This week I sit down with Bernt Schindler to discuss the key skills a great recruiter should have. Bernt has decades of experience in recruitment, holding positions such as the Head of Talent Acquisition at leading companies such as IBM and Graincorp. Here are our insights:
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As someone who led recruitment teams, what really makes a good recruiter?
So I think I’m going to be maybe a little bit controversial in my answer which I know will surprise you a bit. Technical expertise means nothing, in my opinion. Even when I started out as a recruiter 20 years ago. I was recruiting civil engineering and I got put into it, into civil engineering recruitment. It’s true, I didn’t know what ‘civil’ meant. I remember my first interview, where I even answered the question – my first question to the person I was interviewing was “What does civil engineering mean to you?”
For me, the soft skills are the most important part of it, emotional intelligence, massively EQ. EQ has been a massive thing I look for in recruiters. Resilience. You have to be able to take the hits and run with it because that’s definitely part of the game. Communication is the most important part. You have to be able to deal with stakeholders, you have to be able to manage stakeholders, whether that be through an agency, external clients, understanding and being able to communicate properly. You need to be able to give strong feedback, both positive and negative.
We hear about the ups and downs of recruiting all the time, what makes it such a rollercoaster?
People call them recruitment consultants. But they’re the only consultants in the world that don’t get paid for their time. You only get paid on results, usually. Internal functions obviously it’s different, you’re getting paid no matter what, even though you’re not getting a commission. But as a function, you’re getting paid on results – you do usually. There are a few obvious exceptions to that rule that underlies that but you have to be able to understand that a pipeline is so much more than what it seems because you have to be constantly the old ‘spinning plates’ analogy I mean there’s sticks, spinning plates.
You have to be able to do 15 different things at once. Managing the candidate, managing the hiring manager, managing your boss, getting them off your back, who has increased pressure on needing to bill or recruit more people. They’re always going to be pushing you. You have to be able to deal with that resilience and emotional intelligence to understand what’s important and what’s not important.
Apart from being a salesperson, what else do recruiters need?
I actually don’t think salespeople are the best recruiters. Most people think that salespeople are great recruiters. 100%. Most of recruitment is not what it used to be. Recruitment is not the agency days of the middle of the ’90s and the ’80s which was literally cut-throat. You found a person and tried to fill or farm it out to anybody you want. Recruitment’s changed because of the invention of this little thing called Linkedin and other social media with it. You can find the people now it’s not about how to find the people.
It’s about how to engage them, how to have those conversations with them. How to explain what the role is. How to make sure they’ve got, not necessarily just the experience, because you’re not just going through a CV and going ‘tick, tick, tick.’ You’re going ‘What are the capabilities that make up that role, what are the most important parts of that role’ You know, thinking outside the square. The war for talent, as everyone calls it, is rife. It’s huge. And so you need to be able to think outside the square to be able to get those elements into it.
What does it take for someone to be able to recruit senior people?
I think it comes down to confidence. I think the biggest thing for executive recruitment is that confidence. Because, and I’ve worked with a lot of recruiters in my career. It’s funny, you have these amazing recruiters that are so good up to a certain level because they feel like they’re dealing with them and they can relate to them, whereas you start to recruit for executives. They almost lose that relation piece, they don’t know what to talk to them about. They don’t know how to approach them. Maybe they get nervous. You can be confident and feel ok to have a conversation with someone like that (an executive candidate) without having experience.
Imposter Syndrome – What is it and how might it apply to recruiters?
ME (Anwar): So with imposter syndrome, and I’m a victim of that. You could be so successful and you make win after win after win in what you do. In my case as a founder as a CEO. I know people who build multi-billion companies, the best in their categories. And even after exiting they remain, they continue to feel they were an imposter. They were fake. They never actually built something that makes sense for a customer. That kind of thing. So you know that confidence, is that related to that?
100%. I think the funny thing about that is, and I was reading an article about it probably six months ago. It wasn’t called imposter syndrome, it was called something else, but it stems from that philosophy. That more and more so, it’s exponentially rising that everyone is feeling that way. That everyone’s feeling that way, because the way that we have access to see what’s actually happening in social media and so on, we’re all feeling that way. There are different levels. So yeah, definitely. But it’s also people out there, so for instance, when I first started recruiting.
I was recruiting $300,000 a year civil estimators and I didn’t know what civil engineering meant. But I had the confidence to sit there and have the conversation with them. There are people that struggle with that element. I don’t necessarily think you have to have the experience to be a very good executive recruiter.
So just summarise for us, what are the top 3 things you look for in a good recruiter?
- Emotional intelligence, definitely, EQ. Which comes with the resilience side of things.
- Communication, the ability to communicate with all different levels within an organisation. Including candidates, let’s not forget the candidates. Being able to have empathy towards the candidates in regards to how you’re working with them definitely.
- The ability to be resilient, organised, being able to spin multiple plates if need be as your analogy goes more than anything else, that’s the top 3 for sure.
That’s all from us this week, I hope you enjoyed our new format. Stay tuned for more next week!