Successful Recruiter Hiring Habits | ExactHire

How to Create Habits for Successful Recruiting and Hiring

No one conquered Rome in one day, and it is unlikely that you’ll become a recruiting ninja overnight. Successful recruiting results from the seemingly little, incremental, daily routines that multiply and result in significant skill mastery over time.

I recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear and am enthralled with his statement:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

It speaks to me, and it means that lofty, BHAG-esque hiring goals may seem unattainable, but tiny iterations of daily systems are within my control and can be easily managed to eventually produce better results.

Let’s examine how the habit cycle can be applied to the recruitment process, as well as review thirteen ideas for implementing new habits that can dramatically improve your recruiting effectiveness over time.

Recruiting Habit Cycle

In the context of recruiting and hiring, you can break the habit cycle down into the following cues, cravings, responses and rewards to better understand any common bad habits that may impede hiring outcomes:


Think about the cues that are already ingrained in your daily life to help your brain predict likely outcomes from

  • the ping of your phone notification when someone mentions you on social media,
  • seeing your applicant tracking system as the default landing page when you load your work computer’s web browser, and
  • receiving an email from a hiring manager or job candidate.


Cues evolve into cravings based on your own thoughts, feelings and emotions about the original cue. For recruiters, they may manifest as

  • the anticipation of knowing how many likes your social post about a new job received,
  • an urge to see how many new applicants have appeared in the past day, or
  • a desire to know whether a candidate has responded to your LinkedIn invitation.


Responses represent the actual habit you do following a cue and craving. According to James Clear, the likelihood of a response occurring will depend on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior. Common responses to the aforementioned cues might include

  • unlocking your phone to view the social notification,
  • logging into your applicant tracking software to view the applicant dashboard, or
  • signing into LinkedIn to see whether a targeted candidate has viewed your profile.


Rewards describe the satisfaction you feel when you see results like

  • the pride you feel when you see twenty-five new likes on your post,
  • the relief that comes with noting that you’ve received ten new job applications for that hard-to-fill position, or
  • the encouragement you experience when top talent expresses interest in your recruitment prospecting message.

The rewards we experience also become lessons learned on whether it was worth our time to pursue the original cue.

Changing Unproductive Behavior Into Positive Habits

Why is changing bad behavior hard? Well, it’s a habit–one that has likely long been triggered by cues that you haven’t necessarily consciously considered before. According to Clear, the Four Laws of Behavior Change require us to make new habits “obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.”

If we break that down, we can set the course for not only encouraging the development of new positive hiring habits, but also discouraging us from continuing inefficient recruiting behavior.



Obvious: Set a recurring calendar reminder to screen candidates from new applications every weekday at 10am.Invisible: Use inbox-skipping email filters and manage app push notifications so that you aren’t disrupted by items unrelated to recruiting during work time.
Attractive: Screen applicants for your favorite job listing first to build strong momentum for finishing other job listings next.Unattractive: Create self-imposed penalties for not executing the right recruiting activities first (e.g. delay the start of a fun project, skip your favorite lunch spot, etc.).
Easy: Source additional candidates for the “low hanging fruit” jobs first. Don’t make the purple squirrel positions your very first hurdle.Difficult: Hide or change your login passwords for all the other websites that prevent you from getting down to the right recruiting tasks first.
Satisfying: By screening and sourcing candidates for your favorite job listing first, you’ll feel confident that you can tackle other jobs with ease.Unsatisfying: Allow yourself to only work on low-priority tasks unrelated to the hiring process in a less comfortable area of your office.


Implementing Effective Recruiting Habits

Once you better understand how the habit cycle can be analyzed for improvements in behavior, you may begin to reposition your environment for successful outcomes. Here are thirteen ideas for recruiting habits you can begin today to improve your hiring efficiency.

1 – One percent at a time

Identify the keystone behaviors you need to attack little by little to move the needle on improvement each day. Clear advocated for targeting one percent improvement from one day or week to the next. For recruiters, this may be improving the number of proactive referral inquiries you make each week by one percent. Or, it could be shortening your average response time to job candidate email inquiries by one percent each week.

2 – Make habit tracking a priority

In Atomic Habits, Clear explained that tracking your habits on a daily basis is the key to consistently compounding small behaviors over time for incredible outcomes. Whether you track your recruiting activities in an Excel spreadsheet, a Trello board or your hiring software application, don’t break the chain. If you do, Clear emphasizes that you not allow yourself to break it two days in a row.

3 – Stack your habits

The book introduced the idea of habit stacking to make sure that a newly desired habit is easy to remember because it immediately follows an existing habit–it’s “stacked” on top of it. Here are some ideas for existing work habits upon which additional behaviors could be stacked:

  • turning on your computer,
  • getting your morning cup of coffee, or
  • returning to your desk from lunch or from the bathroom.

4 – Simplify with technology

How can you simplify your daily routine? Is it a pain to recruit candidates with your existing systems? Make sure you are leveraging hiring technology in a way that makes positive recruiting behavior easy.

“Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.” – James Clear

An applicant tracking system can automate administrative recruiting tasks such as external job board posting, background check requests, reference checks, offer letter distribution and mass candidate email messaging.

Employers favor modern hiring technology that produces the best outcomes for the least amount of work for users. ExactHire is developing a new hiring and employee experience platform that makes it easier for users to pull candidates through the hiring process. It will simplify applying statuses to candidates, leverage powerful data insights for making hiring decisions and use machine learning to prompt users with suggestions to optimize their hiring process.

5 – Reduce friction for job seekers

Hiring software makes recruiting simpler for HR professionals and recruiters. However, the recruiting process will fail if we don’t simplify the process for job seekers as well.

Think about the makeup of your job seeker audience. Are you hiring mostly white collar professionals, or a large proportion of hourly, non-exempt workers for relatively interchangeable positions? Depending on the answer, you may need to adjust not only your recruiting sources, but also your candidate response time and communication outlet (e.g. email vs. text)–particularly if you employ both candidate audiences.

Make monitoring external sites such as Glassdoor part of your weekly habits, too. By responding to reviews and proactively addressing concerns shared on these sites, you can reduce the chances of job seekers immediately disregarding your organization after one bad review.

6 – Schedule around your work environment

Be intentional about where you plan to work on specific types of activities. For example, if you want to remove potentially distracting cues to focus on a conversation with a job candidate, plan to only do phone interviews in a room that is perpetually isolated.

Have trouble when you’re tasked with writing job descriptions? Plan to knock them out on your weekly work-from-home day. And, this approach works for many tasks–block your calendar for specific types of activities so that you have built in time for screening, administrative work, video interviews, data analysis, etc.

7 – Promote your employment brand in two minutes

Post a picture or video that supports your employment brand every weekday. Not only does this practice humanize your work culture, but it’s also something you can do in under two minutes. According to Clear, “when you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

ExactHire Employment Brand Posting Habit

8 – Choose your super-recruiter identity

Create a new recruiting superstar persona for yourself and become that person. You’ll be more successful if you focus on being a new you, rather than just on achieving goals. “With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become,” according to Clear.

Atomic Habits discusses the Three Layers of Behavior Change which is represented by the image below.

Successful Recruiting Behavior Change Habits

Identity-based habits result in the longest-lasting change and success. Consider recruiting-focused examples of each layer:

  • Changing your outcome: My goal is to respond to twenty candidate applications per day.
  • Changing your process: I will create email templates and schedule time so that I can easily and promptly respond to candidates.
  • Changing your identity: I’m an empathic, communicative person, so I will be candid and responsive to candidates.

Why is the identity layer of behavior change the most effective? Behavior that doesn’t align with who you perceive yourself to be doesn’t last.

“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” – James Clear

9 – Be committed to your process

If you fail to plan for how you will handle different hiring process situations, then you plan to fail. Document how you will react in certain scenarios before you find yourself in those scenarios. Here are some examples of behaviors you can easily plan in advance:

  • How will you decline candidates after each stage in the recruiting process?
  • How will you keep candidates informed of their progress in a selection process?
  • How often do you commit to freshening up content on your careers page?
  • What is your protocol for connecting with job candidates on social media?
  • How often will you ask candidates for employee referrals? At what stage?

10 – Find your tribe

When you surround yourself with like-minded people, you are more likely to experience positive cues and cravings that lead you to optimal behavior. Find a peer group that exhibits similar beliefs and behaviors about successful hiring practices. Your tribe can be a sounding board for new ideas and a great discussion forum. It might manifest itself as a book club, a closed social media group, a networking group or a university-led course related to your profession.

11 – Partner up

In the same way that a group of people can help you rise to the occasion, a single accountability partner can keep you honest on maintaining positive hiring habits and seeking continuous professional development. Whether you’re running a mile every day or committing to sourcing five quality candidates per day, your habit buddy will keep you on track.

Team up with a hiring manager with whom you regularly work, or find someone from your peer networking group that is an outsider to your organization for unbiased support.

12 – Play to your strengths

If you’re a StrengthsFinder fan like me, you embrace the opportunity to leverage your strengths and don’t dwell too much on rounding out your weaknesses. When forming new positive habits, you have a better chance to succeed if you play to your natural strengths.

For example, I’m competitive so sharing my results publicly and comparing myself to the benchmark results of others motivates me to stay true to my habits. I’m also confident in my communication ability so I know I can knock it out of the park if I incorporate an element of communication into my behaviors.

13 – Anticipate your future environment and needs

As handy as having strong habits can be, it is still important to be aware of your external environment and how it changes over time. You can manage this awareness by creating a habit out of environmental scanning.

For example, build in time to network internally and discover if future hiring needs are materializing. Look at the local labor market and anticipate candidate shortages. Build in processes now to be prepared for changes later so you don’t fall into bad habits again, and then iterate as necessary.


By taking time to analyze your environment’s impact on your current habits, you can start to make incremental changes that create repeatable systems which support positive behaviors. Improve pieces of your hiring process day by day, in small chunks, and before you know it you’ll be on your way to recruiting top talent with ease.

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