What are the best books for Recruiters?

I wrote an article some time ago – back when I covertly blogged as Recruitment Dad about books that recruiters should own. The article still gets a lot of traffic (600 people spent over 3 minutes on the page in November). I am still asked regularly to recommend books that recruiters could read to aid their own self development so I decided to revisit the subject.

The first thing I want to say is this – not everyone is an avid reader. If you have not picked up a book for a while because you don’t think you are a “reader” perhaps it is time to give it another go. There are also some whom I have met who consider it to be “swotty” or “too studious”.

Why should I read books about personal development, sales or business?

Top books for recruiters

I read frequently and as an active recruiter would often read books on personal development, sales and recruiting. I read and took away what was most appropriate for me at that time and would return to re-read and interpret again. There were quite a lot of books that I read that I would describe as poor. Rehashes of other works, poorly written text making it difficult to digest or just ‘wrong’. Reading blogs can be as rewarding (see, right now you’re reading one!) though the variation in quality of content and message is even more pronounced.

Investing time in your own development is important. You are responsible for you; so expecting your manager, training department or business mentor to be your source of all development misplaces ownership. Read to grow and develop. Decide where you need to develop or improve the most and identify a book, blogs, audio content, video or perhaps even a workshop or two.

Every book I recommend here I have read at least once (though often multiple times) and is one that I genuinely recommend (as opposed to have had recommended to me without reading it myself).


I have separated them into 5 categories:

Personal Development

Sales and Business Development





Personal Development:

Unlimited Power – Anthony Robbins

A classic book on personal achievement. Taking many of the elements of NLP and modeling successful individuals Tony’s book is a seminal work on personal development. Reading this book will help you understand what it is about successful people that makes them exceptional. Taking action on the content will assist you achieving the results you also desire. Tony walks through the key strategies you can implement to take greater control of your destiny. I meet recruiters who will often blame external events around them for the results that they are experiencing. This book helps you to identify the limiting beliefs and run you brain better. There is also an excellent audio series that complements the book entitled “Personal Power” which was then updated as “Get the edge”.


Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleAnother classic. I guess classics are described as classics for a reason! I owned this book for 2 years before I read it. Have you ever done that? Purchased a book with best intentions and then left it on the book shelf? I heard that the Chief Executive of Colemans (the Norwich based mustard manufacturer) credited the business’ sales success to the mustard people leave on their plate rather than what they eat. In the same way authors of personal development books probably make more money from the buyers who never get past chapter 2 than finish the book let alone do it.

As a recent delegate in training pointed out to me – ‘Covey’s book is quite long’. It is also content rich. This book describes what it takes to live one’s life to fulfillness and how to live by a code of ethics that will create a genuine feeling of empowerment to be more effective in all aspects of your life. Life changing and inspiring. I have no idea why it took me two years to read it. Buy it. Read it. Live by the principles. Habit 2, habit 5 and habit 7 had a profound impact on me and still influence me daily (the other 4 are also great but these 3 really stand out).


Fascinate – Sally Hogshead

FascinateSally’s work is more recent than Tony and Steven’s. Much more recent. Published in 2010 this book has already developed a large following and Sally has risen rapidly to become a highly sought public speaker demonstrating the freshness to the thinking and the quality of the message. In this book you discover the 7 universal triggers to fascinate (and influence) others. These triggers are enticingly named lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice and trust. I guess even the nomenclature has been designed to fascinate. Take the F-Score test here to find out which is your most dominant trigger. We all, apparently, have our own natural affinity to influence using certain triggers – this book uses compelling evidence to add weight to it’s claims and helps you identify how to use the right triggers in the right situations. It has echoes of Robert Cialdini’s weapons of influence but is fresh enough in approach to make it a very accessible read. Sally also writes an excellent blog and tweets regularly – subscribe and follow even if you don’t buy the book (though you will).


Eat That Frog! – Brian Tracey

Eat that frog!Two books from Brian Tracey feature in my list. This book is light, easy reading and will help you overcome one of the biggest inhibitors of achievement in many people – procrastination. If you find yourself in the position where certain jobs never seem to get done, where you do the jobs that are the easiest, nicest or just the quickest to complete then Eat That Frog! Will help with time management and ending procrastination. 21 great tips to make sure you become more productive and become someone who gets things done. Each tip comes with a couple of activities and a summary.

True story: I was asked by a delegate in a workshop if I could recommend a book about how to manage time and stop procrastinating. I recommended Eat That Frog! Two weeks later I was back in the same business for another workshop. I asked if the guy if he had bought it and guess what? No, I just haven’t got round to it. The target audience for this book, by design, may never get round to buying it.


The Naked Presenter – Garr Reynolds

From time to time I run training sessions on presentation skills. All too often the biggest killer of a presentation is the support material that is used by the presenter themselves. You are the presentation not the powerpoint show. Any thing you use to support the presentation should do exactly that. Take a look at Slideshare – all too often we can read someone’s slide deck and understand the presentation, almost removing the need for the presenter. Emotion gets lost as the presenter focuses too much on the speech rather than the audience. Garr Reynolds is a master of presentations – Not the showmanship presenter but a connector. This book goes much deeper than the surface based eye contact, body language and contains meaningful ways to connect credibly with an audience. If you have to pitch and present and you feel you have competence in presenting this is still worthwhile buying.


