If you’re reading this, I know you’re already a good recruiter. In fact, when I look at my web analytics, most of you have landed here searching “how to be a better recruiter”. So I won’t waste your time talking about basic stuff that all good recruiters already know.

I also know you’re probably busy juggling delicate relationships with hiring managers as well as candidates and finding new ways to sourcing talent. With everything you have on your plate, you can’t possibly make massive changes to your recruitment process and disrupt your existing flow.

You know what you can do to be a better recruiter though?  Make small tweaks to your recruitment process that are easy enough that you won’t feel they’ve added more work, but big enough to make a real impact and ultimately, help you sharpen your own skills.

Agency or corporate – wanting to be a better recruiter is universal

We have enough noise and division amongst agency and corporate recruiters. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal — to attract and engage talent. It’s that simple.  We may have different ways of getting there, but when you strip agency and corporate recruiting to the bone, it’s more alike than different.

Those of us who are always looking for improvements are in both agency and corporate environments, which makes these steps to being a better recruiter are relevant to both.

But first, a heads up:

This is a deep dive with concrete and actionable tips to be a better recruiter

You won’t find vague fluff like “know your why”.

Stay with me though and it will be worth it. I’ll also make it skimmable so if you can’t read every word, you’re still able to walk away with something valuable.

Alright, let’s jump in. These small tweaks to your recruitment process will pay off:

1. Tighten your recruitment intake meeting

All good recruiters have an intake meeting before they start recruiting on any roles, but great recruiters know that their work actually starts before the recruitment intake meeting.

I used to be the type of recruiter who would review the job description line by line and go to the intake meeting with suggested changes to the job description to make it more engaging and SEO-friendly along with a list of questions. I’d then pat myself on the back for being well prepared.

But this wasn’t even close to being enough.

It was only when I started doing more prep work, that I saw changes in my ability to source better candidates, shorten the recruitment cycle and become a true talent advisor to hiring managers. Here are two things I started doing differently:

Preparing for a Recruiting Kick-off Meeting

You don’t have to try to remember these steps, I’ve created a checklist for you on the LinkedIn Company page. Download it as a PDF

Commit an hour of work before every intake meeting to do the following:

  • Review the job description line by line
  • Go through recent exit interviews for that department, especially if you have one for the employee who you are replacing
  • Do some market research by checking for similar postings by other companies
  • Conduct a quick search of possible candidate profiles in your ATS, LinkedIn and other sources so you can review two to three candidate profiles with the hiring manager
  • Review the department’s org chart to see exactly where this role fits in

You’re investing an extra hour of your time, but it will shave off hours of work later in the recruitment process.

Do more listening than talking and ask really good questions:

Now I know what you’re thinking…

Thanks for the tip genius! I’m a recruiter, I know how to ask questions”.

It’s easy to ask questions on autopilot, but are you asking the hiring manager the type of questions that help you flesh out the candidate persona?

Unless you walk away from an intake meeting crystal clear on the role, a day-in-the-life and the ability to understand technical details about that role, you’re not asking the right questions. This is especially important if you’re a technical recruiter. I see countless Tech recruiters who have memorized technical lingo but don’t really understand it enough to do much more than recognize keywords on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile.

Recruitment Intake Meeting Form - Free Download

Most hiring managers love explaining what their departments do and will happily explain technical details in laymen terms so you really get what those tech terms mean. I learned that myself here and was able to bring what I learned from my hiring manager into my own recruitment process.

2. Read more to be better

This is SO obvious that it’s often forgotten. Improve your trade and get better at recruiting. Learn more Always be learning in recruitmentabout how to source passive candidates, or which recruiting tools are better than the ones you’re already using, creative ways to stretch your recruitment budget, how to improve your interviews… you get the point.

The point is that you should never be satisfied with how much you know.

Unlike other professions, there really isn’t much in the way of formal learning for recruiters and good recruiters know this and may research conferences they can attend. Great recruiters take it a step further and take the initiative to keep learning on their own.

There’s a ton of content about the talent acquisition industry and communities

Join online communities offline and online. There are great Facebook Groups like Recruiters Online and Secret Sourcing Group where you can continue to learn from your peers.

3. Prioritize sourcing passive candidates

Again, it seems pretty simple. After all, as recruiters, we should be sourcing passive candidates, right? The truth is that even good recruiters often put sourcing candidates on the back burner because they have so much to do. If you have to prioritize one thing, it should be sourcing talent.

It’s instrumental to being a recruiter.  In fact, I’ve had my wrist slapped in the past for saying that unless you source passive candidates, you’re really just a human ATS.

A bit drastic I know. At the risk of offending some recruiters, I’ll go further…

Posting a job, reviewing resumes, doing half-hearted phone screens and passing a few resumes to hiring managers is the type of transactional recruitment strategy that gets replaced by automation. In fact, some may even go as far as saying a robot would be more efficient. Why do you think people are flocking to self-checkout aisles at grocery stores? They’re quicker and even though they’re not actually more efficient, people think they are.

