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Hiring a recruiter: A guide

A great recruiter is curious about people and your business. Look for someone who understands your company’s vision, mission and values and who is capable of growing it one person at a time.

Hiring a recruiter: A guide

Hiring a recruiter can be challenging—but it’s the one hire that has to be done right.

A great recruiter is part detective, part psychologist, but always with an eye for what’s right for the business he or she is hiring for. Recruiters are often the first contact for prospective job seekers, so they play a part in employer brand, as well as candidate experience. They’re responsible for finding and engaging the right people for your firm, and the right people can take your organization from good to outstanding.

Recruiters wear many hats, and need to wear them all well. On the job, a recruiter works to fill open positions at a company with skilled workers who are a good fit for both the position and the firm. The recruiter communicates with job candidates through the hiring process and might maintain a database of talent for future openings. They should have a sense of the company culture and work to build relationships over time with potential job seekers.

Before you hire a recruiter, it’s important to understand your end game. Get very specific about why you’re hiring this position. Is it to find qualified candidates? Is it to negotiate on your company’s behalf? Is it because you simply don’t have time?

“Once you understand why you are hiring a recruiter, you can make the best decision to meet the underlying need to solve the real problem of hiring a candidate,” says remote hiring expert Melissa Smith.

Here are some qualities you’ll find in a great recruiting hire:

Authentic communicators

“We’ve all been through that hiring process where we communicate with some recruiter who’s helpful and guides us through the interview process with various parties,” says Rishav Khanal, CEO of digital recruiting firm inPerson and author of Experience Over Degrees.

“It’s easy for recruiters to get lost in the metrics of hiring and put on the face of the company so they can recruit you,” he says. “The recruiters that go beyond that and act as a candidate’s personal advocate, helping them make the best decision for themselves is the recruiter that we’d hire.”

Organizational skills

Your recruiter is often keeping the hiring ball rolling—setting up next-round interviews, checking in with candidates and with company contacts. It frequently requires coordinating different schedules and managing a web of resumes and interviews.

“You can’t have someone who’s going to be late getting back to candidates,” Khanal says. “As the first deep look into your organization it’s imperative that the candidate is treated with respect in terms of a timely process.”

Interpersonal skills

A good recruiter is generally a people person, prepared to be the salesperson who’s selling your company culture and environment to potential candidates. Like sales, recruiting is a numbers game. The more qualified people the recruiter gets to know well, the more likely they’ll be able to draw on that relationship to fill open roles for the firm.

“When I’m hiring a recruiter, I’m looking for someone who is naturally likeable, the kind of person who exudes curiosity and interest in others such that candidates are attracted to talk to them, open up to them, and feel welcomed,” says Laura Handrick, an HR professional at mental health startup Choosing Therapy.


Talent doesn’t always come in a tidy package. Sometimes a great candidate for a position doesn’t have the best resume and isn’t a perfect interviewee.

“The best recruiters are able to connect the dots and see the story in a candidate’s resume,” Smith says. “It’s the recruiter’s job to not look past the resume or the initial interview of someone who doesn’t immediately check all the boxes.”

Previous industry experience

To the extent that you can, finding someone who has a background or work history in the industry they’re staffing can be helpful.

“An example would be hiring a recruiter who previously worked in the food industry as a food server to be a recruiter for a food service company,” says Ivelices Thomas, CEO of human resource advisory firm HR & Beyond. “Having walked in the shoes or being familiar with being a direct level employee in the industry provides the recruiter with untapped insight into what characteristics would make someone successful in the roles they are recruiting for.”

A successful record

If a recruiter is good at their work, they’ll be placing workers successfully who stay with companies long-term. “Ask about the average tenure of their placements,” says Joseph Puglise, senior director of executive search and recruiting at JMJ Phillip. “This will provide insight into how long the professionals they recruit last with the companies that hire them.”

Experiences the thrill of the find

A great recruiter will feel an incredible sense of urgency and passion for recruiting. “Recruiting is not for the faint of heart, because you’re selling a culture, opportunity, and most importantly, a ‘fit’ for the candidate and company,” says Lauren Day, senior director of talent acquisition for B2B database firm ZoomInfo.

“I look at past experience, but for me as a TA leader, it’s about the thrill you get when you find the person who you know instantly will be an incredible match,” she says. “That thrill never gets old, and that, to me, is what makes a great recruiter.”

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