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5 attributes to look for when hiring junior agency recruiters
5 attributes to look for when hiring junior agency recruiters
Brian Thompson avatar
Written by Brian Thompson
Updated over a week ago

I’ve been fortunate enough to hire many great recruiters at all levels throughout my career: peer level, for my own team, for my client’s recruitment team, and even my own boss! Ironically, while I enjoy doing it, recruiting recruiters has always been one of the toughest roles to fill!

Just like most skilled professions today, competition is fierce for top recruitment talent. The best internal recruiters are already working happily in their jobs with strong retention packages. On the agency side, the best recruiters come with ‘golden handcuffs’ and a book of profitable business that they don’t want to walk away from.

Therefore, hiring a junior recruiter and training them up is often the best (and sometimes only) option you have if you need to staff up your team urgently. However, hiring a junior recruiter is risky business because you can’t rely on their previous recruitment performance to assess how good they really are. Instead, you are 100% hiring on potential with the hope that they will become your next superstar recruiter. Additionally, the stakes are higher because you will be investing a lot of time and resources into training them, so you’re banking on a strong ROI to make it all worth it.

My top 5:

Over the years I’ve sought advice from fellow recruitment managers, researched recruitment blogs, read recruitment management books, and relied on good’ol trial-and-error to figure out what top 5 candidate attributes make a junior recruiter one that you can ‘bank on’. Luckily for you, I’ve shared them below with examples of questions that you can ask during the interview process:

1) Sales Experience

Recruitment is not HR. Recruitment is a marketing and sales job, and even more of a sales job if you’re hiring on the agency side. This is a fundamental requirement so the first thing I do when reviewing a resume is to scan for previous jobs in the sales industry. Aside from the obvious sales jobs such as a Sales Rep or Account Manager, look for previous work history in roles such as a bartender, server, retail associates, cell phone reps, travel consultants, car rental service agents, customer care agents etc. Basically look for any role where they’ve interacted with customers regularly, have been paid on some form of commission (including tips), had to overcome objections, influence and persuade, and have dealt with a lot of rejection.

Interview questions:

  1. Q) What do you love most about a job in sales?

  2. Q) What motivates you? (hint: if you are hiring a junior agency recruiter and they don’t mention MONEY at the top of their list then they’re probably not the right fit)

2) Competitive Streak

In today’s candidate-driven market companies are fighting to attract and hire scarce top talent and as a result our industry has never been more competitive. Whether agency or internal, the best recruiters are the ones who naturally hustle to compete and innately hate to lose. Look for evidence of a competitive streak in a resume such as playing sports or participating in competitions - these can often be found under the ‘Interests/Passions’ section of a resume.

Interview questions:

  1. Q) Would you describe yourself as competitive? And, if so, give me some examples of when you’ve had to compete.

  2. Q) Tell me about the last time that you needed to be competitive at work.

3) Self Driven

Continuing along the same themes as points 1 & 2 above, recruiters need to be naturally self-driven (a.k.a self-motivated) to succeed our highly competitive, fast-paced, and often frustrating industry. Motivating your team through the ‘roller coaster’ of ups and downs of recruitment is one of the most important aspects of your role as a manager, however external motivation has its limits. You want to hire those people who are born with the natural drive to be able to push through the relentless rejection and frustration that is part-and-parcel of being a recruiter.

Interview questions:

  1. Q) Tell me about a time when you’ve encountered adversity, and what motivated you to push through?

  2. Q) Would you describe yourself as self-motivated? If so, where do you think your self-motivation originates from? Then ask for some examples of where they’ve demonstrated it.

4) History of Completion

As commented above, recruitment is a challenging profession and you want to hire people who don’t give up easily and stay committed until the job is done. You want to hire people with a solid history of completion. An easy one to assess in a resume is whether the candidate has completed their educational studies and degrees - if courses and degrees are incomplete then this can be a red flag.

Interview questions:

  • What has been the hardest thing you’ve ever successfully completed? What motivated you to get the (job/task/project/course etc) done?

  • Trick question: What was the hardest thing that you weren’t able to complete? Why were you not able to see it through to completion?

5) Smart

I’m not talking about IQ and I don’t mean ‘book smart’. A candidate with a 4.0 GPA won’t necessarily make a good recruiter. If anything, EQ is far more important in recruitment. You need to hire a smart person who can rapidly assess a candidate’s intentions and motivations, think on their feet, and learn quickly - essentially someone who’s ‘street smart’. New challenges and obstacles are presented to recruiters every day, and you need someone smart enough to figure out how to solve them quickly with the resources available to them at the time.

Interview Questions:

  1. Q) Tell me about a time when you had to learn a job quickly without much supervision or guidance.

  2. Q) If you were asked to recruit a role that you didn’t understand, what steps would you take to figure it out?


Hiring a junior recruiter can sometimes be your best (and only) option when looking to grow your recruitment team. If you interview a candidate that ticks all 5 of these boxes, and you’re confident that they’ll be a good team-fit, then make them an offer quickly before your competition does!

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