Talent Acquisition

Unmasking the Top 20% Recruiters: 7 Traits You Didn't Know to Look For

Comparing onions

Let’s get one thing straight—finding a top-performing recruiter is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Sure, you can find someone who can source candidates, collaborate with a team, prioritize tasks, understand market trends, and communicate effectively. These are the basics, and frankly, even mediocre recruiters should excel in these areas. But if you want to spot the top 20% performers, you need to look beyond the obvious.

Here are seven less common signs that indicate you’ve struck gold in the recruitment world. And trust me, it’s not just about ticking boxes; it’s about finding those rare gems who can transform your hiring process.

1. Ownership: The Buck Stops Here

The Trait: Top recruiters take full ownership of their work. They’re not just filling roles; they’re accountable for the entire recruitment process and its outcomes.

Why It Matters: Ownership means commitment. When recruiters see the process through from start to finish, they ensure that no detail is overlooked. They don’t just hand off candidates to hiring managers and walk away; they follow up, they get feedback, and they iterate on their processes. This level of accountability ensures continuous improvement and higher quality hires.

Best Practice: Encourage a culture of ownership by giving recruiters autonomy and recognizing their contributions. This can be achieved through regular feedback sessions and clear KPIs that align with business goals.

2. Curiosity: The Relentless Learner

The Trait: Top Talent Acquisition Managers are relentlessly curious. They’re always on the lookout for new recruitment trends, tools, and techniques.

Why It Matters: In an ever-evolving industry, staying stagnant is a death sentence. Curiosity drives innovation. Recruiters who are constantly learning bring fresh ideas and strategies to the table, keeping your recruitment practices ahead of the curve.

Best Practice: Foster an environment of continuous learning. Provide access to training programs, industry conferences, and online courses. Encourage your team to experiment with new tools and techniques and to share their insights with the team.

3. Humility: Knowing Their Limits

The Trait: Humility is key in recognizing one’s own limits and valuing the contributions of others.

Why It Matters: Humble recruiters are more likely to seek feedback and collaborate effectively. They understand that recruitment is a team sport and that leveraging the strengths of others can lead to better outcomes. This trait also makes them more adaptable and open to change.

Best Practice: Promote a culture of humility by encouraging open dialogue and feedback. Celebrate team achievements and emphasize the importance of collaboration. Provide opportunities for team members to mentor each other and share knowledge.

4. Tenacity: The Never-Give-Up Attitude

The Trait: Recruitment can be tough, with many rejections and challenges. Top Talent Acquisition Managers are tenacious and persistent in their efforts.

Why It Matters: Tenacity ensures that recruiters don’t give up at the first sign of difficulty. They push through obstacles, continually search for the right candidates, and don’t settle for less than the best. This persistence often results in finding the perfect fit, even for the most challenging roles.

Best Practice: Encourage resilience by setting realistic goals and providing support through challenging times. Recognize and reward persistence and effort, not just results. Create a supportive environment where failure is seen as a learning opportunity.

5. Serious About Data: Decisions Backed by Numbers

The Trait: The best recruiters use data to drive their decisions and strategies. They analyze metrics to improve their recruitment processes.

Why It Matters: Data-driven decisions are more effective and efficient. Recruiters who rely on data can identify patterns, optimize their processes, and make informed decisions that lead to better hires. This approach reduces guesswork and increases the likelihood of success.

Best Practice: Invest in recruitment analytics tools and train your team to use them effectively. Encourage the use of data in every aspect of the recruitment process, from sourcing candidates to evaluating their performance post-hire. Regularly review metrics and adjust strategies based on insights.

6. Guided by First Principles: Critical Thinkers

The Trait: They think critically and are guided by first principles. They question assumptions and develop innovative solutions.

Why It Matters: First-principles thinking helps recruiters break down complex problems and find root causes. This approach leads to innovative solutions that address the core issues rather than just treating symptoms. Critical thinkers are not afraid to challenge the status quo and drive meaningful change.

Best Practice: Encourage a culture of critical thinking by challenging your team to question assumptions and think deeply about problems. Provide opportunities for brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. Recognize and reward innovative ideas and solutions.

7. Persuasive: The Art of Selling

The Trait: A-players are persuasive, able to sell roles and the company to candidates effectively.

Why It Matters: Persuasion is key in recruitment. Top recruiters can effectively communicate the value proposition of a role and the company, making it more attractive to potential candidates. This skill is particularly important in competitive job markets where candidates have multiple options.

Best Practice: Develop your team’s persuasive skills through training in storytelling and sales techniques. Encourage recruiters to understand the needs and motivations of candidates and tailor their pitches accordingly. Role-playing exercises can also help improve their persuasive abilities.

Conclusion: Beyond the Basics

To hire top 20% Talent Acquisition Managers, you need to look beyond the basics and assess for these seven traits:

  1. Ownership
  2. Curiosity
  3. Humility
  4. Tenacity
  5. Serious about data
  6. Guided by first principles
  7. Persuasive

By focusing on these less obvious qualities, you can identify and nurture recruiters who will not only excel but also elevate your entire recruitment process. So, the next time you’re interviewing for a recruiter, keep an eye out for these signs. You might just find that needle in the haystack.


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