Critical Recruiter Competencies and Skills

The Passive Candidate Recruiter’s Scorecard

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The Passive Candidate Recruiter’s Scorecard

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Critical Recruiter Competencies and Skills

Table of Contents

Many things have changed in the past few years regarding best recruiting practices, especially with the increased focus on passive candidate sourcing and recruiting. Based on this we decided to create a passive candidate recruiting scorecard. If you’d like to evaluate yourself, just review the following factors and rank yourself on the 1-5 scale described. This will be pretty insightful just to see where you stand if you’re a recruiter, or where your team stands if you’re a manager or director.

As you review each of the factors below rank yourself on the following 1-5 scale, with a Level 5 representing super star performance and a Level 1 representing absolute incompetence. On this scale a 2.5 would be considered adequate or average.

Level 1: Has no ability whatsoever, or doesn’t want to do it under any circumstance.

Level 2: Has some ability, but needs urging or hasn’t done it, but has the potential to learn.

Level 3: Has strong ability, has proven results, and is self-motivated to do it consistently.

Level 4: Has very strong ability with proven results and does it faster or does a lot more of it. Often trains others.

Level 5: Is one of the best in the business in this area. So good, in fact, is sought out to train others.

Critical Recruiter Competencies and Skills

The following ten factors represent the abilities a recruiter needs to possess to be able to recruit passive candidates for most corporate positions from experienced staff to senior manager. Our definition of a passive candidate is one who is not looking on job boards, so you need to reach out with a phone call or message to attract the person. Using the 1-5 scale described above, rank yourself on each of these factors. (Note: each topic is linked to a few articles in our resource library.)

  1. Knowledge of Real Job Needs. Good recruiters need to clearly understanding the actual work that needs to be performed, rather than rely on skills and experience to assess competency. With this knowledge recruiters can determine how strong the person is based on what they’ve accomplished. They’re also better able to defend their candidates from weak interviewers, and as a result, make more placements.
  2. Partner with Hiring Manager Clients. Recruiters who are partners have more influence in the final decision, get ample time to discuss real job needs, and are seen as advisors and coaches to the hiring team. In addition, 100% of their candidates are seen without hesitation. Partners send in the fewest number of candidates per hire. Recruiters who just submit resumes waiting for the manager to decide to see the person would rank no higher than Level 2 on this factor.
  3. Counselor to Candidates. Top candidates look to the recruiter as someone who understands the job, understands the market, and someone who can provide career counseling and advice. The ability to guide and counsel candidates into making the right choice is a critical skill. While it must be used with caution and not abused, those who are true counselors make more placements, and those who aren’t see their best candidates take other offers.
  4. Ability to Cold Call. The future of recruiting will largely involve cold calling people found on some social network site or through some Boolean searching of resume databases. Call reluctance is the bane of most corporate recruiters, preventing them from naturally picking up the phone and conversing with strangers. If a recruiter can’t comfortably make dozens of cold calls every day, the person won’t be able to ever recruit passive candidates on a consistent basis.
  5. Ability to Obtain High-Quality Referrals. While cold calling passive candidates is a critical skill, converting these people into candidates and getting 2-3 great referrals from each one is how you maximize recruiter performance. Networking will be the primary means to find the best people in the future, and those that know how to convert a cold phone screen into a hot list of great referrals will make the most and best placements.
  6. Effectively Use Boolean Strings and Search Engines. Of all of these factors, this is perhaps the easiest to master, yet we still see some recruiters who get flustered by the “ANDs,” “ORs,” “NOTs,” and “NEARs.” Being able to use advanced Boolean operators is an important skill, whether you’re using Google or searching a resume database. Using specialty keywords and terms that self-rank the good resumes from the bad is the next trick that few recruiters even know about. So even if your great a Boolean search, but don’t know how to separate the good from the bad resumes, you deserve no more than a Level 3.5 ranking on this factor.
  7. Search Engine Marketing Ability. Narrowcasting and candidate segmentation is the buzz. Basically this means placing ads where they can be found by someone using a search engine. Rank yourself high on this factor even if you don’t know how to conduct search engine optimization techniques yourself, but are getting others to do it for you. Rank yourself low if you don’t know what Web 2.0 is all about or you don’t know how to use pay-per-click, aggregators, and behavioral marketing techniques.
  8. Applicant Control. If a cold-called passive candidate ever says to you they’re not interested in a job, you rank low on this factor. If you’re the one who determines if you’re interested in the cold-called passive candidate, you have strong applicant control. Applicant control is a core skill for passive candidate recruiting. From the first call to the close, applicant control allows the recruiter to lead the conversation, negotiate offers based on career moves instead of compensation, get more referrals, and prevent counter-offers.
  9. Defend Your Candidate from Weak Interviewers. Most managers aren’t very good at interviewing. Some overvalue technical competency, some overvalue their intuition, and some overvalue the candidate’s presentation. Recruiters need to be better interviewers than their clients in order to overcome these problems. The key here is to present detailed evidence and facts to prove that your candidate can perform the job at least at a Level 3 (same scale as above). This is often in a written report or by leading the formal debriefing process, or leading a panel interview. Having the ability to interview accurately is one half of this factor; the other half is using it to prevent good candidates from getting inadvertently excluded.
  10. Recruit and Close in a Very Competitive Marketplace. The best people are getting multiple offers and counter-offers. Recruiters must be in a position to overcome whatever challenges they’re facing to keep their candidates interested and close the deal. Rather than money the recruiter needs to position the move early on as more of a career opportunity than comp increase. Overcoming objections, use of a formal multi-step closing process, coordinating the offer process with the client, negotiating compensation, and acting as a career counselor to the candidate are all aspects of strong passive candidate recruiting. If you prevent early opt-outs and close 80-90% of candidates you’re interested in on standard comp terms, you rank high on this factor.

How well did you do on this passive candidate recruiting scorecard? A total score of 25 is average. If you’re a recruiting manager or director, we’ll be happy to arrange an online conference call to discuss the results and give you some ideas on how to move your entire recruiting team into the 30-35 point range. Moving from average to this strong range represents a 25-30% increase in productivity, so it’s something you might want to consider.

What I’ve noticed is that the need for new recruiting skills is changing much faster than most companies are responding. I’ve also noticed that the best third-party recruiters are responding to these market changes more quickly than their corporate counterparts. Whether you’re an external or corporate recruiting manager, you need to figure out if your team is doing all it can be doing, and if you’re ahead or behind your competition. Nowadays, just to stay even takes considerable effort, so if you’re behind now, you really need to get busy on some major change initiatives.

Lou Adler is the president of The Adler Group and Amazon best-seller author of Hire With Your Head and the audio program Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Hire Top Talent. Adler is a noted recruiting industry expert, speaker, and columnist for SHRM, ERE, RCSA, Kennedy Information, and Learn more about Lou Adler’s Performance-based Hiring methodology at: Learn about our training programs for recruiters and hiring managers at:

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  1. This post reminded me of the book Great Work Great Career by Stephen R. Covey and Jennifer Colosimo in that aspect that when people apply for a job they need to have a “knoweldge” age paradigm. To many people present themselves as a product to a company instead of a solution. I enjoyed this book because it taught how to be the solution and how to get to the company you want to work for, research them, get the interview, and show how you can be a solution. Thats what I am going to look for once I graduate.

    Check out the book

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