How to Recruit an All-Star Recruiter

As your company grows, it can be hard to find the time to be personally involved in hiring new employees. Hiring a recruiter who fits with your mission and company culture can help.
January 25, 2018

In the early days of building my company with my co-founder, I held the hiring reins pretty tightly. I knew the kind of culture I wanted—and I didn't trust anybody else to build it for me.

When we got to about 50 people on staff, I asked our five managers to not only manage their teams and keep the business on the rails, but also to add one or two new employees a week. That takes more than just scrubbing through resumes; it's also about setting up phone calls and in-person meetings, being diligent about reference checks and more. It's a big job.

After three months, one manager finally asked, "Look, do you want me to manage my team or hire people? I can't do both."

That was the aha moment, when I understood that it was time to hire a recruiter.

But I Don't Want to Hire a Recruiter…

Even though I recognized the need, I wasn't thrilled about it. Culture matters so much that it's hard to let go of the hiring process. But in reality, I had to offset my own unconscious bias.

Hiring is often one of the last things leaders are comfortable delegating—and with good reason. To ensure you hire the right people for your company, you should wait to delegate this core function until you find somebody who really gets what you're about, what you're trying to do and what your core values are.

A recruiter not only represents your company's core values, but also serves as gatekeeper to and caretaker of your culture.

—Tony Delmercado, co-founder and COO, Hawke Media

So. first, I suggest getting really clear on all of those things before you start looking for a recruiter. Then, when you're ready, seek out someone who possesses the following characteristics:

1. A Wealth of Experience

Look for someone with a diversity of experiences. People who have lived full lives will be better able to authentically connect with anyone they meet.

In our case, we chose to hire a recruiter who has lived in four different countries, speaks four languages, has held a variety of jobs, has a graduate degree—the list goes on. His vast and varied experience makes him great at reading and connecting with people.

2. Personally Agnostic

Because recruiters are responsible for choosing the best candidates, it is important they be agnostic in terms of gender, race, educational background, location and employment history. Biases don't just filter out diverse candidates; they can also keep out high-performing, highly qualified candidates.

Potential recruiters we looked at could have served in HR roles or as CEOs—their former titles really didn't matter, as long as I could see a proven history of identifying talent. You can teach skills, and relevant experience comes along with actually doing the job. But an effective recruiter must be agnostic enough to sniff out talent wherever it is.

3. Broad, Charismatic Appeal

Your recruiter will be the first person candidates see. Don't take any chances with that.

To ensure we found someone with universal appeal, we insisted that everyone on the hiring committee give a stamp of approval. If five of us were on board, but two were on the fence, that candidate was a no-go.

One time, for example, six members said yes, but one was a staunch no. After circling back to the holdout, she told us the candidate just didn't seem to be on the same page regarding one issue. Trusting our teammate, we waited for someone who met everyone's criteria. This person was going to be a conduit through which every single human employed by Hawke Media funneled. Once our entire management team got unanimously on board with someone, we knew he was the right fit.

Your Most Important Hire?

A recruiter not only represents your company's core values, but also serves as gatekeeper to and caretaker of your culture. Make sure your core values are sound, and don't budge an inch until you've found someone who embodies them.

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