How to Hire Trainee Recruiters

The Definitive Guide



Hiring and developing rookies is a great way to scale your business. When you look at some of the most successful, rapidly growing, young (incorporated in the last 5-8 years) recruitment agencies they have all followed a similar model:

Now you can hire and develop rookies with a plug and play system to scale your business.

The developers of Rookie2Recruiter have worked with some of the most successful, fast growth agencies in the UK to help the hire, train and develop via a rookie development model.

Agencies who have:

Scaled over 4 years from three to 100+ sales heads in UK & USA

Doubled headcount through the pandemic from 120 to 250 sales heads

Grew from sole trader to 120 consultants in six years.

Emerged from generalist agency to multi division specialist in two years reaching 20+ heads.

Specialist agency growing from 7 people to 70+ in four years and growing from <£2m revenue to over £25m.

When the wireframe is right the scaling opportunities are huge.

You do not have to accept the attrition rates that haunt the industry. Attrition rates of 60%+ are not uncommon and there’s still businesses who set out to hire five people so that they can find the two who will make it.

Expensive – on so many levels.





To help ensure you are positioning your business to grow and capitalise on the current market, getting your hiring and onboarding slick will help you get the edge over the competition.

There are over 7,500 vacancies for trainee recruiters on Linkedin. Those seeking to join the industry have a lot of choice. How you can showcase your offering will help you to show (rather than tell) people why they should consider you first choice.

The hiring process breaks down into three components:




Taking each in turn, let’s look at what it will require you to be doing to increase success and build a high performing team.


Predicting who will succeed when hiring those who have limited relevant experience is a challenge for many agencies.

How can you assess who will make it and who won’t in an interview environment?

Everyone you meet will have some sort of “game face” for the interview. If they’ve been sent to you by a Rec2Rec they could also have been prepped as to how best to come across to secure the offer.

The best place to start is right at the beginning. Before you can really assess someone’s potential, it is important that you’re clear on the mission they are going to go on. You may have a good picture of this in your mind already.

Document it.

Use this to then define the core competencies and attributes you want to hire for and what you can train.

Table your thoughts:


  • What are you going to be asking someone to do in their first 100 days?
  • How warm is that talent pool? How engaged is that client audience?
  • What tools will you give them to achieve it? What media do they need to be comfortable with?
  • How will you measure their performance?
  • How much time do you have to coach them? Don’t abdicate all of their development to your inhouse L&D function. Even the agencies with large L&D teams can’t expect managers to not be involved in the development of people.


  • What does the person need to show up with in terms of attitude? (to complete the mission, not just fit in with the business)
  • What values do you need to see as being core to their beliefs?
  • Which competencies are required? (hire for the competencies that are the hardest to train)
  • What are red flags and deal breakers, even if everything else is right?


  • What are the essentials that set the minimum hiring standard for the job?
  • How will you score the people you meet?
  • What assessment methods will help you to identify the attitude and competencies required?
  • Who will be involved in the assessment process and which part of it will they own?
  • Who will have the final decision as to who gets hired? (avoid hiring on consensus, it rarely works)

If you’re already out to market and hiring, there is still time to answer the above questions and sharpen the image you have of the right hire and associated process to assess them.

The Core Competencies of Trainee Recruiters


A natural sense of curiosity drives good questions and listening. A curious, inquisitive nature helps new hires learn their market. It builds rapport with candidates and clients when someone shows a genuine interest in them and what they do.


A today not tomorrow attitude (TNT). We all know how important speed is in this industry. Urgency drives cadence of activity. Urgency advances processes to the next stage and reduces the amount of hesitation and delay.


Not academic learning. Learning through experience. To reflect and consider “What could I have done differently?” rather than “It’s not my fault because”. Practical learning is how we get good at recruitment. A growth mindset and the ability to learn through doing creates awesome recruiters.


Not everyone is comfortable with constructive feedback. It can make people feel vulnerable. Finding those who are open to (and more importantly) respond to feedback creates rapid performance development.


The world is becoming noisier. Good communication in all formats increases our ability to capture the attention of prospects and build engagement. So little time is realistically spent talking to people these days. The average recruiter is taking to customers (candidate and client) for less than 2 hours per day. Good written comms. Good multi-media comms is where the modern recruiter needs to develop their skills.

To assess all the above (or your own criteria for success) and find the evidence to support your decision making will increase the quality of your process and therefore your hires. If they don’t make the grade, don’t hire them. No punts.

Think of your interview process as an audition.

Give your candidates the opportunity to show you their attitude and competence.

Ideas to weave into your process to create audition moments


Give them a job description and a selection of CVs. Ask them to decide who they think is the best fit. Talk through their logic. Have them roleplay the call to the candidate and sell them the job.


We’re NOT assessing presentation skills if it’s not part of the job. We could use presentation to assess – planning, research capability, deductive logic, ability to think on their feet, prioritisation.


Email inbox exercise. Have them review an inbox and set priorities based upon what they see. Again, go through their logic to understand how they think (how people think directly drives how they behave).


If they’re going to be writing emails, linkedin messages and updates then it makes sense to see how well they communicate in writing. Do you want to have to teach someone the basics of written comms? Don’t assume that because of their age they are a social media whizz either.


Give them a challenge and a time limit to complete it. The name of a business you want them to research to create a candidate info pack. Perhaps to find five well written job adverts in your market and what makes them stand out. Even a phone challenge, to get them on the phone talking to people.


Ask them to create a face to camera video of less than 90 seconds, doing the job. e.g. sales message to a client or candidate. Selling themselves to you. Selling you to other rookies as an employer of choice. If you use video in your business and you’d like to see more adoption then hire people who are willing to get up and do it.


