Some Great Recruiters are Born. Others are Made.

recruiters, self made, communication

Some great recruiters are born, but others can be made … and we all have opportunities to improve. If you are looking for ways to become better at your profession, I say, “Kudos to you!”

But, where to start?

With more than 11 million search results on Google for “how to be a better recruiter,” you could troll the web, gathering tips and advice. You could sign up for an advanced Boolean course or Internet recruiter certification. Though at the end of the day, arguably, the best ways to improve as a recruiter are to: learn from your mistakes, keep practicing your craft, and learn from someone within recruiting whom you admire.


Is there a recruiter inside your organization that rocks? Have you met a third-party recruiter that gets it? Job shadowing, talking shop, learning from others, and mentor-mentee relationships aren’t just for entry-level employees. If you are hoping to “be all that you can be” in recruiting, I recommend learning from the best.

I was lucky. Recruiting found me. Back in 1999, I was a recent Liberal Arts grad with zero business acumen.  A friend referred me to a recruiting firm. And, that’s when the stars aligned. The owner of the recruiting firm hired me as a receptionist. After a few months, she trained me to become a recruiter … and it was a perfect match.


Intellectual Curiosity.  A good recruiter asks many questions and gathers as much information as possible, from both clients (hiring managers) and candidates … they take pride in making the best matches,” advises Holly Metz, my first boss and the person who taught me how to be a successful recruiter. “Lazy recruiters will just do quick phone screens and send any candidate on interviews.”

Know Your Stuff.  If you want to be successful in recruiting, you have to know your product. This means studying the job and requirements, knowing the company and culture, understanding the benefits and career path, and having some insight into the hiring manager. Candidates will want to know all about the opportunity that you’re offering. If you stumble … you’re toast.

Good at Courting.  A recruiter is often the first and main point of contact throughout the hiring process. Therefore, make it a good experience. “We get it … as a recruiter you have a bazillion candidates in pipeline. Whether they are hired or not, candidates can and will spread the word via many different means. Don’t let any candidate feel as if they don’t matter,” states Lauren Hiegel, a corporate recruiter at Groupon in Chicago.

Genuine and Approachable. If you don’t like handshakes, talking on the phone or attending events, then reconsider your career path. Top recruiters are in the business of meeting people, communicating with hiring managers or clients, making matches and closing deals.

Sense of Urgency.  Rockstar recruiters get sh*t done! Period.

Sales Savvy. At their core, recruiters are sales pros. “Your job is to get people on the phone to engage them, assess fit and sell them on an opportunity,” says Matt Duren, a technical recruiter at Tenable Network Security. Whether in a corporate or agency setting, recruiters should Always Be Closing if they want to stay in recruiting.


I can think of a whole host of other skills necessary to be a top recruiter: highly organized, solid work ethic, effective communicator, strong presentation skills, excellent follow-up, and of course — sourcing. When you work in recruiting, you have to wear many hats.

No one is requiring perfection, but recruiting is a tough job! You have to be willing to put in long hours and work hard. Top recruiters don’t clock in and out, dawdle or take 3-hour lunch breaks. They are always thinking, doing, networking, talking and striving to be better.

How else do we rock out?

What else does it take to be a rockstar recruiter? Do you have meaningful advice for improving in the art and science or recruiting? If so, share it below.

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. Rory Trotter says

    Shannon, great post as always.

    As someone who believes talent is cultivated I loved reading this.

    I also loved your point about intellectual curiosity… an absolute must have for anyone that doesn’t have a cultural legacy that would lend itself to them being a great recruiter.

    Thanks for sharing, and keep writing.



    • Shannon Smedstad says

      Hi Rory — Thank YOU for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it more than you know! Happy Hiring — Shannon

  2. Tammy Kay Gunnerson says

    Thank you for this great article. I was engaged and felt that I could apply your techniques right away.

    • Shannon Smedstad says

      Hi Tammy — I am so glad that you found value in the article. One of my goals when writing is to help inspire those around me to reach their potential. Thanks for commenting! — Shannon

  3. Enrique S. Martinez says

    Great stuff! and to add to that, I would just comment that a top notch recruiter knows how to maximize his referrals. What made me one of the best recruiters is, in essence, I employed my applicants to bring me more cnadidates in order to “keep the bucket full” and my business contacts, I was never afraid to ask for business contacts. If you work smartly as a diligent recruiter, you can have bankers hours “so to speak”. Let me know what you think about that input. Thanks!

    • Shannon Smedstad says

      Thanks, Enrique, that’s also great advice. Referrals are proven, in many cases, to be more successful hires. With social media, I find it hard to “turn work off” sometimes! Thanks again! — Shannon

  4. Michelle Natale says

    Shannon, I agree with your blog post 100% – thanks for your lively and engaging writing style. 🙂

  5. Ronald Caringal says

    I’ve been in the field of recruitment for quite some time now [3 years actually], but I still have this big question whether I am doing it right or not? Am I a good recruiter? It is good for me to read this kind of articles from an expert. Maybe I could say that I possess the first three requirements. But with the last three, maybe I still need to work on that – HARDER. Thanks a lot for this!

    • Shannon says

      Ronald – Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. To me, three years, is still relatively “new” in recruiting. Keep working at it … recruiting is an art and science, and practice, networking and educating yourself are all steps towards being the best recruiter you can be. Good luck!



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