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4 Habits of Successful Recruiters and Hiring Managers

Last updated: 05-26-2019

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4 Habits of Successful Recruiters and Hiring Managers

I recruited my first candidate in late 1993. A time before Monster, or the modern-day internet for that matter, was a thing. Resumes came to us via fax and mail with a random few submissions in LaTeX format through my email (read through a Unix editor interface). I could abbreviate almost any word in the English language to reduce the total line inches, and resulting cost, of a newspaper classified ad. Times have changed dramatically, and I learned a lot through trial and error. Here are 4 habits I developed over the years that can help us all:

In recruiter-speak, the “purple squirrel” is that perfect candidate that meets every single requirement of a position. In some circles, it’s that candidate who has an almost impossible-to-find skill – or set of skills – and finding them is akin to discovering a flawless diamond… in space. To have successfully placed or hired a purple squirrel is a badge of honor for any recruiter.

If I find myself on a purple squirrel hunt, I know I’m working the wrong side of the equation. It’s time to put on my talent acquisition consultant hat and help my hiring manager move some of the “must have” requirements into the “nice-to-have” column. Otherwise, I’m doing neither of us a true service and the risk of leaving the position open while you hunt that furry, cute elusive one increases.

I have found that a candidate’s motivation to move to the opportunity I am presenting is the most important predictor of a successful hire. So much so, that I spend a sizable portion of my conversations throughout the interview process on what’s driving them to continue the interview process. I ask questions like, “Can you imagine yourself in this position?” And, “Compare this company and position vs. your other opportunities and share the pros and cons.”

The other companies and positions an active candidate is pursuing can be very telling. Are the positions all over the map? Are they markedly different than the one at your company?  Does it appear that the compensation package is top of mind for my candidate? That’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it begs a few questions. Is this candidate looking to leverage an offer to increase their salary at with their current employer? Are they just looking for an offer so much higher than their current compensation that it’s “an offer they can’t refuse.”

I rarely discover all my candidate’s motivations on the first call. In fact, they may shift during the interview process as they learn more about my opportunity. But I do believe that motivations become more important the further the candidate gets in the interview process. Therefore, I’ve found it to be a good habit to check their temperature throughout the process.

I love this line. I use it to close a call when I’m interested in moving the candidate to the next stage. The Reader’s Digest magazine started as a set of summaries or abstracts of articles from a variety of other magazines. If you can’t relate, try Cliff Notes, Coming Attractions or TikTok video. Essentially, I provide the high-level summary of the position followed by an invitation to learn more in an “exploratory call with the hiring manager.” I view my role as someone who facilitates the introduction of talented, interested, and qualified candidates to my company or client. Candidates smell desperation like dogs (and bees) smell fear. Sometimes the easiest way to spark curiosity, and limit a candidate’s tingling spidey-sense, is to invite them to learn more in a non-threatening, exploratory conversation with your hiring manager.

Here’s the easiest and potentially most important habit I’ve developed over the years. I make time to pay it forward. Share your knowledge and experience. We are more connected than ever, making the opportunity to share information and opinions easier than ever. Recruiter Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and posts, Reddit discussion threads and Quora make it very simple to share what you know and help your fellow Recruiters and Hiring Managers through the interview and selection process. Or, maybe you encounter someone looking to make a career change, launching a job search or needing some guidance updating their resume? You’ve seen a few resumes, right? Make time. I find myself in conversations just offering advice at least 2-3 times a month. You’ll feel great about it and you never know when someone will pay it forward to you.

Today’s low unemployment rate and hot job marketis making recruiting more challenging than ever. But building great habits can help make your job easier and your workflow more effective.

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