These 7 Golden Rules of Recruiting will help you get better results, build a better business, and foster better relationships.

Do what you say you’re going to do.

Above anything else, people need to trust you. You are handling their careers and that’s an important element of most people’s lives. If you don’t do what you tell people you’re going to do, you might as well stop right here and move on to the next article. Chances are you won’t even have an opportunity to adhere to any of these rules anyway because you’ll be out of business before you know it.

People do business with those they trust, and building trust involves keeping your promises. In a market that’s as fast paced and ever changing as IT, where project roles are sometimes filled as quickly as they are released, it’s critical that if you tell someone you’re going to provide them with feedback, that you do it. If you tell a candidate or a client that you’re going to follow up with them at a certain time, you do it.

We train a lot of new recruiters at Prodigy and this is something we stress as the most important thing you can do to be successful within our industry. If you want to establish credibility, maintain it, and be known as someone who lives up to their word, then it’s imperative you do what you say you’re going to do. Whatever it takes, make it happen. There are plenty of systems out there in order to make it easier to adhere to golden rule #1… and yes, if you don’t have any feedback, you still need to call the candidate and let them know that you don’t have any feedback. No feedback is always better than no call. It shows your respect. Much is out of our control within our industry, however doing what we say we are going to do is not one of them; so as long as you adhere to the next golden rule of recruiting:

Set and manage expectations appropriately.

It’s really crazy how often this very important practice is overlooked in business as well as life in general. There are many, many people out there, all of whom think differently and expect differently. Your definition of “expertise” will likely differ vastly from five other people’s definitions. Remember this when delivering information to both your candidates, clients, and peers. When delivering information, my personal opinion is that it should be finite, clear, and quantifiable. Make it as objective as possible.

Let’s be real about this. As Recruiters, most of us aren’t writing software code in our free time, so who are we to tell a hiring manager that a particular candidate is truly gifted in open source development? We can talk about our candidate’s projects and the role they played on those projects. We can talk about how these projects are similar to the projects that the hiring manager has on their plate. We can even talk about the candidate’s personality and how we believe it’s a match made in heaven with our client’s environment, however I’d suggest being very careful when you make claims that you really don’t have the expertise to make. Instead of saying a candidate has “extensive experience” in a specific technology stack, maybe mention how many years of experience that candidate has been working with the technology stack and let the hiring manager decide what that means to them. Give specifics, manage expectations, and don’t oversell your candidates or the roles you’re looking to fill. It’ll come back and bite you eventually.
Another example involves start dates. If a Consultant tells me they can start an assignment immediately, I ask them if that means tomorrow, Monday, or in two weeks after they give notice to their current employer. Most often, when the question is posed this way, you’ll get an answer along the following lines, “well, no I couldn’t do tomorrow and likely not this coming Monday but definitely the week after once I wrap up my current gig.” Ok, well fair enough and I’m glad I asked versus assuming we were on the same page. At least now I have the specific information I need in order to be able to manage my client’s expectations around the earliest possible start date. Always remember that your ability (or lack thereof) to manage your peer’s expectations, your Consultant’s expectations, and your client’s expectations will directly impact their view when it comes to your level of competency and this is a perfect segue into the next golden rule of recruiting.

Never Assume

The expression “assuming makes an ass out of you and me” has been overused to the point of irrelevance, and yet, I couldn’t agree more. Just because someone sounds excited about your job opportunity, does not mean that he/she is going to accept the job if offered. If you assume that your colleague’s going to check those references before a Consultant starts on a project, it makes a lot of sense to check to make sure you’re both on the same page because not locking everything down can have serious consequences. Let’s not leave it up to chance. Qualify and make the effort to clarify. Assumptions can be dangerous.

Build Relationships.

We’ve all heard the saying that “it’s all about who you know”. Well, there’s a substantial amount of truth to that, and the better you are at building long-term relationships, the more advantageous your professional network will be, and the better your book of business will be. Relationships are critical and your ability to develop rapport and establish trust (refer back to #1) will determine your level of success in business and often life in general. Never try to be someone you’re not, because people like being around people who are genuine and real. All you can do is be yourself, know your value, and what you bring to the table. Let the rest unfold from there. Please also always remember that a relationship is not developed in a single phone call, a dialogue is started, however the relationship develops over time.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Get.

This was something I learned early on in my career through some tough experiences where I didn’t ask for something and guess what? I didn’t get it. I don’t think this golden rule really requires an explanation or an example for that matter, but always remember that most people are busy and can’t read your mind so don’t expect them to. If you want something, you must ask for it. If you want a referral or recommendation letter, then ask for it. If something doesn’t add up to you, ask about it. If you don’t get the answers you need or get one that’s incomplete, ask the question again or in a different way. Don’t ignore that uncomfortable feeling that often kicks in when you hear something that doesn’t make sense. Ask for clarification and you’ll know what to do from there. If we don’t have information we need regarding a Consultant’s situation or a client’s situation, it’s because we didn’t ask, not because they didn’t tell us.

Know Your Audience.

Granted, I’m a fan of specialization because it makes building credibility much easier. Knowing your market and the skills you’re speaking about to knowledgeable people and technical parties within your space (i.e. Consultants and the Clients) puts you in a better position to be taken seriously. A focus area helps to speed up this process because you can dive deep into it versus being a hundred feet wide and two feet deep. You’ll know the projects, the players, and be able to connect the dots that much quicker. Shrinking your backyard means you get to know it better and that’s important when it comes to speaking intelligently about factors that your audience cares about. Another quick piece of advice… always consider who you’re talking to and do your best to understand what they do and do not want to hear about. You should know where you can personally add value to them every day. Otherwise why would they ever want to speak with you, anyway?


I’ll make this quick. We were born with two ears and one mouth, so make sure you use these in a way that reflects that ratio when speaking with your clients, candidates, and colleagues. Execute on this and you’ll find people like you better and enjoy speaking with you more. This is important in the technology recruiting industry, so it only makes sense that you keep this in mind and be aware of who is doing most of the talking during your daily conversations.