Have YOU got the DNA of a modern recruiter?

THIS is recruiting greatness. Are YOU up to it?

There has been endless talk about the future of recruitment, and I have suggested that there are brilliant opportunities for recruitment companies, if they make the right changes.

But what about the desk recruiter? The foot soldier? The person who is actually at the coalface of client and candidate interaction? What must they do to remain relevant? What skills must they develop?

The dangers for the dinosaur recruiter are clear. But every week I am asked, “What does the modern recruiter look like? What do I have to be, or do, to be great at this job going forward?

Well firstly, lets be clear on one thing. Many of the age old recruiter skills — which I call the craft — remain critical. In fact we need to hone and re-train in these ‘human interaction’ techniques.

The future of recruitment is where art meets science. Where technology combines with highly sophisticated human influencing skills.

And so I put some considerable thought into defining the DNA of the modern recruiter. Have a look at the infographic for a quick view, but for the detailed skills required, read on.

Click here for infographic

The modern recruiter is a complex beast. Indeed, I am now coming to believe that no one person can in fact manage all these diverse skills and tasks, nor have the range of core competencies required. So, a future blog will suggest how the structure of modern agencies should change to include specialists in sourcing, branding and networking.

But for today, lets break down the four key skills sets of the modern recruiter. How do you shape up?

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.21.51 pm

The Modern Recruiter is a Sourcing Genius.

Sourcing – identification.

You can’t recruit someone unless you find them first. The best candidates will not come to you. You need to identify them via deep Internet searches, including LinkedIn, but also Boolean search and social searches. The skills required here include research, online search, lead generation, legal hacking and data-analytics. It’s a geeky, techie kind of skill-set, which many of today’s recruiters clearly lack.

Sourcing – engagement.

But finding someone online is just the beginning, and frankly that is the easy part. Now it’s about engaging with that person in a sophisticated way. We can’t just spam them with Inmails, the tactic de jour, for so many lazy recruiters. That is old school and increasingly ineffective. Engagement is now a seduction, a romance. It must be tailored to each target recruit, and requires the ability to create interest, to craft a message that will get a response, to qualify prospects and crucially, the ability to phone-source, and all the nuances that this much underestimated skill-set involves.

The Modern Recruiter is a Branding and Marketing champion.

Digital Branding.

Built into the DNA of the modern recruiter is the ability and the discipline to develop a strong online brand. This includes using LinkedIn as a branding tool, not so much a sourcing platform. It might mean a compelling Twitter presence, or blogging (which is immediately available to everyone on LinkedIn by the way). So the skills include content creation and curation, on top of the engagement and community building.

IRL Branding.

The days of the smart-arse, cocky, spivvy recruiter are over. If you talk about ‘punters’ and ‘deals‘, modern recruiting has passed you by. The modern recruiter understands that candidate experience is everything. Skills shortages mean you will rely more and more on referrals, recommendations and repeat business. So now the  demeanor of a modern recruiter includes empathy, quality, service-ethic, humanity, trust and humility.

The Modern Recruiter is crazy about the ‘Craft’ of recruitment.

Yes, ‘craft’. Many of these skills are as old as our industry itself, but so many recruiters lack even the basics. I am talking about the ability to finesse outcomes. To influence decision-making. To manage the process. To get a clients to see a candidate who is brilliant in real life, but patchy on paper. To manage a counter-offer. To keep a temp in a role for the full commitment. To negotiate fees and margins. This is where relationships are key. The modern recruiter is a superb candidate manager, a career coach and a part-time psychologist. They have the intellect (yes intellect!) to engage, negotiate, close and influence. They have deep industry sector knowledge and so build real trust. And you cannot fake that.

The Modern Recruiter is a Networking nut!

