When and How to Work with Recruiters & Search Firms

How to Work with RecruitersWhen and how to work with recruiters is a big question for many job seekers. When does it make sense to use a search firm or a recruitment consultant to assist with your job search?

If you seem to be stuck in a rut and you’re not getting enough interviews, it can make sense to use a recruiter to broaden your job search. Just make sure your resume is strong, as a poor resume could be the main reason for the lack of interview calls!

Using a recruiter can also make sense if you’re in a high-level position, since executive jobs are not always advertised or in an industry that typically uses search firms to fill vacancies.

Search firms have contacts in industries and at companies you might not even be aware of. They can help market your resume and provide you with additional exposure to potential employers.

However, having worked in recruitment for close to 10 years, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have unrealistic expectations for the recruiter/job seeker relationship.

This will often lead to resentment because “my headhunter hasn’t found me a job!”

What Recruiters Actually Do

Headhunters don’t find jobs for people. They are paid by their clients to find a candidate for a specific vacancy. These candidates typically aren’t looking for jobs, so getting their attention sometimes requires a lot of effort. That’s why headhunters won’t take your cold calls or respond to your unsolicited emails. They’re busy.

But there are still lots of people who treat recruiters as their personal career advisors. While advising you is part of a recruiter’s job, our primary job is finding candidates for a specific open vacancy.

So how do recruitment agencies/headhunters work?

Agencies or headhunters get hired by companies. Although some agencies are retained (typically these are headhunting firms working primarily on senior-level roles), most work on a contingency basis. This means that they get paid (in my experience, typically 15-20% of the successful candidate’s base salary) only if they find the perfect candidate for the job. It’s not uncommon for a recruiter to work on a position for weeks and end up with nothing.

Because they work for an employer, they simply don’t have the time to target their search to jobs specifically for you. The responsibility to find a job is all yours; you’re the only one who can make your job search a priority. 

Recruiters simply facilitate the process by introducing you and preparing you to meet with their clients.

Recruiters can definitely add value to your job search, but it’s important to know what to expect and how to work with them.

How to Work With Recruiters

In terms of how not to approach recruiters, I often get resumes of people who clearly haven’t bothered to read about what I do as they ask me to find them jobs in areas such as investment banking… when I look after recruitment for an online travel company across Europe!

Sending blank emails to lots of recruiters without doing any research is simply the quickest way for your email to get deleted.

While such an approach is a complete waste of your time, I always recommend to candidates and my interview coaching clients to source a number of recruiters who specialize in their area of expertise and keep in contact with them. Don’t just rely on job boards.

Here are my top tips for working with recruiters:

Treat Them Like You Would Any Other Networking Contact

Would you ever start calling other professionals you don’t know and expect them to go find you a job without knowing anything about you?

Not likely.

So I would suggest choosing a few recruiters (2 or 3) to try to build a relationship with first —before asking for their help. If you can introduce yourself at a networking event, fantastic, but you can also find and contact recruiters via social networks such as LinkedIn.

Don’t Wait Till You’re No Longer Working to Connect With Them

Recruiters prefer to work with candidates who are employed or very recently unemployed. You can’t build relationships with every recruiter who calls you; pick a few and make sure you stay on their radar.

Offer To Help Them

If a recruiter contacts you about an opportunity that is not of interest to you, offer to assist them with referrals or to be a resource for them in the future. They are likely to remember you.

Stay in Contact, But Don’t Hound Them

Many recruiters, including myself, appreciate emails over phone calls so they can manage their day better.

There’s a fine line between staying in touch and calling obsessively. Calling every two days to inquire whether or not there is an opportunity for you doesn’t make you look enthusiastic, only desperate.

Know What to Expect

If you’re dealing with a recruitment agency, ask the recruiter how their process works, what happens to your resume if you send it to them and what you should expect from them in terms of follow-up or actions.

Be Upfront About Working With Other Recruiters

If you choose to work with multiple recruiters, it’s important to let each one know you’re also working with someone else. Otherwise, they may both market your resume to the same employer, which can be an issue when the recruiter wants to collect the fee.

Keep Your Resume Current

You never know when an interesting opportunity may come along so it’s important to have a well written and current resume at all times.

Be Honest

I’ve seen candidates who weren’t honest about what they do at their current job, the fact that they’re now unemployed or that they recently got a new job, but they don’t like it enough to disclose this. Eventually the truth comes out through reference checks or employment background checks, which most employers request these days, and being dishonest means you’ve ruined that relationship with your recruiter.

Guard Your Online Reputation

Many headhunters will Google your name, so put yourself in the mind of an employer and ensure there is nothing online that could jeopardize your career.

Like every profession, there are great and bad recruiters. The key is to create a relationship with one who is best for your needs. Learning how to work with recruiters could be a great way to get access to jobs that are not posted, but it’s important to diversify your job-hunting strategies.

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