On every exercise give feedback and coaching. See how they respond to your coaching style. It’s what they will have to work with 40 hours+ per week if they get the job. Have them repeat the task so you can see if they accommodate your feedback.

Final thoughts on predicting success …

Avoid assumptions. 

Common assumptions in hiring recruiters include:

Only hiring graduates because they are “more intelligent” or “have debt to pay off” or “academic learning means trainable”. There are some great non-graduates out there who can out learn, grow and perform better than a graduate peer.

Hiring people with 6 months sales experience because “it shows they can sell” or “have sales qualities”.

No, they don’t, they quit or want to leave after six months.

There will always be a story about a lack of training or poor product or bad pricing strategies from above. Test their sales competence rather than assume that their biography is their capability.

Hire them if they meet your standard, not for their biography.

Hiring people who remind you of others who succeeded:

“She’s great! Just like Mary and she’s smashing it”

Your unconscious bias has overshadowed your assessment.

The opposite can happen too – rejecting people because they remind you of people who failed:

“Remember that loser who worked here? What was his name? Yeah him … Colin. He was dreadful”

Hiring people who have been offered jobs at other agencies – just because your competitor wants them, doesn’t automatically make them right for your business.

If they don’t make the grade then don’t offer.

Thinking that because they’ve shown they can do it:

Passing all of your auditions and assessments that they automatically want to do it.

The job is fundamentally mundane at the beginning. You need the intrinsic motivation to know why you are doing it for yourself.

Money is rarely enough.


Who is the audience you are seeking to attract?

Defining your audience will help you to engage with them better. Building out the persona of a good hire will help you to create better quality adverts, marketing material, landing pages and case studies to encourage them to see you as the employer of choice.

If you have a team who joined you as rookies, start with them – they’ve been through the process and are now successful. Find out what was important to them when they were looking and why those chose you at the beginning (rather than why they choose to stick around now).

Answer these simple questions about your future candidate and all your comms will become stickier and more interesting for those who are the right profile:

With a candidate persona at the heart of your marketing and communication you’ll talk with the right profile of person.

Work the job you are hiring for your team as if it is for your very best client. Who has retained you and has clearly said – failure is not an option and success will only be measured six months after they start.

Because this is for your best client. And failure is not an option, and we also know the proof of the pudding is how well your rookies are consistently contributing by month six. This is why it makes sense to have a six month probation.

Alongside your job advertising, consider the following communication accelerators:

Review the adverts you are competing against …

Read them as a rookie not as a recruiter with experience. Be less judgy about the other agencies and look at what works in each. Also notice how in all the attempts to be different they are so similar.

Tear up the rule book and write copy that sells with emotion.

This is worth paying a professional copywriter to do for you.


Build your interview process to continue the engagement process. Well structured, meaningful assessments and tasks supported with quality feedback loops will develop your employer brand.


  • What is being assessed?
  • What red flags do we need to mindful of?
  • How will we score it?
  • When do we let people know the outcome?


  • Who is involved? What are they contributing to the assessment?
  • What competencies are being assessed and scored?
  • How are they being assessed? What is the scoring system?
  • What is the minimum hiring standard to make it to the next stage?
  • What activities | roleplay | tasks | challenges will be used? Who will prepare/create the content?
  • What is the process to move to the next stage?


  • Who is involved? Who will make the final decision?
  • What do they need from the first interview to avoid duplication of assessment?
  • What competencies are being assessed? What is the scoring system?
  • What additional tasks | activities | roleplay | challenges will be used?
  • What is the offer process? Desired start date?
  • How will unsuccessful candidates be disengaged?


The majority of your rookies learning will take place whilst doing the job.

Training away from desk is an important part of that learning journey, the important thing is to make sure that your rookies have ample opportunity to practice what has been shared with them.

A simple process of:


A little and often approach to training. Sharing a concept, tactic or technique and then providing ample purposeful practice time.

We’ve all heard the phrase – Practice makes perfect.

It simply is not true, otherwise we would all be scratch golfers, professional singers, master wordsmiths and Michelin starred chefs.

Just because we repeatedly do something does not automatically make us better. It goes back to the mistruth that tenure equates to capability.

Practice makes permanent. What you choose to practice, how frequently and how you are coached all create the journey to mastery.

Simply sticking them on the phone after a five-day academy isn’t going to automatically make them successful. Those who succeed will do so despite what you did.

Sitting them next to a big biller and hoping osmosis based training will influence them to get good is also a poor strategy. Observing what people do is not the same as understanding how they think. Most big billers have no real understanding of how they became so successful – they have a memory of what they did but not necessarily the cognisant understanding of how they did it.

Mentoring is a great development aid. It doesn’t replace training and it requires the mentor to have a fluent understanding of the mentor mentee psychological contract and how to develop the right skills to effectively mentor. Otherwise it ends up being a senior/junior relationship that hinges around the instructional method of “If I were you, I’d do it like this”, preventing the mentee from access to true learning.

This is the biggest barrier that stops agencies breaking two clear ceilings in their growth:

Getting past 5 heads (plus principal) and again breaking the 20 headcount number.

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Having been involved in training over 10,000 recruiters the brains behind Rookie2Recruiter know how to develop people through good quality learning experiences.

By sharing proven tactics, thought processes and wireframes for conversations rookies can learn to become the best version of themselves in recruitment. Delivery of content in digestible, bite sized pieces backed up with content rich support materials and activities will give them the roadmap to become a consistent contributor to the business.

Take a sneak peek at the content and delivery mechanism for Rookie2Recruiter here and drop us a message and let us know what you think.

Good luck in your hiring endeavours, if we can be of any further assistance please let us know.

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