“I hate when I’m working with a recruiter on an opening and, after I go in for a round of interviews, I don’t get any feedback. E-mails and calls go unanswered. The recruiter falls off the face of the Earth until he gets another job in that could work for me.” This quote from iMedia Connection is one of many complaints that job seekers have about recruiters. Many job seekers believe that recruiters are really failing at their job, and while we agree that there is a level of responsiveness and common courtesy sometimes lacking, most of job seekers’ frustrations stem from the fact that there are misconceptions between who recruiters actually work for and what recruiters should be doing for job seekers. An article written by Molly Triffin on LearnVest perfectly highlights these misconceptions:
Amethyst Polk was a NASA project analyst. Despite her outstanding performance reviews, she found herself laid off during furloughs. She acted quickly to find a new job. After exhausting job boards and job fairs, she turned to her LinkedIn account. She cleaned up her profile, and highlighted the ways she contributed to her industry. It wasn’t long before Polk started getting calls from recruiters. She admitted she had no idea how to work with them, and was under the impression they worked to help her find a job. Her misunderstanding meant that it took her longer to land a job because she was missing out on very fruitful alternate resources. Eventually, Polk did figure out how to work with the recruiters and found employment as a result.
Like Amethyst Polk, many job seekers search their networks, and polish up their LinkedIn profiles in the hopes of attracting a recruiter. In some cases recruiters contacts them, and they still don’t get the job. Why? Because in reality recruiters work for their clients, the employers, not the job seeker. Unfortunately, many job hunters are under the impression that a recruiter’s job is to find out what you want to do and then go out and find a job for you. This prolongs the job searching process because job hunters may end up wasting time pitching to recruiters for jobs they can’t help them land.
This brings up another common gripe – recruiters simply blast out job offers, regardless of if a job hunter is qualified or not. For example, if you’re an IT Manager, you certainly don’t want to hear about entry-level jobs. You are in a database and a keyword in your résumé popped up in a keyword search. You then became part of a mass mailing list. They didn’t even read your résumé. Should you waste your time letting the recruiter know that you don’t fit? No. Just ignore it if it’s nothing you would pursue. Whenever you can, though, pass it on! That’s what they’re hoping – that you’ll see the job posting and because you touched this technology or worked with this methodology that you know someone who would be interested in pass it on if you don’t want to pursue it. Misguided and inconvenient? It can certainly be perceived this way, but it is an opportunity. Referral bonuses are very common these days and nurturing your network is a great way to harvest more job leads from your contacts. If you want to avoid this altogether, don’t work with that recruiter. Find another one. Not all of them blast out inappropriate job postings. You also have the option of not using recruiters at all. There are certainly client who I advise not to work with recruiters because they are not what a recruiter would consider “presentable,” employable though they may be. However, if you are a presentable candidate, you would put potential limits on your future opportunity to shun recruiters. They can be the agent that moves the hiring process along on your behalf, if they feel you are their best chance at getting the placement.
You can form relationships with recruiters, while keeping in mind they work for the employer. After all, you both have a mutual interest. They are motivated by money earned from placements and they want to keep their job by filling open positions for their client. You want to be the one who lands that open position. A deeper understanding on how recruiters work can give you an edge during your job transition. More importantly, a better understanding of recruiters can reduce frustration, which causes friction. You will know better to make recruiters a supplemental part of your job search rather than depending on them. Also, if you depend too heavily on recruiters, you are limiting possible opportunity to those jobs that are filled by recruiters, which are NOT all jobs. According to a 2014 Jobvite survey, 40% of job seekers have found their best job through personal connections while about 10% found a job through recruiters.
The different types of recruiters
First of all, recruiters are NOT hiring managers with ultimate authority to hire you. They are responsible for locating suitable talent for a client, and getting qualified candidates in front of hiring managers. There are several types of recruiters, and they all have the same goal of helping a client fill open positions. Knowing what type of recruiter you are working with is half the battle.
Internal recruiters are employees of the hiring company, and their sole job is to fill open positions. They work at their employer’s location, and also conduct interviews there. Success for an internal recruiter depends on how quickly they can fill an open position, how long those hires “stick” and how well they perform. Internal recruiters are usually in a hurry to fill a position for their employer, and don’t have a vested interest in helping you get a job. Their number one goal is to position their employer for optimal success by procuring the best candidates for the job. They often have a goal of narrowing the field of candidates down to one to three per open position, and only one candidate will get the job.
Working with internal recruiters can be advantageous for job seekers, as they have an inside perspective. They know how their organization works, and they know lots of important people in the hiring process, namely the hiring managers. If they feel you are best person for the open position, they may act as an advocate, and may even give you a heads up in terms of the employee culture. That said, internal recruiters are not your personal job advocates. Their loyalty is always with their employer.
