Working With Recruiters: Smart Tips for Maximum Success

Recruiters — also knows as search professionals or “headhunters” — are hired by an employer to find the perfect candidate for a specific position. Sometimes recruiters work for the employer’s organization itself; other times they work for themselves or for an independent firm that specializes in recruitment. The majority of them work on a contingency basis — meaning they get paid once they fill the employer’s open position.

A contingency recruiter is competing against other recruiters to fill the same position and will likely submit multiple candidates to the hiring manager.

A smaller percentage are “retained” recruiters — the employer has hired them or their firm to fill important positions on a contractual basis. If an employer had chosen a retained firm, that means it is an exclusive assignment — there is only that one search firm working on the assigned hiring task. That recruiting firm is compiling a “slate” of candidates to present to the hiring team.

All recruiters are looking for those candidates who — both on paper and in person — will perfectly fit the hiring manager’s job description. Whether “contingency” or “retained”, understand that you may not be the only candidate the recruiter is promoting for the same position.

If you are approached by a recruiter, or choose to approach recruiters yourself as part of your job search, they can be strong allies in the advancement of your career. Understand that working with a recruiter is two-way street. Here are tips on how to do it right!

Learn about the recruiter

  • look at their website and LinkedIn profile
  • ask your connections about the recruiter or their firm
  • look for recruiters who specialize in your particular industry or type of job — google “recruiter directories” to find recruiters by industry and geographical location
  • if you are the one approaching them, speak to a few to see who feels like a good match
  • ask questions about his or her experience and about recent positions they’ve filled

Make it easy for recruiters to learn about (and help) you

  • write articles and give presentations
  • be active in trade and professional associations
  • be active in your community
  • serve as an expert source for the media
  • cultivate a professional presence on social media
  • provide a clear and to-the-point resume
  • if you gain a new skill or certification, receive an award, etc., let the recruiter know (and send an updated version of your resume)

Communicate appropriately

  • understand by which method the recruiter prefers to communicate
  • clarify how frequently you can expect to hear from them
  • stay in touch periodically, but don’t over do it (rule of thumb: a followup call after you submit your materials and one again two weeks later)
  • when they call you, be available (if you’re difficult to track down, they will move on to the next person on the list)
  • once the interview process has begun, don’t communicate directly with the employer — let the recruiter handle that

During the process

  • commit to seeing the process through (the recruiter will remember you – unfavorably – if you back out of once you have agreed to be a candidate).
  • trust the recruiter’s advice — he or she has the experience and perspective to help you succeed in your interactions with the potential employer
  • be clear on your goals, but allow the recruiter to negotiate your compensation package

After the process

  • if you did not get the job, seek the recruiter’s advice on what to work on for next time
  • if you get the job, be open to continued contact from the recruiter: recommend people from your network for their positions; continue to be open and professional (you never know when you may need the recruiter’s services again)
  • show appreciation for his or her services (no matter the outcome): thank the recruiter; refer others to him or her; post a LinkedIn recommendation

Working with a recruiter is a partnership. If your relationship is successful it can lead to results that benefit both of you: your new job!

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