We have always said ‘recruitment is about sales’. It’s clearly as much about marketing now, but ‘sales’ is still critical. But far more sophisticated sales than the days of just ‘smashing the phones’, cold calling and spam. The modern recruiter is a skilled networker, IRL and online. They are ‘connectors’, community builders and immerse themselves deep into niche. Yes, they will have old school hard-core sales skills, but nowadays the recruiter is also a deep listener, a problem solver and an account manager

Agency recruitment is a massive and diverse job. So boo-hoo to our critics who say that the job of a recruiter is easy and basic. It is not. Done well, it’s a highly complex job, and only those dedicated to continuous learning will master the art and science that is modern agency recruiting.

What do you think? Have I missed anything? Does this gel with your view of where the role of the recruiter is going? Please share your comments below.


The Savage Truth Speaking Tour continues on and on. Coming up; Australia, NZ, London, Glasgow, Dublin.


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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29 Responses to THIS is recruiting greatness. Are YOU up to it?

  1. Liza Atkins May 19, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Great blog read, I had a giggle at recruiters being part time psychologists!! Looking forward to your next one and if you have 5 mins, check out by blog on my Linkedin page about entry level canddiates – I would be most interested in and value your feedback
    Have a great week ahead,
    Liza Atkins

    • Sam Sanderson May 19, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

      I also had a giggle at that Liza!

      Having seen many “what makes a good recruiter?” threads before, I think this is one of Greggs best, simply for identifying so concisely the crooks of what good recruiters are these days.

  2. Gordon Alderson May 19, 2015 at 1:42 pm #


    Another ripper blog. Well done.

    Allow me to suggest that Modern Recruiters’ DNA must also include the capacity to dig deep with the Hiring Team (At least the Hiring Manager and that person’s boss) as to what they need the recruiter to find in exemplary candidates / Job Champions.

    Yogi Berra said ‘If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.’

    Yes ‘recruitment sure is is about sales’. And professional sales people know that it is pointless embarking on anything in the sales cycle until the first stage is nailed down.

    What does the Hiring Team need? – As a Modern Recruiter, where are you going?

    It’s recruitment’s job to to creatively elicit from Hiring Teams exactly what important Attributes are to be delivered in Job Champions. By the way, very few Job Descriptions cut the mustard.

    Greg – Do you agree that the times when misfit candidates were ‘sold in’ were when the recruitment industry significantly tarnished its own reputation?

    • Greg Savage May 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Agreed Gordon, generating a fully qualified job order is part of the “craft” of recruitment I talk about. In relation to “selling in” inappropriate candidates.. a great deal of harm done and trust broken. Its a result of “shortermism” that riddles our industry..and because of non-exclusive multi-listed job orders.. which I touched on here I think http://gregsavage.com.au/2014/03/11/why-agency-recruitment-is-totally-screwed/ thanks for your comments, much appreciated

    • Greg Savage May 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

      Incorrect Crystal Ball. Incorrect. What you are alluding to is the future of THAT recruitment company. Most of the rest are going this way http://gregsavage.com.au/2015/03/11/hurrah-for-the-new-golden-era-of-agency-recruitment/ because of this http://gregsavage.com.au/2015/04/14/agency-recruitment-is-not-dying-its-growing/ Time for you to give that Crystal ball a serious polish….

      • Crystal Ball May 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

        Yeah… Except that internal teams are growing at record pace and that ASX listed companies are hiring people for roles that have essentially 2 KPIs… Reduce Agency spend (ideally to $0) and Reduce time to hire…

        There’s an entire industry geared around putting agencies out of business called “Employment Branding”. Basically getting companies to promote themselves as work ‘destinations’ as opposed to offices.

        Companies are sick of paying high fees for candidates that they could’ve sourced by themselves. I’m sure there’s still a market for recruitment agencies at C level / Director type roles but the traditional agency desk will be dead within 5 years.

