The 4 Skills That Will Help You Stand Out as a Recruiter

September 6, 2017

Unemployment is at a 16-year low and job openings are at a record high, according to recent statistics from Bloomberg. While this is great news for recruiters, it also means that competition for top talent is through the roof.

That super salesperson or stellar software engineer you’ve got your eyes on is probably being courted by more recruiters than you can shake a stick at. In other words, it’s go time—nows the time to sharpen your skills and make sure your offer stands out from the crowd.

To help you figure out what you should focus on, we asked four recruiting experts to weigh in on what skills they think make recruiters stand out and what you need to do to hone those skills.

1. Tell a good story: Speak to the candidate’s motivations and make your message personal

“There’s a humongous opportunity to differentiate yourself as a recruiter by telling a story,” says Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s VP of Global Talent Acquisition, in a recent episode of Talent on Tap.

Facts and figures and dry stats are all well and good, but what really sticks in candidates’ minds are stories. Whether it’s in an InMail, over the phone, or in person, good storytelling inspires emotion and, when tailored to a candidate’s personal motivations, can help them imagine themselves at your company.

The stories you tell can range from the big-picture mission and vision of a company—why it exists—to little personal anecdotes that illustrate the work culture, challenges, and opportunities the position offers. You can get a complete framework for how LinkedIn recruiters craft their stories here.

And, don’t be shy about tapping the rest of your team for their stories, and ask recent recruits to share their experience of joining your company. Getting their perspective on things like company culture, leadership, and the meaning of their work can really enrich the picture of the company you present to candidates, helping to glue it in their memory as they make their decision.

2. Be more human: Make sure you are genuine, relatable, and really listen

This point ties into the first, and will improve your ability to tell a great story: you need to be more human.

Ed Nathanson, founder of Red Pill Talent, thinks “the ability to be a real, live, genuine human being” is one of the most important skills a recruiter can learn. “What stands out always, no matter the economic climate or latest tools or trends, is the ability to interact with people in a human and empathetic way,” he explains. “We cannot underestimate the ‘basics’ of being a real human being who listens, understands and helps advise informed decisions in such a highly impactful sale in someone’s life.”

Ed reminds recruiters that, no matter how busy you are and how quickly you need to fill a position, you need to take the time to understand what the job will mean for the candidate. Making this connection will allow all your conversations with them to be more meaningful.

“A job is more than a paycheck—it is how you identify yourself in society, how you support your family, who you spend most of your waking hours with and more,” he says.

“Think about your own experiences working with recruiters as a candidate. The ones that stand out (at least for me in my experience) are not the ones who email me constantly, post their jobs online or found me in an unorthodox way. The ones I connect with (and still would if I was looking) are the ones who took the time to know, speak with and understand me.”

3. Personalize your outreach: let the candidate know exactly why you were drawn to them

When Brendan Browne asked his LinkedIn network to suggest the most valuable skill a recruiter can have, one answer came up time and time again: the ability to personalize outreach.

Every recruiter knows that personalization is important, but it’s an easy area to neglect when you’re in a bind and need to make a quick hire. The truth is, you can find out a lot about a candidate in very little time, using information readily available on their LinkedIn profile and other public social media accounts. Small personal touches can make even a generic template stand out from the crowd.

And personalization doesn’t just let candidates know that you’ve taken the time to write a message for them and them alone. If you let them know what it was specifically that made them stand out to you, you can give them an idea from the get-go of what skills the job requires and how they could fit in.

Making your outreach personal could be as simple as mentioning an article they published that showed a lot of knowledge about the industry you’re hiring for, or that they worked on a project that required the kind of skills you need. Other personal touches, like congratulating them on a recent success, never hurt either. Check out how this Yahoo recruiter personalizes her outreach and has had a lot of success.

4. Be someone worth knowing: Be more than just the go-between and be considerate of a candidate’s time

Lou Adler, founder of The Adler Group, believes the best thing recruiters can ever be is Someone Worth Knowing.

“This means the candidate sees you as more than just a go-between who is just filling one job,” he explains. “So rather than contacting someone and saying you're trying to fill one position, say that you have a variety of senior level positions that you'll be handling over the next 3-6 months. Then see if he/she would be interested in having an exploratory conversation to see if one of these spots would have long-term career interest. By removing the time pressure and being Someone Worth Knowing, it would be foolish for anyone to refuse the conversation.”

This won’t work for every position you need to fill, of course. You won’t always have the luxury of 3-6 months to fill a role, but you can still be Someone Worth Knowing by proving that you are considerate of the candidate’s time and that you and your company has something to offer, even if they pass on this particular position.

“By building the relationship this way, you can also network with the person and get some referrals, too,” Lou advises.

Let’s be realistic: you’re not going to snag every amazing candidate that comes your way. But you can get more out of every candidate interaction—even the ones that don’t end in an immediate hire. If the candidate remembers you as a person worth knowing (one with a great story to tell about your company), they’ll be more likely to consider reaching out again in the future. They might also talk about you to their friends and coworkers, expanding your recruiting reach exponentially.

If you’re looking for more tips to improve your recruiting prowess, check out these posts about improving your interviews and InMails.

*Image by Kung Fu Panda 2

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