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How to Become a Superstar Recruiter

Sourcing featured

"I have built a lot of my success off finding these truly gifted people and not settling for B and C players, but really going for the A players" - Steve Jobs

I don’t know about you, but I was always a little jealous of the people who were picked first for sports teams.

I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone here, the desire for social recognition comes from a basic human need to be an acknowledged part of a group.

On some level we all want this. We all want to be seen as ‘A Players’, as leaders within our field.

This recognition could be as simple as a pat on the back from your boss, or as big as a prominent industry award.

The recruitment industry has a few acknowledged superstars. You know the ones, they’re constantly featured in ‘Twitter Must Follow’ lists and giving keynote speeches at conferences.

These people have all earned it. They’ve developed sophisticated skillsets and are hugely influential as a result.

Want to join their ranks?

Whether you’re an experienced recruiter, or just starting out, these tips should help you take your performance to the next level.

Anyone can become a great recruiter

It’s a nice compliment, but if anyone tells you that you’re a born recruiter you should ignore them.

There is no such thing as a born recruiter- (1)

In other disciplines, there’s no denying that genetics can play a significant role in success. Nowhere is this more apparent than athletics.

For example:

A single tribe in Kenya is famed for consistently producing the world’s very best marathon runners.

This is no joke:

There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 members of the Kalenjin tribe who did it in October of 2011!

The ability to find and engage great talent though, is something that anyone can learn (and it doesn’t take 10,000 hours either!)

Do you need training?

There’s a growing dependence on formal training schemes.

Training doesn’t necessarily make you an awesome recruiter. In fact, some of the best recruiters I know are entirely self-taught.

The best framework for this is the ‘Scientific Method’:

The scientific recruitment method

You’re probably wondering what ‘science’ has to do with sourcing and recruiting! It’s not as odd as it sounds...

The scientific method gives recruiters a disciplined framework for trial and error, one of the most effective ways to learn.

For example: You could use it to test observations you’ve made about sourcing developers.

Observation: There are a lot of high quality Java developers on AngelList

Questions: Is AngelList providing those candidates better opportunities? Are top candidates using AngelList instead of LinkedIn?

Hypothesis: AngelList is a better source of Java developers than LinkedIn

Testable predictions: If my hypothesis is correct I expect to find better Java developers on AngelList than on LinkedIn

Data: After running multiple searches on both LinkedIn and AngelList for Java developers, I have discovered a higher volume of relevant candidates on AngelList

General theories: When trying to fill Java developer reqs we should consult AngelList before LinkedIn

Refine hypothesis: Our data tells me that my hypothesis was correct

By using this ‘learning by doing’ formula, recruiters can gain significant expertise without ever taking a training class!

Committing to a system of trial and error helps you avoid ‘groupthink’, and can help you develop innovative solutions to recruitment problems you encounter.

The key traits of successful recruiters

While recruiting doesn’t require a special talent, great recruiters tend to share a few important traits.

They aren’t essential, but they go a long way to helping you develop your skills.

i) Personality

There are certain personality traits that lend themselves to the recruitment profession. People who are competitive, analytical and solution orientated tend to be more likely to succeed.

ii) Practice

The best recruiters are constantly working to improve their skillset. This isn’t particularly unique to the recruitment profession, but it’s how world-class performers separate themselves from the pack!

A framework for becoming a recruiting superstar

So, we’ve established that anyone can become a world-class recruiter with enough practice and determination.

A solid framework for trial and error is hugely important, but there are specific areas that you need to focus on to fast-track your growth:

1) Constant improvement

Top athletes go to work every day to get better.

Every day is an opportunity to practice. The aim is to be bigger, faster, stronger - to constantly be improving.

Most of us don’t approach see work in this fashion. Inevitably, our days tend to be pretty similar - we do the same tasks, in the same way that we’ve always done them.

Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t help us get any better!

If you want to become a master recruiter, you need to design your workflow in a way that helps you improve your performance.

