Hire Hunters, Not Farmers: A Guide for Agency Owners on Hiring Hungry Recruiters

You might be familiar with the “hunters vs. farmers” analogy as it applies to sales reps, but the same concept works for recruiters, too. Chances are you have already have plenty of farmers on your team. But if you want to grow your firm, you need hunters.

What are hunters?

Hunters in the wild don’t wait for dinner to come to them. They go out and get it. The same applies for hunter recruiters; they’re the go-getters, the ones who make things happen at your firm.

Hunters are naturally competitive. These recruiters are driven by numbers, the thrill of the chase, and winning. They want to do better than their peers and they want to win clients over to their side.

Hunters need to achieve. They’re driven by excellence. They want the client to be thrilled and they want their candidate to come out of top, every time.

Hunters are risk-takers. Who cares if it hasn’t been done this way before? Now’s the time to try it. Hunter recruiters will weigh the pros and cons of playing it safe… and they’re more apt to decide that it’s worth the risk

Hunters can brush off rejection with ease. And if it doesn’t work out? That’s OK. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is their motto.

Hunters like short-term gratification. You’ll see below that where farmers are the “slow and steady wins the race” type, hunters want their payoff NOW.

Hunters generate leads. They close the deal and grow your business.

What are farmers?

What do real-life farmers do? They prepare the soil, plant crops and then tend to them, all with the expectation that if those do those things, what they planted will grow and provide them with food. It’s not particularly risky; what they expect to happen usually happens, as long as they put in the required maintenance work.

Farmer recruiters do the same thing. Take a look:

Farmers are good at maintaining relationships. They excel at servicing existing clients, but they’re not the best lead generators. Cold calling is not the place to put your farmers.

Farmers are task- and detail-oriented. However, innovation isn’t really their “thing.” They’re reliable and organized, but they are not the risk-takers that hunters are.

Farmers focus on the long term. Just like in real life farmers, farmer recruiters know that the efforts they make today will pay off in the long term. They’re good with that.

Yes, you need both, but if you’re looking to grow in 2018, you need hunters more

You DO need farmers… but you likely already have them. Most recruiters, like most people, are farmers. But in a candidate-driven market like we’re in today, you need more hunters.

According to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 200,000 new jobs in January 2018, which is better than the 180,000 that analysts predicted. Unemployment remained at a low 4.1 percent, and average hourly wages jumped 2.9 percent from January 2017.

Such a sunny outlook is good news for recruiting agencies looking to grow. To capitalize on such a robust economy, you need hustlers who can develop new leads, source new candidates and take risks.

You need hunters.

Farming is more passive. Because a hunter does not assume that a lead will come down the pipeline, they actively go after them. Hunters don’t knock on doors; they bang on them. Farmers are necessary and good, but they become less important when there’s a lot of competition is the space (read: recruiting) and during a robust economy (read: now).

Hunters are proactive about sourcing, especially passive candidates. Their drive to be number one leads them to offer the best candidate experience possible. Whereas farmers don’t like to leave the farm, hunters are more concerned about winning.

How to recognize & hire a hunter


The competitive recruiting landscape of 2018 demands that you hire more hunters if you want your firm to grow. But how do you find them? And how do you know which one they are?

Look at their natural character traits. Hunters are inherently confident, ambitious and tenacious. They are risk-oriented and optimistic by nature, and the desire to influence others is part of their makeup. Look for these characteristics first when screening potential recruiters. When you find them, then you can zero in on additional criteria to see if they’d be a good fit at your firm.

Ask the right questions. Of course you want to ask interview questions that reveal their industry knowledge and experience. But when it comes to determining someone’s status as either a hunter or a farmer, lean on behavioral interview questions. You want to find out how they act in real-life situations. For example:

  • How did you react the last time you made a mistake at work?
  • What have you done to increase your numbers?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment in recruiting and how did you achieve that?
  • Tell us about a time when you remained persistent after everyone else gave up — and how it paid off

In addition, ask them where they ranked among other recruiters in their past jobs — a hunter will always know where they ranked against their peers. Finally, ask about their competitive nature, looking for signs that they find competition thrilling and enjoyable.

Give them a test. You can also administer a personality assessment test to screen potential recruiters. There are numerous ones out there that can help ensure you’re bringing on someone with hunter DNA. Three well-vetted ones that can help you identify hunters for your agency are:

Focus on growth for a successful 2018


Farmers are adept problem solvers who are skilled at managing and growing current accounts. They make for fantastic employees — but too many farmers and not enough hunters tips the balance at your firm, and in a competitive job market like today’s, you need lead generators and closers who can grow and affect your bottom line.

For an additional focus on growth, get to know TrackerRMS, the world’s leading cloud-based recruitment, applicant tracking and CRM software provider. We offer a full suite of customizable capabilities and an unprecedented level of customer support. Request a demo today to learn more about this powerful end-to-end recruitment agency software solution.

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