What makes a good recruiter great?

The question of what separates the good recruiters from the great recruiters has been challenging the recruitment industry since it began in earnest after the second world war. Here we’ve summerised just some of what we believe are the key attributes that make a good recruiters great.

The Wherewithal

Perhaps the single most important quality of a great recruiter is ‘wherewithal.’ Filling a position is not just about filling a seat, it’s about filling it with the right person who fulfills the short-term needs of the employer and stays the course with even greater potential and value in the long term. The recruiter must thoroughly understand the business and hiring needs of the employer and genuinely care how their candidates affect the business, rather than just filling a role and collecting a salary. This requires research and understanding of the position and candidate beyond the page and research into the implicit, underlying aspects that truly make a great match.

A recruiter’s job is to sell an idea, an organization, and a vision, rather than a product or service . Being personable, knowledgeable, and approachable are essential, especially in corporate recruiting, where you are representing the company you’re hiring for. You also have to be able to persuade and engage people in order to gain their interest in what it is you have to offer.

Recruiters without the wherewithal to decipher between immediate needs and long-term fit are like the fast food chefs of recruitment. To separate themselves from the rest of the pack, they need to act more like executive chefs in a five star restaurant.


A great recruiter has to be a persuasive communicator. He or she has to be able to influence the stakeholders, particularly when they have unrealistic expectations about the kind of candidate (the proverbial ‘purple squirrel’) they are after. The recruiter has to be able to reset expectations when necessary and also convince the client that the proposed alternate course is actually the right course.

The best recruiters know that every piece of communication or interaction with candidates has an impact on the company’s brand. They treat every applicant with respect and are always striving to give the best candidate experience. They realise that, in the long run, nothing is more beneficial to the company’s ability to attract talent than a great employer brand.

They must be able to combine both the art and science of recruiting. A great recruiter is someone who listens to both their client’s and candidate’s needs and does what is in their client’s and candidate’s best interests without being self-serving. Listening skills are the single most important skills needed. Being a great recruiter is sometimes walking away from a deal because it is not in the best interests of either the client or the candidate. It is knowing that if you protect both the client’s and candidate’s interests, then you will be successful in the long run.


Open-mindedness is an essential ingredient in any great recruiter. The average recruiter invariably harbours both unconscious biases plus any number of well hidden conscious biases. These impeded the recruitment process and can cause recruiters to jump to the wrong conclusion about a candidate. To be able to have an open mind and treat every candidate equally is the most important thing a recruiter can do.

Great recruiters connect talent to the core intangibles without being stifled by biases. In order to find the best candidate, great recruiters first become extensions of a company. They strive to get get clarity on a company’s purpose, mission, culture, values, and leadership philosophy. As extensions of the hiring team, recruiters can leverage this information to ensure they are connecting with the right talent who can authentically align with the core intangible elements of a company.


Integrity definitely makes a great recruiter. Unfortunately the industry’s reputation has, over time been tarnished and the market’s general perception of the typical recruiter ranges from the Fast Freddy door to door salesman to the Slick Rick second hand car salesman. It’s the inherent flaw of any commission-based sales role where the incentives drive the bad eggs to take short cuts and set aside their ethics to acheive their goals. Therefore, a great recruiter must demonstrate integrity, adopt a strong ethical code and be upfront and honest with their clients and the candidates to dispell common perception and stand out above the competition. Get-rich-quick rewards are tempting in this business, but a great recruiter will be rewarded far more in the long term by continually showing that they’re acting in their clients’ best interests.


One of the most important traits of a great recruiter is resilience. Being in the people business, a recruiter often experiences highs and lows — sometimes on an hourly basis. One hour, there is the high of making a placement, resulting in a happy client and a grateful job seeker and the next hour can bring word that a temporary employee was terminated on the spot for misconduct. The ability to continually brush off the dissappointments and keep pushing forward is paramount. Finding the inner tenacity and strength of character to deal with the highs and lows is very important to avoid the risk of emotional burn out.


Finally, but by no means least, another vital trait that all great recruiters share is discipline. Recruiting is an incredibly demanding, highly competitive field, and no matter what other skills a recruiter possesses, the discipline to keep going, particularly when times are tough, is paramount. As is the case with other sales orientated business fields, recruiting is a numbers game. While it’s not always possible to tell which activities will lead to the next placement, it’s a fact that the greater the volume of activities, the greater the outcomes, and generating a high volume of activities requires discipline. The temptation to resist easing up when things don’t go your way is huge and it’s those that can stay focussed and keep their eye on the ball when others are throwing in the towel will stand out as the great recruiters.