5 Famous Proverbs Every Recruiter Can Learn From

Proverbs speak truths about all sorts of things: Perseverance, right and wrong, achievement…even recruiting.

Sure, no proverb was actually written about recruiting, but bear with us, because the lessons they hold still apply. Following are five famous proverbs and what recruiters can learn from them.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The lesson: Resumes aren’t always the best judge of quality.

Resumes are a far from perfect means for evaluating candidates. A candidate without any pedigree can be a top performer and a candidate who checks all the boxes and looks stellar on a resume might fall short of expectations in reality. In fact, a study by Aline Lerner shows that most recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers are all poor at predicting who the strong candidates are based on reviewing a resume.

If Aline had it her way, she’d have companies abandon resumes altogether. But for as long as resumes remain the standard for candidate evaluation, she has some recommendations for how to assess them intelligently.

First, know what indicators are most closely tied to a candidate’s success. Thanks to another study of engineering candidates from Aline (where she defines “success” as receiving an offer), we can tell you what those are: Frequency of typos, having had experience at a top company, and how clearly people describe their work. Factors of less importance include GPA, highest degree earned, having a BS in CS from a top school, and frequency of industry-specific keywords. Second, increase team collaboration. If a engineering candidate lists their GitHub profile, for example, invite an engineer to take a quick look.

Moral of the story: If you scan a resume for buzzwords and come up dry, it doesn’t mean the candidate isn’t a fit. Look for other signals or consider doing a quick phone screen before you put them in the ‘no,’ pile.

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

The lesson: One cold outreach email isn’t enough.

You might get a few candidates to bite at the first cold outreach email you send, but you spent too much time doing research and building lists to stop there.

To get the most out of your sourcing efforts, reach out to candidates repeatedly. Founder and CEO of Social Talent Johnny Campbell has consistently seen follow-up recruiting emails generate more responses than initial reach-outs. In a recent webinar with Lever, Johnny postulated that follow ups are effective because persistent outreach triggers obligation. Whatever the reason (maybe the candidate was busy the first day you emailed them, timing was off, they respect perseverance, etc.), repetition works. If you’re sourcing candidates, but only reach out to them once and then call it quits, you’re missing out on huge opportunity.

Because sourcers can have hundreds of email flows that all require action at different times, running at once, it helps to have a tool that can automate email workflows. It’s one less thing (or a few hundred fewer things) to worry about. Lever’s sourcing automation tool frees recruiters up to focus on personalizing conversations and building meaningful relationships with top candidates. Check it out, here.

“No man is an island.”

The lesson: Recruiting well takes the entire village.

Having recruiters isn’t enough. As Matrix Partners VC David Skok stressed in a Lever webinar, the entire company has to be involved in the recruiting mission, otherwise you won’t be successful. That means from the CEO, all the way down.

Great hires couldn’t happen without recruiters, but they couldn’t happen without engaged hiring managers and interviewing teams as well. We recognize that mobilizing an entire team to invest their efforts into hiring is hard. That’s why earlier this year, we published a series of posts on how, as the head of recruiting or a member of the talent acquisition team, you can succeed at getting talent on the agenda. Check out the tips, here.

“Practice makes perfect.”

The lesson: Interviewing is a skill like any other.

Interviewing is a skill that can be developed and honed over time, just like any other, but it’s rarely treated like one. Instead, interviewers are expected to walk into interviews with little to no preparation, and to walk away with a yes or no opinion on whether or not a candidate should be moved to the next stage. That’s a lot of pressure!

It can help to let new recruiters and interviewers know that it’s totally normal to be nervous before you speak with a candidate if you’re new to interviewing. They’ll learn what works for them in interviews and learn how to trust their instincts the more that they practice.

Consider giving your interviewers training on how to interview and screen candidates, as well as guidance before each individual interview. An interviewer should never walk into an interview without knowing what they’re evaluating for. Having well-trained interviewers gives the candidate a better experience and allows your team to reach the best decisions.

“Honesty is the best policy.”

The lesson: Show candidates the real you

Every company wants to dazzle their candidates with a great experience, but it’s important to make sure that the experience and the things a candidate is told during the interview process line up with reality. If a candidate’s expectations are different from what they experience as an employee, you risk not retaining them for long.

Authenticity is how you’ll retain employees. So, when a candidate asks the hard questions about their potential boss’s management style, growth and management opportunities, or even how close the team is, it’s better to be honest than pay for it with costly turnover down the line.


How will you use this advice to make changes to your own team? Whether you give resumes the axe, build interview training, or something else, we hope you put your new proverbial wisdom to use.