Sales and Business Development:

The New Solution Selling – Keith M Eades

The New Solution SellingThere are so many sales books out there, each claiming to be the panacea required to take a sales person from zero to hero. This book focuses on a strategy and structure rather than the mind set of success. If you are involved in selling solutions rather than transactional placements then this book is a must. I am the first to admit that it gets quite technical but that is also one of the things that I liked about it. The books starts by defining the underlying principles of selling solutions and then painstaking outlines a sales strategy to create and capitalise upon new opportunities. If you represent a business that is PSL focused, RPO based or similar this book will provide you with a robust strategy and process to achieve a high level of business conversion. The email templates and questioning techniques are excellent. The work really begins when it comes to putting it into practice. Not for sales spivs and blaggers – it is a true sales professionals process.


SPIN Selling – Neil Rackham

Spin SellingA book that changed the way I approached and engaged clients and candidates since I first was introduced to it in 1996. At the time I worked in executive search and many of the individuals I approached who were truly the “top talent” were happy where they were and delivering exceptional results for their employer. This book gave me a questioning methodology to turn their heads and help them recognise the things that were truly important to them and that there may be other employers who could help them achieve more and get to where they wanted to be quicker. SPIN selling is modeled on some 30000 sales calls and what made the most effective sales people achieve the results they do. Focussed on high price ticket sales rather than low value it is easy in interpret the methods directly into new business sales for recruiters and, with some interpretation, to the candidate market to create explicit needs to change. If you only buy one book on this list of sales books I think this would be the one.


Selling to Win – Richard Denny

Selling To WinRichard has written an easy to read, digest and implement guide to selling better. His principles and ideas are not rocket science and quite often are the over looked basics that get left behind as experienced sales people seek the latest and greatest closing technique. Having also seen Richard speak he is a true business professional who has shared in this book real ways for real people to become better sales professionals. Focussing on relationships, ethics and integrity rather than tricks and ruses I enjoy Richard’s writing style and recognise the importance of developing a trusting relationship with prospect and current customers. This book was available on Amazon for only 1p last year so ROI fans should recognise the value immediately!


The Psychology of Selling – Brian Tracy

The Psychology of SellingThe second of the Brian Tracy books on my list. A book that blends mind set with technique. Well structured it starts with getting into the right frame of mind and how you can inhibit your own success with poor self image. It is a really important chapter though the cynics among you will need to push past the Gareth Cheeseman style self talk “I like myself!” mantras and get into the real nitty gritty from chapter 2. Every chapter has a list of action points and I think you could read this book by reading the action points alone and putting it into practice (although reading each chapter would be considered a better practice). There are cross references to previous chapters though not integral enough that you need to read it sequentially. Chapter 8 for me is a great chapter to keep revisiting – 10 keys to success in selling.


Major Accounts Sales Strategy - Neil Rackham

Major Account Sales StrategyAnother book from Neil Rackham. This looks at the key stages a buyer would go through when making a major purchase and, each step of the way, builds a relevant step a sales person should take to create advances. All too often I see sales people who do not have an actual process. When I sit with a recruiter and discuss their target clients there is a genuine case that it should be a target. Good brand, relevant skills and level of recruitment etc BUT when I ask what the plan is to convert the prospect into a client it gets a bit wooly. A ‘batter down the door’ approach is not always the best policy. A sales process should mirror a buying process to have maximum effect. This book dissects the buying process to then build a sales process. If you don’t have a defined sales process then read this book and then define one.



Breakthrough! How to Explode the Production of Experienced Consultants – Steven Finkel

Breakthough!Along with SPIN Selling this has been a companion to me since my early days in recruitment. I was privileged enough to see Steven speak and attend a training session of his over 15 years ago. This book delivers exactly what is says on the cover. The “how to” succeed. One of my issues with recruitment books (for third party agencies) is that

1. There isn’t enough of them for what is a sizeable global industry

2. They focus on the “what you should do” rather than the “how to”.

I guess that indicates I should write one…

The video tapes (remember VHS tapes?) “The Art of Recruiting” that cover similar material are great and although copied have never been beaten.


The War for Talent - Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, Beth Axelrod

The War for TalentEverywhere you turn recruitment blogs and commentators talk about “talent”. Feedback from my own clients is that there is a glut of CVs in the market yet very little talent. This book is based upon a piece of work by management consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. It looked (in 1997) at the shortage of quality management within corporates and that the prognosis moving forward was only going to get worse. It cites evidence from CEOs and clients of McKinsey and drives home the fact that as the “War for Talent” continues the value of good quality people is only going to increase. If you work in recruitment and you have not read this, how have you stopped yourself?

