I’ve been fortunate enough to hire many great recruiters at all levels throughout my career: peer level, for my own team, for my client’s recruitment team, and even my own boss! Ironically, while I enjoy doing it, recruiting recruiters has always been one of the toughest roles to fill!

Just like most skilled professions today, competition is fierce for top recruitment talent. The best internal recruiters are already working happily in their jobs with strong retention packages. On the agency side, the best recruiters come with ‘golden handcuffs’ and a book of profitable business that they don’t want to walk away from.

Therefore, hiring a junior recruiter and training them up is often the best (and sometimes only) option you have if you need to staff up your team urgently. However, hiring a junior recruiter is risky business because you can’t rely on their previous recruitment performance to assess how good they really are. Instead, you are 100% hiring on potential with the hope that they will become your next superstar recruiter. Additionally, the stakes are higher because you will be investing a lot of time and resources into training them, so you’re banking on a strong ROI to make it all worth it.

My top 5:

Over the years I’ve sought advice from fellow recruitment managers, researched recruitment blogs, read recruitment management books, and relied on good’ol trial-and-error to figure out what top 5 candidate attributes make a junior recruiter one that you can ‘bank on’. Luckily for you, I’ve shared them below with examples of questions that you can ask during the interview process:

1) Sales Experience

Recruitment is not HR. Recruitment is a marketing and sales job, and even more of a sales job if you’re hiring on the agency side. This is a fundamental requirement so the first thing I do when reviewing a resume is to scan for previous jobs in the sales industry. Aside from the obvious sales jobs such as a Sales Rep or Account Manager, look for previous work history in roles such as a bartender, server, retail associates, cell phone reps, travel consultants, car rental service agents, customer care agents etc. Basically look for any role where they’ve interacted with customers regularly, have been paid on some form of commission (including tips), had to overcome objections, influence and persuade, and have dealt with a lot of rejection.

Interview questions:

  1. Q) What do you love most about a job in sales?
  2. Q) What motivates you? (hint: if you are hiring a junior agency recruiter and they don’t mention MONEY at the top of their list then they’re probably not the right fit)

2) Competitive Streak

In today’s candidate-driven market companies are fighting to attract and hire scarce top talent and as a result our industry has never been more competitive. Whether agency or internal, the best recruiters are the ones who naturally hustle to compete and innately hate to lose. Look for evidence of a competitive streak in a resume such as playing sports or participating in competitions – these can often be found under the ‘Interests/Passions’ section of a resume.

Interview questions:

  1. Q) Would you describe yourself as competitive? And, if so, give me some examples of when you’ve had to compete.
  2. Q) Tell me about the last time that you needed to be competitive at work.

3)  Self-driven

Continuing along the same themes as points 1 & 2 above, recruiters need to be naturally self-driven (a.k.a self-motivated) to succeed our highly competitive, fast-paced, and often frustrating industry.  Motivating your team through the ‘roller coaster’ of ups and downs of recruitment is one of the most important aspects of your role as a manager, however external motivation has its limits. You want to hire those people who are born with the natural drive to be able to push through the relentless rejection and frustration that is part-and-parcel of being a recruiter.

Interview questions:

  1. Q) Tell me about a time when you’ve encountered adversity, and what motivated you to push through?
  2. Q) Would you describe yourself as self-motivated? If so, where do you think your self-motivation originates from? Then ask for some examples of where they’ve demonstrated it.

4) History of Completion

As commented above, recruitment is a challenging profession and you want to hire people who don’t give up easily and stay committed until the job is done. You want to hire people with a solid history of completion. An easy one to assess in a resume is whether the candidate has completed their educational studies and degrees – if courses and degrees are incomplete then this can be a red flag.

Interview questions:

  • What has been the hardest thing you’ve ever successfully completed? What motivated you to get the (job/task/project/course etc) done?
  • Trick question: What was the hardest thing that you weren’t able to complete? Why were you not able to see it through to completion?

5) Smart

I’m not talking about IQ and I don’t mean ‘book smart’. A candidate with a 4.0 GPA won’t necessarily make a good recruiter. If anything, EQ is far more important in recruitment. You need to hire a smart person who can rapidly assess a candidate’s intentions and motivations, think on their feet, and learn quickly – essentially someone who’s ‘street smart’. New challenges and obstacles are presented to recruiters every day, and you need someone smart enough to figure out how to solve them quickly with the resources available to them at the time.

