Field One could convincingly argue that there has never been a more challenging time to be a recruiter than today. As multiple industries struggle with massive skills shortages, hiring managers and employers seem to be making increasingly unrealistic demands on the modern talent market.

Caught right in the middle of this bleak scenario is the embattled recruiter, required to find the hiring manager’s perfect needle in the metaphorical haystack of the skills shortage again and again.

The modern recruiter needs a unique set of skills and qualities in order to thrive in today’s hiring ecosystem — and I’ve decided to outline exactly what those skills are.

1. The Ability to Challenge Customer Thinking

Considering the often unrealistic expectations that clients/hiring managers hold, it should be no surprise that a 2014 poll conducted by Elite Recruitment Network found that the skill which recruiters need the most — but lack — is the ability to challenge customer thinking.

Today’s clients are still holding on to their legacy ways of thinking, still operating according to the hopes, methods, and expectations of a bygone era. What recruiters need to do is educate these clients; they need to open their customers’ eyes to the realities of the modern talent market.

Whether you are an aspiring, ground-level, or veteran recruiter, you won’t be able to succeed unless you can challenge the way your customers think. You might have to open your clients’ eyes to unpopular ideas (like convincing them to ease up on their requirements or spend more time training new employees), but in doing so, you’ll help them achieve their hiring goals.

2. The Ability to Locate Hard-to-Find Talent

Thanks to a perfect storm of well-documented talent shortages, increased commercial competitiveness, and incredibly high hiring manager expectations, today’s recruiters have to be adept at proactive sourcing.

Sure, there will still be some assignments here and there where you can post an advert and be overwhelmed with qualified applicants, but there will be plenty of others where your job ads bring in, at best, a slight trickle of candidates.

RunnerFor the most part, today’s recruiters will need to step off the beaten path and use their creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving skills to blaze their own fresh trails. Leave the job boards and social-media tactics to the masses. If you really want to find the best talent, you’ll need to set yourself apart from the rest of the recruiting hordes.

3. The Ability to Turn Passive Candidates Into Eager Applicants 

With so many employers fiercely fighting over the active talent market (which accounts for a meager 21 percent of all candidates in the market), today’s recruiters would be better off learning how to mine the rich passive talent market instead.

Research suggests that roughly 59 percent of currently employed workers are thinking about changing jobs. Modern recruiters should take advantage of this fact and build strong relationships with these passive candidates. Moreover, recruiters must also possess the ability to persuade these passive candidates to become active job seekers — when the time is right, that is.

While other recruiters are picking over the scraps of the active talent market, our savvy recruiter is tapping into their network of passive candidates and delivering top talent to clients quickly and efficiently.

4. Sales and Marketing Expertise 

This shouldn’t really be news to anyone. At this point, everyone in the recruiting game should know that modern recruiters need to be effective sales and marketing people, skilled in pipeline development, winning over customers, and delighting clients.

If you don’t get a thrill from chasing prospects, closing deals, and watching that client sign on the dotted line, then recruiting — especially agency recruiting — is not for you.

5. The Ability to Leverage Data to Their Advantage

TechMost of today’s recruiters know how to use technological tools to their advantage, but not enough know how to effectively crunch data.

Recruiters now need to be able to use data to inform their decisions, improve their processes, and justify their actions to clients and hiring managers. Why? Because data-driven decision-making is in many ways superior to then instinct-based hiring decisions of yore. If modern recruiters want to win over clients and hiring managers, they’ll need to be able to back up their decision and insights with compelling data.

No matter how long you’ve been in the recruiting game or how many placements you’ve made in the past, your future success as a recruiter requires proficiency is all of these skills. If you’re not a master of all five, it’s time to start training — or find a new industry.



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