How do you do this?

You need to start rethinking your workday. Instead of simply working towards the objectives that your boss gives you, you need to practice the things that you’re currently no good at.

What are some of the ways that you can introduce improvement into your day-to-day workflow?

**i) Filling tough roles**

Do you play it safe, or do you take on hard-to-fill roles?

It’s easy to stick with easy reqs or to just filter the candidates that come through from your ads. It takes resolve to take on tough roles that requires a unique combination of skills.

Taking on challenging roles helps you develop new skills and familiarity with different frameworks and recruiting techniques. It’s key to fast-tracking your development.

**ii) Send personalised messages**

Do you send templated message, or do you personalise each message to the candidate?

It’s quicker to work up a basic template and then use it for everyone that you’re dealing with. It’s also less effective.

If you want to improve your response rates, you need to constantly test different approaches and work out the messages that perform best.

It’s not time efficient to write every message you send from scratch, but adding small personal touches to each can make a real difference!

Take a look at the example we put together below:

Messaging Template example

To help you really nail the personal message, we've put together 3 extra templates to help you connect with top designers, developers and marketers (3 roles that tend to be pretty hard to fill!)

Send me 3 awesome cold outreach templates     

2) Repetition

I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion” - Muhammad Ali

The best athletes tend to be the ones that practice the most.

Sporting superstars are constantly focused on outworking the competition. Without this drive, they rarely reach the top of the mountain.

To become a world class recruiter, you need to practice every step of the recruiting cycle, specifically the areas in which you need to improve your performance. This can have an enormous impact on your ability to improve quickly._

Let’s look at an example:_

How many candidates do you contact each day? 20? 30?

Try doubling, tripling or even quadrupling that number! A recruiter that makes twice as many phone calls or sends twice as many emails will, all things being equal, improve twice as fast.

This is a strategy advocated by Boolean master Glen Cathey. He argues that contacting more candidates helps recruiters develop a large number of key skills:

Key recruitment skills    

3) Feedback

It’s difficult to become a recruiting superstar in a vacuum, feedback makes a big difference.

To some extent, your recruiting proficiency can be painfully obvious. Your Boolean search strings are either finding a large number of relevant, well matched candidates, or they’re not!

In some cases, it should be obvious if you’re doing a good job! If your results require interpretation though, an experienced mentor can add a lot of value.

This is a particularly apparent when it comes to sourcing. To some extent, no matter your level of ability all your searches ‘work’. The issue is whether you’re finding all the best candidates or not…

You may be confident in your abilities and happy that you’ve found the top candidates on the market. However, unless an experienced sourcer reviews your results and confirms this, you may be totally wrong!

Often it’s only through mentorship that you understand exactly who your Boolean searches are excluding.

You shouldn’t just be looking for feedback from your team though. Have you ever asked a candidate to review your skills? It’s an alien concept to most recruiters, but who is better placed to give accurate feedback on your skills?

What’s the best way to get feedback from a candidate?

 i) Ask what you did wrong

If a candidate turns down your offer, don’t be afraid to ask why. You might be going for the close too early, suggesting the wrong role or sending ineffectual messages.  

It can be hard to ignore your pride and ask, but you’ll never know what you’re doing wrong unless you do.

 ii) Candidate experience surveys

Use a tool like Qualaroo or the Beamery Smart CRM to add feedback collection to every email you send out. The aggregate data will show you whether you’re providing a sufficiently high candidate experience, and sending messages that resonate with candidates.    


The quickest way to become a superstar recruiter is through constantly testing new approaches with a disciplined framework and putting in the time at work practicing things that you’re not good at.

There are training courses out there that can add a lot of value and blogs that can get you headed in the right direction, but becoming the best requires a lot of hard work (there is no substitute!)

Make sure you check out the 3 awesome templates we put together to help you connect with candidates and boost your response rates:

Send me 3 awesome cold outreach templates

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