SunsetA few weeks ago, right after the HR Tech Conference, I teamed up with iCIMS and SmashFly on a #TChat to discuss the similarities between recruiting and sales.

Then, just last week, I heard Stacy Zapar, reigning guru of social recruiting, share her tricks for using the social world to be a better recruiter. I’d heard most of these tips before, but in a different context. See, as a marketing coach, I have given these same tips to sales professionals over the last twenty years.

Combining all of these elements leads me to this list of the 12 similarities between stand-out recruiters and stand-out salespeople:

1. They Both Tailor Their Messages

The technology today lets you insert the addressee’s name, company name, and more into whatever message you’re working on. But by today’s standards, that’s fake – completely fake.

“Tailoring a message” means being individual. Written by one person for one person. That’s the difference between just sending emails and phone calls out and actually getting responses.

2. They Both Plan Ahead

Planting seeds, laying the  groundwork – whatever you call it, it’s about planning ahead for a sale or a placement that will come in its own due time.

Zapar shared a story where she knew a UX role was going to open in three months in San Diego, so she joined those groups, starting sharing articles, interacting, and getting her name known. Then, when the requisition appeared, she used that group to network not as an unknown recruiter, but as one of them.

3. They Are Both Socially Savvy

Knowing how to communicate and reach people is essential to both professions. Our social tools today elevate our ability to reach people beyond a phone call, email, or a simple LinkedIn invitation. The best recruiters and salespeople know their ways around Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more core social vehicles.

4. They Are Both Well-Networked — and They Know How to Use Those Networks 

SeagullsWho you know is good — But how you use who you know is better, especially when selling to a tough buyer or recruiting for a crazy niche position.

Here’s a great example from Zapar’s talk: She meets with the team the new hire will join and sets up the following workflow: First, I will connect with you on LinkedIn. Then, I will look through your first-level contacts and select 8-10 people I want to speak to about this job.  Next  – and here’s the clincher – I will write the email that you will send to that person for me.

5. They Both Drive the Process

As in the above example, great recruiters and great salespeople both have plans and drive the process without letting distractions and delays derail it. Many things creep into the process to create detours, but the recruiters and sales professionals who excel keep the players on the path and adhere to a mutually defined timeline.

6. They Both Listen

In the first point of this list, I talked about the importance of tailoring messages. That tailoring is based on a recruiter’s or salesperson’s ability to listen. Great salespeople don’t jump into products or services too soon (the “show-up-and-throw-up” syndrome), nor do great recruiters overwhelm poor candidates with company or job details that they just don’t care about.

7. They Both Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

For any prospective job candidate, there are some essential questions that just have to be asked: “What will motivate you to make a move?” and “What appeals to you about the place where you work now?” Similarly, there are questions that savvy sales professionals must ask throughout the sales process – or fail miserably.

8) They Both Know Their Product Well

After listening with skill, then it’t time to tailor by bringing forward the right features, functionalities, and benefits. This applies whether one is pitching a product or service or a new company and job.

Most of our companies sell complicated solutions with an abundance of bells and whistles – and recruiters have to sell the whole company, the hiring manager, the roles, and the role’s responsibilities. Narrowing the focus and picking the right benefits to speak about first helps successful professionals grab attention and create positive first impressions. Then, they build upon that base to close the deal.

9. They Are Both Persistent

LedgeBoth roles are challenging. Most placements or new business deals require long, long cycles. The best professionals work long hours, anticipating the reward that comes at the end of the process. Both great recruiters and great salespeople need discipline, persistence, and patience.

10. They Both Make Use of Great Tools — and Use Them Well

Rarely is a salesperson’s or recruiter’s success purely the product of their own hands. They use tools to save time and organize their lives. This includes everything from social media to scheduling apps to follow-up tech.

I would also put into this category of “tools” the marketing and recruitment marketing teams that many successful professionals rely upon for resources and support.

11. They Are Both Great Storytellers

Telling stories is one of the best ways to relay proof points to prospects – both in sales and in recruiting. Salespeople relay stories about client successes and use those stories to handle prospect objections, both voiced and anticipated. Similarly, great recruiters share with prospective new hires the culture and personality of the new employer and the hiring manager. They relay stories of those who have joined before and the paths they’ve walked into new roles over time.

12. They Both Make It Look Easy

We know it’s not easy at all – but those top salespeople and recruiters know what it takes to be successful, and they steadily work through the process with the end in mind. By doing so, they sure do make it seem easy!


I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” Like great salespeople, great recruiters understand they’re selling something well beyond the job, product, or service itself. They’re selling something that really matters.

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