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The Recruiter's Digest
 Recruiting News, Training & Commentary by Bill Radin

November, 2005

Have You Got the Recruiting Gene?

Have you ever wondered if you've got the DNA to succeed, or whether you share the traits of other top performers?

Or, if you're a manager, are you frustrated by high turnover? Do you wish you could do a better job of picking the winners and sidestepping the losers?

While there's no sure-fire template for success, I've found several personal and professional indicators that can help determine which people make it and which people don't in our highly competitive field.

Irritable and Suspicious
That's my glib answer to the question, What personality traits do I look for when hiring a recruiter?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that grumpy is good; or that to build an office, you need to troll for talk radio callers or class-action litigants. On the contrary; it takes massive quantities of "nice" to work a profitable desk.

But over the years, I've found that the most successful recruiters are noticeably and unapologetically edgy. Like junkyard dogs, they aggressively protect themselves from intruders who might threaten their time; and like Powerball winners besieged by a bevy of long-lost "relatives," they approach everyone they meet with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Predicting Performance
Does education or background in a particular industry give someone an advantage? It can. But more importantly, it's the way a person plays the cards he's dealt that's the most accurate indicator of success. Here are a few examples:

1. Ability to handle adversity. I look for people who ignored long odds, overcame obstacles or fought back from failure. I've found that a person's character is forged as a result of conflict, not as a result of genetics or a series of lucky breaks.

2. Street smarts. I tend to favor people with real-life experience, who've survived on their own or worked in situations outside their comfort zone. All things being equal, I'd rather hire someone who put himself through law school by working nights as a doorman than a person whose wealthy parents paid the college tab.

3. Past success. If you want to observe the future, just look at the past. Job-hopping doesn't necessarily translate into poor performance ahead, but a consistent pattern of quitting would certainly be a cause for concern. Look for evidence of achievement, either in a person's career or personal life, and examine whether the success came easily or was attained as a result of hard work or sacrifice. In a slam-dunk competition, I'm usually less impressed by the performance of a seven-footer than by the determined efforts of an athlete who measures five-foot-six.

4. Relevant experience. Ask yourself: Has the person done well in a parallel universe to recruiting? Many managers look for sales experience when they hire recruiters. Which is fine; there's nothing wrong with working the cosmetics counter at the mall. But selling a tangible, low-dollar point-of-purchase product in a retail setting is very different from brokering a complex, intangible high-dollar deal. Remember, too, that many jobs are actually sales jobs in disguise. For example, some of the best recruiters I know are former school teachers. If controlling a room full of teenagers and getting them to learn a subject like math isn't an expression of selling, I don't know what is.

5. High income needs. Let's face it, a person with his back to the wall will generally fight more fiercely than a person with a comfortable safety net. Look for people with a sense of financial urgency (real or imagined) and skip the dilettantes and trust-funders.

There are several other traits that tend to predict success. For example, I think people who are naturally competitive make better recruiters than people who are passive or accepting of their situation. And people who are risk-averse generally fail to make the cut. But most of all, I tend to favor people who worry a lot.

That's right. In my opinion, if you don't lie awake at night, worried that your candidate might take a counteroffer -- or agitated because your client can't make a decision -- or upset when a deal looks like it might fall apart -- you're probably not cut out for this business.



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