they be a jealous spouse? Great recruiters are detectives. They don’t believe what you tell them the first five times. They’ll question you like a jealous partner. “So you just decided to leave your last job? Really? Did you decide not to have an income?”

5. Don’t Have a Filter.

Have they no filter on asking questions? Recruiters fail when they fail to ask the right — and many times, obvious — questions. If a candidate lives two hours from the job but says it won’t be a problem, a recruiter doesn’t roll over and accept an answer at face value. Living two hours away is going to be a problem! Great recruiters have an innate ability to be persistent and ask the right, obvious questions.

Here’s the hard part. How the heck do you find these kinds of recruiters during an interview process?

These are things you shouldn’t have to teach anyone. They either have it or they don’t. The best recruiter attributes aren’t measurable with an assessment. Traditionally, hiring great recruiters has been a 50/50 crap shoot.

Most agencies have no idea how to hire a great recruiter. I know because I fail, just like the rest of you. For most of us, learning how to hire agency recruiters just happens through trial and error.

Here’s one thing that has helped me to hire great recruiters: I have them interview me, right from the get go. Let’s face it, we aren’t trying to launch the space shuttle.

My first step in the interview process is clear:

Call me and talk to me like I’m the candidate.

Sure, these candidates won’t be polished, but you instantly see if they have that “it” factor of being able to hold a conversation. You’ll learn if they are inquisitive enough to do this job.

Give it a try. It’s shocking how some people can easily do this — and how easily they’ll find lasting success over those who can’t.


To get the latest staffing and recruiting trends, check out The CareerBuilder Staffing and Recruiting Talent Brief. 

Previous Article
3 Things the Best Staffing Firms Do
3 Things the Best Staffing Firms Do

Here are the top three things that make Inavero’s 2016 Best of Staffing Award winners stand out from the cr...

No More Articles

Say goodbye to traditional hiring costs with Pay Per Resume

Get Started