11 Books Every Recruiter Should Read
recruiter books
Advice for Management & Companies

11 Books Every Recruiter Should Read

You know those square, papery things that you use to prop up your laptop?

Once upon a time, books offered people knowledge that they could not find anywhere else, but we all know how that went. The internet has made it possible to learn virtually anything contained in any book within seconds, and the proliferation of tablets and readers has further endangered the book as we know it.

But, just because you read a book on a screen doesn’t make it not reading. No matter if your copy is hardback, paperback or digital, getting into these books is essential for every HR/Recruiting professional who wants to improve their hiring or continue to make good hires.

Who – Geoff Smart

WHo Geoff Smart

What refers to the strategies you choose, the products and services you sell, and the processes you use. You can spend your whole career chasing solutions to the million what problems plaguing your business. That is what most managers do. Unfortunately, focusing solely on what means you will continue to feel stressed, make less money than you desire and lack the time to do what you want.

Who refers to the people you put in place to make the what decisions. Who is running your sales force? Who is assembling your product? Who is occupying the corner office? Who is where the magic begins and where the problems start.”

This guide to hiring is one of the cornerstones of successful hiring practices. As this quote states, it is not what but who that makes the difference in organizational success. Anyone who wants to have repeatable success with their hiring plan needs to double check it against Smart’s system to make sure the essentials are in place.

Smart’s system for sourcing, selecting and selling candidates is great for any hiring decision maker who wants to organize the way they hire. Who’s essential message is of order, and using a data and logic-driven system to account for the inherent uncertainty in hiring.

Good to Great- Jim Collins

Good to Great

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline–a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place.”

“The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake. The best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led—yes. But not tightly managed.”

This international best seller uses prominent companies in case studies that ask the simple question “What took these companies from being good, to being great?” While having a superior product or a visionary leader were important, the very first step in taking a company from good to great is “making sure that the right people are on the bus.”

This book is great for hiring decision makers and recruiters, because it shows exactly how the right people in the right positions helped to transform their companies from good to great. Who we hire is of the utmost importance, and the results of a hire can echo throughout the organization or even the world. It is also a great read for anyone who is curious about what differentiates top brands from one another and how companies make the leap from good to great.

Work Rules! -Lazlo Block

Work Rules!

“The presence of a huge training budget is not evidence that you’re investing in your people. It’s evidence that you failed to hire the right people to begin with.”

“Put simply, because many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure. … [T]hey become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the “blame” on anyone and everyone but themselves. In short, their ability to learn shuts down precisely at the moment they need it the most.”

Lazlo Bock, Head of People Operations at Google, has built his career on approaching age old staffing questions from an innovator’s perspective. He was the first to disavow “using your gut” in hiring decisions and, instead, trusting data above all else.

This book is full of great advice for recruiters, from his policy of always hiring people that are smarter than you, to his belief that we should learn from our best employees as well as our worst. Making bad hires can ruin a recruiter’s reputation, so learning to learn from your mistakes will be essential and this book can help.

Decisive- Chip Heath and Dan Heath


“When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting attitudes, beliefs, and actions.”

“Confirmation bias is probably the single biggest problem in business, because even the most sophisticated people get it wrong. People go out and they’re collecting the data, and they don’t realize they’re cooking the books.”

How do you make important decisions? Do you mull them over until you can’t see straight? Do you flip a coin? Do you just “go for it?”

When you get down to it, the business of recruiting is professional decision making. Decisions, as these quotes state, are influenced by our past experiences and our subconscious biases. Understanding the way that you make decisions and interpret information is crucial for any successful recruiter.

Any recruiter who wants to improve their decision-making skills or learn more about the science behind decision making should give this book a good read. No matter how un-biased you think you are, examining the way that your deciding process and the criteria you use to make these decisions will make you a stronger decision maker.

Keeping the Millennials- Joanne Sujansky & Jan Ferri-Reed


“As the Millennials join the workforce, organizations are finding that their existing employees and managers are often befuddled and confused in trying to understand how the younger generation thinks and acts. Their behavior their clothes and their attitudes are becoming subject to scrutiny as they clash with existing corporate cultures.”

This book is becoming more and more of an essential read for organizations of all kinds, not just companies that employ a great number of young people. The Millennials are poised to be the largest generation in the workforce, and they have different methods and reasons for working than older generations. While this generation is more comfortable with technology than any generation before them, they are also more comfortable with job hopping and these retention concerns need to be counteracted with millennial-friendly management and policies.

Recruiters will find a treasure trove of useful millennial information within the pages of this book. Knowing the attitudes and objectives of the candidates that you work with is essential, and even recruiters that fall into the category of “millennial” should take a good look at what the next generation wants and expects from work.

Hiring for Attitude- Mark Murphy

Hiring for Attitude

“When our research tracked 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill. The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.”

Evaluating the skills of candidates is a process of fact checking, but how do you fact check a candidate’s attitude? As his quote states, attitude is the utmost importance in the success of a new hire and, according to his research, the vast majority of new hires fail because of attitude problems.

