The Best Recruiters are Competitive, A Hypothesis

I’ve worked in recruiting and HR for about twenty years. At this point in my career, I estimate that I’ve hired about 100 Recruiters.

I’ve hired recruiters that come from almost every environment and education. I’ve gone the Enterprise Rent A Car route and hired college athletes. I’ve gone to colleges and hired HR graduates. I’ve hired seasoned recruiting veterans from both agency and corporate. I’ve hired uneducated individuals from service backgrounds. I’ve hired specific practitioners who have deep knowledge of what they’re recruiting – nurses, IT pros, etc.

None of these things made one bit of difference when it came to performance as a recruiter, in either environment, corporate or agency.

The only thing I’ve found to be a differentiator of true recruiting performance is the level of competitiveness an individual has internally. This is why it’s so popular to hire former athletes as recruiters, we assume since they are athletic, that they must be competitive. But, this also fails, many times.

You see, you don’t have to play sports to be competitive.  You might just be that kid you threw the Monopoly board across the room when you lost to your sister. You might be that person who can’t stand that your neighbor’s lawn looks better than yours. Who knows why and what you’re competitive with, but it’s the key to being great a recruiting.

Many will wrongly assume that males are more competitive than females. In my experience, I’ve found this not to be true. Both sexes can be very competitive, it’s finding which ones are competitive that becomes the difficult thing.

So, why does being competitive help make you a great recruiter?

I believe competitiveness is a great trait for recruiters because it leads them to want to ‘win’.  What’s the win in recruiting? It’s filling the position! Recruiting is just one small game, after another. Each one that is slightly different, with new complexities to complete.  Each time you fill an opening, that is like making a point on your scoreboard.

If you put a group of these people together, even though they’re all working on separate openings, they see each other making placements and they want to do this as well. This competitive drive, alone, makes an individual succeed or fail at recruiting.

This becomes the main issue of why selecting non-proven recruiters is such a crap shoot. It’s very difficult to measure someone’s competitive drive accurately, and interview questioning is unreliable. In my 100 hires, I would say I’m 50/50 in getting it right. When I talk to other agency executives and TA Leaders, many share the same ratio.

Want to hire better recruiters?

Focus completely on finding ultra competitive people, who love keeping score, and throw them into the game.  I like to say Recruiting isn’t hard, but I know that it is.  Recruiting is easy if you’ve got the right people, who will do whatever it takes to win. That’s the competitive difference!

2 thoughts on “The Best Recruiters are Competitive, A Hypothesis

  1. I am totally in agreement here. When I get a new requisition, I may toss it out to a recruiter or two, but I will tell them that I am working on it too. Then it becomes a competition to me to see who can bring the manager the best and the brightest at the best price point. I love a good hunt. 🙂

  2. I have never been competitive at anything in life, until I cam to recruitment. Whether it be sports, games, musical skills, or even previous sales jobs, I could be philosophical about the result, and therefore no push myself.

    However, upon entering recruitment (aged 21) I found that I had the combination of abilities, attention to detail, nosiness and fondness for professional standards (IKR?) that meant I experience early success. Having learned what it was like to be better than others, I became addicted to the taste of success, and took it personally when other recruiters did well.

    Just like in sports, the experience of success can be the spur to ensuring you stay ahead of others. However, it can equally lead others to cutting corners in order to get ahead, and stay there.

    Like you, I look for competitiveness, but I also look for stubbornness or obduracy, in that they will not tolerate anything less than the required standard, and will push others, including clients and candidates, to do the same. These people can be hard to live with, but they get the job done.

    I’d far rather have a stubborn, driven competitive recruiter that needed to relax a little, than one who needed his / her arse kicked just to get the basics done.

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