        • Greg Savage May 19, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

          Actually, incorrect again CB. Internal teams are SHRINKING, mostly becuase time to hire is blowing out and quality of hire is dropping. Let me explain “employment branding” to you. Finding, identifying, attracting a candidate is one thing… RECRUITING them is quite another. It requires a quite separate skills set. No argument with you that many are sick of paying high fees for little value. And agencies that do just that, will fail. But those agencies that become world champions at finding unique talent in the future world of cataclysmic skills shortages will make more money than ever before. Call me in 5 years, and lets discuss. But then again, what do I know about all this?

          • Crystal Ball May 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

            They’re not shrinking though Greg… Speak to Seek and look at the increase in internal recruitment jobs posted. Better yet, look at the huge rise in the RPO model. And in answer to your question “what do I know about this?” You’re running a recruitment company so it’s in your best interests to pump the tyres of a flailing industry and try to prove to the rest of the world that there is value to be added by agency recruiters… Sadly for you, there is not. Agency recruitment is only going to survive in two ways; 1 the super high-end C level and Director style exec search and the on-demand short-term contract / temp style desks. Gone are the days of charging upwards of $15k for a Project Engineer with just 3 years’ experience.

          • Greg Savage May 19, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

            Thanks CB

            Couple of points

            I do NOT run a recruitment company. The rec industry could finish tomorrow and it would make no difference to me at all. I made my living out of recruitment for 35 years including an IPO and I have zero “vested” interest in the industry..other than the fact I am investing in certain recruitment companies.. but thats because I have a different view to you about the future of recruitment, and I am investing in many industries

            I DO talk to SEEK actually. In fact they have invited me to tour their facility in Melbourne next week, the reason being they want to share how much their vision of the future coincides with mine!

            On that point, the fact that Internal team are advertising more On SEEK proves my point, not yours. Its because they are desperate and have no other mechanisms to find hard to get talent that they resort to increasingly INEFFECTIVE job boards!(Not ALL internal teams obviously. Some are magnificent). Job Boards are not the future of candidate acquisition. They are not even the present of candidate acquisition. Most job boards will acknowledge that fact, which is why they are rushing to change their business models. Including SEEK! If you are seriously keen to learn more about this, and not just up for a “blog comments argument”. I suggest you read this http://gregsavage.com.au/2015/05/05/recruitment-is-marketing-are-you-ready-for-that/.. Mate its not about “internal” vs “Agency”. Thats old news. Its about which recruiting function can develop the marketing system (Big data, CRM, social, SEO) to engage with candidates long before they are looking for a job. Read this if you wish http://gregsavage.com.au/2014/09/09/the-secret-to-candidate-acquisition-that-no-one-ever-told-you/ Which means, of course, Job Boards are marginalised.

            Thanks you for reading and commenting on my blog. Sincerely. I appreciate everyone has their views, and who knows, you may be right. But I think you will concede I have given it a little more thought then you, and am exposed a little closer to the coal face (agency and in house..I consult to in house as well..Oracle last week). That does not mean I am right, but for now, I am backing my judgement. very best. Greg

          • Crystal Ball May 19, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

            Fair points but I only used SEEK as it’s an easy data point. If I could be bothered, I’m sure I could get actual statistics from employers re: the size of their internal team, the KPI in terms of by how much they intend to reduce agency spend etc.

            The fact you’re invested in multiple recruitment companies instantly clouds your objectivity on this issue as well. I’m sure SEEK respect your views and are no doubt getting you in to try and understand the plight of the agency recruiter in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. I’m sure you’re aware that more australians found a job through http://www.seek.com.au than via linkedin.com last financial year but I’m sure the other channels are seeing growth.

            Trouble is, companies don’t have a clue how to market their careers pages or employer brand. They then proceed to get ripped off by unscrupulous Digital Agencies leaving people like me to go in and clean up the mess. What you linked to as ‘recruitment is marketing’ is kind of relevant I guess but I don’t think you quite understand just how difficult online marketing is… For example, I’d expect someone of your digital presence to dominate the first page of Google results for your own name… I guess 9/10 ain’t bad… But what would I know about Digital Strategy…

          • Greg Savage May 19, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

            Its bemusing why Seek, who you hold up as a reason for the demise of agencies, “respect my views”, whereas as you clearly do not 🙂 And trust me Seek have no interest in seeing me to find out about recruiters..they know all they need to know..they want to see me to talk about THEIR strategy.

