Top Habits of Successful Recruiters

If you are a small business owner considering hiring a recruiter, HR professional or staffing firm to assist with your hiring needs, there are several things to consider when pinpointing which professional or company to fill your needs. What’s more, if you are considering a career as a recruiter, there are a number of traits and experiences that are must haves and will lead you to a very successful future as a recruiter.

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Below are tips, advice and insight on the top habits of a successful recruiter or HR professional, from three experienced industry professionals:

Tim Cotroneo, Account Manager at MDS Staffing
MDS Staffing is an employment search firm, specializing in the placement of engineering, architectural, and office personal. Cotroneo was the Director of Admissions at the Minneapolis Drafting School from 1995 to 2000.

1. Answering the call/Returning the call: Every professional in every business niche has situations where your caller I.D. or email inbox generates inquiries that you’d prefer to ignore. The successful recruiter accepts the call, listens to the inquiry, and checks this hurdle off his or her list. One of the pet peeves of every recruiter is the candidate or employer who does not return your call. Isn’t it good Karma for you to behave in the way you’d like to be treated?

2. Maximize your time: In this era of Social Media, cell phone apps, text messaging, and Tsunami waves of email, it’s pretty easy to get distracted. The truly successful recruiter can delegate this balancing act of fending off the message and computer onslaught that doesn’t help your bottom line. Usually your success or failure in this department will be evident on your monthly or annual check.

3. Staying in touch with the trends: The latest and greatest methods for recruiting seem to change regularly. You need to ask yourself if your recruiting methods need tweaking, and if so, are there methods out there that may help you. There still is no substitute for making the call and face-to-face encounters for nurturing relationships and really digging beyond the surface for individual needs.

4. Never stop expanding your circle: It’s definitely good practice to devote a major chunk of your time and efforts to your best clients. Then again, history shows that one’s clientele in any business shifts or even goes away over time. The most successful recruiters are always making cold calls to new employers and new candidates.  This practice will ensure that you will be as successful next year as you are now.

5. Reputation is everything: Never make a decision today that will negatively impact your business reputation tomorrow.  Recruiting can sometimes feel like a thankless career. Your efforts towards employers and candidates are infrequently recognized. The successful recruiter will always communicate and make business decisions that will positively reflect on you and your employer for years to come.

“Always think long-term whenever you are confronted with a professional fork in the road,” says Cotroneo.

Alissa Henriksen, Staffing/Recruiting Industry Business Owner

Henriksen, has 10 years experience as a recruiter and has successfully owned two recruiting/staffing firms. She is in the start-up stage on a third recruiting and staffing company and has diverse experience in both talent acquisition and recruitment. Here are her five habits of a successful recruiter:

 1. Ability to listen to the details: Every recruiter needs to be able to listen to all the details of the position. These details are what will lead you to the ideal candidate. A successful recruiter also needs to be able to listen to the candidates he/she is interviewing for the position. If the position and company details do NOT line up with the candidates must haves, needs, wants and skills, then the position is not a fit and that must be relayed to the candidate. In the end, strong listening skills will allow the recruiter to fully understand the position and find the right candidate for the position.

 2. Fearlessness: EVERY recruiter must have some fearlessness. This fearlessness for recruiters is tied to cold calling, ability to ask questions, ability to tell candidates they aren’t a fit, and to be able to ALWAYS communicate with clients/company around the position challenges, updates, etc. Successful recruiters need to be able to pick up the phone and call candidates.  A recruiter CAN NOT simply rely on the tools made available to them today. These tools (job boards, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) are fantastic, but a successful recruiter can not only rely on sending a message in hopes the passive candidates are going to respond. They have to be able to pick up the phone and proactively reach out to them and their network. Fearlessness does not mean carelessness. A successful recruiter will always respect the candidates time and availability and ask if they need to call back later. However, a successful recruiter who uses the phone as their number one tool will close more jobs!

 3. Organization: A successful recruiter has an organized method to his/her madness. Recruiters are normally managing several open positions at one time. They need to be able to multi-task and keep all positions, details, candidates, and hiring managers organized. They must be able to prioritize daily and decide which positions require the most attention on any given day.  The more organized they are, the more successful they will be. There are far too many moving parts and being unorganized will lead to a disaster.

