What Makes a Great Recruiter - Ricky Knights
The Art of Recruitment

What Makes a Great Recruiter

Considering a career in recruitment or already in the industry? Then you’re probably looking for the secret formula that defines a high-performing recruitment consultant.

Here’s the short answer: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recruiter. Success in recruitment comes from understanding that every candidate and company brings a unique set of needs to the table. This diversity means that recruiters need to be adaptable, tailoring their approach to fit a wide range of situations.

That said, there are some core qualities that will be advantageous to anyone in recruitment, which we’ll explore in this article.

The Truth of Recruitment Success

The idea that there’s a specific skill set for becoming the ‘ultimate’ recruiter is flawed. The recruitment industry is constantly evolving, shaped by the constantly changing market trends, organisational cultures, and the specific demands of job roles. Strategies that prove successful in one situation may fall short in another.

Ricky Knight, our Managing Director, brings a wealth of experience to the table with 18 years of progression through the ranks of the recruitment industry, from a consultant to the Managing Director at Whitehall Resources. We sought Ricky’s insights on what he believes truly defines a standout recruitment consultant.

“Successful recruitment businesses are about four things. They’re about the value and service they offer their candidates, client, colleagues and the communities they’re within”.

Ricky Knight Managing Director - Whitehall

Ricky Knight
Managing Director

“Personally, I’ve grown to realise that there quite simply is no formula or specific set of traits that are found uniformly in great recruiters.

The reason is simple – that every client and every candidate doesn’t match the mould of whatever ‘right’ is.

Every market, candidate, and company is different. Just like the saying “different strokes for different folks,” recruitment shows me this every day.

So, what’s the real secret? It’s about the things that aren’t easy to measure or define. If it were simple, everyone would have figured it out by now!”

A great recruitment consultant has a unique blend of qualities with no single formula for success. At the core of their effectiveness is an ability to build strong relationships which are built on a mix of soft skills, market competence, shared experiences, and a genuine understanding of clients’ and candidates’ needs.

Let’s explore the six key traits of people who are successful in recruitment.

Care and Commitment

“They care. They might care about different things, but they care about something, and they care about it enough to persist and do their best every single day.”

As a recruiter, you must bring passion and commitment to your work. Whether you’re driven by a desire to make impactful placements, support business growth, or master the complexities of the recruitment process, your passion is what distinguishes you.

Your commitment is the foundation of resilience and determination, which we will cover in the next section. It will help you tackle the challenges of working in recruitment and strive every day, providing you with a perspective that enables you to transform objectives into opportunities.

Furthermore, your genuine care and dedication play a critical role in establishing and maintaining trust with clients and candidates. This trust is a byproduct of your commitment and a testament to your professionalism and integrity. This trust forms the foundation of lasting professional relationships, which are key to a successful career in recruitment.

Resilience and Determination

“They don’t give up. Ever. Whether it’s the chest-thumping resilience that lets everyone know about it or the quiet, stoic, unshakable fortitude of someone who knows their task and is willing to stick to it, they don’t give up.”

Due to the industry’s challenging and competitive nature, resilience and determination are essential skills for recruiters. These qualities enable you to handle what can feel like frequent client rejections, the unpredictability of job placements, and the pressure of meeting targets.

Resilience empowers you to recover quickly from setbacks, helping you maintain a positive outlook and stay focused on long-term goals. Resilience helps you to ensure you don’t take rejection personally and that you continue to strive for success.

Determination is your driving force in the pursuit of your objectives. It allows you to build and nurture client and candidate relationships over time, even when immediate results aren’t apparent. It’s the fuel that powers your journey towards long-term success, helping you to build a solid client base and a quality pool of candidates.

The recruitment industry constantly evolves and rapidly changes to the job market and industry demands. Resilient and determined consultants know how to adapt to these changes, employing new strategies to remain effective. These traits also help recruiters handle the recruitment cycle’s ups and downs with grace. This not only sets them apart from competitors but also builds trust and reliability with clients and candidates.

An Inquisitive Mindset

“They’re inquisitive. Whether they’re nosy or enjoy the ‘investigation’, they want to ask the extra question to understand their market and the technologies, skill sets and people within it just that bit better. 

I always think listening goes with any inquisitive nature; otherwise, what’s the point in asking the question?”

Inquisitive recruiters thrive on understanding the finer details about their market, new tech and what makes people tick. They use this deeper level of knowledge to make better decisions, like matching the right person to the right job and being able to predict what companies and job seekers will want to do next.

What makes these recruiters stand out is they’re more likely to be seen as trusted consultants instead of middlemen. They use their knowledge to give better advice, create job ads that attract the perfect candidates, and stay ahead of industry trends.

Listening carefully is key to their success. By really focusing on what people say, they learn from every conversation. This helps them get a clear picture of what companies and job seekers need. With this understanding, they can match the right people with the right jobs. This skill is especially valuable when helping individuals navigate career transitions and assisting companies in forming teams equipped for future challenges.

Neil Mansfield and Ricky Knight

Neil and Ricky have both achieved significant career progression at Whitehall. Neil advanced from managing our International Team to taking on the role of Sales Director. Ricky joined us as a Senior Consultant and progressed to Managing Director in 2023.


They have discipline.
No, they might not be up at 3 am for an hour of yoga, breakfast, read, run a marathon, home tutor their child, learn Mandarin and break the billion-pound mark on their side hustle before they start work at 4 am, but they have the ability to focus and to be disciplined to the task at hand.

