Success for recruiters is strategic not tactical

Some of the most successful recruiters that I’ve encountered have very little to do with social media.

Last week, I caught up with a friend and a former colleague, a top-notch recruiter and one of the best I know in the business. Curious, after five years since we last met, I asked about his social media footprint. Zilch. He doesn’t tweet nor blog. I cannot find him on Facebook or MySpace, and his LinkedIn network is limited to a miserly 33 connections. It turns out he’s doing very well regardless of his limited presence on social networks. The downturn has been hard on his current employer, but not surprisingly, I am told he is consistently one of the best performers. His secret: the phone and the phrase “Let’s do coffee”.  Over the years he pursued a deliberate and determined strategy of building strong personal relationship with candidates and clients.

I pondered if my friend will be at a disadvantage if he does not embrace social media. Unlikely, because the use of ‘social media’ is largely tactical and he’s got the strategy part sorted out. Besides, I suspect his limited involvement is because the demographic group he services has not embraced social media yet. I am sure, like any other recruitment tool that he has used over the years, he will embrace social media if that is what his clients and candidates are using. For him, strategy comes first; tactics and tools are secondary.

Take a look at companies who are applauded for using social media effectively.  Often, they are organisations who have a history (strategy) of caring deeply about customer service and building relationship long before social media even exists.  Social media is embraced as a tactical tool to pursue an overall strategy of serving their customers with distinction, and in the process enhance relationship.

I am convinced it’s not any different for recruiters. The big picture strategy should be a relentless focus on building relationship with candidates and clients. If enriching the relationship requires the use of social media, by all means embrace it. If a phone suffices, invest in more ‘phone time’. Obsessing over strategy and finding the right tactical tool(s) to support the larger long-term strategy is a more sensible path.

As Kathy Sierra puts it “Please, businesses, don’t DO ‘social media’. Do ‘user happiness’.

5 replies
  1. Georgie
    Georgie says:

    I agree with that. Some of the most successful recruiters I know don’t even care about social media or online networking. But then, what is a ‘successful’ recruiter? Is it the person who bills the most for the company, or the person that marries the right job seeker with the right job?

  2. Sarah Nguyen
    Sarah Nguyen says:

    Agreed – great post Phillip.

    Re: Georgie’s question above: my definition of a successful recruiter is someone who is great at ‘marrying’ the right people to the roles that are suited to them. I think one of the downfalls of so many agencies is that they focus so much on number of placements ($$$) and don’t pay enough attention to job matching, understanding company and candidate requirements, etc.

  3. Phillip Tusing
    Phillip Tusing says:


    The above post refers exclusively to agency recruiters.

    Also, the person in the example is one of the biggest billers in the company. But I believe that does not happened by accident. Instead it’s a result of obsessing on pleasing customers (clients and candidates), which almost always involve matching the right person to the right job.

    Nevertheless, I think it is also possible that a recruiter is a big biller without having any strategy in place. It’s doubtful if that can be sustained for a long period, though.

  4. Jennifer Nini, Syncron Consulting
    Jennifer Nini, Syncron Consulting says:

    This was an interesting article because I found it to be accurate of my own experience. Before moving back into recruiting for the IT industry, I worked in healthcare, recruiting registered nurses. Whilst social media came in very handy in building relationships in the IT world, it wasn’t as useful in the healthcare industry where nurses were time-poor and often not as IT savvy. I found that heading over to the nursing home armed with cups of coffee proved far more effective!


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