Interview Questions:

  1. Q) Tell me about a time when you had to learn a job quickly without much supervision or guidance.
  2. Q) If you were asked to recruit a role that you didn’t understand, what steps would you take to figure it out?


Hiring a junior recruiter can sometimes be your best (and only) option when looking to grow your recruitment team. If you interview a candidate that ticks all 5 of these boxes, and you’re confident that they’ll be a good team-fit, then make them an offer quickly before your competition does!


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In early June I was lucky to attend the annual Talent42 conference in Seattle. What is Talent42? Google it! For those too lazy to google it, it’s a 2-day conference dedicated to helping tech recruiters elevate their game. Guest speakers came from companies such as Amazon, Uber, Microsoft,, Facebook, Zillow, WhatsApp, GoDaddy, Pinterest and Tableau talking about all topics across the broad spectrum of Talent Acquisition. The event was incredibly well run, I got a lot out of the experience and I highly recommend that you attend next year!

While the conference is dedicated to Tech recruiting, the learnings and tips can be applied to any recruitment domain. Here are some of the key learnings that I took away from Talent42.


  • By far the most popular discussion topic overall.
  • Critical to enabling Recruitment to be a true strategic business partner by leveraging data insights.
  • Typical recruitment metrics revolve around recruitment funnel ratios

           o   Resumes vs phone screens

           o   Phone screens vs interviews

           o   Interviews vs offers

           o   Offers vs acceptance

           o   Source of hire

  • Ratios/analytics are used to tweak process and manage recruiter performance. Also to assist with headcount forecasting and to design recruitment team size and structure needed to meet business hiring objectives.
  • Pre onboarding and post onboarding analytics are critical
  • Some recruitment teams have their own data scientist A.K.A ‘Recruitment Analyst’


  • True adage: “It takes a village to recruit”
  • Culture of recruitment is a huge competitive advantage and critical in meeting hiring objectives for growth companies.
  • CEO leads the culture of recruitment (not lead by Recruiting)
  • Recruiting supports, facilitates, and formalizes the culture of recruitment


  • Tech companies are heavily investing in Recruiting and building large recruitment teams
  • Recruiting will often report to the Business (ie to the CIO), not through Human Resources
  • The Sourcer model is popular and effective however there was debate on about the when/how of handoff between Sourcer and Recruiter.
  • Sourcers that want to stay in sourcing roles (ie -not ‘graduate’ to recruitment) are rare


  • Highly trending topic in recruitment. Lots of awareness from media and general public.
  • Companies such as Facebook are releasing their diversity statistics
  • Diversity leads to innovation
  • Executive leadership support is critical – must be started ‘at the top’.
  • Job descriptions can be unconsciously gender-biased


  • ATS/CRMs are the ‘hub’ of recruitment data analytics and are critical for a high performing recruitment team.
  • ATS/CRM must have high degree of data functionality and integration to be effective
  • Lots of talk about GreenHouse and Lever
  • Workday ATS is gaining popularity
  • Textio is a really cool browser-based tool that ‘scrubs’ job descriptions and scores them based on gender bias and messaging effectiveness – check it out!


  • Market Intelligence & Insights (MII) is a capability used by Microsoft enabling recruiters to be Talent Advisors.

          o   MII data is ‘crowdsourced’ globally by Microsoft T.A team and shared via sharepoint and social collaboration tool (Yammer/Slack)

  • ‘Pipelining’ is a dream – ie having candidates ‘on tap’ is not reality. Don’t waste time pipelining the wrong candidates, and make sure your process is lean.
  • A recruiter’s primary customer is the Business (not hiring manger, candidate etc because the ‘Business’ encompasses everyone)
  • Deciphering between hiring manager ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ is important, and will ultimately gain you their respect
  • Being ‘respected’ is more important than being ‘liked’ by hiring managers
  • Closing candidates: CEOs/executives of Zillow, Facebook etc will be part of the closing process for VIP candidates via phone calls and personalized emails.

