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18 must-have recruitment skills all ambitious recruiters develop

March 14, 2019

18 must-have recruitment skills all ambitious recruiters develop

11 min read

Have you ever wondered what makes a good recruiter? Or, what recruitment skills every great member of an HR team shares that makes them so effective.

Most recruiters share common skills that make them effective at their jobs. These include a combination of hard and soft skills that are either innate to the recruiter’s personality or are learned and honed over time.

If you’re trying to discover how to become a successful recruiter, but don’t know where to start, then you’ve come to the right place.

Here are 18 must-have skills for recruiters:

  1. Strong communication
  2. Confidence
  3. Curiosity
  4. Intuitive listening
  5. Body language conscientiousness
  6. Reliability
  7. Big picture thinking
  8. Patience
  9. Networking
  10. Empathy
  11. Data-driven focus
  12. Marketing and sales know-how
  13. Tech focus
  14. Critical thinking
  15. Social media
  16. Time management
  17. Managing expectations
  18. Aptitude for learning

Soft recruitment skills  

This family of recruitment skill is closely related to your personality. They’re skills that are part of who you are, and ones that can be leveraged to your advantage in a recruitment environment. Many can also be honed and improved over time with the right effort.

Here are some of the soft staffing skills that most great recruiters share:

1. Strong communication skills

Being able to communicate through a variety of different channels is an essential skill for recruiters. You will be expected to write effective job and social media posts, and correspond with candidates and hiring managers via email, on the phone, and in person. You are expected to act as the face of the company to candidates, the point person for hiring managers, and a liaison between the two parties throughout the hiring process.

As a result of these responsibilities, recruiters should be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both to individual candidates and co-workers, but also to the public.

2. Confidence

Recruitment involves a lot of networking and interacting with a variety of people. You are expected to speak confidently to candidates, hiring managers, your co-workers, and experts in many different industries. Because of this, recruiters need to have a certain amount of confidence in their communication abilities.

Confidence is also a valuable recruitment skill when it comes to hiring for position or industries you know little about. Recruiters need to be confident in their own abilities and experience to make the right choice for the job, and able to back up their decision-making process if questioned.

3. A natural curiosity

Recruiters should always strive to learn more about a candidate than is written on their resume or cover letter. There’s no way to know a candidate and how they will perform on the job if you don’t have the curiosity and proactiveness to ask the right questions.

Understanding people is a huge advantage when trying to become a successful recruiter. So is a curiosity about trying new tactics and channels to find new and different candidates. Never stop being curious or trying new things and you will never stop improving as a recruiter.

4. Good listening skills

Listening goes hand-in-hand with being curious. Taking the time to really hear your candidates, hiring managers, and co-workers will give you more valuable information than any other tactic you can find.

By listening intently to what your candidates and co-workers are saying, you get to know exactly what they want. You can then use this information to craft your recruitment and negotiation strategies. The more you listen, the more valuable information you will get to guide your decision-making.

5. Ability to read and display positive body language

Most people wouldn’t think of body language as a particularly useful staffing skill, but it is. Often, and especially in a hiring situation, people don’t communicate exactly what they are thinking. Being able to read someone’s body language will give you great insight into what their actual thoughts or intentions are.

Body language also goes the other way for recruiters. Being able to control and display positive body language during in-person interviews is a valuable negotiating tactic. It can help you control the overall direction and sentiment of the conversation.

6. Reliability

Above all else, a recruiter needs to be reliable. This links back to the importance of good communication.

Recruiters act as the primary point of contact between a candidate and a hiring manager. One is relying on you as the point of contact for the company that they are trying to join. The other is relying on you to fill a mission-critical position on their team. Both parties are dealing with high stakes situations, and both need a reliable person to advocate for them.

Being reliable means:

  • diligence in your communication and follow-up,
  • accuracy in the information you give,
  • and a willingness to work with both parties to reach the best salary or terms for everyone.

7. Big picture thinking

Recruiters should have the ability to focus both on the candidate or vacancy in front of them, as well as the company’s big picture. That means thinking of your hiring strategy and individual recruits as part of a larger engine that is driving your company forward.

This can include basing your hiring decision in the context of longer-term talent management processes that will help develop your candidate. Or, you can work with and advise hiring managers about how they should staff and build their teams for success. Finally, this could include a longer-term strategy of connecting with high-potential candidates to fill your talent pipeline.

One sure-fire way to become a successful recruiter is to think beyond your current task, and always be looking at the big picture in the context of hiring.

8. Patience

Anyone who has recruited a candidate for a competitive position knows that it can take time.

Hiring the right person can sometimes mean many rounds of job ads and interviews before finding the right person. It can also mean finding the right person, only to have them scooped up by a competitor.

Patience is sometimes the best skill a recruiter can have, and will often pay off with persistence and quick thinking.

9. Strong networking and relationship building skills

Recruitment is, first and foremost, a people business. It’s about meeting and networking with as many qualified people as possible in order to make connections that may one day lead to a great hire. Networking, therefore, is an invaluable skill for recruiters. It helps with building industry connections to leverage for advice, and with meeting potential candidates to either pursue immediately or add to your talent pipeline.

