The Recruiting “Secret Sauce”

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

In dealings with end clients and hiring managers over the years, both my coworkers and I have noticed a question that comes up. They want to know how we are able to come up with qualified candidates for their open positions when they haven’t been able to fill them internally. Often we will come up with a good candidate in a few days to a week when they’ve been looking for months themselves. They ask us, “What’s your secret sauce?”

Now if there were truly a secret recipe to recruiting successfully, I probably wouldn’t post it here for all to learn. I’d hoard it for myself and my team. But in reality, there is no secret sauce. There are just a few things that we recruiters do every day, and I don’t think hiring managers and end clients always understand what goes into finding a qualified candidate. I’d like to shed a little light on some of the common misconceptions out there, and hopefully bring to the forefront what it takes to be a really good recruiter.

Misconception #1: Recruiting is easy! Wrong. IT recruiting is hard work. A lot of hard work. It’s plowing through literally hundreds of resumes, making hundreds of phone calls, conducting interviews and winnowing the list down to a few choice candidates. If it were as easy as posting a job on your career page, you’d never need an IT recruiter. But it’s not that easy. To fill one IT job, my team generally screens something like 400+ resumes. We then reach out to a large number of them, and phone interview as many as we can. We take that list and choose the top handful of resumes, and send those along to the end client. Throwing paper resumes at a job is easy, and if you suspect your agency isn’t talking to every candidate they submit, I’d recommend moving on from them and selecting a new staffing agency to work with.

Misconception #2: We already have an internal recruiter. We don’t need an agency. I guess this is a matter of opinion, but if your jobs aren’t getting filled in a timely fashion, perhaps you DO need an agency. Just because you have one person out searching for resumes doesn’t mean they’re turning over every stone. In fact, they’re probably not. They don’t have that kind of time. Plus, I’ve noticed in my years of working with recruiters that you can give the same job requirements to two recruiters, and they will come up with completely different candidates using the same tool (internal database, job board, etc.). No two recruiters source the same. Different people see different things in resumes and some people are better at seeing patterns and asking the right kind of questions to discern if a candidate is a good fit.

Image Credit: Next Media, Inc.

Image Credit: Next Media, Inc.

Misconception #3: Anyone can be a good recruiter. Not true at all. In my opinion there are three elements to recruiting (these are things I have noticed in years of hiring and training recruiters): First, knowledge. This covers things like understanding technology, understanding what a developer does vs. a DBA, using a job board, what basic questions must be asked, what does 1099 mean vs. corp-corp, etc. Knowledge can be taught. If someone is intelligent and has a willingness to learn, they can figure this part of the job out. Second, work ethic. Like I mentioned in point #1, recruiting is hard work. To be a good recruiter, you have to be willing to come in and work hard for at least eight hours a day. That’s not as common as you might think. This is generally ingrained in someone, but you could potentially train someone or micromanage them into working hard. I prefer to try and find naturally hard workers, myself. And third, intuition. This can’t be taught. This is when someone sees a resume and can intuit other duties the person might have done and call that candidate when most recruiters would skip over it because the key words aren’t there. This is when a candidate says something, and the recruiter knows what follow-up questions to ask and where to dig in. That can’t be scripted. This is when a recruiter can look over a resume and quickly determine if the person is worth calling. This saves a great deal amount of time every day. You can teach people some of the things to look for, but at the end of the day, intuition plays an enormous role.

Misconception #4: All agencies are the same. Not true in the least. As I mentioned in point #1, there are plenty of agencies who simply throw resumes at the hiring manager and hope one sticks. There are plenty of agencies who don’t have a quality process and environment and suffer turnover in their recruiting staff. I believe in retaining a top-notch recruiting team because my recruiters KNOW our clients. When a repeat client gives us a job, we all know what the environment is, what type of personality works well and the background that client likes. If an agency recruiting department has high turnover, they lose that knowledge. We also try to get to know our clients and managers. We don’t want to waste their time with bad resumes or candidates whose personalities won’t fit. Not everyone does that. All agencies are definitely not created equally!

So I guess there is a “sauce” after all, but I don’t think it’s all that “secret.” Take one part close client relationship, add a cohesive team of tenured recruiters, sprinkle in some knowledge and intuition, add the proper tools and mix in a large helping of hard work. Voila!

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