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17 Years Later, Recruiter and Business Owner Tells All

17 years ago, I made one of the best decisions of my professional career.

I changed my career path (from a successful Branch Manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car) and went to a recruiting agency to help me find my next opportunity. When I sat down with the recruiter, I could tell he liked me. Was it confidence? Cockiness? At the age of 27 and eager for the next step in my career, it didn’t really matter to me. That day, he said six words that would shape the rest of my professional life: “Why don’t you become a recruiter?” He sweetened the deal with the mention of making six figures by my second year in the industry. I was intrigued, but at this point in my life, starting a career with a 2,000/month draw wasn’t the most appealing option.

As I continued interviewing (and actively considering two job offers) I couldn’t get the recruiting job out of my head. The possibility of making $100K was nothing to scoff at, especially after making half that at my last position. After processing the decision by myself, I spoke with my girlfriend at the time (now wife) and we agreed together that I should go for it.

And so I became a headhunter. It was my second job ever and a week prior, I had never heard of it. Trust me; it was a scary decision to make.

Fast forward to my second year on the job and I was the #2 recruiter in a company of over 40 employees and billed north of $100K for eight consecutive quarters. I knew I had stumbled into something that fit both my personality and strengths. And all it took was a great recruiter recognizing something in me I hadn’t previously seen in myself.

So what did he see? There are two major abilities that I stress to people who are thinking about a career in recruiting. Since 65% of what people remember is stories, here are a few personal anecdotes.

1. Make and Build Amazing Connections

One of our employees, Chris Dardis, had a former colleague (from more than 10 years ago) call him and ask for help hiring a Chief Administrative Officer. Chris didn’t have the candidate she was looking for, but he knew a member of his team did. He connected the two of them and eight weeks later, our company had filled our most high-profile position to that point.

Chris had made a valuable connection with a coworker years ago and, even though he had never placed a candidate with her before, she reached out to him with a critical hiring need. As a recruiter, you may only place 5-10% of the people you speak with, but the connections you make with the other 90% of your network is what separates you from the rest and makes you a great recruiter.

2. Foster Healthy Competition

Back in 1988, Shakopee High School had a prestigious award that was given to the top male athlete of the year. The top three candidates were invited to a banquet where the winner would be revealed. I sat in the audience feeling quite confident that I would be named the winner. My excitement peaked as the principal took to the stage and announced that the winner was…my friend, Craig.

I was crushed. Years later, I still hadn’t forgotten that disappointment. My wife and I were having dinner with Craig and his wife while they were in town and, of course, we started reminiscing about the good old days. After some healthy joking about the infamous award, Craig brought up a story about our 8th grade basketball game against our rivals. We were beating them by 8 points and everyone was ecstatic, but Craig said all he remembered was that I was mad because we were ONLY beating them by 8 points and it should have been a blowout. He looked at me and said, “That’s when I knew you were different.”

Recruiting is competitive. End of story. If you thrive off the win and want to work harder to improve your game with each and every placement, recruiting could be the perfect fit for you. Craig noticed my competitive spirit as early as 8th grade, and the recruiter who set me on my current career path must have seen it in me, too.

As I developed my skills as a recruiter, I realized that it took someone else to recognize the personality traits that made me good at what I did. I’ve since explored my strengths using StrengthsFinder and found that my #1 strength is Competition. Chris Dardis’ is Connector. While each recruiter may have a different style, we share these two important traits that help us create our own successes every day.

Do you have the traits necessary to be a great recruiter? What else do you think it takes? Let’s talk in the comments below.

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