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20 books every recruiter should read

I spend most of my money on music, espresso and books. It is very difficult for me to walk past a bookstore and once I am in the store it is even harder for me not to buy anything. This lack of self-control probably explains the various piles of books that are spread all over my apartment. 

Books have not only shaped me as a person, but also have a great influence on how I understand my work as a recruiter. 

So it was somehow obvious that sooner or later I would also write a blog article about books. And since that alone isn’t that much fun, I wrote some friends from the recruiting scene and asked them about their reading recommendations for recruiters. 

Interestingly, I don’t seem to be the only person who thinks that the most important books for recruiters are not HR books. Enjoy this reading list with books about baseball, data analytics and some really well written dystopian novels!

You also want to recommend a book to me? Add me on goodreads!

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Annika Pies, Founder TALENTS Personalmarketing Agency

Let my People go surfing by Yvon Chouinard

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At TALENTS we try to get our clients to become great employers and fill the talent pipeline through employer branding, instead of filling every position through many costly job advertisements or headhunters.

Patagonia is one of those companies where talent is queuing up to apply.

“Let My People Go Surfing” is the story of a man, who put good deeds and great adventures at the heart of his business life – a book that will deeply impress entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Yvon Chouinard is a legendary mountain climber, businessman, environmentalist and founder of Patagonia, Inc.

As environmental and social factors become more and more important to people, and especially to the younger generations, I believe it is also the job of the recruiters, to shake up the management.

Start with why by Simon Sinek

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As a recruiter you have the task to sell the company and the job. The most important question is: Why should I take the job?

When you hire people who believe in the same thing and have the same vision, they don’t just work for their salary, they put blood, sweat and tears into the job and give their very best.

If you haven’t seen the famous ted talk  yet, now is the time. 🙂

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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The book is a real secret weapon. Don’t you know this situation: you are in contact with dream candidate and just have to convince him? With this book you probably will.

The book is already from 1936, but the advice of Dale Carnegie is more relevant than ever and helpful in many life situations.

For me, the book was full of aha-moments and helped me to get a deeper understanding of human relationships and people act how they, do. 

I was immediately able to implement a few things successfully. It is easy to read and many of his tips are so simple, if you would just apply them all. Because as it is always the case, it takes time to internalize things.

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Marcel Rütten, Head of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding at The Berner Group

Fünfunddreißig by Rolf Dobelli

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The protagonist of this novel, Gehrer, is the same age as I am – 35 – and supposedly has everything you could possibly want: A Harvard graduate, happily married, a position as head of marketing and lives in Zurich.  But his (still young) age makes him think. He is not in midlife crisis, but he is beginning to think about what he wants from life and what possibilities his personality gives him. It is the self-reflection of a man spoiled by success. In a poetic way he is looking for alternatives for his life.

Digitalisierung im Recruiting by Tim Verhoeven

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There have been times when we have dealt with the question in recruiting whether applicants can be expected to switch from postal applications to digital application forms. Fortunately, those times are long gone and we are now confronted with completely different issues and buzzwords like recruiting analytics, artificial intelligence, algorithms and bots. The editorial work combines all these topics and brings together a large number of well-known recruiting and HR marketing experts in the German-speaking world. The selection of authors already reads like half of the Who-is-Who of the German HR blogger scene and makes me recommend the book without reservation.

Hip Hop Raised Me by DJ Semtex

HR marketing should be close to the candidates and use the relevant topics to communicate their positioning. It seems that many brands have a defensive relationship to a genre that moves many people in our country: Hip Hop. The genre is often smiled at and in the eyes of many decision-makers is considered anti-social, and hardly any company has been brave enough to deal with the growing genre in talent acquisition. But companies have to understand that more and more people will grow up with this culture. So there is a lot of potential in this genre if you want to awaken it. If you want to understand the origin of Hip Hop and what makes the magic of this genre, you should definitely read this book.

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Eva Stock, Head of Business Relations at Jobufo

Power – Verena Güntner

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The title of this book really tells it all. The story is about power and abuse at the same time. Not unnecessarily brutal nor violently but in a lot of ways disturbing for its readers, as the story unfolds itself quite weird and slowly. The book raises questions about your own upbringing – if you grew up in a small town or village in Germany, you will be left with a strange gut feeling at some points along the story. It also raises bigger questions. For instance: What is a society worth without its children? How much does our upbringing affect our decisions? Are children way smarter and stronger than we want to acknowledge as adults – who are already fed up on life?
The language is clear and precise and yet there is a lot of mystic attached to the whole story. I really enjoyed diving into the characters and sceneries. I guess it is not for everyone but you should give it a try. 

GRM – Sibylle Berg

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If you are German speaking and on Twitter – go follow Sibylle! She is a smart and witty person. Everything about GRM is remarkable. The subtitle is “Brainfuck.” and that’s what you get.

GRM is a dystopian piece on our society, technology and future. The narrative is (like Verena Güntners book) based around a group of children and young adults. They are forced to live in a world where there seems to be nothing worth living for. Except for those who have money, because with money comes power. And since wealth is reserved for the adults, not for the young, there is a lost and exploited generation.
The story is so post-brexit that it is hard to swallow a lot of times and it makes you think a lot about your own viewpoints. Especially if you are working for a Tech company, you will have to ask yourself: What is the purpose of my product and my work? 


The writing is somehow raw and explicit yet delicate enough to leave things to your imagination – which makes it even more brutal to read sometimes. If you are ready to broaden your view and to get out of your comfort zone: Go for GRM by Sibylle Berg!

