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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

10 Habits of Highly Successful Talent Acquisition Leaders

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It’s been a challenging few years for talent acquisition leaders. First, there was the onset of the pandemic and the sudden pivot to remote hiring practices. Then there was the Great Resignation and the impact it had on workers’ perceptions and expectations of their jobs and employers. And now there’s ongoing economic shakiness and hiring volatility.

It’s a lot. While stress levels among hiring professionals quite haven’t spiked to what they were at the height of the pandemic, 53% of recruiters still said their job was more stressful in 2023 than in the previous year.

There’s not much you can do to control the broader market. However, there are steps you can take to set yourself—and, as a result, your entire organization—up for success as the hiring landscape continues to shift.

Like what? We connected with four talent acquisition leaders to hear about the habits that help them stay productive, positive, and prosperous amidst all of the ups and downs.

1. Be empathetic

If you’re feeling the stress of the erratic market, your team is too. As a leader, check in frequently with your direct reports to listen to their challenges and frustrations, offer support, and advocate for them when necessary.

“I’ve always had my team members’ backs during tough situations, either with candidates or hiring managers,” shares Daisy Ilaria, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at ESPRIT. Research shows that empathy at work doesn’t just make you a more likable leader. It also improves morale, productivity, and respect while reducing employee turnover.

Your employees aren’t the only ones who deserve your understanding and compassion—candidates do too, particularly when the hiring process can feel so harsh and anonymous amidst high competition.

“I always put myself back into the candidate’s shoes and think about my experience going through the job search and interview process,” explains Kristi Kennebrew, Talent Attraction Partner. “Everything I wanted as a job seeker I make sure to give to my candidates. Being relatable and authentic carries over into other aspects of the role when it comes to candidate experience and leadership style. It’s really a domino effect.”

2. Practice patience

Successful hiring is a long game, which means talent acquisition professionals also need to practice a hefty amount of patience. “It takes time to build a world-class team,” Daisy says.

That not only means demonstrating restraint and patience with applicants and candidates but also with internal stakeholders and your own recruitment team—especially those who are still learning the ropes and might need more hands-on guidance and input from you.

It makes you a better leader and also strengthens your entire team and organization. “One of my best recruitment managers at the beginning of my career was extremely patient with me and taught me everything she knew step-by-step,” Daisy says.

3. Stay open-minded

“I think it’s very easy to get set in your ways and assume that, because you're the expert and have been doing this a long time, you're the one everyone needs to defer to,” warns Nicole Kohler, Talent Manager. “But I find my decisions or assumptions constantly being challenged. And if I take the time to ask ‘Why do I do it this way?’ or ‘What if we tried it like this?’ I almost always learn something.”

Curiosity and adaptability are crucial, especially when recruiting leaders often have no choice but to embrace change.

“Market conditions, client groups, and priorities are constantly shifting. Recruiting tools are always evolving,” says Harry Stone, Global Talent Acquisition Lead formerly at TikTok and now at 32BJ Benefit Funds. “Having an open mind and being able to pivot is necessary for a long-term career as a recruiting leader.”

4. Actively solicit feedback

Gathering feedback—both from candidates and internal stakeholders—is one of the best ways to improve your skills and strategies.

“Asking hiring managers and decision-makers for feedback on candidates at every stage is critical. I've found that you want to do this so often that you wonder if you're annoying them,” says Nicole.

What do they think of this batch of candidates? How did the interview go? Why wasn’t this person moved forward? Asking questions gives you more information you can use to shape future sourcing and selection processes.

“When I moved into full-cycle recruiting from the niche industry I started in, I quickly learned that if I wasn't asking why a potential hire wasn't a fit and what I missed on the first round screen, I would never understand the role the way I wanted to,” Nicole adds.

When 21% of organizations don’t survey applicants about their experience at all, you also can’t overlook the importance of using their feedback to improve. “Using candidate feedback surveys, client reviews, and a variety of other touchpoints, we can use feedback data to optimize our end-to-end hiring process,” Harry says.

5. Encourage honesty and transparency

While job candidates are usually more willing to be candid about what they did and didn’t like about your hiring process, it can be tougher to pull truthful feedback out of hiring managers and other internal stakeholders.