Disciplined recruiters recognise the crucial role of effectively managing their time, prioritising their tasks, and maintaining high-quality work even when things get busy. It’s not so much about following a strict early morning routine as it is about consistently bringing focus and precision to every step of the recruitment process.

Having a relentless focus helps recruiters meet their goals, build trust with clients and candidates by being reliable, and adapt to any industry challenges and changes that come their way.

Openness to Coaching and Self-Analysis

Recruiters need to be self-analytical or open to coaching. They should constantly question their own methods to seek improvement, observing what works in terms of their actions, attitudes, and the results achieved, and then making smart, gradual changes to enhance their performance day by day.

Additionally, they should be able to absorb and apply feedback and lessons from their leadership team. The crucial aspect is the willingness to confront tough questions about oneself and recognise that self-improvement is the starting point for advancement in recruitment

Successful recruiters know the importance of regularly assessing their methods and are open to taking advice. Frequently review your recruitment process, recognise what works well, and identify areas for growth. This self-reflection allows you to fine-tune your approach for better outcomes.

But don’t just rely on your own judgment. Be open to insights and constructive criticism from your leaders and colleagues. Their experiences and viewpoints can provide valuable lessons and introduce you to new strategies you might not have thought of on your own. Being receptive to learning from others will expand your knowledge and improve your recruitment skills.

Remember, improving as a recruiter is a personal journey. Being willing to critically examine your practices and actively seek enhancement will set you on a path to success in the field.

The Importance of Hard Work

They are willing to work really hard, while deploying the above. Day in, day out. Regardless of whether it’s immediately obvious to them that things are improving. Regardless of whether they think they’re getting the results they deserve. They are consistently willing to start the next day with the same energy, attitude, and deployment of 1-5 above as they had yesterday and the day before.

Success in any field, including recruitment, demands consistent effort every day. There will be days when the results of your hard work aren’t immediately visible, and sometimes, it might feel like your efforts aren’t paying off at all. The real key to success, however, is your willingness to start each day with as much energy, positivity, and dedication as you had the day before.

Your ability to stay committed through both good times and bad is what distinguishes you. It’s about being consistent and keeping your eyes on the prize, even when progress is slow. This consistency is vital because patience, continuous improvement, and learning eventually lead to long-term achievements.

DACH and MENA Team of the Year

DACH / MENA Team Celebrating Team of the Year 2023

Although we’re committed to hard work, we recognise how important it is to have fun and celebrate success

Final Thoughts

Ricky’s insights have debunked the myth of a one-size-fits-all formula for success in recruitment. We’ve learned that success is achievable when recruiters leverage their unique strengths and address their weaknesses.

Adapting your approach to meet the diverse needs of the market, candidates, and clients is crucial. This adaptability enables recruiters to offer tailored solutions that meet the specific requirements of each party involved.

It’s not about applying the same strategy universally; instead, it’s about recognising and embracing the diversity of each recruitment challenge.

Ready to grow your career in recruitment? Explore the latest recruitment career opportunities at the UK’s leading independent specialist SAP, IT & Data recruitment Agency. 

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After working at Whitehall for a number of years now, I look back and wonder why I didn’t get into recruitment sooner. The company values, team spirit and the atmosphere is what makes Whitehall the place to be. On top of that, the commission structure, company rewards and career progression are second to none and I am excited for what my future holds and the goals I can reach.

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Since I started working at Whitehall, I am the happiest I have ever been in my career. The company really do look after you and I enjoy coming into work every day. The operations team always get included in all the incentive schemes, so no one is ever left out. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me here at Whitehall.

Keeley Bell – Operations Coordinator

I have worked at Whitehall for a long time now and it has been a pleasure to be part of the company’s continued growth. It is an exceptional place to work, with a family orientated mentality, and you are rewarded for working hard and being dedicated. I have loved my time here so far and look forward to progressing further.

Jason Wood – Credit Control Supervisor

Whitehall has really helped me curate my career into one I can be proud of – starting as an admin assistant,  I was promoted to the Facilities & Senior Administrator after just 18 months! Just recently, I was part of a project to help the company become Carbon Neutral, which is the best news!! The camaraderie of the whole team is wonderful, and I would thoroughly recommend Whitehall to anyone who is looking to kickstart their career into something amazing!

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I joined the company as an entry-level consultant in the newly formed Key Accounts team back in 2010. Throughout those years I have progressed within the company and have had multiple promotions along the way and have never once looked back. At the moment, I’m looking to continue the growth of my team by adding to the current headcount and in supporting their development to help them to achieve their aspirations.

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The environment here is second to none, I am constantly learning and improving thanks to those around me and from the support of my managers. This is a company that rewards hard work and gives you all the tools you need to develop and succeed. I would recommend Whitehall to anyone, from those looking to start their journey into recruitment to those who already have a number of years’ experience as you will be joining a close-knit team and have the opportunity to thrive and work with some of the best in the industry.

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I joined Whitehall with no experience in recruitment or IT and I could barely use a computer myself. Since joining, I have built a career and a joined a family here. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity I have been given and the guidance I have received from my managers and colleagues (friends). With hard work and a bit of tenacity, Whitehall can give you the chance to change your life for the better.

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Hannah Pile – Consultant – UK SAP Perm

I joined Whitehall in late 2015 as IT Support Engineer and have now progressed to Team Lead. Whitehall is a fantastic place to work, where hard work and a strong work ethic is rewarded in both Sales and Operations alike.

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