What makes a great recruiter?

Recruitment Industry
What makes a great recruiter?

This year, I took the plunge into agency recruitment after being in internal for a long time. I found it was a big leap, a completely different game with the same title! In an agency, a large portion of your role is around sales, building relationships and proving your credibility and work ethic to clients, whereas in internal recruitment the roles come to you and the hiring managers are your colleagues.

I’m now seven months in and recently attended a training session on the current employment market in New Zealand, which made me reflect and think about the key characteristics I’ve learned make a successful recruiter. Regardless of the industry you’re focused on, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your role as a recruiter.


‘The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’

We’re passionate people, and it’s easy to get emotionally invested in the roles we’re working on. You spend hours of time (as well as overtime!) sourcing some incredible candidates for a role that ends up being put on hold or pulled! That’s when you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and look for the next challenge. It’s frustrating but you have to realise that ‘Linda in HR’ didn’t approve the headcount because she’s out to get you; it’s nothing personal, just the nature of business. I find it often helps to leave my desk, go for a little stroll, get a coffee and take a minute to appreciate the beautiful city we work in…I guarantee you’ll feel refreshed!


‘Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.’

We work with people every day through difficult or exciting changes in their lives. Being able to empathise demonstrates your understanding of their current situation and helps you build rapport, which in turn, helps you understand what motivates them. Being able to line up the candidates motivators with the right role, means you won’t be bombarding them with calls about every job you think they can do, and ultimately disengaging them!

Likewise, you need to take the time to listen to clients and understand how they’ve tried to fill the role previously and the frustrations they’ve faced; find out the key aspects that make this role hard to fill and go with them on the recruitment journey. In a city full of Consultants competing for business, showing compassion, building rapport and tailoring your approach will make you stand out by a mile.

Commercial Awareness

‘Staying up-to-date on daily happenings and developments in the business and commercial world.’

We need to be experts in our fields, especially in the current market in New Zealand. Demonstrating commercial awareness is how we go from having good relationships with our clients to having great relationships! We can convey our knowledge of their industry or the current market, back it up with statistics and provide valuable insights, leading us to stand out from other recruiters who may lack credibility. I have found that following my clients on LinkedIn, searching for the company in the news and listening to the Radio on the way into work, enables me to find out key information about their industry. For example, the recent Nursing strikes within the District Health Boards and the affect it’s having; with up to 8,000 non-urgent and elective procedures being rescheduled. Also, I find reading blogs from sources like the Undercover Recruiter and Forbes allows me to find helpful insights into what is happening in the recruitment industry.

Emotional Intelligence

‘The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.’

In an industry swarming with Type A personalities, it’s important to have a good level of emotional intelligence. This isn’t just when you’re completing your business development calls, trying to sell yourself to a client without coming across overly pushy; it’s learning about how to work with people and understanding their differences. It’s the ability to read social queues, be receptive to people who don’t have the same working style as you and picking up when people give off the ‘I’m too busy for you’ vibe! Having EQ also helps you not take things personally and to know when a reaction is due to someone’s characteristics or generally from having a tough day. Developing Emotional Intelligence will ultimately make your job seem so much easier!


‘The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.

This is the most important characteristic for me, and what I believe makes an excellent recruiter. Having open and honest conversations with my candidates and clients has so many benefits, whether it’s the remuneration package, the fee for the client or the décor of the Office – it means there are no surprises! So when you finalise the offer, you know that both the candidate and client have a full understanding of what they’re agreeing to and there will be no disgruntled phone calls down the line. It prevents any difficult conversations after the first month when your candidate realises it’s not the role for them, as the on-site parking you said there’d be isn’t actually available to them. Integrity shows the clients and candidates you have nothing to hide, there are no hidden agendas and this strengthens your credibility for a lasting relationship.