Recruiting is Sales: How to Find, Hire and Retain the Best Workers

May 1, 2017

Recruiting is sales

Close your eyes and picture a salesperson. Who do you see?

Some people see the guy who sold them a 2004 Toyota Corolla down at the car lot. Others think of telemarketers or Millennials who work at mobile phone kiosks at the mall. Personally, I think of the iconic character, Matt Foley. He is a salesman-turned-motivational speaker who is 35 years old, eats a steady diet of government cheese, and lives in a van down by the river.

These are funny examples of stereotypes, but they’re not accurate. Sales professionals are at the heart of our resurgent American economy. They do everything from selling cars to sophisticated SaaS solutions, to working as recruiters and talent acquisition leaders.

That’s right. Recruiting is sales. Today’s best recruiters are savvy human capital experts with salesmanship skills, who understand how relationships and stories move the entire hiring lifecycle forward.

The best recruiters don’t smile and dial like it’s 1985. They proactively identify potential candidates using multiple channels—email, career websites, social media profiles, job boards and career fairs—and sell an opportunity that could mean a big change in an individual’s life.

Sales is never a one-way exchange of information. Recruiters and talent acquisition professionals have a multi-directional sales process. At the same time as they are sourcing and screening candidates, they are working with clients to make informed and strategic decisions based the ebb and flow of the labor market.

If everything goes well, recruiters are advocates for both candidates and corporations. When things go very well, they help companies identify people who will stay with the organization for years to come.

So, if recruiting is sales, how do you maximize the investment of time and energy and get new employees to stay?

Understand employment branding, the way a company tells its story.

Employment branding is the art of bringing an organization’s story to life, which can drive increased interest from inbound talent. While a compelling narrative attracts candidates, a truthful story told well and championed by internal ambassadors is what makes people stay. Want to help your clients tell better and genuine stories about their businesses? Study the best examples of employment branding in the marketplace. Find your local American Marketing Association (AMA) chapter, and attend one of their many lunch-and-learn sessions. You will meet exceptional people who can help you leverage storytelling as a competitive advantage in the war for talent.

Total rewards packages make a difference.

Money moves markets, but culture and leadership motivate people to make a change in their careers and stay. Perks make the ultimate difference, which is why recruiters are learning the language of healthcare, career-pathing and PTO. If you want to close the deal and communicate the “why” behind an employment offer, lean on industry blogs such as Compensation Cafe and The HR Capitalist to help you communicate the intrinsic and extrinsic advantages of compensation, benefits packages, and organizational culture.

Technology is a crucial tool in your arsenal.

Hiring decisions without data aren’t decisions, they are guesses. Recruiting software is more affordable than ever before, and the thought leadership and continuing education provided by technology vendors makes the initial investment worthwhile. If you lack access to proprietary tools and platforms, learn how to make a case for change and ask for additional budget.

If you’re a recruiter or talent acquisition leader, think like a sales professional to give yourself a competitive advantage. Help companies tell better stories to attract and retain the best and brightest workers in the industry. Learn the language of total rewards so that candidates accept new jobs for reasons other than money. Be curious about new recruiting technologies, and learn how to make a case for change within your team.

And remember the most implicit lesson from sales: recruiting is a relationship-based exchange that is forged one meaningful conversation at a time.


Laurie Ruettimann is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and entrepreneur. She owns a consultancy that offers a wide array of services to HR departments and technology companies. Ruettimann is also the founder of GlitchPath, an early-stage startup focused on business insights and risk mitigation. Ruettimann is the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.)

She has keynoted, lectured and participated at business events around the world held by Harvard Business School, SXSW, Microsoft, Google, NBCUniversal, American Marketing Association, MediaBistro and many others. She is also recognized as one of the Top 5 career advisors by CareerBuilder and CNN.


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