Numerous articles (including some on this very site) have been written about being a good recruiter—for example, how to cold email or get clarity from a hiring manager—but there are few articles about the key attributes needed even before the tactical execution.
In other words, what makes a good tech recruiter? What are the key strengths they should possess? Here’s a look at a few:
Let’s lead with curiosity. At a recruiting trade show in Austin, a Talent Acquisition head flat-out admitted that she couldn’t keep up with all of the HR tech available these days. If leaders are admitting this, it is evident that the tech stack is evolving super-fast. To be a good tech recruiter, you should have curiosity about the future. What’s the hot new thing? How does it work? How are people using it? Where is the market moving?
You need to ask these questions before someone (i.e., your boss) tells you to ask these questions.
Tech recruiters today need the skills we usually associate with sales. With the tech industry’s unemployment rate hitting 1.9 percent in April, recruiters can’t solely depend on available tech talent. Courting candidates before you even have open headcount is crucial to filling tech slots quickly.
Additionally, the best tech recruiters build great rapport by being versed in whatever subjects the candidates find interesting. They listen 80 percent of the time, and can chat about a wide range of topics such as (but certainly not limited to) baseball, craft beer, Blockchain, an interesting article in Vanity Fair, what happened to Uber, and more. If you build the relationship before you need to sell the job, you’ll prove more successful as a tech recruiter. Those who don’t work proactively will prove less successful.
Internet skills should be a requirement for most jobs today, but it’s amazing how many recruiters lack in this area. Know how to use multiple job boards, and know which ones work the best for the candidates you need (ahem, Dice for tech talent). Learn Boolean, browser extensions, hacks to source more candidates, and the like. You don’t have to be some “funnel master,” but you should be able to look at a suite of tools available and say, “OK, I’ll use this, and it should yield these results.”
Those reqs might be flying at you, especially following a revenue uptick, a new business strategy, a big executive off-site, a new fiscal year, a new road map, etc. At that same Austin conference, we met someone from a major bank who had to fill 250 IT security roles in about, oh, three weeks. Sounds overwhelming, but if it requires just one underlying skill to handle, that skill is “organization.”
Have your folders and processes all mapped out. You can route responses from candidates one way, internal deliverables another way, and keep everyone happy and in the loop.
This one is obvious for all recruiters, but here’s what we mean: let’s say you get a req on a role that you don’t quite understand. You kinda/sorta/maybe comprehend what the person does, but not really. You ask the hiring manager for clarity and hear: “I’m too busy to do that now.”
So how do you get the information you need? Google, sure. But you can also use early interviews to gain a broader understanding of the role and the work, which can inform questions you ask in later interviews. Know how to use conversation as a tool to extract knowledge. That skill is crucial.
This is a newer one, but as employer branding grows in popularity and execution, recruiters need the ability to clearly stitch together the brand’s story. Why would someone want to come work at your company? What differentiates your approach from someone else’s? Many companies sell similar products; but internally, what drives your company in particular?
Consider the mission, the story, the founding principles, the way people work together, etc. It’s important to articulate that as a narrative as the recruiting process unfolds.
Have a Spine and Push Back
Hiring managers can be great. They can also be overwhelmed, offer little context on a role, and then claim their importance because they own a P&L and you don’t. You need to be able to push back on hiring managers—and also know how to pick your battles.
Some tech recruiters roll over for everything hiring managers say to them. Without clarity of what the role needs (which the hiring manager should be providing), you run the risk of presenting them bad candidates, making the relationship worse over time. You need to be able to push back and say, “No, I need more,” or, “No, this is important now. This is your team.”
What other traits have you seen in the best tech recruiters?
Noel Cocca is the founder and CEO of RecruitingDaily and its merry band of rabble rousers. He aims to produce at the sweet spot between content and actual awareness by creating great work for living, breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. He works to ease problems, both large and small, from startups to enterprises.