Random Interesting facts:

  • Uber receives 2 million resumes per year and have created their own algorithm technology to parse using natural language processing.
  • Uber is experimenting with ‘surge-compensation’ when making offers. Similar to ‘surge-pricing’ for ride rates when demand is too high.
  • Uber has created an algorithm based on historical data that can predict employee attrition to 89% accuracy
  • Uber hired over 8000 employees in less than 6 years. More than Google and Facebook combined over the same time period.
  • Microsoft’s Talent Acquisition department size globally is over 1000 people
  • Good technical recruiters are much harder to find than good software engineers in the Bay Area
  • Over 80% of Tableau’s 3000 staff came via employee referrals.
  • The average salary of a ‘tech-pro’ is over $100kUSD in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Portland
  • Tending/high demand tech skills for the near future will be machine learning, containers (docker), cloud technology.
  • Software engineers that excel in mathematics will be in more demand and therefore paid more


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So what can a growing organisation do to help overcome this talent shortage challenge in 2015? Well traditionally, organisations have chosen to do one of the following:

  1. Do nothing and continue to rely on job postings, employee referrals and word of mouth.
  2. Rely on external recruitment agencies.
  3. Invest in building an internal talent acquisition function.

After nearly 10 years in the recruiting business, I’ve participated in, and observed, all 3 of these options. In my opinion, #3 is by far the smartest choice. Here are 10 reasons why:

1) You’ll have more success

A broad statement to start, but my own observations and personal experience is that organisations with dedicated high performing internal talent acquisition functions are far more successful in reaching their hiring goals than companies that rely solely on job boards and/or external recruitment agencies.

2) You’ll save a lot of money

When compared with the cost of using external recruitment agencies, I’ve calculated that I’ve saved my clients an average of $170,000 per 6 months in each of my previous 3 recruitment gigs. External recruitment agencies are expensive, typically charging anywhere from 15% – 30% of a candidate’s base salary for each placement. This can add up very quickly. In the end, the ROI for an internal talent acquisition function is much greater, and your average cost of placement is significantly reduced.

3) You’ll hire better people

Because they’re dedicating 100% of their day to your specific organisation, a high functioning talent acquisition team will be able to uncover and canvass a deeper pool of candidates than #1 and #2 put together, often finding (and closing!) those ‘diamonds in the rough,’ and ultimately providing more choice to your hiring managers. This means your average quality of hire will naturally increase.

4) You’ll hire faster

Because the best people get snapped up quickly, a good internal recruiter understands that momentum and speed is everything when it comes to hiring. By operating on the inside and having more insight and influence over the internal interview process, an internal recruiter will get feedback quickly and will be able guide the interview process along at a faster pace as required.

5) Your hiring managers will be happier

Because they’re actually part of the same organisation, and often working in the same office, internal recruiters are able to partner with hiring managers to build close, trusting, long-term relationships while opening up effective, high touch communication channels. This enables the recruiter to more accurately understand the unique requirements of every position to better identify a solid, long-term match, which ultimately makes the hiring manager happier.

6) New hires will stay longer

By recruiting from the inside, internal talent acquisition recruiters are able to gain a first-person, deeper understanding of the unique organisational culture as well as the subtle nuances of individual team dynamics. This enables them to more accurately assesses a long-term culture fit which will result in longer tenures for new hires.

7) Your candidate experience will improve

Having a great candidate experience has become a critical part of the recruitment process and can directly impact your hiring outcomes (see my blog on Candidate UX here). By acting as a friendly and knowledgeable supportive ‘point person’ and company ‘ambassador’, an internal recruiter plays a key part in providing great candidate UX to job applicants across the entire interview process, which will ultimately increase your hiring performance.

8) You will have more control of your employment brand

Your employment brand is a very important and valuable part of your organisation. It gives your company a unique identity within the labour market, and is a critical component when it comes to attracting and hiring people with the right culture fit. Internal recruiters live and breathe your employment brand in every interaction with candidates, and they are your key brand-ambassadors to the outside world. Trusting your valuable employment brand to external recruitment agencies who can’t possibly fully and accurately promote your employment brand is a missed opportunity and can be a major risk.

9) You’ll make smarter workforce planning decisions

Your internal recruitment team should have a good pulse on what’s going on in the labour market for your specific niche, and can be a great trusted resource when it comes to making strategic decisions on workforce planning for your unique environment. They’ll be able to advise on areas such as market salary levels, skills availability by location, labour market trends, and specific hiring challenges as well as what your competitors are doing.

