Traditional Recruiting Skills are Dead

What Are the Five Essential New Ones?

There has never been a more challenging time to be a corporate recruiter. Exponential changes are occurring in candidate and worker attitudes, technology, and artificial intelligence advancements.  Yet, we are using processes, conventions, and standards that were designed to meet the needs of yesterday. This is the dilemma that causes recruiters to fuss over trivial matters such as what metrics they should report or how they interview or argue whether they should read cover letters or not. This is fiddling while Rome burns.

The most important discussions and actions in recruiting should be about adapting to these changes instead of attempting to fit yesterday’s processes to today’s needs. Darwin himself said that the key to survival is not necessarily being the “fittest” but is the ability to adapt. 

The skills that once defined a successful corporate recruiter may even be detrimental to success.

Over the years, corporate recruiters have evolved three major sets of competencies. The first is the ability to deal with corporate bureaucracy and legal issues.  These recruiters are formidable navigators of the corporate landscape.  They know every hill and valley, every bomb and sinkhole. They produce legally required, nicely prepared, backward-looking reports and know every nuance of HR law.

Recruiters with these competencies likely work for the same firm for many years. The skills are unique to a particular company and do not transfer well.  Their internal knowledge and ability to get things done in systems resistant to getting things done makes them valuable, but only IN that system. This ability fails to help the recruiter navigate a talent-constrained marketplace or understand or know how to use emerging technologies.  

The second is the ability to screen and interview candidates. This is often considered a primary skill and recruiters take great pride in their interviewing prowess. They may have spent years taking classes and developing skills in good interviewing. Most of their time is spent scheduling, screening, and interviewing. While this may seem value-added, it does not scale and can be largely replaced with artificial intelligence and various tests.

The third skill is that of a helper or pair-of-hands for the hiring manager. Their focus is to woo the candidate and hiring manager and make a good impression.  The recruiter meets candidates, gives them a tour of the facility, takes them to the hiring manager, and perhaps even offers them a coffee or lunch.  They become the liaison or interface between the company, the hiring manager, and the candidate. This also does not scale and is something the hiring manager should probably do themselves.

None of these three competencies add value. They do not objectively ascertain what competencies and skills the best performers have – indeed, they don’t even know who the best performers are. They do not offer quantitative data on candidates’ skills or past performance, nor are they very helpful in closing as most recruiters simply put together standard offers based on what they have offered other people with similar backgrounds and experiences.

What skills does a productive, 21st-century recruiter need to have?

There are many that are important including knowing the business, being ethical, and workforce planning. But I have culled through scores of these skills and believe that these five are at the top. With these, a recruiter can truly add value.

Skill #1: They are data analysts

These recruiters are experts at understanding data and using it to influence hiring managers, show objective reasons why someone is a top performer, make better decisions about where to focus time and effort, and find the best people for a particular job family.  They are familiar with descriptive and predictive analytics and work with data scientists and analysts to extract data that helps make better recommendations. They are always seeking to correlate and understand better the relationships between performance, skills, and experience. Their recommendations are based on data and as free from bias as possible. They use this data to decide which candidates to present and to influence hiring managers.

Skill #2: They build market and talent intelligence

Knowledge is power. Even though this is a truism, it has never been more relevant to recruiting. Talent intelligence is the process of collecting and analyzing data about people with the skills you need. This is true both for people inside your organization and in competing ones. This information helps a company better understand where key people are located, who they work for, and what goals they seek to achieve. By gathering this data and analyzing and charting it, recruiters can develop talent maps and use those maps to meet, engage, and develop relationships with the most desirable talent.

Skill #3: They build relationships and teams

Important and close to the top of the pyramid of skills is the ability to build relationships. They spend inordinate amounts of time talking, reading, networking, and learning about the areas they are responsible for and the people considered the best in the field. This is what all great recruiters do.  They leverage a wide array of people to find the best candidate for a position or solve a problem. Rather than go it alone, they create teams of stakeholders to speed the process and ensure that they have located the best people. These recruiters spend time inside and outside their organization and get to know people at all levels and professions that might be useful to their firm. 

Skill #4: They understand and embrace technology

Technology is already crucial to recruiting success. At one level, applicant tracking systems, HRIS systems, social networks, and recruiting websites form the older and more mature base. On top of these are increasingly powerful tools powered by artificial intelligence that can find, screen, assess, communicate with, and onboard people at all levels. If the recruiter is not technically agile and informed, she cannot be successful in the long run.  Great recruiters dominate the technology and learn how to make it do what they want.

Skill #5: They are flexible and agile

As I mentioned above, survival always goes to those who can adapt to changing situations best. Being willing to accept change and strive to deal with it positively is critical as businesses change, new technologies emerge, work goes hybrid, and talent remains hard to identify and hire.

The future of recruiting revolves around what artificial intelligence offers and what can be gleaned from analyzing data and using it to create more engaging attraction strategies. The administrative and traditional recruiting skills like screening, scheduling, and interviewing are becoming less valuable every day.

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