“You might sometimes have to encourage the hiring managers to be brutally honest and critical of you,” advises Nicole. “I work with some absolutely kind and thoughtful people who don't want to hurt my feelings and I love them for that. But I'm not going to be an effective partner to them if I'm asking terrible questions at the recruiter screen and sending them unqualified candidates to interview.”

If people seem apprehensive to give you straightforward information, emphasize the ways that honest feedback is valuable to you and the entire company. “They've just got to know they can give it to me straight,” adds Nicole. “And that the feedback will help both of us.”

6. Commit to continuous improvement

Collecting feedback is important, but it’s only the first step. As a leader, you need to turn that information into action. “Successful recruiting leaders address areas of opportunity by creating an action plan,” Harry adds.

“In recruiting, not only do we solve talent issues, but we work on a variety of process improvements, talent programs, and initiatives,” continues Harry. When there’s a problem or bottleneck in any one of those areas, identify a solution, implement it, and monitor the impact.

Doing so helps you go beyond being a good talent acquisition leader to one that’s always getting better.

7. Establish systems for task management

From developing hiring strategies and reviewing applicants to conducting interviews and meeting with other team members, there’s a lot to manage. It’s more than you can keep track of without a reliable system.

“Don’t assume you’ll remember to do anything,” shares Nicole. Instead, set up routines and processes to ensure you reliably take care of your tasks.

Nicole provides this example: “When I have a block of first-round screens, I immediately set up a time for disqualification emails to be written and sent on the day I promised. If I need to create a new shortlist, I put a 30-minute block on my calendar for it.”

That strategy benefits her with more order and less stress, but it also benefits applicants who get a more organized process and timely communication. “I don't want our candidate experience to suffer because I assumed I'd remember to do something,” Nicole adds.

8. Prioritize consistent communication

Talent acquisition is all about communication. You need to communicate with candidates, your team members, and internal stakeholders.

Internally, Harry recommends sticking with a weekly conversation to update relevant people on the hiring process. “No one likes to be kept in the dark, and setting weekly check-ins helps to make sure everyone is on the same page,” he explains.

When it comes to applicants, it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate. When 53% of candidates have abandoned a recruitment process because of poor communication from an employer or recruiter, providing transparent and consistent updates is a way to stand out, improve the candidate experience, foster trust, and demonstrate more of that ever-important empathy.

9. Expand your information sources

It’s easy to find yourself in an echo chamber. But you don’t only need to know what fellow HR professionals think or experience—you need to know what candidates think and experience. Ultimately, they’re your audience.

For that reason, Nicole recommends going beyond other HR or talent acquisition experts when keeping tabs on your industry. “I read LinkedIn comments on awful posts, watch TikToks about HR, and listen to my friends talk about terrible (sometimes illegal) job postings every single day,” she says.

“It tells me everything I need to know about what is currently happening in the world of hiring and what candidates actually want and need,” she adds. “It also helps me rethink what I'm doing and course correct if necessary.”

There’s still value in getting insights from relevant experts and thought leaders. “I still watch webinars and read pieces from leaders in my industry,” Nicole says. But complement those with plenty of information from other sources. “If I'm being honest, I think I learn a lot more from my peers outside of talent acquisition, simply because they're so honest and unafraid to share,” Nicole says.

10. Think outside the box

When you get creative with your sources of information, apply that same thinking to your sourcing strategies. “Let’s think outside of the box when it comes to finding the best talent for the role,” Kristi says. “I make it my purpose to attend different diverse conferences so I can talk to candidates.”

There’s a reason some methods are tried and true: they work. But when recruitment leaders continuously turn to the same channels (77% are using LinkedIn, as just one example), it’s a lot more challenging to broaden your reach and stand out.

Supplementing those traditional efforts with other creative strategies—like hosting events, sponsoring niche newsletters and podcasts, or bolstering your employer brand on a platform like The Muse—can help you separate yourself from the other companies that are vying for candidates’ attention.

Successful hiring hinges on your habits

With changing market demands, technological advancements, and ever-evolving worker expectations, talent acquisition has felt rocky these past few years. But amidst all of the uncertainty, one constant remains: the importance of driven and dedicated talent acquisition leaders like you.

Success in your role isn’t only about skill. Cultivating the right behaviors helps you be more efficient and effective, while also making the ups and downs of the industry feel a lot more manageable.

Take a cue from the above habits of other successful talent acquisition pros to embrace the unpredictability, learn as you go, and help your organization achieve success—one hire at a time.