What sets recruiters apart the most is... curiosity

What sets recruiters apart from other professions? Research has found the defining factor: curiosity, closely followed by enthusiasm. On the other hand, the average recruiter tends to excel less in organizational skills and accuracy.

ToTalent on May 30, 2024 Average reading time: 3 min
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What sets recruiters apart the most is... curiosity

It’s an exaggeration to call recruiters a unique species. However, there are a few traits that set recruiters apart from other professions. Which traits are these? Recent research by The Selection Lab, which also looked at consultants and lawyers, revealed at least one clearly distinguishing characteristic: curiosity. Recruiters turn out to be as much as 15% more curious than all other applicants on average.


Enthusiasm is also a trait that relatively many recruiters possess: compared to candidates in other categories and professions, the average recruiter is even 8% more enthusiastic. However, according to the research, recruiters score significantly lower on accuracy (-24%) and organization (-14%). Though, the recruiters who are ultimately hired do score higher on these two factors than those who also undergo the assessments but are ultimately rejected.

Intelligence is also important

Intelligence is also positively correlated with a hiring decision for recruiters, according to Joeri Everaers-Welten, who conducted the research on behalf of The Selection Lab. “The data shows that the average hired recruiter scores 15% higher in abstract reasoning, 12% higher in verbal reasoning, and 16% higher in verbal reasoning compared to the average non-hired candidate. When recruitment agencies objectively measure the intelligence of their applicants, they are more likely to hire the more intelligent candidates. However, numerical intelligence is the least influential factor in a positive hiring decision.”

Wat onderscheidt recruiters van andere beroepsgroepen? Uit onderzoek blijkt dé factor gevonden te zijn: nieuwsgierigheid, op de voet gevolgd door: enthousiasme. In organisatievermogen en accuratesse blinkt de gemiddelde recruiter dan weer minder uit.

The Selection Lab aims to examine the predictors of success for various roles in similar research on a quarterly basis. (Agency) recruiters were fortunate to be featured in the first edition. It turns out that not only curiosity and enthusiasm are distinguishing characteristics of this profession, but their adaptability is also praised. This, of course, closely correlates with curiosity, as the researchers also note. “By seeking out curious candidates, recruitment agencies can find adaptability, support a growth mindset, and enable equal opportunities within their organization.”

Lower in self-confidence

According to the research, the recruiters ultimately hired, on average, score lower on two characteristics: self-confidence (6% less than the other candidates) and ability to cope with stress (32% less than average). “This fits the description of an insecure overachiever,” says Everaers-Welten. “As someone who consistently tries to exceed expectations in search of more self-confidence, this insecure performer is a goldmine for their employer.”

“You don’t have to be Jane Austen to know that too much pride comes with prejudice.”

According to him, there is also another explanation for employers’ preference for a candidate with less self-confidence: “An abundance of self-confidence could, for example, suppress accuracy, honesty, or responsibility. And you don’t have to be Jane Austen to know that too much pride comes with prejudice.”

Among the hired and non-hired applicants at recruitment agencies, there appear to be several notable differences. Hired recruiters seem to prefer more stable, structured, and results-oriented cultures. Moreover, they value enjoyment as part of their job 15% more than the average non-hired applicants. Additionally, the hired candidates are 13% more compatible with a culture that functions like a “well-oiled machine,” and as much as 22% with a culture characterized by stability.

More information

Read the entire research 



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