On career day in school you were probably captivated by a wide range of people from Police Officers to Fire Fighters to Lawyers and everyone in between. What you most likely did not see was a Recruiter. And there are good reasons why; for the most part it’s not the job you aspire to be in one day as a child. It’s long hours, can be thankless at times and not many people survive the first few years. Now don’t let that previous statement scare you, trust me it’s worthwhile.

Traditionally recruiting is a sales job. Call it what you want, but your job as a recruiter is to make sure your candidate gets selected by your client. The same way a traditional salespersons goal is to get their product selected by the prospect. As such you get out of it what you put in. So those long hours and thankless days, if done right, can result in success beyond your realistic expectations.

All said and done, it is a very lucrative business to get in. At the same time it’s not the most difficult industry to enter either. There are no degrees geared towards entry level recruiting or courses that must be taken. As a result of this really just about anyone can break into the industry. However don’t let this fool you into thinking just anyone can succeed in the industry. Below I highlight 5 key personality traits that you will need to have in order to succeed in this business.

1.       People Person 

You have to be able to relate to your product (people). On my very first day in recruiting I was told: “We sell the most unreliable product out there; people.” Those words were said almost a decade ago yet I can recall it like it was yesterday. The reason is because it’s so true. We are salespeople and our product is people and people are free thinkers whose minds can change at the drop of a hat. Let’s say for example you sell copier machines. It doesn’t matter where that machine goes, if an order is placed by your client it is on its way. However if you are in recruiting it doesn’t matter how well you sell your product to your client, if the product doesn’t want to go, it’s not going, and you are left with nothing.

In turn you have to be able to relate to your product. That copy machine doesn’t care how you relate to it. Just fill it with toner and it will do what you need it to. If you can’t relate to the people you are speaking to, and fully understand what they are looking for they will just move to the next agency that calls them.

2.       Strong Work Ethic

This industry is hard. It’s that simple. Until you get your feet off the ground it requires long hours and high intensity. And even once you are established you can’t let your foot off the pedal. I have worked for 2 major 3rd party agencies and have very good connections at some of the other big ones, and this is not a 9-5 job. If that’s what you want then head elsewhere. 10, 11, 12 hour days are common. And there is a reason for that. If you are trying to contact candidates during work hours it can be difficult. Not many people are open to discussing other positions at work, so a lot of your quality calls very well may occur after 5:00. Whenever candidates aren’t working, you should be.

 3.       Quick Thinker 

Remember our product being free thinking? Well with that also come unique situations. Back to the copier analogy; when your copier breaks there is a manual in place on how to fix the issue. Rarely will a widget stop working for a unique reason that hasn’t already been addressed in the past; making it easy to handle problems as they occur. People are not like that. On any given day you can walk into the office and experience a new situation you have never encountered before, even if you have been doing this for 20 years. People are unique and so are their problems. As a recruiter you have to have the ability to juggle this and handle the situations as they occur. You have to be creative and think on your feet.

 4.       Ability to Adapt

One constant in life is that things will change and for the most part there isn’t much you can do about it. That candidate who signed your clients offer letter and is set to start in 2 weeks? Well they just accepted the counter offer they promised you they originally wouldn’t take. And you have 2 ways to handle it: you get upset and spread that frustration to them, all but assuring that the deal is killed. Or you can sit with them and rationally hash out what is best for them, even if that is the counter offer. Your ability to handle those situations that don’t always go the way you think they will determines your level of success. For as much that can go right in this industry, just as much can go wrong; and believe me it will. If you cannot adapt to those situations you won’t last long.

 5.       “Professional Persistence”

I made a comment recently on a recruiting radio show that said recruiters should have an edge to them. The comment was taken that all recruiters should be your traditional hardnosed, radical, take no prisoner, ruthless salespeople. And honestly the comment was taken out of context because that’s not true. However this industry does require “professional persistence”. What that means is you need to be able to push back when a client wants to say no or when they are ignoring you (happens more than you think) but in a professional manner. It is easy for a client to not answer your calls or for them to see differently than you do on a candidate. And those that don’t have the ability to push back a bit won’t last long. So no you do not need to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but you do need to be comfortable enough to professionally disagree with a client or a candidate and stand your ground if the situation requires it.


Recruiting can be a great industry to get into. Like any sales job you can have a meteoric rise at a very young age and see success quicker than any other industry. But it doesn’t just happen to everyone and doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and a lot of dedication to the craft. But if you are willing to put in that work and have what it takes it can be a great industry to be in.

Written by: Chadd Balbi.  Chad is a featured writer who has been in both the staffing and corporate recruiting fields.  Follow him regularly @CFBRecruiter and connect with him on Linkedin.