 4. Customer Service: A successful recruiter understands what customer service means and the importance of it. Recruiters deal with people every single day. Whether you are working for a company or a recruiting firm, you must be able to service your client. Strong customer service skills encompass several qualities; being detail-oriented, strong communication skills, honesty, FOLLOW UP, and all the other habits listed in this article. These natural habits will all lead to a recruiter having phenomenal customer service skills.

 5. Never give up attitude or determination: Every successful recruiter has a habit of never feeling complacent with a pipeline of 2-3 people. He/she is always looking for ways to keep the pipeline full. The job is never filled until the candidate starts and shows up for his/her first day of work. Having a pipeline will keep any  recruiter from having to start over. Complacency is a habit one should never acquire as a recruiter. It’s better to have more than enough candidates then to rely on a few. Being determined keeps a successful on his/her toes and also means they will always look for new ways to find talent. Being creative in our industry is a must.

“A successful recruiter realizes that their day does not start and end at the same time every day,” says Henriksen. “They understand that the people they service (clients, hiring managers, candidates) have schedules they are working around and therefore being flexible and putting in early and late hours are all habits that must be acquired. Being a successful recruiter is not an easy job, but it’s one that brings a lot of satisfaction.  Nothing is better than helping someone find the job they’ve been looking for, even if they weren’t actively looking.”

Carole Arndt, President of The Human Resource EDGE, Inc.
Arndt is a business owner who is also responsible for contingency search for HR professional openings in all industries in the Twin Cities. She also conducts contingency searches for professional  across the country, primarily in the manufacturing, engineering and oil and gas industries.  She also places contract HR professionals on HR assignments within Twin Cities area businesses. Here are her tips:

Inside Recruiter Attributes:

  • Keep on top of the resumes coming in to the company.  Delaying the process for a week or even a couple of days, can mean missing out on the top candidates.
  • Make sure you have a good understanding of what the manager is looking for and question anything you don’t understand.  Often times it’s as much about the soft skills as the hard skills.
  • Agree ahead of time on how often you will update the manager and your expectation of him/her if you have a potential candidate.
  • Collaborate with the manager on the best places to find the candidates with the credentials they are seeking.  You want to have a Plan B if job postings alone aren’t attracting candidates with the right backgrounds.
  • Keep good candidates engaged.  Don’t let them think the company isn’t interested just because the hiring manager is on a business trip.  Touch bases with them regularly and encourage them to call you if something changes for them.  Sometimes managers just assume candidates will wait until they are ready for the candidate.
  • Leave final candidates with a good feeling about the company even if they did not get the job, you never know when you might want to consider them again.  And if for no other reason, remember what it feels like to be on the other side of the table.

Outside Recruiter Attributes:

  • Never send a resume to a company if the candidate does not know you are sending it.  You can immediately lose the trust of the candidate, and you can lose your credibility with the company if they have already received the resume through another source and you did not know about it.
  • Know the candidate you are sending and only send if you feel they are a good candidate.  Too many times I saw outside recruiters send resumes for the sake of sending them – like spaghetti, they hoped something would stick.
  • Determine up front how often the hiring manager wants to be updated in the process.  One week might not seem long to you, but it does for a manager waiting to hear if there are potential candidates.
  • Also agree up front how you will handle prospective candidates.  Some managers want you to present 3-4 candidates at one time, but are you at risk of losing the best candidate if you have to wait a few weeks to get a strong “candidate pool?”  Have a contingency plan in place.
  • If the company needs someone immediately (in the case of bringing in a contract employee to fill an unexpected opening) and you are running into dead ends trying to find the person with the right skillset, be honest.  Let the manager know they might need to engage another agency’s assistance.  Remember, not only is it about you making money, it is also about doing the right thing for the company.  It is about relationships.  Maybe today it didn’t work out for you but next week it will.

“Managers may not remember you didn’t present a candidate, but they will remember your character and integrity,” says Arndt.

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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