The Most Important Soft Skills for Successful Recruiters [7 Golden Rules of Recruiting]

Written By :

Todd DeMarco, CEO & Founder of Prodigy Resources

Full name
11 Jan 2022
5 min read

Build Your Business. Get Results.

Recruiting is a very tricky business. There’s a lot that goes into making a single placement and a lot of factors that are out of your control. However, there’s a few things you can control that can significantly improve your business.

In this article, we’ll go over the 7 Golden Rules of Recruiting:

  1. Accountability is Key.
  2. Set Expectations and Follow Through.
  3. Never Assume.
  4. Build Relationships.
  5. Don’t Ask. Don’t Get.
  6. Know Your Industry/Audience.
  7. Listen.

Accountability is Key

Accountability is everything when it comes to any type of business. It’s especially important with recruitment, where people’s livelihoods are at stake. It’s also highly appreciated by clients and candidates alike. 

Do an experiment:

  • Ask a candidate if they’ve ever been ghosted by a recruiter before. If you’re new to the business, you might be shocked to find out they can’t remember how many times it’s happened.

As a recruiter, you’re responsible for the maintenance of your personal brand (and the reputation of our profession as a whole). People may not love working with recruiters and staffing agencies, but they definitely don’t like working with recruiters who never give them feedback. So don’t be that person.

To be accountable in the recruitment business is pretty simple. Deliver what’s expected of you. Whether that’s feedback to candidates, profiles for hiring managers, or the simple follow-up email you promised to send.

That may sound easy enough (and it is), but the execution is the hard part. Even when you don’t have great news, you can’t be afraid to deliver that. So when you’re still waiting on feedback from a hiring manager, share that with the candidate. If you’re struggling to find profiles that match exactly what the client asked for, tell them what you’re finding. 

Most of the time you’ll find that people appreciate you even giving them an update. People appreciate accountability.

Set Expectations and Follow Through

We love surprises just as much as the next person. But when it comes to business (especially in recruiting), people like knowing what to expect. That’s why interactions with candidates and clients should always end with you setting the expectation of what’s next. 

That could mean:

  • How soon can you deliver candidate profiles? 
  • When can you have a candidate ready to interview/be onboarded?
  • When will you have feedback from the hiring manager?

Setting expectations is also a part of being accountable. Deliver what’s expected of you. When you tell a client you’ll have profiles within 48 hours - don’t show up a week later saying you can’t find anyone. Hiring managers know the role you’re working on is hard (trust us, you wouldn’t be working on it if they could fill the position themselves). 

Set the expectations from the outset that you’ll have candidate profiles within 48 hours. If you don’t have profiles, come back to the manager with what you found. Is money an issue? Have you found anyone that has at least some of the required experience? Follow through on the expectation that you’re a reliable staffing partner.

The same rules apply to interactions with candidates. When you tell them you’ll have feedback by the end of the week - reach out at the end of the week! Even if you don’t have feedback, keep them in the loop. Did the manager get pulled into some unexpected meetings? Did something change with the position? Follow through on the expectation that you’re a reliable recruiter.

Never Assume

In the world of recruiting, if you don’t know for certain then you simply don’t know. This is why it is of the utmost importance to follow up for clarification - even when you feel like you have a strong educated guess.

Even just assuming that everyone is going to do what you asked without any follow up is asking for trouble. The people you’re interacting with typically have a completely separate job that doesn’t involve interacting with you. And truth be told, we’re all humans and we all forget sometimes.

The only safe assumption you can make is that someone just forgot to get back to you.

So if you’ve reached out to a manager for feedback and haven’t heard back in a reasonable time. If you asked a candidate to send over an updated resume and still haven’t seen anything. Don’t just assume they’re going to get back to you. Be proactive and follow up to make sure they didn’t just forget to respond.

Build Relationships

To be blunt, recruiting is a relationship-based business and the importance of relationships is interwoven into every aspect of the recruitment process:

  • Building relationships with clients so they’ll be open to doing business with you.
  • Establishing relationships with candidates to get them interested in your open position(s).
  • Managing relationships with candidates throughout the interview process to keep them interested and engaged.
  • Maintaining relationships with your back office personnel who dutifully handle issues with contractors (truly the unsung heroes of the staffing industry!)

To be clear, you need to be building relationships if you want to have success. There’s just no way around it.  So how do you build relationships effectively with clients and candidates? Deliver what’s expected of you.

It’s great if you get to know them as people and have a genuinely enjoyable conversation. But at the same time, you have to understand that their relationship with you is somewhat transactional. 

If you don’t have open positions for candidates, why would they want to continue working with you? Similarly, if you can’t produce quality candidates for a client’s open position, why would they want to continue doing business with you? If you consistently provide value you’ll find that people want to build relationships and may even refer other businesses to you. 

Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

People are busy. No one is a mind reader. If you want something, ask for it. In the staffing world, this becomes applicable in so many ways:

  • Want a referral from one of your clients? Ask for one.
  • Not sure you understand exactly what the client is looking for? Ask for clarification.
  • Something not adding up with a candidate’s background? Ask them to clarify.
  • Want to get a lead from a candidate who worked at a company you’re targeting? Ask for it.

Is it true that some of these feel uncomfortable to ask about? Of course! Especially when it comes to things like referrals. Prospecting for new business is one of the hardest parts of this industry. However, you can’t let the fear of rejection stop you from asking the questions.

Even asking for clarification about a candidate’s background or a client’s needs can seem intimidating sometimes. Everyone’s had moments where they’re afraid of looking silly by asking what they think is a “stupid” question. 

Questions aren’t stupid. Struggling because you didn’t ask a question is stupid.

Know Your Industry/Audience

There is a staffing firm for just about every industry sector you can think of. When companies are choosing which firm to work with, chances are they want to work with companies that are experts in their field. So instead of trying to dip your toes into every industry, focus on one and really work to understand the playing field.

You’ll need to be a reliable expert in the field so that you can relay information to hiring managers like:

  • Current candidate trends.
  • Market rates.
  • Skillset availability/scarcity.

Companies and candidates want to work with people that know what they’re talking about. Especially in such a competitive industry like staffing, if you don’t have the answers then one of your competitors will. 


We’re born with two ears and one mouth. Make sure that ratio is reflected when speaking with your clients, candidates, and colleagues. Execute on this and you’ll find that a lot of the previous steps will naturally fall into place. 


At the end of the day, there is so much you can’t control in the recruitment business. The overarching theme here is to control the controllables consistently. That’s what’s going to make the difference. 

All the steps laid out here are things that you have an impact on and that’s what makes them important. Being accountable to clients/candidates, building relationships, being proactive about following up, etc. These are things that seem simple (and they are!) but most people don’t follow through on them.

Prodigy Resources has been executing on the Golden Rules since 2007. Connect with us here if you’d like to get a free evaluation of your company’s recruitment processes and see if we can help.

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