Recruitment Skills, Competencies, and Qualifications for Success

No matter what profession a person chooses, they want to be successful. Recruiters are NO different. No matter how you measure success as a recruiter (monetarily or otherwise), it requires a certain number of recruitment skills, competencies, and qualifications.

And because we like to do things a little differently around here, we’re going to work backwards on that list. First, we’ll address qualifications. Then we’ll take a look at competencies. And then we’ll “finish big” with recruitment skills.

Qualification that all recruiters must have

We’ve made this distinction before, but let’s make it again, just for fun. Let’s define internal vs. external recruitment.

External recruiters are also known as agency recruiters or independent recruiters. That means they work for themselves, and they do not work for one specific company. They work for a number of different companies, helping those organizations to fill their open positions.

Internal recruiters, on the other hand, are actually an employee of a company. As a result, they recruit exclusively for that organization and nobody else.

We’re addressing external recruiters for the purposes of this blog post. There’s a good reason for that, too. The qualifications necessary to become an external recruiter are often different than those for internal recruiting. (It basically boils down to the difference between working for yourself and working for somebody else).

So, what is a qualification that all recruiters must have? . . . a pulse.

Just kidding, just kidding. (Actually, it’s true. They must have a pulse.) When we’re talking about an internal recruiter, we’re talking about a recruiter who works for somebody else. And that somebody else might just be a bit pickier about qualifications. In fact, they might require one or more of the following, depending upon the position:

  • High school diploma
  • College degree
  • An associate or a bachelor’s degree in human resources
  • Background in human resources
  • Knowledge of employment laws
  • Experience with personnel files, background checks, and employment reference checks

Ah, but if somebody goes out on their own to start a recruitment agency, they don’t necessarily need any of these qualifications. (Although more than likely, they probably already have them.) You must remember: nobody goes to college with the goal of becoming a recruiter for an agency. By and large, most people “fall into” the profession. It goes something like this:

  1. A person goes to college and graduates with a degree in something like engineering, for instance.
  2. They get a job as an automation engineer.
  3. They work as an automation engineer for a number of years.
  4. They see first-hand how a recruiter works and operates through their interactions with them.
  5. A search consultant at a recruiting agency actually recruits them!
  6. After an initial training period provided by the agency, their recruiting career begins!

Once again, this underscores how unique the recruiting profession really. Thousands of recruiters have embarked their career in just this fashion, and many of them have become wildly successful within the profession.

Competencies needed to be a recruiter

Qualifications are different than recruiter competencies, the next item up for bid on The Price is Right. We’re examining recruiter core competencies next because they’re broader in scope. Specifically, competencies consist of three main areas:

  1. Skills
  2. Knowledge
  3. Abilities

So for example, if you have competency in a particular area, it means you have skills, knowledge, and abilities in that area. To apply that to our current discussion, if you have competency in the area of recruiting, it means that you have skills, knowledge, and abilities in recruiting.

recruiter competencies

You might be asking why we don’t address each of those three areas individually. If you are, then you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what we’re going to do!

Recruitment skills

Okay, our first category is skills in recruitment. We’re going to break this category down into two sub-categories: technical skills and non-technical skills needed to be a recruiter, since they both apply to the recruiting profession and contribute to recruiter skills and competencies (or a lack thereof).

Non-technical recruiter skills

Let’s start with the non-technical recruitment skills. Now, we’ve tackled these types of skills before when we examined how to be a great recruiter. We identified seven non-technical recruiting skills:

  • Sales skills
  • People skills
  • Communication skills
  • Marketing skills of a recruiter
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Negotiation skills for recruitment
  • Time management for recruiters

Technical recruiter skills

The advent of technology has led to the need for recruiters to possess more technical skills. Back in the day (say, the decade of the 1970s), all recruiters needed was a telephone. That was as technical as they needed to get. However, over time, as technology evolved, the list of necessary technical recruiter skills started to grow:

  • Computer skills
  • Internet skills
  • Website skills for recruitment
  • Search engine optimization (recruiter SEO) skills
  • Social media skills
  • Smartphone/texting skills

With each passing year, it seems that recruiters need to amass more in the way of technical skills. (Or they pay somebody to be proficient in these areas for them, so that they can do what they do best . . . which is recruit and make placements!)

