Inspired by the work of Ben Horowitz and his simple and yet effective style of delivery, I have written the article below outlining what—in my experience of 12 years in the recruitment industry—differentiates good from bad recruiters.

What a Good Recruiter Does

  • Good recruiters know the market, the market conditions, the position they are hiring for, the client they are working on behalf of and operate from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence.
  • A good recruiter acts as the representative of the client company. A good recruiter openly and willingly shares information about their mandate with candidates.
  • A good recruiter takes full responsibility for the quality of the information they share and measures themselves in terms of the success of the candidate. A good recruiter takes responsibility for delivering the right candidate at the right time.
  • A good recruiter knows the context and reality of both their client (the company, the business, the interview process, the reporting line, the salary, etc.) and candidate (current employment, drivers/motivations, career objectives, capabilities, experiences, compensation, etc.) going in.
  • Good recruiters don’t get all their time sucked up by various client side organisational and administrative tasks. They are not gophers for the HR team or hiring managers. They are not part of the in-house team but rather work together with and on behalf of their clients to facilitate an efficient, effective, fair and timely process. Good recruiters are the marketing and PR partner of the client's HR team and hiring managers.
  • Good recruiters crisply define the target, the “what” (as opposed to the “how”) and manage the delivery of the “what”. Bad recruiters feel best about themselves when they figure out the “how”.
  • Good recruiters communicate effectively to both clients and candidates in writing, as well as verbally. Good recruiters don’t give direction informally. Good recruiters gather information informally and consistently.
  • Good recruiters create contingency plans, anticipate problems and develop real solutions. Bad recruiters put out fires all day.
  • Good recruiters take written positions on important issues (competition, candidate status, tough choices, feedback, salary, etc.).
  • Good recruiters work as a team and focus the team on quality and customers (be they clients or candidates).
  • Good recruiters define the positions together with their clients before committing to execute a search.
  • Good recruiters manage expectations. Bad recruiters undertake any mandate even when they can not be executed.
  • Good recruiters think in terms of delivering superior solutions during planning and achieving agreed goals during execution. Bad recruiters don’t plan.
  • Good recruiters think about the story they want to tell candidates and how they will represent their client.
  • Good recruiters listen to their candidates and work to understand their individual needs, preferences and situation. Bad recruiters hard sell and make assumptions. Good recruiters define and discuss their mandate with candidates.
  • Good recruiters send their status reports at the agreed intervals and give feedback consistently because they are disciplined.

What Bad Recruiters Do

  • Bad recruiters think about covering the basic information about the client and matching profiles by key words to the job description.
  • Bad recruiters tell candidates what they should do. Good recruiters listen to what candidates want to do.
  • Bad recruiters forget to send in their status reports and do not give feedback because they are not focused on quality of service or discipline.
  • Bad recruiters focus the team on how many phone calls have been made and CV’s sent.
  • Bad recruiters voice their opinion verbally and leave things open to interpretation. When bad recruiters fail, they point out that they predicted the “project” would fail.
  • Bad recruiters have lots of excuses. Like "I’m overworked," "I don’t get enough direction," "the client won’t talk to me," "there are no candidates," "the competition has 10 times as many people working on it." As Ben Horowitz says, “Barksdale doesn’t make these kinds of excuses,” and neither should a recruiter with a properly qualified mandate.

Any good recruiter would have at some point in their career made some of the mistakes outline above. We are after all human. The difference is that a good recruiter cares deeply about their craft and would recognise the issues and make a course correction so as to improve themselves and their delivery

A Comparison Between Good Recruiters & Bad Recruiters