EXIT Racism – Tupoka Ogette

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I am listening to this at the moment and I am not finished yet. EXIT Racism is available as audiobook on several streaming platforms. It gives you insights into and a room to explore your own biases and internalised racism. Even if you consider yourself as “woke”, you can still dive deeper into your blind spots as well as into the history of racism and european colonialism. Most Germans (including myself) didn’t learn or hear much about German colonialism in school.
So be ready to find yourself in uncomfortable places and to be confronted with a lot of painful or “annoying” questions tackling your white privilege and view on the world. So if you want to do more than posting a black tile and a hashtag to your instagram wall: Listening to this audiobook will be a good start!

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Matthias Schmeisser, Director of Talent Acquisition at Scout24 Group

Storytelling with data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

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Data and of course Talent Analytics becomes more popular these days. How many times have you heard from Talent Acquisition professionals, we need to be more data-driven. Now, what makes this book different in comparison to other books about data? Cole challenges you on your story telling approach and invites you to take a new perspective to think like a designer by learning about the core design principles. Her book is full of best practices to become familiar with all the different ways of data visualization. A Must Read for everyone who gains value by making smarter decisions in the future.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Note: This is the only book recommend by two people, I guess you should really read it 🙂

This book was first published in 1937. And I promise you this, you will learn a lot. Why is it a must read for recruiter? One of the underestimated fields in Talent Acquisition is stakeholder management. How much can you influence hiring managers, (potential) candidates, and people around you? If you ever want to succeed (in Talent Acquisition) you need to understand how to make people to like you, win people to your way of thinking and change people without arousing resentment. One fact that is still not common knowledge, successful professional are 15 percent about technical skills and 85 percent about personality and ability to lead people. Think about that when talking about your assessment standards in your current hiring process. 

Design to Grow by David Butler & Linda Tischler

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You probably heard about agility. I still remember my time at Zalando, we embraced the term radical agility. What is interesting most fast-pacing, scaling and hyper-growth organisations use the term agility as part of their success story. What you don’t hear that often is design as a concept to enable scale and agility. David & Linda showcase on the example of Coca-Cola how you translate design principles into lasting value. If you want to master change management, read it.

What Works by Iris Bohnet

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Gender Equality by Design sounds super powerful and equips you with some answers around your current D&I challenges in your organization. The goal of the book is to offer good designs to you; designs that make it easier for our biased minds to get things right. Part Two and Four stood out to me about how to design talent management and diversity. If your hiring decisions are biased, you have unstructured interviews and the business is still writing your job ads, you need to read this book. Iris provides a lot of research and good stories for you to start turning things around by applying behavioral design.

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Jessica Leiman, Senior Talent Partner at SYPartners

The Game by Ken Dryden

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In this hockey player’s memoir- which might seem like an odd choice- Dryden focuses on his decision to leave a successful career in the National Hockey League…for the legal profession. Full of heart and interesting perspective, this book is a warm reminder of just how tough it can be to steer your life in a new direction. 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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One of the best novels I have ever read. Period. In this very chaotic world, the need for distraction has never been so high. The Goldfinch takes its reader through years of adventure, wonder, and sadness as it tells the story of Theo Decker. Theo’s mother is killed in an accident he survives in his youth; the tragedy and ensuing secrets kept create a story (and a reckoning) that will endear you deeply to Theo and his heart.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

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A book about the love that can be found- and remembered- in a book. Young Alma decides to track down the man who wrote the book her mother spends her time translating, in an effort to solve the mystery of her loneliness. A touching story and a great reminder that humanity has its moments.

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Sergej Zimpel, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at Scout24 Group

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

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A dystopian vision of the automation of work but from a 50ies perspective. This book feels incredibly modern and relevant, in a time when many people (including recruiters) are worried about being replaced by artificial intelligence soon. As every (good) recruiter should have a good understanding not only of technologies but also on the impact of technologies on our society, I consider this an extremely important book for everyone!  

Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott

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“Radical Candor” is actually a book that deals with the topic of communication for managers. So why is it relevant for us as recruiters? In my experience, the communication model presented by Kim Scott, which propagates both great openness and a close relationship with employees, can be applied very well to communication with our stakeholders. 

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini 

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At first glance, the title sounds like the title of one of those typical cringe-fest “business books” that I detest so much. But this book is much more than a a business book. Robert Cialdini is professor emeritus of psychology and this book was even part of the reading for my final exams. However, the book is written very vividly and is easy to understand even without studying psychology. Cialdini uses studies and entertaining examples to show how easy we all can get influenced. This knowledge has helped me a lot in many meetings, but also in many contract negotiations with candidates.

The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer

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This book was a recommendation from a hiring manager of mine. At first I was rather critical of the book, because I was convinced that in today’s globalized world it is more about individual differences of personalities and less about cultural differences. This book changed my view on this topic. Today I have understood that we have to take into account both personal and cultural differences in communication to guarantee successful cooperation. If you enjoy working in an international and multicultural environment as much as I do, this book will open many interesting perspectives for you. 

Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces by Karen Catlin 

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Diversity and inclusion are for me among the most important and urgent issues of our time. But at the same time I know that my very privileged perspective as a white, cis-hetero man is severely restricted to this topic. This book was all the more valuable for me because it shows in a very pragmatic and practical way how we can be better allies for less privileged people at our workplace. As recruiters we are in an important position where we should be a central driver of positive change. This book has helped me to understand what I personally can do to fulfill this role.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: 20 books Every Recruiter Should Read — Sergej Zimpel | Business Trainer Sri Lanka

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