Recruitment automation is the ‘self-checkout’ movement in recruitment.

AI in recruitment is most welcome (I even said that here) because it removes the transactional parts that weigh us down and lets us focus on the meat of being a talent advisor.

Being a strong sourcer and relationship builder is how you take your recruitment game to the next level. Despite all the passive candidate sourcing tools out there, you still need a competent recruiter or sourcer to do solid outreach to passive candidates and sell (yes, don’t be afraid to sell) to them.

You can’t automate relationships.

Look what candidates tweet when companies try to automate relationships:

Great recruiters have their sourcing strategy planned out after each intake meeting, they kick-off their search knowing exactly where to source passive candidates. Although they are always improving their Boolean strings, they know that candidate sourcing happens online and offline.

4. End things well

If you talk to most people who are reeling over a breakup because their girlfriend/boyfriend ghosted, they’ll usually mention something about the fact that not getting closure is what they’re most upset about.

It’s no different in recruiting. It’s unacceptable for candidates to invest their time taking days off or finding child care to go through multiple interviews just to be ghosted by recruiters.

Nobody likes that s*it so just close the loop with unsuccessful candidates already!

Even great recruiters slip up on giving candidates feedback and it’s sad because we’re at a point where technology makes it so easy to close the loop.

Candidate Experience is about 3 thingsDespite all the chatter about candidate experience, we’re still not getting the simplicity of it in the recruitment industry. We’re still failing our candidates because we forget to do something as simple as telling them they didn’t get the job. Remember when I talked about the three easy things that make candidate experience ridiculously easy? Closing the loops is one of them. You can go read the other two… I’ll wait right here.

I get it, we’re busy. Internal recruiters have crazy req loads and agency recruiters are given unattainable metrics. Somewhere between the mountain of resumes and unrealistic expectations of finding the purple squirrel, your unsuccessful candidates get forgotten.

Here’s how to make candidates experience even easier — humanize your candidates. Remember that they’re someone’s mother, somebody’s son or someone miserable in their current job desperate to get out. They are people first, candidates second.

Infuse empathy into your recruitment strategy.

Being motivated by simply doing the right thing is actually good. Being an a-hole to candidates doesn’t make you a good recruiter. Actually, it will eventually catch up to you.

Of course like every good warning, this has to come with a cautionary tale, so I’ll take you back to the moment I realized being an a-hole recruiter doesn’t pay.

Picture it – 2004. My first year as an agency recruiter. My office was close to the Senior Account Manager’s and her booming voice made it hard not to hear most of her phone conversations. She had made a huge placement, celebrated the upcoming commission and couldn’t be bothered to tell her runner-up candidate who had gone to four interviews that he didn’t get the job.

When he finally got her on the phone, I heard her utter the words “Yeah, you didn’t get it. I have another call, I’ll be in touch”.

Fast forward two years, he ended up being hired by another one of her clients and guess which recruiter he went out of his way to drop?

of all the things I’ve seen in my career, this was one of the most important and I tell every recruiter I’ve ever trained this story.

Here’s a system to make giving candidate’s feedback really easy and without demanding too much of your time:

If the candidate applied to your job posting but wasn’t interviewed, decline them through your ATS – it’s easy, automated and the candidates know they’re not moving forward. Most ATS have this option, they’re just not configured right. If your ATS doesn’t have this option, find one that will bring your recruitment process into this decade 😉

If you don’t know what to write in that email, I’ve made it even easier – here are 8 recruiting email templates you can use, a candidate decline email included.

If you phone interviewed the candidate, send a personalized email– it takes a few minutes to send a quick email explaining that you will be moving forward with other candidates and thank them for their interest.

By the way, if you’re still asking things like “tell me why we should hire you” at your phone interview, please stop! Download a phone interview template with better questions here.

If you had a face-to-face interviewed the candidate, call them to give feedback – You owe them this much. Be kind enough to provide helpful feedback to those candidates, feedback that they can use the next time around. Because you want to give them detailed feedback, it’s better to have a conversation instead of leaving a voicemail.

If you’re worried about how much time this will take, it won’t take much time. The detailed feedback is usually just for two or three candidates that made it to the last step of the interview process. The rest is either an automated email or a short email to those you may have phone screened.

5. Evolve, don’t revolve your recruitment game

At one point in my career, I remember thinking that things were getting repetitive – conduct an intake, create a job posting, source, interview and make offers.

Rinse and repeat (times 40-ish reqs).

I started feeling like I wasn’t really making much of an impact, nor was my own knowledge as a recruiter evolving. I also couldn’t see myself just doing the same things over and over again and being happy.

So I started getting more into creating talent communities, engaging with candidates through an email list and marrying my obsession with digital marketing with talent acquisition strategy. It was the best decision ever because it kept me engaged and creative about how I recruit.

Now, of course, what keeps you evolving is likely something different. I can guarantee you that there is probably some interest you have that you can infuse into your recruitment strategy. When you include something you’re passionate about, it shows.

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