What ever your role in a recruitment context, this book will certainly make you review your attraction, engagement, development and retention strategies. Personally I am not sure there is truly a war for talent in the market. There is certainly a battle for retention which is often exasperated by the fact that many business don’t know who the true talent in the business actually is. Also, most recruitment processes don’t identify talent – they identify applicants who are then assessed for talent. This tends to deliver the best of the applicants rather than the best in class.



Meatball Sundae – Seth Godin

Meatball SundaeThis could quite easily be any book written by Seth Godin. I think that his writing is fresh and easy to read and his insight is exceptional. Every book he has written could be on this list. In fact as an author recommendation Seth is #1. Meatball Sundae can be read on a single train journey from Manchester to London (don’t feel you need the train ticket as well as the book). Most of Seth’s work are small volumes of high quality content. Meatball Sundae looks at the shift in how we as consumers identify providers of goods and services and what we value expect. How many times do you find yourself on the receiving end of sales and marketing interruptions that you would describe as spam? Old school marketing strategies are ineffective. Old school products marketed in the new methodologies are also broken. Meatball Sundae looks at ineffective marketing strategies for a modern world with infinite communication channels. An inspiring book that makes you think about how you can stand out from your competitors.


Eating the Big Fish – Adam Morgan

Eating the Big FishA great book that describes how to position yourself as a challenger brand against larger organisations with more resources, reputations or advertising/marketing spends. Full of practical advice and easy to follow examples it shows how you can compete and beat the “bigger fish”. Most recruitment agencies in the UK employ less than 20 consultants. There are bigger fish out there who can be beaten on more than price. The leaders in any market have vulnerabilities. By defining your brand values and executing an intelligent strategy you can win. With 8 credos identified in this book to develop a robust challenger brand position there is some great insights as to how you can topple the biggest competitors in your market. Needless to say it will take a lot of determination and focus to deliver it.


Visual Meetings – David Sibbet

Visual MeetingsA great little book on how to get more done and create greater levels of productivity in meetings using graphics, post it notes and mapping ideas. I remember as a recruiter often drawing pictures with clients so we both had a shared perspective and saw things the same way. I now know why this was so powerful as a tool and how I can get even more out of it more deliberately thanks to this book. If you present to clients, need to convey information to others face to face or run meetings with your team you may well find this book gives you ideas on getting the most out of those situations. If you are quite visual in the way you share information already then also take a look at a book called “back of a napkin”.



NLP Workbook – Joseph O’Connor

NLP WorkbookMaybe I have become blinded to it but I don’t see and hear as much hype around NLP these days. There was a time where it felt you couldn’t help but be bombarded with NLP this that and the other. I am a fan of NLP. I don’t tend to talk about it a lot as I learnt quickly that talking about wasn’t that important. Utilisation was much more effective. There are a number of NLP trainers whom I have encountered who perhaps need to practice what they preach…

If you have a curiosity about what makes people behave the way they do, or feel you could benefit from a greater sense of self or would like to see what NLP is all about then Joseph O’Connor’s workbook is a great place to start. As the title suggest it is an exercise based workbook that educates and gives practical routines and exercises to embed the learning.


Influence The Psychology of Persuasion – Dr Robert Cialdini

Influence - The Psychology of PersuasionThis book is the reference book for those interested in understanding influence. Cialdini modeled what the best influence practitioners did and looked at how it worked. From this he defined what he calls the weapons of influence. These 6 weapons are what he found influence practitioners utilized to gain maximum persuasion. By you understanding these weapons you will both become a better influencer and be able to resist being influenced better. The six weapons are common sense to a point yet when you create your own methods of deployment you will see how, quite often, it is the little things that can make the biggest difference.


Brain Rules – Dr John Medina

Brain RulesAt some point in my life I was going to be a scientist. Not a childhood whim but a destiny that was in my blood (apparently). As the only non-scientist, non Phd and certainly only recruiter in the family I am a bit of a black sheep. The name of the business, Zero Entropy Networks, is a homage to my scientific roots and I still enjoy a good drop of physics and such every now and again. Brain Rules is a study of the brain and our propensity to learn. Written by a molecular biologist it dispels many of the pop science myths (left brain right brain, multitasking) and gives us genuine insight as to how we learn, react to stress and the importance of exercise on the brain. Scarily it seems everything that happens at school is couter productive to learning. Each chapter also has a video you can watch and despite being written by a scientist it is accessible and a joy to read. If you are involved in developing others, want to learn more quicker or just want to do the best for your own kids – read it.


Sleight of Mouth  - Robert Dilts

Sleight of MouthOne of the names that is co-credited with the development of NLP as a model is Robert Dilts. Robert’s book is, as the title suggests, a guide to developing language patterns that quickly change another’s perception. This book walks through a process of how you can understand the intention of another from what they say and then reply with a response that redefines and reframes the original statement. It is a powerful method of being able to work with individuals with limiting beliefs (clients, candidates and the general population) and change perceptions. If it sounds manipulative, it can be. It is important that these skills are channeled to help others achieve the right out comes for themselves rather than results that are best suited to you alone.