Talent Acquisition

What Makes a Good Recruitment Trainer?

I’ve been a recruiter for fourteen years and entered the industry fairly fresh from graduation; first taking on a temp desk, then contingent perm recruitment and team leadership and for the last six years headhunting on a retained basis. During this time I’ve experienced a great deal of good and bad recruitment training provided by both in-house and external providers and this has led me to form the following opinion on what three key ingredients make a great recruitment trainer. They are:

  1. Personality
  2. Expert Knowledge
  3. Credibility

I’m going to illustrate my points with stories on three particular trainers that have lodged in my memory for good and bad reasons (and for obvious reasons I’m keeping the individuals anonymous).

Trainer No. 1 – This guy had personality!

This training session happened when I was quite new to the industry and running a team of temp and perm consultants. When the trainer turned up, to be honest, we were all a bit sceptical because of first impressions. For a start he was old; not just the old that 20 somethings use to describe 30-40 somethings (I know I’m now in that category) but actually granddad old. And second he was dressed in a cardigan, comfortable trousers and soft shoes. We were all thinking – what was this guy going to be able to teach us shiny young recruitment tyros in our suits, tan shoes, big ties and stylish hair?

Well let me tell you when he started talking we started listening because of his personality. He began his piece with some biographical detail – he was American, he’d fought in the Vietnam War and on his return to civilian life he struggled to find a job to support his family until he fell into a sales job that was 100% commission based – if he didn’t sell, he didn’t eat. Quite an opening statement and he had us hooked both with his style of delivery, which was full of gravitas and sincerity, and his content, which was unique and engaging – what soft young office worker is not going to hang on to every word of a Vietnam vet who became a major success at selling health insurance door-to-door!?

Once we were hooked he could basically take us by the nose and walk us through his key message (the one our boss wanted us to nail) – contingent/temp recruitment is all about high sales activity and handling rejection. Crank the handle on sales calls, meetings, jobs in, CVs out and revenue will follow.

Now I’m not sure if the story he fed us about his life was true or if he had indeed become one of America’s greatest ever insurance salesmen but we didn’t care because we’d suspended our disbelief. We left that room energised, invigorated and focused on applying what he’d taught us so we could emulate his success. He did this because he had the “X” factor personality that got us to buy into his narrative.

Trainer No. 2 – This guy had expert knowledge!

A little later in my career I considered myself to be a pretty well-rounded recruiter. I’d done most things required of me by bosses, clients and candidates and not only survived but thrived. At this stage I felt I had little need for any training because I knew it all. How wrong I was.

Enter, stage left, a recruitment trainer who had proven himself first as recruiter with a major international recruitment group, then had headed their in-house training at an eye-wateringly young age and had then moved on to establish a training business that could count a number of high performing recruitment companies as clientele. Funnily enough it was me that had arranged for him to come and deliver a programme as I’d felt some of the less experienced in the team could use some support but in the end it was me that ended up getting so much out of the process.

Here’s why – he knew his stuff about the industry and used his time with the group to show us how much we all knew already, how much we had forgotten, how much we were no longer doing because we’d got lazy taking shortcuts and how much more we had to learn.

Now let’s be honest – No recruitment trainer is ever going to give you some magic secret to success that is somehow known only by the very best in the industry but can be available to you by payment via credit card or monthly direct debit. I have a rule of thumb that any sales pitch or promotional material that contains the word “Secret” and “Success” I shun as if it has the plague.

But this chap had the right industry knowledge to able to hold up a mirror to a room of fairly experienced recruiters and show us what steps we could take to push up our already good success rates to an even higher level. I pity the trainer trying to deliver such a session if they really haven’t been there, done that and come away with the gold lamé T-shirt…. which leads us nicely on to our next trainer.

Trainer No. 3 – This guy lacked credibility!

Our industry, unfortunately, is not known for being populated by caring and accommodating types. Typically the industry is full of driven, ambitious and hard-working individuals putting themselves and others under pressure to perform. In the main we don’t have time to waste and if we sense a training session is going to be a chore and not a pleasure we will soon turn-off and tune-out (and if we can – drop-out without being noticed). Add to this the fact that our jobs actually involve passing judgement on the merit and credibility of people’s career narrative and you can see how tough an audience we can be.

My third example trainer was, I’m afraid to say, a victim of not appearing to have the credibility to lead a training session and failed because of this. First of all the introductory professional biography was underwhelming. Secondly the material was old-hat (i.e. pretty average cod-NLP motivational waffle). Thirdly the delivery was shaky as slides didn’t match music (yes that’s right there was music – sigh), diagrams and graphics were nonsensical, pages in the workbook were skipped and we endured numerous monologues of a personal nature that were homely, over familiar and not particularly inspiring. Readers, it was painful.

Bottom line:

The reason I’m highlighting all this is because the most effective recruitment trainers are able to combine what the first two examples had, personality and expert knowledge, to achieve a level of credibility that the third sorely lacked.

So if you’re booking a recruitment trainer perhaps take on board what I’ve learnt through experience – seek out the trainer who can inspire a room (sit in for 30 mins on one of their sessions), who has the expert knowledge to be able to really talk to your recruiting team about life at the coal face (check their career history and background) and find the one who will have no problem with immediately establishing and maintaining their credibility with an often critical, fickle and unforgiving audience.

Who was your best recruitment trainer and why?

RELATED: The Most Overused Recruiter Clichés Ever.

By Robert Wright

Robert Wright is a Man of Kent now living in York with two kids and with another in the oven. He lives in a bombsite and is working the NHS Leadership Academy to support Trusts recruiting at board level. You can find him on Linkedin, Twitter - @robmwright or in the kitchen at parties.