Chad MacRae: What It Takes To Be a ‘Top Recruiter’

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Top Recruiter winner and Recruiting Social founder Chad MacRae

“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it.”

That’s ‘Top Recruiter: The Competition’ season 3 winner  and Recruiting Social founder  Chad MacRae, describing how he felt the moment he learned viewers of the hit web series had voted him ‘Top Recruiter’.

The win was just the latest turn in Chad’s unusual whirlwind of a recruiting career: one that’s taken him to 60 cities in 45 different countries. He’s hired for roles ranging from architects for crazier-than-Vegas casinos in Macau, to civilian service workers for the Kandahar airbase during NATO combat operations in Afghanistan.

Did his colourful work experience earn him the ‘Top Recruiter’ title?

“I’ve certainly learned a lot from my overseas experience,” says Chad, “but what makes me a good – or if you really want, a great – recruiter comes down to some pretty simple principles that can help any recruiter or employer grow a strong, loyal, high-performing team.”


Chad kindly agreed to reveal more in a little Q&A …

“As a recruiter, I will not put people forward that I don’t believe in.”

‘Top Recruiter’ Chad MacRae (Tweet it)


Why did you apply to be a competitor on ‘Top Recruiter’?

[‘Top Recruiter’ Producer] Chris Lavoie approached me to do it.

Last April, [Recruiting Social team member] Danielle Marchant and I attended an event in support of STAND Foundation where we presented the organization with a $10,000 cheque from Recruiting Social in support of their education grants for marginalized youth.

Danielle tweeted a photo of the presentation. Chris saw it and messaged me. He asked if I was an in-house or agency recruiter.

I said: “well, it’s confusing.” He said: “why is that?” And I said back: “we’re agency recruiters who act like in-house recruiters – we’re an extension of your in-house team.”

His curiosity was piqued.

I’d never seen any of the previous seasons of ‘Top Recruiter’, so he told me to watch it, to see if I’d be interested in submitting a casting application. I watched it and thought: “here’s a diverse group of recruiters, from all over the place and all different industries, and they clearly are very passionate about what they do.” I liked that, and I thought that – if nothing else – I could learn a lot from the experience.

So I applied. Long story short: I was chosen.

The ‘Top Recruiter’ is chosen by viewers of the show. Why do you think you won?

It comes down to knowing who you are and being interested in learning about who other people are. That’s what recruiting is about. (Tweet it)

And that’s really what building genuine, meaningful relationships is about – whether that’s with potential employees, clients, industry peers or the people watching you on a reality show competition.

The funny thing about the show is that, of course there has to be some drama to make it interesting to watch. But as a recruiter, drama is the last thing I would want in any relationship. What I want is – and what I wanted on the show was – to get to know people, hear their story, offer help, or support, or a laugh, or just a smile. To make a connection.

I think viewers could see that’s how I work, and that appealed to them. That doesn’t make me special: anyone can practice that type of genuine interest and respect.

Top Recruiter viewer selfies holding up #VoteChad signs
Chad’s ‘Top Recruiter’ win was helped by a fan-led social media campaign prompting viewers to ‘#VoteChad’ in different languages.

Is that what makes a ‘Top Recruiter’?

In a way, yes.

[Season 1 winner] Alex King, [Season 2 winner] Pola LoBello, and myself: we’re all in-house recruiters. We are all immersed in the companies we work for. Unlike agency recruiters, we’re invested in the company’s vision, the culture and the people who become our team.

That’s why I built Recruiting Social to break from the traditional agency model:

It’s not enough to be an external consultant digging up resumes based on a list of desired skills and abilities. You have to soak yourself in the company and the culture to actually be able to find that right fit; you have to drink the Kool-Aid.

So go to games days, go to the Friday happy hours, go to Thursday afternoon yoga. That is how you learn how to find the right hires. Because our job, as recruiters, is to build a real, authentic community within the company.

So you disagree with how recruitment agencies work?

I think the model many agencies use is broken:

For corporate HR teams, managing an agency is a lot of work. How many resumes do they throw at you just to fill one role? It’s all about numbers; agencies often forget there are real, unique, complex human beings behind all those two-page summaries of work experience. (Tweet it)

You shouldn’t put people forward because you want to make your numbers. You should put people forward because you actually believe in that candidate and you believe they can help further the employer’s vision.

As a recruiter, I will not put people forward that I don’t believe in.

“You have to soak yourself in the company and the culture to actually be able to find that right fit; you have to drink the Kool-Aid.”

‘Top Recruiter’ Chad MacRae (Tweet it)


Why did you start a recruitment company if you feel the agency model is broken?

I saw the quality of recruitment support that companies could actually get, and thought about what the quality could actually be. It could be so much better. Your recruitment consultant should be an extension of your internal HR or recruiting team. They should be invested in your culture.

That’s what we do:

We buy into you, your culture, your big idea.

How is culture key?

Culture matters to talent just as much as pay and benefits.

As a company, a culture exists whether you’ve thought about it or not. It manifests simply because your company is a group of people who spend time together. They will bond over whatever values and beliefs and ideas they share.  If that means they hate work, then that’s what the culture is. If it means they believe in making the world a better place – well, that means you have a culture that will give meaning to your employees’ work.

To be a great employer, you really need to invest the energy and resources into fostering – nurturing – a positive, supportive, performance-enhancing culture. And it does have to be nurtured; you can’t impose a made-up ‘culture’ on your organization.

That’s why I think it’s important to invest in culture at the beginning of a startup. You need to figure out what you want it to be so you can attract the right people from the outset. (Tweet it)

“Culture matters to talent just as much as pay and benefits.”

‘Top Recruiter’ Chad MacRae (Tweet it)


Recruiting Social’s Danielle Marchant will be competing on season 4 of the show. What advice have you shared with her?

Be yourself. Be the loving, giving person that you are. Be the ear when you need to be, be the voice when you need to be.

We had the opportunity to go down and shoot a docu-film together. There were other competitors for season 4 there. She can hold her own. She’s true to who she is. She knows who her clients and her candidates are.

I’m sure she’ll do really well.

Why did you get into recruiting?

One of my first jobs growing up – I was 16 – was working for Staples Business Depot as a sales associate in the computer and business machine department. People would hand their resumes to me, and so I’d interview them on the spot. It turns out some of those people are still there today; I had a knack for knowing who would be good in a particular role.

A few years later I was working at Telus and went through the company’s leadership development program. One of the topics covered was recruiting. I loved it. That’s when I really knew I wanted to be a recruiter.

As recruiters, we get to make connections that create so much value, between employee and employer. I love it, love it, love it. I’ll never stop.

… From an interview with Christian De Pape

Chad MacRae, founder of Recruiting Social:

“We buy into you, your culture, your big idea.”

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