            Seriously though your “Internal will crush agencies” thesis is very naive and somewhat out of date.. Everyone is struggling to find talent. Some corporates regularly pay agency fees , even though they have a team of a dozen internal recruiters. Have you run that costing model?

            You are right, I am not an expert in online marketing, but as for building a social and digital brand for recruitment companies… I am comfortable I can just about hold my own. Certainly the scores of organisations who pay me for my advice on that point seem to agree.

            As for my “digital presence”? Really? I am an unemployed ex recruiter who blogs a bit from a coffee shops and chats to Talent acquisition professionals when they need a hand and give me a call. The fact I even come up in the first 100 pages of Google is amusing. What would happen if I tried?

            And I am absolutely sure you DO know heaps about Digital Strategy. You would need to, because you are a bit shallow on recruitment 🙂 Only kidding mate. I am leaving it there as I have done my best to communicate my POV, and I need to go and kick a rugby ball to my son, best Greg

      • Daniel Walker November 2, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

        Great article again Greg – all of what you said and more surely.

        Re: this little thread inside a thread – Greg and the Crystal Ball. I think you are both right and both wrong.

        Agency recruitment revenue is increasing proportional to the global population increase.

        Internal recruitment personnel are also increasing proportional to the global population increase.

        Job board advertisements are increasing proportional to the global population increase.

        In fact, almost everything is increasing proportional to the global population increase except for dated technology usage, cheap land, and I’m sure there are other things reducing inversely proportional to the global population increase, but we are talking about recruitment.

        Nobody is winning over the other, everything is just increasing .. again, proportional to the global population increase.




        Probably a million holes in my argument so let me have it Crystal Ball 🙂

        • Greg Savage November 2, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

          Hmm agency recruitment fees is increasing in countries which do not have population growth.In fact the population is shrinking..like Japan Most countries where populations are growing fast, are third world countries with minimal agency use anyway

          Can you show me stats which say job ads are increasing globally? Even if they were that would have NOTHING to do with population growth..it would have to do with job growth

          • Daniel Walker November 2, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

            Hey mate, yeah you’re right when you disect the World into individual countries like that. I meant global recruitment agency revenue is growing. My apologies, I was just assuming on that one. I have to take that one back (if I can edit that out), I’m not sure about global job board revenue.

          • Greg Savage November 2, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

            Its all good Dan… none of us know for sure 🙂

    • Mark May 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Hi Crystal,
      Just checked out your website. Dude, you didn’t last that long in any agency roles… Could it be agency is not your knack??? That is cool, it doesn’t suit most people.

      Fact is agency is on the up in terms of revenue and job order numbers. Thst covers most industry sectors 🙂

  3. Sarah Keen May 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Where is the applause button? I couldn’t agree more. Your words continue to give me hope that the industry will become increasingly wise to human instincts, and not corner the employer into a sale.

  4. Ray King May 19, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Thanks Greg. Another all-encompassing article.

    We are a small company of some seven people that in partnership with our marketing company, is undergoing substantial across-the-board change based on perceived requirements and in particular the ongoing advice from your blogs.

    They not only expand our present ideas but also refine our approach.

    Many thanks


    • Greg Savage May 19, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

      Thank you Ray, I greatly appreciate your feedback, and am delighted if I am helping in some small way, regards


  5. Sagarika ( Rickie ) May 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Loved the blog – I just wanted to emphasize that I put the love of talent and the ability and instinct to sniff it out very high up there! Just am thrilled to see a good talent in front of me. Also the counselling both the candidate and the company – that goes to hone and fit the “interpersonal” between the talent buyer and the talent product. After all it is a human being there! Love the messiness and the rigour.


