(Published In The Recruiter, December 2013)


It seems that people may be attracted to the careers and roles they are going to devote their lives to, rather than directed to them. In some cases, future career paths are established from a very young age (16% from childhood, according to a recent survey).

Research confirms that different professions do attract people with a distinctive set of personal qualities. For example, in a recent recruitment project that involved personality assessment of 300 applicants, even though there were four distinct recruitment pipelines, the personality profile for candidates from each was uncannily similar- although distinctly different to the wider population.

Not only that, it replicated the pattern of characteristics identified by researchers working with that same profession in 1984 and in another study in 1980. People seem to be attracted by the prospect of working with people like themselves. Is the same likely to be true for recruiters?

If people are somehow drawn to a particular occupation, then it seems paradoxical that gaining a clear appreciation of one’s own talents and limitations is so difficult But this is an area of rampant subjectivity and self- deception. Facing up to our limitations can certainly be an uncomfortable experience. On the other hand, we can easily take our own talents for granted; just a commonplace part of our everyday experience.

Similarly, distinctive features shared throughout a profession may be undervalued, considered ‘normal’ or unremarkable. As a result, incumbents steeped in their own professional culture may develop significant blind spots when it comes to identifying what is key for the Job.

So, what should we be looking for when recruiting recruiters? Researching the industry and reviewing the content of ads for recruiter roles, as well as referencing against the Job Analysis Survey (JAS), an online tool used to identify the competencies that are most important for any role, six themes recur as characteristics critical for high performing recruiters.

  • ŸFirstly, they need to be self-confident; sure of themselves and untroubled by doubts about their abilities, their viewpoint or their entitlement to state their case.
  • Secondly, they must be serial problem solvers; have a good practical understanding of the issues, deal with the challenges and consider both conventional and unconventional solutions.
  • Thirdly, they must be convincing communicators; able to get their message across clearly and persuasively and in a form appropriate to clients and candidates.
  • Fourthly, they need the desire and the temperament to deal with clients, candidates and contacts on an almost continuous basis; engaging in the professional and courteous manner required to cement relationships.
  • Fifthly, they need business savvy and an appreciation of the commercial imperative for both their employers and for their clients.
  • Finally, they need the enthusiasm, drive and results focus to fuel a demanding schedule and make sure it all happens.

Someone fitting these criteria will be composed, socially confident and engaging; they will readily express their opinions and be keen to take on responsibilities. They will be ‘can do’ problem solvers who recognise the importance of customer and networking relationships, and be tuned in to the commercial dynamic. Does that seem comprehensive? Well, as it happens, this is not the last word on the subject of recruiting recruiters. The elephant in the room may just be ‘risk taking’ – something only once mentioned explicitly in our internet sources.

Results of a survey carried out in 2010 for this magazine are instructive on this point. These findings were published in Recruiter 24 November 2010 under the heading ‘Who dares wins: risk-taking recruiters’. The title reflects the fact that the recruiter sample included twice as many of the Adventurous Risk Type, and more than three times the number of the Carefree Risk Type compared to the incidence in the wider population; candidates for the recruitment industry are quite distinctive in this respect.

Wave upon wave of technological advances, computerisation, internet and now social media have provided opportunities for innovation which the industry has grasped with both hands, and to impressive effect Innovation is never risk free and, on this scale, it confirms the ‘Who dares, wins’ dimension of the recruiting professions.

Power Points
Different professions attract people with a distinct set of personal qualities

Gaining a dear appreciation of one’s own talents and limitations is difficult and is an area of rampant subjectivity and self deception

Distinctive features shared throughout a profession may be undervalued, considered ‘normal’ or unremarkable