18 red-hot tips for the newbie recruiter

Starting your first job as a recruiter? Do this!

Every week I get a request from a newbie to the recruitment industry asking for guidance on how to succeed. It’s a tricky one because it’s a bit like asking the meaning of life, or the secret to being a brilliant parent. There is no easy, short, answer.

However, here is my best road-map for somebody starting out in agency recruitment for the first time. It’s not a guaranteed formula for success, but follow these guidelines and you give yourself every chance of getting through the first six months, which frankly at least 50% of new recruiters don’t manage!

  • First and foremost, do the small things well. For example, turn up to work on time. (Trust me, I see brand-new hires strolling in late all the time!). Actually, turn up early every day for the first month. Wear the appropriate clothes for the environment you are joining. Take short lunch breaks. Get to every meeting on time.
  • Critically, be a willing learner. ‘Coachability’ is a key recruiter requirement in my opinion. Poor listeners, know-it-alls, and those who just can’t focus on learning different ways in their new environment, are likely to fail long-term.
  • Keep your head down. I don’t mean be a shrinking violet. But don’t be too cocky too early. Resist the temptation, on day three, to tell a really funny story about your holiday in Bali, and how drunk you all got. Listen far more than you talk. Of course, engage and be responsive, but know your place… until you know your place.
  • Don’t join a tribe. Every office has them. Alliances, cliques and factions. It’s temping to ‘join’ one, as when you are new, you feel alone. But don’t. Treat everyone with respect and be open to help and guidance from everywhere.
  • Be brave. Sounds strange talking about courage in a desk job. But, in fact, you do need to be brave in recruitment. Make that cold call when it’s time to do so. Interview that candidate for the first time. Negotiate a fee if you have to. I have noticed that new recruiters show their “courage colours” early. A good employer will not throw you in the deep-end too early, but they will be delighted to see your willingness to tackle the task head-on.
  • Build your digital online brand from day one. Learn about LinkedIn as a branding platform, get on Twitter, blog, and build an online community of fans.
  • Compete with yourself. Don’t get caught up in office ego fights. Your biggest competition is not your ‘competitor’, your clients, technology, the recruiter sitting next to you, or anything else. Your competition is you. You have to better than you were yesterday. Make that your daily goal.
  • Look for mentors. Your company will have some great operators, hopefully. Some will be more helpful than others, but all will enjoy an ego stroke when you ask, “Can I learn from you please?”
  • Ask. Listen, learn, and try new things. But don’t suffer in silence. If you don’t understand, ask. Be polite; make sure the person you are asking is not in the middle of a critical call. Ask if they have time. But ask your question. The answer will be in the room.
  • Take notes. You are not that smart to remember it all. In training, when being coached, when your mentor gives a tip. Write it down. Review later. And implement.
  • No matter what others do in the office, your mantra will be ‘get on the phone’. Think about the outcome you want. Is it better achieved via an email, or on the phone? Usually it’s the latter. Pick. It. Up.
  • Don’t take it personally. Here is the news. People are going to let you down. Things will go wrong. Clients and candidates will be rude and ungrateful. Toughen the f*** up!
  • Don’t get pissed at your first work function. Or your second. Or your third. In fact never get pissed at a work function. I have never seen anyone enhance their career, reputation or credibility by drinking too much at a work do. And I have been to infinitely more of those than you have.
  • Don’t mess with your reputation. It’s the only thing you will take with you when you leave. Every contact with candidate, clients or colleague is a ‘moment of truth’. Ask yourself after every interaction. ‘Did what I just did or said, enhance or damage my reputation’. Remember it’s not only the candidates you help — it’s the ones you don’t help. Treat people with respect, do what you say you’re going to do, never screw anyone over, and in the long-run your reputation will get you there. Your reputation is your elixir of eternal recruitment career life. Protect it and burnish it. Through your actions.


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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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13 Responses to Starting your first job as a recruiter? Do this!

  1. Peter Udall November 2, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    This is recruitment Gold. Everyone running a desk or managing staff that do should re-read this advice every 6 months!

    • Greg Savage November 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

      Thanks Peter.. I appreciate the feedback, Greg

  2. Peter Goodwin November 2, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    Very comprehensive advice Greg. Another basic I always taught my new guys is to make sure you start every day with a to do list (prepared the day before) and to make whatever looks the most difficult/undesirable call first. This makes everything else seem relatively easy.

  3. Ray November 2, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Great article which is definitely relevant to new starters and experienced Recruiters!!

  4. Daniel Walker November 2, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

    Solid Greg, can I also say – Plan the calls you need to make at the end of every day for the last hour you spend. Even if you need to stop what you are doing at 5/5.30/6pm and just plan for 1 hour. It is the most important hour of the day, and more important than anything you can possibly be doing at the time! PLAN!!!!!

    • Daniel Walker November 2, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      Oh and to do those calls as soon as you get in! 7am,7.30am,8am,8.30am,9am, whatever time you start. Just do it!! You will get people out of bed, on the bus, in the car, before a meeting, who cares, just call them – and obviously be polite. But get all those calls knocked out in the morning as fast as you can (paying attention to quality) and you will have done 80% of what you needed to do that day, then the rest is easy smooth sailing networking calls, setting up interviews, running searches, finding new fresh talent and CONNECTING like a serial connector all day every day til the cows come home – rinse and repeat!

  5. Tracy Wright November 2, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    Spot on Gregg.

  6. el_slapper November 3, 2016 at 12:32 am #

    Most of them apply to most careers, I’d say. Of course, for an IT specialist, “treat candidates like gold” is not often on the table, and ‘get on the phone’ is not the best way to make the program work as it should(though it’s surely the best way to get more info on what the program must actrually do).

    All the rest applies 100% of the time. Especially reputation things. Many people have regretted burning the bridges. 5 minutes of exaltation, one lifelong career broken.

  7. PJ@KeystoneFinancial November 8, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    Your advice is sensible especially on joining “factions” in the office. As an employee, you should be non-partisan and be neutral as possible.

  8. Thea Millard November 25, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    I believe that this list applies to all professions not only to recruiters. Is important to be on time, to dress accordingly to the internal code of conduct, to be willing to learn and to get better. This is how you can make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity the job gives you. Being a good employee helps you on a long term.

  9. Cam December 15, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    Build relationships and don’t go for the quick sell!

  10. Rachel Kidd January 18, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    Thank you Greg, this is really helpful!

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