To Find Top Talent, Set Your Sights On The Unexpected

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Editor’s Note: Look beyond the obvious. That belief serves Liz Barenholtz well both as a  recruiter and as a guiding principle for her own career. Though she now leads talent acquisition at Edelman, Liz didn’t start out in recruiting at all. Instead, she spent 10 years on the client-service side of the advertising industry.

When she found herself ready for a new challenge, she ran with a former colleague’s suggestion that she'd make a great recruiter. For the next 10 years, she channeled her love of the creative atmosphere and the undeniable energy of the advertising and PR world into a recruiting role. 

Today, she’s an expert in her field, recognized by LinkedIn as one of its most successful recruiters. We asked Liz to share the secrets of effective hiring and what it takes to build a successful recruiting career.

As a recruiter with an impressive track record, what tricks do you rely on to find hidden talent?

I’ve been in the [advertising and marketing] industry for a long time, so I feel like I am connected to everyone. But that doesn’t usually make my life any easier. I often look outside the regional market or for someone with a slightly different – yet related – profile who could bring something new to the table.

Do you look for something specific in job candidates beyond the right skills and experience?

Culture fit is often the most important criteria. You may find the most experienced candidate, but if they don’t fit into the culture or team, they won’t be set up for success.

Typically, successful criteria for a candidate also include confidence, energy, passion for your space, and not being solely motivated by money.

What advice would you share with less-experienced recruiters?

1. Don’t leave anything up to chance.

2. Coach your candidates on counteroffers and gauge if they’re money-hungry before you make an offer.

3. Communicate! Even if you’re struggling on a search, keep in touch with your hiring managers, letting them know the status and any challenges. A little love goes a long way.

What would you tell people looking to enter recruiting?

This is an industry you don’t have to train for. If you have the right mindset, you can just jump in and do it.

You have to like working with people, be outgoing and personable, and don't be afraid to push back. Look for Recruitment Coordinator roles where you’ll have the opportunity to learn the ropes.

It also helps to know the business of your business. It’s the only way you’ll be able to find and attract great talent.

Understand who your competitors are. Become an expert in your space. Ask a lot of questions. Develop great relationships with your hiring managers and hold them accountable, too, for attracting candidates.

If you could go back to that moment when you decided to switch careers, what insight would you take with you?

First, that good people are hard to find. Second, follow-up is key. And third, find a way to differentiate yourself.

Recruiters often get a bad rap, you want to be someone that candidates seek out for advice and counsel.

Looking back, what’s the hardest hiring lesson you've learned?

You are only as good as your last hire.

I know that sounds cynical, but people have short memories and don’t understand the challenges recruiters face. If you communicate and are viewed as a strategic partner, you’ll have much more success – even on the toughest searches.

Want more recruiting tips? Hear from's Tony Le, then join the conversation @goodhiretweets #HRTips  #TheWorks.

Liz Barenholtz

Liz Barenholtz


Liz Barenholtz is Senior Vice President at Edelman, one of the world’s largest public relations firms. She specializes in executive recruitment for marketing communications agencies and manages searches in account and client services, strategy, strategic planning, creative, production, user experience and media.

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President & COO at Strategic Development Worldwide
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