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What it Takes to be a Successful Recruiter

There are many paths into the unique field of recruiting, giving  teams a wide range of experience from which to draw. The job is attractive to recent graduates because it’s possible to get hired without any experience and advance rapidly in the organization. On the contrary, there are also recruiting professionals with 20+ years of experience in staffing working alongside recent graduates. Overall, recruiting provides opportunities for fast-paced work and career advancement for those who are able to keep up.

Success in recruiting is determined more by your habits than your experience. There are two sides to being a successful recruiter that we’ll explore here, as the meaning of success often means different things to different people. To be a great recruiter, you have to excel in the eyes of two groups: your colleagues and your candidates.

Succeeding with Your Colleagues

Building trust with your colleagues is an integral part of being a successful recruiter. You’re the first line of defense in identifying and screening candidates, which means others depend on you to find suitable matches for open positions. Taking the time to develop those relationships and earn the trust of your colleagues means that they’ll defer to your judgment in situations that could be the deciding factor in making a deal, such as trusting your judgment that a candidate is worth presenting to a client, even if they aren’t a perfect match on paper.


As the bridge between candidates and your sales team, it’s vital to always err on the side of overcommunication. Your colleagues should never be left wondering if you’ve seen their messages or if you’ve gotten an update from a candidate. Intangibles like returning calls, sending emails, and confirming information go a long way toward building trust.

Be Open and Transparent

A successful recruiter gives direct feedback on candidates to their colleagues, including their strengths and weaknesses. If a colleague asks you which candidate in a pool is the best, tell them honestly who is the best fit (and why). They’ll learn to trust your instincts and move candidates forward based on your recommendations. It’s equally important to communicate about the candidate’s concerns and requirements so that your colleague goes into conversations with clients fully prepared.

Get the Details

When you have lots of jobs and candidates in the mix, it’s vital to be detail-oriented so that your colleagues trust you did your homework and are passing on suitable matches. Before ending initial calls with candidates, ask them these critical details to avoid sending unpleasant surprises to your coworkers:

  1. When are you available to start the new job?
  2. Are you in the final stages of interviewing for other positions or expecting any offers in the near future?
  3. Do you have any upcoming time off planned?

These are all details that, while seemingly small, are a big deal to clients. Giving them to your colleagues upfront enables them to set accurate client expectations, and ensures that these details won’t ruin a deal down the line.

Succeeding with your Candidates

The other side of being a good recruiter is your approach to working with candidates. For the recruiter, a person may be one candidate in a pool of a hundred – but for the candidate, this could be the only interview they’ve had in six months. The urgency between you and the candidates may not be a perfect match, and it’s important to keep compassion at the forefront of your interactions.

Set Expectations

This job is so fast-paced it would be nearly impossible to follow up with every candidate about every position you send them to. That’s why it’s essential to set appropriate expectations with candidates. Let them know upfront that you’ll reach out with updates, and if they haven’t heard from you, it’s because you don’t have any news. That said, do encourage candidates to contact you if they spot an appealing job or have questions, and if a candidate takes the time to interview with a client,  always let them know if the client is going in another direction.

Be Available and Responsive

While recruiting jobs are typically salaried, the commission structure means that, for the most part, there’s a clear correlation between how much you work and how much you earn. Successful recruiters are flexible and understand that they might be working weekends and closing deals at 10p every once in a while. Responding quickly to candidates and meeting around their availability shows them that you respect their needs and have their best interest in mind. 

However, this isn’t to say that you must work yourself to the bone to succeed. When you’re working, give it 110% – but when you take time off, get someone to cover you and truly step away from work. It’s important to use your PTO so that you stay fresh and engaged.

Take Good Notes

With the volume of people recruiters meet daily, it would be impossible to remember every personal detail we learn about each candidate. Taking good notes is a crucial factor in a recruiter’s success. Most recruiters take notes on the obvious things like the candidate’s qualifications and interest, but the best ones take it a step further by including personal details in the notes. Remembering whose daughter got married last month or asking how someone’s new puppy is doing shows that you care about the candidates as more than just a means to an end. Always err on the side of writing down too much information; you can always delete or scrap later, but you can’t fill in gaps once you’ve forgotten.

All in all, successful recruiters are good communicators that lead with compassion, practicing good habits both in their relationships with colleagues and candidates. Whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, recruiting is a job that offers immense opportunities for career growth and financial gain, and there is always a way to improve in this profession.

Photo Credit: Canva

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