5 tough lessons I have learned in my 10 years as a recruiter

I got the idea in my head to become a recruiter from my first role as a Job Counselor at a drug and alcohol treatment program. I helped resident with criminal records find jobs in the community. I was pretty good at it. But I was cocky, young and I thought I could make more $ working for a corporate recruiting firm compared to a non-profit.

I applied and got a job at a recruiting firm that seemed to be ideal, there were nice people and they were making good money. I thought I could make placements just by telling potential candidates about the job. It didn’t work. I was fired within a month.

Lesson #1- Become comfortable being a sales person

After being fired, I moved into inside sales. I was fortunate to have some good bosses that taught me some sales skills. I decided to try recruiting again. Luckily, my next boss at a recruiting firm taught me how to become comfortable being a sales person because that is what you need to do to be a good recruiter.

Finally— I was seeing some success.


Recruiting is sales.

What does a good recruiter do?

Ask good questions to discover determine if the job is right fit and why the person is thinking of leaving the current situation. Exactly the same kinds of task every sales person does day in and day out to sell a product or service.

Lesson #2- Become good at making a lot of phone calls

Most recruiters fail because they aren’t willing to get on the phone to call people.

The best thing that ever happen to me was having my recruiting boss expect me to make over 100 calls a day. Why? You get good at it.

With the unemployment rate at less than 4% any recruiter worth their salt is going to have to make a lot of calls to find the right candidate. There is no way around it.

Even today, after years of experience I still have to be willing make a lot of calls during the day, night, on weekend, during vacation and holidays. It is the only way to make you stand out from all the recruiters that just try to use email and text to try to fill a position.

Lesson #3 Be Friendly and Enthusiastic

I don’t know how many times in the past year I have been told by candidates that I am really different from any recruiter they have ever talked to.

I ask–why am I different?

They describe the other recruiters as— dull, brisk, formal, stiff, boring, etc.

How are you supposed to convince someone you are a good company to work for if you are not somewhat friendly and enthusiastic?

You can’t!

Luckily— most days I don’t have to work very hard at being enthusiastic and friendly when I talk to candidates. Even on those tough days when everything is falling apart, I have to remind myself to be kind to people. Most times this is my one and only chance to make a good impression. I can’t blow it.

Lesson # 4 Be willing ask tough questions and read between the lines of a candidate’s answers to close the deal.

This is the toughest lesson I have learned and still learn from even today.

I know I have to good answers to my questions on why they want to leave the current company, what salary they really want, are they really willing to move and is their family ready to move.

If they hesitate at all or hold anything back—I have learned it is best to move on. Because it will be really tough to get them to take the job when it really comes down to it.

You have to do this because if you don’t —-they will take a counter offer at the last minute, back out after the first interview and play hardball during the negotiations of salary/benefits.

This sounds easy to do but believe me even with over 10 years of recruiting experience. Some days it is tough to do. Sometimes I still pass someone on to the hiring manager— even I know it might not work.


You are at the end of your rope because you can’t find the right candidate. The hiring manager is begging you for someone —- anyone.

Finally, you have one candidate that mostly fits the bill. Yet, you know in your gut— there is something that most likely will come up down the line that prevents the candidate from accepting the offer— like the wife really doesn’t want to leave her job or living close to her mother.

Why does this happen… because I didn’t have the right answers and wanted to believe it is the right candidate.

Sometimes luck comes into play and they still take the job. Even if this happens, they are don’t stay long or they are not committed to the company. Believe me when I say you have to ask the tough questions upfront—do it.

Lesson #5- Close the deal

Job offers are turned down.


I didn’t really know the candidate.

Again, it takes real diligence to ask lots questions and get the answers you will need to help them accept the job.

Because when it comes down to it at the end and they have the job offer—They will get scared.

You have to hold their hand and walk them through the fire.

Like any sales job—- I have to start reminding them of all the things they told you weeks ago on why they wanted to move in the first place. If I don’t —most times they will not take the offer.

Lastly, my advice for any recruiter that wants to get better—

Take sales training classes, read sales books and articles. Follow around a good sales person that has been on the road for more than 5-10 years. Learn how to ask better questions. It will help you become a better recruiter.

Feel free to reach out to me to discuss your recruiting needs: [email protected]