The Six Recruiting Skills You Must Have

There has never been a more challenging time to be a corporate recruiter. There have been thousands of recruiter and employee layoffs this year.

With uncertainty over the economy, many organizations, including Amazon and Ford, fear they have hired too many people or people with the wrong skills. With VCs less willing to shower firms with millions of dollars, startups are relooking at their employment levels and burn rates and cutting staff. Fearing a recession, other organizations, such as those in manufacturing (Tesla, Rivian), or social media (Facebook and Google) are using selective layoffs or letting attrition and slower hiring reduce their headcount while still desperately searching for people with scarce skills.

Exponential changes are also occurring in candidate and worker attitudes, technology, and artificial intelligence advancements. There are still more job openings than there are people seeking work. But there is also a huge imbalance of skills. Those with few skills and little education find it harder to find decent, well-paying jobs while those with skills seek higher pay and different working conditions.

This puts recruiters in a tough spot. How do they satisfy their hiring managers and also the candidates? How do they influence change in how hiring managers approach this market? How do they market or convince candidates to work at their organization?

Unfortunately, most recruiters still use the skills, processes, and tools that were designed to meet yesterday’s needs and fall short in this market.

They tend to fuss over trivial matters such as what metrics they should report, how they interview, or what ATS, CRM, or sourcing tools work best. This is fiddling while Rome burns.

The most important discussions and actions in recruiting should be about adapting to these market changes. As Darwin said, the key to survival is not necessarily being the “fittest” but having the ability to adapt.

It takes recruiters with up-to-date skills, technical acumen, and business understanding to thrive in this marketplace. It also takes developing new skills, understanding the latest technology, and embracing new processes.

Over the years, corporate recruiters have evolved three major sets of competencies.

The first is… the ability to deal with corporate bureaucracy and legal issues. These recruiters are formidable navigators of the corporate landscape. They know every hill and valley, every bomb and sinkhole. They produce legally required, nicely prepared, backward-looking reports and know every nuance of HR law.

Recruiters with these competencies likely work for the same firm for many years. The skills are unique to a particular company and do not transfer well. Their internal knowledge and ability to get things done in systems resistant to getting things done makes them valuable, but only IN that system. This ability fails to help the recruiter navigate a talent-constrained marketplace or understand or know how to use emerging technologies. It leads to the rigid application of techniques that used to work but may not work today.

The second is the ability to screen and interview candidates. This is often considered a primary skill, and recruiters take great pride in their interviewing prowess. They may have spent years taking classes and developing skills in good interviewing. Most of their time is spent scheduling, screening, and interviewing. While this may seem value-added, it does not scale and can be replaced mainly with artificial intelligence and various tests that have higher reliability and predictive value. 

The third skill is a helper or pair of hands for the hiring manager. They focus on wooing the candidate and hiring manager and making a good impression. The recruiter meets candidates, gives them a tour of the facility, takes them to the hiring manager, and perhaps even offers them a coffee or lunch. They become the liaison or interface between the company, the hiring manager, and the candidate. This also does not scale and is something the hiring manager should probably do. 

None of these three competencies help deliver scarce skills or influence hiring managers to think differently about the changing talent landscape. Recruiters who cannot objectively ascertain what competencies and skills the best performers have – indeed, don’t even know who the best performers are – cannot offer good advice. These recruiters do not offer quantitative data on candidates’ skills or past performance, nor are they very helpful in closing as they only know how to put together standard offers based on what they have offered other people with similar backgrounds and experiences.

Recruiters like this are most likely to be laid off or have difficulty finding new employment. Hiring managers and CEOs seek guidance, advice, and results from their recruitment leaders. They want data and a strategy to cope with changing skills needs and a competitive job market for hard-to-find skills.

While there are scores of useful skills, these are the six essential for survival as a modern recruiter.

What six skills does a productive, 21st-century recruiter need to have?

Figure 1. Six Key Recruiter Skills

Skill #1: They know how to use data

These recruiters are experts at understanding data and using it to influence hiring managers, show objective reasons why someone is a top performer, make better decisions about where to focus time and effort, and find the best people for a particular job family. They are familiar with descriptive and predictive analytics and work with data scientists and analysts to extract data that helps make better recommendations. They are always seeking to correlate and understand better the relationships between performance, skills, and experience. Their recommendations are based on data and as free from bias as possible. They use this data to decide which candidates to present and to influence hiring managers.

Skill #2: They build market and talent intelligence

According to Toby Culshaw, author of a new book on talent intelligence, talent intelligence is “the augmentation of internal and external people data with the application of technology, science, insights, and intelligence relating to people, skills, jobs, functions, competitors, and geographies to drive business decisions.”

Having this knowledge is power. By gathering market and talent data and analyzing and charting it, recruiters can develop talent maps and use those maps to meet, engage, and create relationships with the most desirable talent inside your firm and externally.

Skill #3: They build relationships and teams

The ability to build relationships is essential and close to the top of the pyramid of skills. They spend inordinate amounts of time talking, reading, networking, and learning about the areas they are responsible for and the people considered the best in the field. This is what all great recruiters do. They leverage diverse people to find the best candidate for a position or solve a problem. Rather than go it alone, they create teams of stakeholders to speed the process and ensure they have located the best people. These recruiters spend time inside and outside their organization and get to know people at all levels and professions that might be useful to their firm.

Skill #4: They understand and embrace technology

Technology is already crucial to recruiting success. Applicant tracking systems, HRIS systems, social networks, and recruiting websites are the base of older and more mature recruitment technology. On top of this base are increasingly powerful tools powered by artificial intelligence that can find, screen, assess, communicate with, and onboard people at all levels. Great recruiters embrace and learn the technology and make it do what they want. If a recruiter is not technically agile and informed, she cannot be successful in the long run.

Skill #5: They are flexible and agile

As I mentioned above, survival goes to those who adapt to changing situations best. As businesses change, new technologies emerge, work goes hybrid, and talent remains hard to identify and hire, being willing to accept change and deal with it positively is critical.

Skill #6: They are networkers

These recruiters have large networks of friends, social media connections, past candidates, experts, other recruiters, and colleagues who can provide leads, refers candidates, and provide valuable intelligence about the market.

The future recruiter will develop skills that are not easily done by artificial intelligence. They gladly give up the traditional skills of screening, scheduling, assessment, and reporting to focus on adding actual value.  

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