10. Empathy

The last, and often forgotten, soft recruitment skill you should have is empathy. Job hunting can be a very stressful and emotional exercise, especially if there’s a level of desperation or urgency involved. Recruiters should always remember this side of the job. Be empathetic of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with applying and interviewing for a new job.

Hard recruitment skills

Now, let’s take a look at some of the hard recruiting skills you should have to be successful in your career.

11. Data-driven mentality

With the rise of complex HR technologies, recruitment has become a data-driven game. An important, modern recruitment skill you should develop is an ability to analyze and use data to your advantage. Take the time to learn which key performance indicators (KPIs) or recruitment metrics are most important to your company. Embrace data-driven recruitment to find ways to make your hiring better and more efficient.

12. Marketing and sales skills

Recruitment is all about marketing and selling your company to potential candidates. This means thinking and acting like you’re a marketer and salesperson rolled into one.

Recruiters should develop the same advertising and web analytics skills that marketers use to test and hone their lead generation programs. These will help you:

  • find the best channels,
  • write convincing job posts,
  • leverage technology to increase the reach of your job ads,
  • and find hidden pockets of highly engaged candidates.

On the sales side, recruiters should focus on developing their ability to pitch the benefits of working for their company, as well as adapting on the fly to questions and push back from candidates. The better you are at promoting the company and job posting, the more effective you will be at landing the best candidates.

13. Ability to use technology

It’s critical for recruiters today to be tech-savvy. That means combining your recruitment skills with the ability to effectively use hiring technology like Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Performance Management platforms, and HRIS. The better your technology skills are, the more effective you will be at leveraging these platforms to your advantage.

Technology skills also come in handy when hiring for highly technical positions. Being able to communicate with candidates in their own language, and screen then with confidence, is a great way to become a successful niche recruiter.

14. Critical thinking

A huge factor in making a fair and successful hiring decision is the ability to think critically about the information that is presented to you. Recruiters need to be able to take all the information that is available about a candidate, filter out what isn’t important, and come to an unbiased conclusion about who to hire. Critical thinking, therefore, is an incredibly important recruitment skill to ensure that you’re making decisions based on the facts, rather than from the gut.  

15. Social media

Social media has become one of the biggest and most effective channels for recruitment. The variety of users and online communities that recruiters can interact with makes them invaluable platforms for finding niche candidates. Recruiters, therefore, should incorporate social media into their arsenal of staffing skills to help spread the word about job vacancies and reach out directly to potential hires.  

16. Multitasking and time management

Recruiters are often juggling multiple job openings at the same time. That means writing jobs ads, screening applicants, running backgrounds checks, scheduling interviews, and eventually completing job offers. That’s on top of communicating with the many candidates that apply for any single position. Plus their duties as the liaison with hiring managers and other members of the recruitment team. And this workload is multiplied for each job opening they are responsible for!

If you’re struggling in your current position, and are looking for how to become a successful recruiter, then a good first step would be to work on improving your multitasking and time management skills.

17. Ability to manage expectations

Candidates and hiring managers will always have high expectations. On the one hand, a candidate will likely have a vision in their mind about the level of responsibility, salary and culture they expect from the job. On the other hand, hiring managers will often have expectations about what skills and experiences the candidate needs to have to be successful.

A valuable recruitment skill to possess is the ability to manage the expectations of both parties. This comes with clear communication and being upfront with everyone early in the process. Lay out what each can expect, and keep the lines of communication open.

18. Strong aptitude for learning

The last recruitment skill that will serve you well in your career is a passion and aptitude for learning. Nobody knows everything, and most people will have to continuously evolve their skill sets to stay at peak performance. Having the ability and willingness to learn quickly will allow you to adapt to new recruitment trends, take on new responsibilities, and venture into new industries. If you never stop learning, then you’ll never stop developing the recruitment skills you need to thrive.

How to become a successful recruiter

If you read through that list of must-have recruitment skills and found yourself to be a bit lacking, don’t worry. There are always ways that you can learn new skills and expand on the ones you already have.

To help you become a more successful recruiter, here’s a list of ways you can continuously improve your skills.

  • Write SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based) at the start of every quarter or year that relate to the recruiting skills you’d like to develop.
  • Track your success in relation to those goals. Achieving your goals on a regular basis means that you are developing and improving your skills.
  • Discuss what works and what doesn’t with your co-workers. Get their feedback on how you’re doing, and work on any areas they flag as needing improvement.
  • Focus on improving your weaknesses. Make a list of the skills you struggle with the most and focus on improving those.
  • Get feedback from candidates and hiring managers. These are the people who see your recruitment abilities in action. Talk with them honestly about what you do well, and what you don’t. Use that as a roadmap for where to improve.

  • Invest in a solid recruitment tech stack that will help automate the manual tasks in recruitment and save you time to connect with candidates.

  • Take online courses. If the skills you’re lacking require further education, then free online courses could be a great option to fill the gap.

Recruitment is an incredibly rewarding field to be a part of. You’re in a position to help your company thrive and to help people find their dream job. With the right recruiting skills and the willingness to always learn and evolve, you can become a truly great addition to any HR team.

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Brendan is an experienced writer and content marketing professional with experience working for various HR tech and SaaS companies in Canada. He has an extensive background in web content marketing and journalism.
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