Ensuring Quality of Hire Through Empathy

Recruiters are increasingly being held accountable for the truest definition of their job: delivering quality up levels in talent. While “quality of hire” often is measured based on actions taken by an employee far after they leave the recruiter’s purview, enterprising talent folks will take the opportunity to revisit their interview process with insights about hires who turned out to be A-players. Easier typed than done, of course. Measuring quality of hire is slippery, as what truly constitutes a dimension of quality is open for debate. In an attempt to see what makes for a high quality hire, I tasked myself with quantifying one of the most successful hires I have made throughout my career. I identified the following:

 She has a measurable impact on the bottom line. This individual made an impact in key strategic decisions, specifically, helping the business quantify global value for an abstract idea.

She partners with everyone. Successfully leveraged business leadership and TA to triple the size of her team, using a combination of internal referrals, current employees ready for a stretch role, and external recruiting.

She makes those around her better. Took an active role in the retention and development of those on her team. This quality typically results in a personal upleveling in the org, and sure enough, she was meaningfully promoted from an already lofty position.


My former boss, whose resume includes tenure as VP of TA at Walt Disney and Red Bull, as well as Principal of two recruiting agencies, posited in a recent Recruiting Social article that recruiters are increasingly becoming “Project Managers”. This shift is not so much a rejection of recruiting core competencies (source, screen, submit) as it is an addition of skill sets that comprise quality– partnership with business leadership to not merely fill open headcount, but strategically plan the organization’s growth. I applied the key measures of quality from the above example, and found they make a good framework for an effective recruiter:

They have a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Whether reducing external spend via agencies, reducing the cost of open headcount associated with time to fill, or helping drive revenue via hiring top-tier talent, the best recruiters can quantify their impact on a company’s bottom line.

They partner with everyone.

From HRBPs and Coordinators to CTOs and SVPs, passive candidates to direct applicants, the best recruiters are talent partners charged with interfacing with each piece of an organization (both internal and external) to create a team win, and the resulting culture.

They make those around them better.

Some recruiters excel as sourcers, others on the phone, others at leveraging relationships for referrals. All of these skills are part of a great recruiter’s toolkit. However, the best recruiters are willing to share their strengths to uplevel the team, as well as absorb the strengths of others to complement their weaknesses. A zero-sum mentality of cutthroat competition is replaced by an empathetic approach to a team win and the organization’s big picture.


So, the traits of top hires and recruiters are foundationally similar. I believe this to be the case with top performers regardless of industry. This is part of the reason quality seems innate, and also why we so often mistake or misplace it. The ability to simultaneously empathize in concentric circles with a candidate, a hiring manager, a team, and the larger needs of an organization is the foundation not just for solid recruitment, but for exceptional performance no matter the role.

As recruiting continues its evolution from transactional to tactical, quality has become a multi-faceted metric, providing indicators to the profession’s future and ways to improve its present. Many articles have been written by industry thought leaders suggesting ways to leverage big data to measure quality of all types: Lou Adler in Inc. and Workable’s Nikoletta Bika are but two good examples. Not only is an efficient recruiting process requisite, hired candidates must be impactful. The need for efficiency at minimum has a challenging, process-driving relationship to quality. The notion of quality continues to drive progression.

In the age of metrics, artificial intelligence, big data, and automation, perhaps the answer to quality isn’t another KPI. There is a scene in HBO’s The Defiant Ones in which Steve Gottlieb, founder of TVT Records, explains how Jimmy Iovine was able to “recruit” Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails to Interscope. It was not via the metric tons of lawsuits with which other entities were pursuing the deal—it was with, per Gottlieb, “Empathy.”


Andrew Parrott is a talent acquisition professional with 10+ years of deliverables in dynamic, execution-oriented ecosystems at the intersection of Technology and Entertainment. Recently, he worked as Technical Talent Acquisition Lead at Red Bull, and currently serves as a Principal of the recruiting agency D3.

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