10) Your competitors are doing it

Business is competitive and so is the labour market. We all know that the most valuable part of any organisation is its people; therefore, the ability to hire top talent is crucial to an organisation’s success. There has been a noticeable trend over the last few years towards companies investing in internal talent acquisition. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s top companies now have their own dedicated internal recruitment teams. This means that there’s a good chance your competitors are doing it, and will have the advantage when it comes to hiring top talent.  They may already be trying to poach your top employees!


2014 wasn’t an easy year for hiring, and by all accounts, 2015 is looking to be even more difficult. If your organisation is serious about growth next year, and about remaining competitive in the long run, then investing in a high performing internal talent acquisition function is very a smart choice.

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linkedin tips

The good news is that I’ve discovered, tried and tested a number of easy methods to make your limited InMail quota go the distance. By using all, or a combination of the following methods, I estimate that I have cut down the use of my InMail credits by about 80% each month without losing any momentum in my sourcing efforts:

1) Maximise your 1st Degree Connections

InMails are free to send to anyone that you have a 1st degree connection with, so the more 1st degree connections you have, the more free InMails you have. Unless I’m in a rush, I send customised connection requests to every profile a few days BEFORE I attempt to send them an InMail. I usually get about a 50% success rate with this technique and not only does this cut your InMail credit usage in half, it also provides a warm introduction for the InMail that follows.

Quick Tip: By customising the message in your LinkedIn connection requests you’ll experience a higher rate of acceptance.

2) Maximise your Group Memberships

LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups and I recommend joining as many relevant groups as you can. Why is this useful? Well, the dialogue box that opens when you attempt to send an InMail will tell you which group memberships you both have in common. I use this information to visit the group and search the directory for the candidate’s name. Most of the time you’ll be able to send them a direct message from here (which you can cut/paste and customise from the InMail templates) thereby ‘sidestepping’ the InMail credit.

Quick Tip: Don’t want to join groups because of all the pesky email notifications? Once you’ve requested to join a group, immediately click ‘adjust your settings here’ and untick ‘Digest Email’ and ‘Notifications’.

3) Bring Out Your Inner Stalker

Ok, so maybe they aren’t intended for ‘stalking’’ but there are a number of free and easily available tools that will cross reference online profiles and provide their twitter profiles, blogs, websites and direct email address etc (and sometimes phone numbers!). From here, a simple cut/paste and customisation of an InMail template is a quick way to send a direct message. I’ve been trialing a number of these tools and my favourite right now is Connectifier but I also use other ones such as Aevy, Connect6 and TalentBin as backups.

Quick Tip: As this method won’t be automatically recorded as an InMail, make a note in each profile detailing the group and job you messaged them about for future reference.

4) Start Back Scratching

As well as showing the groups you have in common, the InMail dialogue interface will show you what mutual 1st degree connections your share. Because of the nature of our profession, there’s a good chance that a fellow recruiter will be connected to the profile so a friendly ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ message requesting their direct email address (and phone number if available) is usually a good way of producing a direct contact method. It will also help to build strategic win-win relationships with other connected recruiters in your market. Once again, from here do a quick cut/paste and customisation of an InMail message. Better yet, phone them!

Quick Tip: Again, by sidestepping the InMail process don’t forget to make a note of your activity on the profile for future reference.

5) Google It

Google is your friend. This method can be hit or miss and may require a bit of ‘manual labour’ but sometimes simply googling a profile name can reveal some very relevant and useful information. You might be pleasantly surprised: direct email addresses, phone numbers, old resumes etc can be found on the web and you can refer to information found on blogs or published articles to increase the quality of customisation of your direct message.

Quick Tip: Use this search string to try to find an online resume for the candidate: “firstname lastname” AND (“resume” OR “c.v” OR “curriculum vitae”OR “online profile”) and then filter by adding relevant keywords.


InMails are a great tool for recruiting but don’t let their limited quotas disrupt your momentum. By applying one, a few, or all of the methods above you’ll significantly reduce your rate of InMail credit usage which means you can save them for when you really need them.


Photo credit:

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