Top Qualities of Successful Recruiters – Do You Have What it Takes?

By WinterWyman - Career and Recruiting Advice

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by Steve Kasmouski, President, Search at WinterWyman


After 20 years in the recruiting industry, I’ve seen dozens of people come and go, and I’ve observed the key characteristics of the recruiters who thrive and have lasting careers. Recruiting can be a difficult occupation but also rewarding and gratifying. If you are considering a career in recruiting, check my list of the crucial qualities, and see if you have what it takes.



Relationship Building

Recruiting is a relationship business. You need the desire and skills to build relationships effectively, and, to some extent, a predisposition to connecting with people. Your success as a recruiter is due, in part, to the people you know and how they feel about you. Job changes require candidates and clients to share important, and sometimes personal, information to make the search and placement process successful, and they will be more apt to share that information when recruiters have invested time in getting to know them.


Honesty and Integrity

Ours is an industry that suffers from a perception problem. Some recruiting agencies use unethical tactics; they may be pushy, put their desires ahead of what’s right for the client and candidate or may simply be terrible listeners. As a result, there may be a general mistrust of recruiters. It’s impossible to achieve long-term success if we sacrifice for short-term financial gain. Nothing is more important than conducting business like our parents taught us, with only the highest degree of integrity and honesty, treating others as we like to be treated.


Listening Skills

The best recruiters listen twice as much as they speak. Active listening, complete with the ability to ask pointed and relevant questions, is a core quality of successful recruiters. Recruiters who genuinely listen gain deeper understanding of their clients’ and candidates’ needs and are better equipped to help them. For example, knowing your candidate’s top priority is the culture of a work environment is not enough. It’s important to know what exactly they are looking for. Active listening will encourage you to ask the right questions to understand what matters most.



The skill to adapt, change and be flexible is a key quality possessed by the best recruiters. You need to adapt your communication style depending on your client’s or candidate’s needs, shift your approach based on changes in the job world and be ready to learn about new technologies that affect the markets you serve. If you are rigid and have a hard time shifting your thinking, recruiting may be difficult for you.



The most important characteristic of a good recruiter is the ability to bounce back from disappointment or failure. Nothing is more disappointing than spending several weeks working hard to bring a client and candidate together, only to have something out of your control destroy the opportunity. When a reference check is flat, or your candidate unexpectedly takes a counter offer, top recruiters deal with it and move on. You could have all the other crucial attributes, but it’s tough to be successful in this business if you are not resilient.


Professional Persistence

The most successful recruiters know how to be persistent without crossing the line. We rarely recruit that ideal candidate on the first call; we follow up in the appropriate time frame, with the right temperament and a clear message. Persistence pays off big if you do it right. If you come across as aggressive, pushy or disingenuous, you will lose credibility and trust and kill your reputation.


Communication Skills

Successful recruiters know the right way to speak to their constituencies and can adapt to various communication styles. And, because so much of our communication today is written, top recruiters are skilled at communicating written thoughts in ways that won’t be misconstrued.


Time Management Skills

Successful recruiters are judicious with their time. They know how to shift priorities based on what is happening during the day. They are focused on being productive versus being busy. Email is the biggest culprit when it comes to the misuse of time. Our inboxes are full of emails that are neither important nor urgent, yet we feel the need to respond to them all. A more prudent use of time is to organize your day around activities that produce results.


Financial Motivation

Yes. I said it. This might seem like a tasteless topic, but I can’t think of any highly successful recruiter who isn’t partly motivated by money. Whether it’s to send your kids to private school, take the family on a special vacation or save to buy a home, recruiting can be lucrative, and wanting the benefits of a highly paying job is an important motivator. Don’t get me wrong - recruiters are in the people business, and we love making high quality matches that endure – it’s very gratifying. But, the work is challenging, and the financial reward is one of the ways the best recruiters stay highly engaged.

A career in recruiting can be challenging, but if you have what it takes, the rewards are worth it.


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