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How to develop recruiting habits for long-term success

Use this formula to develop new recruiting habits

Many hiring managers struggle with experienced agent recruiting because it requires a high repetition of mundane tasks with very low and infrequent positive feedback. Like working out at the gym, you know that consistent effort, follow-through, and patience must be applied to the problem to reap long-term, tangible results. How do you cross the chasm between sustained effort and your desired hiring results? You must develop good recruiting habits that result in consistent execution.

The proven formula for developing new habits

According to best-selling author Michael Bungay Stanier, initiating positive changes (like recruiting) is difficult because our actions are so controlled by habits.

It sounds simple if you want to make positive changes, just change your habits. But simple and easy are often miles apart. Stanier empathizes with the difficulty of making lasting change and outlines the necessary components for building effective new habits.

  • Payoff:  the clear and compelling payoff for making a change
  • Triggers: habits are activated by small events or stimuli
  • Micro-habits: change is more doable when it’s done in short and specific steps
  • Effective practice: to gain proficiency, each step must be practiced and measured
  • Plan for failure: failure and missteps are an inevitable part of building new habits–building a plan for reengaging when it happens keeps the overall mission moving forward

Let’s unpack each step.

Define a Clear and Compelling Payoff

Compelling payoffs come in two flavors — those that benefit you personally and those that benefit others.

Personal payoffs are often simple and straightforward: I’ll earn $10,000 more, if I meet my recruiting goals this year. Payoffs that benefit others are more difficult to conceptualize: I’ll be able to provide my daughter the wedding of her dreams, if I meet my recruiting goals this year.

Research from various sources suggests the payoffs benefiting others are more effective at creating change and helping establish new habits. When identifying your compelling payoff, keep in mind that it must be:

  • Well-defined: Here’s exactly what is going to happen, if I change this habit.
  • Time-related: Here’s the deadline for realizing the benefit.

What is your clear and compelling payoff for the recruiting habits you’d like to develop?

Control Trigger Events

A habit is the brain’s decision-making shortcut–it gets actions started with the least amount of mental energy. For humans, habits are essential because our brains would be overloaded and debilitated, if we had to completely think through every decision.

To efficiently initiate a habit, the brain connects a “trigger event” to the habitual action. For example, when we wake up in the morning, the surface of our teeth feels fuzzy (trigger event). To solve the problem, we automatically feel the need to brush our teeth (the habitual action).

For recruiting, let’s suppose you want to build the habit of making outbound recruiting calls for one hour a day.

A trigger event for building this habit could be simple things, such as:

  • Schedule to make the calls at the same time every day.
  • Set a reminder on your phone alerting you it’s time to start your calls.
  • Shut your office door.

The goal is for the trigger event to cue you to automatically start the activity before rationalizations and distractions steal your time away.

Start Small and Build on Successes

According to BJ Fogg, Director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, most big changes start with small changes. How small? Fogg suggests defining “micro-habits” that take less than 60 seconds to complete.

By first defining and finding success with a couple of micro habits, you’re taking steps towards tackling a larger, more complex habits. For recruiting, a micro-habit could be something as simple as sending an email to just one agent in your office each day asking for a recruiting referral.

Hi Sarah, quick question-have you connected with any agents in the last 6 months that you think would fit our culture and make a good addition to our team? If anyone comes to mind, let me know and I ‘ll reach out. Thanks!

Try developing a few micro-habits of your own, and then add more as you experience small successes.

Practice effectively

Next comes the hard part — practice. In his best-selling book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle researched the commonalities among world-class performers in various disciplines (sports, music, business, etc.). Effective practice was the most compelling ingredient each high performer shared.

Of course, these world-class performers practiced a lot, but they also broke down their performance into small components. Then, they focused on becoming proficient in each step of the process through repetition and measurement.

You want to be a great recruiter.

What are the components (well-performed tasks) that would make you a great recruiter? Once those are identified, practice each component in a way to recognize failures, make tweaks improve performance, and celebrate small successes. Practice does not necessarily make perfect unless it’s done in a way that effectively contributes to the overall goal.

Have a plan to overcome failure

Making progress on developing new recruiting habits will not be a smooth ride. It requires you to push against the status quo–a formidable opponent that doesn’t give up easily.

Since failures are an inevitable part of the process, it’s important to develop a contingency plan for when it happens. For example, if you’ re time-blocking an hour a day for proactive recruiting calls, emails, and texts, what happens when you start ten minutes late?

A contingency plan could include leaving a 30-minute time slot open on the backend of your time-block to allow for late starts. Force yourself to make up any time you missed at the beginning of your original time block.

Author Jeremy Dean says it best: “When something breaks down, the next step to recover and get back on track must be obvious. Without obvious recovery steps, it’s too easy to become overwhelmed and give up.”