Waiting tables got me through college, being a recruiter got me through my early years in Human Resources. I was much better at one than the other, which is why I’m not greeting you at your local Chili’s, but a few years serving Monte Cristos served me well preparing for my post-college career. I learned a ton of skills that would be described as “technical” along the way, but attribute most of my success to attitude and the ability to communicate, remembering at all times that you are providing a service to a customer, no matter how annoying, confrontational, or cheap they may be. It’s also imperative for you to have an exceptional pair of tap shoes available at all times, if you get my drift.
Now, as a leader in Talent Acquisition for a handful of organizations, I’ve interviewed, hired, managed, and developed dozens of people in various recruiting roles. There have been some good ones, some great ones, a few stinkers, and several others who were simply misplaced. By and large, it was immediately evident which recruiter would fit into each category – all you have to do is listen for the words and observe the attitude. You can bet there are a few things the great ones will never say:
- “I emailed them (the candidate) but didn’t hear back.” – Indicates a reliance on email, and could signal a lack of urgency. Get on the phone, or text, or both, and don’t continue to wait for someone to get back to you. This is the same response I get from my teenager if I asked him to contact his teacher/coach, etc. “I did, but they weren’t there.” Another reason he’s not working for me, God love him. The great ones have emailed and called the candidate already – if the candidate fails to return the call within a reasonable amount of time, the great ones have already crossed him/her off the list and moved on.
- “I’ve tried everything, but there are no candidates.” – Forget for a moment that it’s not possible to try everything, this is usually a way to avoid the issue and move on to the next requisition. You’ll never hear this phrase uttered by your top recruiters, who tend to pride themselves on finding ways no one else considered. You’re much more likely to get a request for support (financially or otherwise) for an alternate avenue. The “I tried everything…” line is akin to your child responding “I looked everywhere” to locate their backpack, shoes, keys, binder, glasses, retainer, phone, laptop, hoodie, or library book that is 10 weeks overdue. (Yes, that’s multiple “kid” references – I love my kids to death, but they were born with an innate sense of excuse-making.) But, since Mom doesn’t work here, you’re going to have to find it yourself, bud.
- “What do you think I should do about….?” – Sometimes cleverly disguised as an email asking “thoughts?” this is where the recruiter throws the monkey on your back and waits for your wisdom. If you’re not coming to me with your own “thoughts,” chances are I’ll ask that you take a 180-degree spin and go back to whence you came. Not that this is always a sign of a “poor” recruiter, but most managers are going to want your ideas before being asked to stop-down and create a solution.
Finally, it really does come down to attitude, doesn’t it? We’ve all been in a restaurant when your server is “in the weeds” – watch how they handle the situation & you’ll find out in a hurry what kind of server you have.
I wasn’t the best waiter by any means, and I wasn’t the greatest recruiter that ever lived (shhhh, don’t tell KD, I’m kinda his hero), but you can overcome a lot of deficiencies with the right M.O. and a focus on the behaviors that will always serve you well in any role – be positive, be resilient, and take accountability.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.