Knowledge needed to be a recruiter

This is where we get into a bit of a “gray area.” That’s because, as mentioned above, you can’t go to college and get a degree in recruiting. However, you can earn a degree in Human Resources. Once again, as mentioned above, one of the qualifications needed for an internal recruiter is a degree in HR. (Or at the very least, a background in it.)

But our main focus is not internal recruiters. Our focus is agency recruiters. So . . . must an agency recruiter have a degree in Human Resources? The answer is no. There are plenty of successful agency recruiters, including within Top Echelon’s recruiter split boards, that have no such degree. Although they have a college degree in another area.

Here’s one of the many unique aspects of the agency recruiting profession: the attainment of knowledge is optional. True, it is recommended. But ultimately, it’s optional.

That being said, there are certifications that agency recruiters can pursue. These certifications are offered by the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS). NAPS has been the staffing industry educator since 1961 and enjoys a reputation as the oldest industry association. There are three certifications that NAPS offers to recruiters:

#1 – Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC)

The CPC was created more than 50 years ago to focus on the work of the direct hire recruiter and consultant and the laws that govern these types of employment transitions.

#2 – Certified Temporary Staffing Specialist (CTS)

The CTS designation followed to address the emerging work in temporary staffing and the laws that impacted such work. Many individuals in blended practices seek both the CPC and CTS credentials. There are no length-of-service requirements for those seeking certification.

#3 – Certified Employee Retention Specialist (CERS)

NAPS created the CERS certification in 2006 to educate search and staffing professionals in the exemplary employee engagement and retention practices that would allow them to serve in a consulting capacity on matters of this nature with their clients.

Recruiters can earn these certifications through rigorous study and the taking of the appropriate exams offered by NAPS. Once again, this is a voluntary exercise and not a mandatory one. You do not need a certification to become an agency recruiter. However, becoming certified could conceivably help you to become a more successful agency recruiter.

Abilities necessary for recruiting success

Abilities encompass a wide range of things. However, let’s narrow our focus down to a simple definition. An ability is a talent or proficiency in a particular area. How is an ability different from a skill? Think of abilities as a subset of skills in recruitment. For example, you might possess two or three abilities that lend themselves to proficiency in a certain skill.

For the purposes of this blog post, we’re going to lump qualities and abilities together. They often go hand-in-hand. Once again, as an example, patience is classified as a quality. However, patience also enhances a recruiter’s ability to navigate the employee placement process successfully, which in turn helps to sharpen that recruiter’s candidate closing techniques.

In a previous blog post, we listed seven qualities of great recruiters. Rather than analyze which ones are the most important for recruiters, we went straight to the source. We asked the recruiters in Top Echelon’s recruiting network what they thought. In fact, we asked them what they thought by conducting two separate polls.

The question that we asked in the first poll question was as follows:

Of the following, which is a recruiter’s most valuable quality?

The choice of answers that we provided is listed below, along with the percentage of Network recruiters that selected each one:

  • Patience — 9.5%
  • Confidence — 4.2%
  • Persistence — 69.5%
  • Being comfortable with risk — 9.5%
  • Being comfortable with chaos — 7.4%

And then on the heels of that poll question, we asked THIS one:

Of the following, which is a recruiter’s least valuable quality?

The choice of answers that we provided is listed below, along with the percentage of Network recruiters that selected each one:

  • Patience — 32.5%
  • Confidence — 7.8%
  • Persistence — 15.6%
  • Being comfortable with risk — 11.7%
  • Being comfortable with chaos — 32.5%

As you can see, the overwhelming majority of recruiters believe that persistence is the MOST valuable quality within their profession. There was a tie for the least valuable quality between “patience” and “being comfortable with chaos.” As important as patience might be, it pales in comparison to persistence in the world of recruiting.

The bottom line is . . . the bottom line

No matter what qualifications, recruiter skills, and competencies a recruiting professional possesses, success in the recruiting industry still comes down to one thing: results!

Without results, all of these things mean . . . well, they mean nothing.

If you’re an agency owner, you could have a recruiter who has all the qualifications in the world. But unless that recruiter makes placements, you are going to fire them. Guaranteed. On the other hand, you could have a recruiter who appears to have NO discernible qualifications, yet their recruiting metrics are through the roof and they churn out the placements month after month. You’re going to shower that recruiter with love and attention. Guaranteed.

Acquiring qualifications, recruitment skills, and competencies is one thing. What a person does with them is quite another.

Which explains why success in the profession is a battle that recruiters wage on an everyday basis.

recruitment skills needed

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