  6. Terry May 19, 2015 at 7:53 pm #


    What a great article and so inspiring for recruiters
    Thanks for sharing, and keep em coming

  7. Karen Courtney May 20, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    This is an excellent article which very accurately reflects the level of skill and aptitudes needed in a great recruiter. When performed at this level it certainly is of huge value to client companies and candidates who work with such people. It certainly reduces the fall-out of hires and increases their longevity in addition with helping organisations reach strategic directives. Yes there are imposters in the recruitment industry (they don’t tend to last long) but conversely there are also outstanding people who really are extraordinarily valuable.

  8. John May 21, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Reading the diatribe of Crystal Ball it seems an ‘S’ is missing from the last name! Greg you have shown, with your handling of Crystal Ball, why you were a formidable recruiter – because you have the two ‘P’s. Patience & Persistence. I just wish I had more of the former. Continue your good work. I suspect I will be reading your words of wisdom long after the Crystal Ball is broken. Best regards

  9. Goulden May 24, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    Great article again Greg

    5% of recruiters know EXACTLY what they are doing, 10% of recruiters follow the 5% and the other 85% are struggling and will unlikely make it into the 10%, let alone the 5%.

    The Modern Recruiter is in the 5%.

  10. Jaymez May 28, 2015 at 1:11 pm #


    Once again absolutely on the money with your latest blog.

    Given the fundamental shifts taking place across the business world, primarily but not exclusively, through the development of new technology you seem to be one of the few recruitment industry ‘influencers’ who seem to have diagnosed the fact that order to remain relevant, recruiters’ practices and outlooks need to change.

    Your insights on how those changes need to take place are absolutely spot on and chime exactly with what I am experiencing on a day to day basis as a recruiter.

    Equally, your handling of the previous comments made by Crystal Ball were absolutely on the mark.

    The individual in question would appear to be someone who is still operating under the belief we are in another era; the era of external agency = bad, internal recruitment = good.

    Surely in this day and age pitting the two against one another (internal vs external) is detrimental and displays the very worst of short-termism thinking in the extreme. Leaving the only loser to be the company itself and its ability to attract and hire the very best people they need.

    Undoubtedly in the current climate well resourced, motivated and well trained internal recruitment teams can add a supreme amount of value to a business’s ability to attract, hire and onboard a great deal of a company’s’ staffing requirements directly.

    However the mindset that the exclusive use of internal recruitment teams are somehow a panacea to a company’s’ hiring needs is a short sighted and damaging strategy to adopt in the extreme.

    External recruiters – who operate in the right ways (outlined in your previous blogs) and who are deeply networked within niche, specialist markets and are viewed as valued career advisors by their candidates, have access to talent that internal teams (and many other external recruiters) can only dream of.

    Forward thinking internal teams should (and in many cases do) understand this and dovetail with their internal recruitment providers extremely effectively. This adds to their ability to attract high quality people into the business that they otherwise would struggle to have access to.

    Anyway, just thought I would throw my two cents worth into the pond.

    Keep up the good words and good work Greg.


  11. Mark May 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi Greg,
    I agree, 100%. But would add sales skills as a need for recruiters. Most recruiters are still doing full 360 roles and the sales part has got a bit tougher with internal teams and stricter PSAs. It’s also much harder to get on the phone too decision makers…. Like Navid said in a previous spread. The biggest failure I am seeing from new Recruiters, and new agencies, is a lack of ability to set themselves up with clients… That’s the number one issue. Any thoughts on that one?

  12. Jill Mytton June 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    I like your Post , To become a Recruiter is not an easy job and then Hire those employees which has capability to train the candidates .Training for recruitment consultants is a vital component for the recruiting companies. This is the most important aspect to be considered for the development of the company. They recruit trainers who will consider by the companies, and their work is to make the trainers best for future.

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