Recruiters who want to make successful hires that make it past the first 18 months on the job need to take this attitude factor into account. Even though everything else may be right with a candidate, the wrong attitude will still make them the wrong person for the job, in the end. This book will show you how to build attitude into your candidate search, the warning signs of problem candidates and how to identify the right kind of attitude in the people you hire.

The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out- George Anders

The Rare Find

“American social norms call for job candidates to tell a story of uninterrupted success. Previous experiences are burnished until they all sound like triumphs. Traditional resumes are set up so that resilience becomes invisible. That’s a horribly unfortunate distortion. At some point fate slams all of us to the ground. What happens next determines who we become. Some people are so bitter or dispirited they never fully recover. Others do whatever it takes to bounce back. The more you can learn about how people handle adversity, the more astutely you can judge them.”

In this book, George Anders discusses the subject of finding exceptional talent and real world examples from Hollywood to the US Special Forces. Anders goes over the qualities of exceptionally talented individuals, but he also stresses that hiring decision makers need to define the sort of talent that they’re looking for.

Recruiters can learn a great deal from Anders and may be interested to see read about cases of real-world top-talent discovery. Above all, Anders stresses that we always hire based on the job that needs to get done, and that this criteria will inform the kinds of talent that we need from a great hire. As he puts it: “The work ethics of a great doctor and a great football player are not the same. Solving the talent puzzle means looking for exactly the right ethos that’s vital for a particular job–rather than trying to match candidates to a long list of universal virtues that might or might not be especially relevant.”

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion- Robert B. Cialdini


“The truly gifted negotiator, then, is one whose initial position is exaggerated enough to allow for a series of concessions that will yield a desirable final offer from the opponent, yet is not so outlandish as to be seen as illegitimate from the start.”

“our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.”

“We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style.

Selling professionals on your or your client’s job opportunity is becoming more and more important in today’s candidate driven market. In this book, Cialdini discusses the tactics used by sales professionals that get us to say “yes” even though we never intended to. In order to observe these tactics first hand, the author took some of these selling jobs (car salesman, waiter, etc.) and came up with his “6 Weapons of Influence” for you to use.

Influencing the decisions of candidates is highly important for any recruiter. When you know that someone is right for an open job, that they’d love it along with being competent at it, you can use these tactics to persuade them to leave their current job. 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler


“At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information.”

“What is this intermediate step? Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. We add meaning to the action we observed. We make a guess at the motive driving the behavior. Why were they doing that? We also add judgment—is that good or bad? And then, based on these thoughts or stories, our body responds with an emotion.”

Crucial Conversations is a book written to show people how to handle disagreements and successfully engage in high-stakes communication. The authors assert that when we find ourselves stuck in an unwanted situation at work or at home, there is a crucial conversation standing in the way of the results that we want.

Recruiters regularly engage in high stakes conversation. A talk with a candidate can result in increasing their interest in a job, or completely turning them off from the opportunity. Additionally, recruiters regularly engage in conversations with managers, heads of departments and even heads of companies. This book goes over the traits of the most effective communicators and teaches the reader how to excel in these crucial conversations, which will help any recruiter to be more effective.

The Signal and the Noise- Nate Silver


“Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge: the serenity to accept the things we cannot predict, the courage to predict the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

“Good innovators typically think very big and they think very small. New ideas are sometimes found in the most granular details of a problem where few others bother to look. And they are sometimes found when you are doing your most abstract and philosophical thinking, considering why the world is the way that it is and whether there might be an alternative to the dominant paradigm. Rarely can they be found in the temperate latitudes between they two spaces, where we spend 99 percent of our lives.”

The signal and the noise is a guide to predictions and will be adored by any recruiter who has a head for numbers or educated guessing. Silver discusses how the abundance of excess data in our time (noise) prevents us from seeing the truly important information (signal). He also discusses how this trend is leading people to see patterns that don’t exist and overfit predictive models to past data.

Cutting through the noise is a crucial skill for any recruiter. With so many candidate stories to get straight, it can be easy to lose track of the most important data or fail to get to it in the first place. This book will show you more about the science of making predictions, as well as other useful gems of knowledge for your hiring, interviewing and decision making. For instance, one of the discoveries in this book is that taking the average of several perspectives (on a hire or anything else) yields better predictive results than a single perspective.

Hire With Your Head- Lou Alder


“We’ve all met people with great talent but little energy. Sadly, they never live up to their expectations. Others of average talent, but with extraordinary energy, often achieve success beyond all expectations. That’s why self-motivation is so important.”

“Recruiting the best is not about selling or charming. It’s about providing big challenges and career opportunities and a little money thrown in.”

Lou Alder has been a major voice in recruiting for years, and in this book, he lays out the typical behavior of average candidates, top candidates and the people who hire them. Top candidates don’t look for jobs that cover their short term needs like average candidates, but instead, look for jobs that present them with challenges that engage them on a professional and personal level.

This is one of the foundational texts of modern recruiting. He calls for hiring decision makers and recruiters to examine the steps of the hiring process (writing the job description, sourcing, interviewing, etc.) and re-design them from the perspective of a top candidate. Great recruiters always provide an exceptional candidate experience, and the talent-centric perspective in this book is essential for making hires in a candidate-driven market.