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Defining Greatness

Talent-acquisition expert Tim Sackett discussed the characteristics that great recruiting professionals possess in his opening keynote address at Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech.

Thursday, November 30, 2017
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Greatness is a trait that may be simple to define on paper but is often difficult to spot on the street.

That's according to Tim Sackett, who delivered the opening keynote Wednesday morning to a full ballroom at the Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech event at the Palm Beach Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In a presentation titled "The DNA of Great Recruiting Pros: Transforming Yourself and your TA Shop to World-Class Levels," Sackett began by projecting well-known action shots of Muhammed Ali and Michael Jordan on the ballroom's screens, followed by a photo of a seemingly unremarkable man crouching over some menial task in a parking lot. The latter photo's subject? Art world darling and street artist Banksy, whose graffiti-style pieces often sell for millions.

"He's considered great," said Sackett, "but how many of us consider graffiti artists to be great?"

From there, Sackett, a popular speaker, blogger and president of HRU Technical Services, laid out the traits that are attributable to great recruiting professionals, including strong presentation and marketing skills, the ability to speak truth to power when necessary, and possessing personal political savviness.

"Are you a purist, a team player, a street fighter or a maneuverer?" he asked rhetorically. "If you work for a super-conservative organization and you're a street fighter, there's some misalignment there, and that is not going to work, because you're going to pound your head against the wall and they're going to hate your guts."

Sackett also advised the audience to "constantly try new stuff" at work and to "do things that make us uncomfortable," such as defending a work colleague when necessary. He acknowledged that it's a difficult to do because of concerns for one’s own career, but "to be able to go out and stand up for someone else gives you so much courage, and people will look up to you for that."

It's also important to view "recruiting as sales," Sackett said, sharing an anecdote he picked up while working with Quicken Loans' Jim Livingston.

Once the head of mortgage banking sales for 16 years, Livingston recently changed titles to become the company's talent-acquisition leader, a role he used to help "transform the organization" by incorporating some of same sales techniques he used in his prior role. Among the changes at Quicken Loans -- which is looking to double its headcount to 30,000 -- was the installation of large flatscreen monitors that show the activity and performance on a minute-by-minute basis of the company's approximately 100 recruiters. 

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Sackett said he now considers Livingston to be one of the top-five TA leaders in the country.

"[Livingston] didn't know anything about talent acquisition when he started," Sackett said. "All he knew was sales and how to drive them."

Finally, Sackett said that a deep knowledge of a company's talent pool is critical for greatness.

"Always keep that larger organizational picture in mind," he said. "But don't let anyone else be the expert at talent at your organization. Nobody should know the talent in your organization better than you do."

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