External recruiters are third-party firms engaged by employers. Some work on contingency, meaning they only get paid if their candidate gets hired, and some are retained, or used exclusively by a company to deliver top-tier, usually passive, candidates. Retained recruiters are usually hired because they have demonstrated the ability to find the best candidates who get hired and produce. Also, there are external recruiters on-site at their clients managing the whole recruiting process (RPO – Recruiting Process Outsourcing.) This may or not be transparent to you, the candidate. They usually have a corporate e-mail address and are every bit as integrated into the hiring function as an internal recruiter would be. The fee they charge employers is usually a percentage of the first year’s annual salary for the job being filled, which is usually 20% to 30%, or more.
The big advantage of working with an contingent recruiter is that if they don’t find the winning candidate, they have no fee to collect. However, retained recruiters DO get a retainer fee and then a placement bonus; they are expected to fill the job no matter what. The higher your starting salary is, the greater the fee they collect, so they have a vested interest in help you garner the best offer. The downside is that their fee raises the cost of an employer to hire you, and an employer may be tempted to pick an applicant willing to accept a lower salary, or a candidate who isn’t working with a recruiter. Referrals are the number one source for hire volume and the quality of hires, versus third party recruiting firms.
What recruiters actually do
No matter what type of recruiter you work for, they all have the goal of finding the best person for the position. The more effectively a recruiter matches top talent to job requirements, better they are at their job. They are not career coaches, and it is not their job to determine how you would fit into their or their clients’ organization. Don’t expect them to guide you during your job search, though some offer, and you cannot hire them to work for you as a job seeker’s agent. They can get your résumé in front of a hiring manager, but they may not have any control of the hiring process. They can be relied upon as the experts to consult on hiring matters, however. It is expected that they know more about the market in terms of availability of talent and rates or salaries.
Also, recruiters will advise you to make changes to your résumé and consider jobs for which you are qualified that you might not want. They want you to be as marketable as possible. The better you present yourself, the more this will be true. They are sales people in this way. They may have to sell you on the opportunity, and then they have to sell you either to an account manager or the hiring manager directly. They also have little expertise or interest in teaching you how to look for a job outside of them. They wouldn’t want that because it makes you less of a source of their income AND the feedback that they get from hiring managers gives them a certain tunnel vision. Often, I was told that the candidate MUST have a certain experience, and they wound up hiring someone without it based on a recommendation. They expect recruiters to deliver a candidate that meets the requirements exactly, but that doesn’t mean they hire the most candidates who match the requirements best. Asking career advice of a recruiter will help you understand your best chance at landing generally, but not the optimal place you should look for a job when they can’t present or place you, especially if you are changing industries or roles, nor can they qualify what the best possible role would be for your skills, talents and professional goals. They must also be a career coach to offer this type of advice, and I know some are (like me.)
Communicating with a recruiter
Finding suitable talent for an employer is more time consuming than ever. Hundreds to thousands of candidates may apply to a single job opening. Recruiters have to prioritize their time, and the bulk of their time goes to strong candidates. If they feel you’re a good match for a job requirement or a role that has needs ongoingly, they will spend more time speaking to you. On the flipside, recruiters will spend very little to no time working with candidates they feel are a poor match for their clients. This includes not responding to e-mails or sending out rejection notices. Recruiters spend most of their day screening out candidates. This doesn’t mean they are routing against you. They want to believe that you are the candidate that their client will hire, but they are skeptical, and for good reason. Doug Horn writes about the various ways candidates have told lies to recruiters in his article “Résumé Fraud: How Recruiters and Businesses Can Know if Candidates are Lying.” It’s not even just deception, but the unpredictable nature of candidates. It can be very tricky, sometimes funny, often mind-boggling when people are your product. Taking the time to follow up with a recruiter, researching a company, and practicing for an interview can help ensure that you move on to the next stage of the hiring process. This takes persistence. Call them versus e-mailing them up to four times before giving up. The squeaky wheel, as they say. Check out my vlog “Do recruiters want you to call.” Own staying in communication with your recruiter, have regular check-ins and updates on interviewing activities. These early impressions matter, because how you do anything is how you do everything.
Why you should work with a recruiter
Job seeking and making career transitions are all about relationships. Getting a job without the right connections, i.e. your network connections, is extremely difficult. You can think of recruiters as another connection in your net”work” to work. As I said earlier, your interests are aligned. They want to find the best possible candidate for an employer, and you want to present yourself as the best possible candidate for an employer. If recruiters find you to be a good match for their client, they can introduce you to a hiring manager. They sometimes know about job openings before anyone else does, and they also know about job openings that aren’t advertised. These unadvertised positions are typically a firm’s highest paying and most senior positions. Recruiters can give you insight into the employer’s organization, and who the real hiring decision makers are. External recruiters are paid a contingency fee that is based on your starting salary, and they can help you obtain a higher salary.
Ways to optimize your success
How do you get a recruiter to successfully notice you? Have a strong online presence. That sends recruiters running toward you. Keyword optimization is important, but it has to be in context. A little ago I wrote about how to effectively use keywords. LinkedIn is the number one choice for recruiters to find talent. Make sure your other social networks are geared toward helping your job prospects, instead of hindering them. Your online presence is a great way to show how you’re an industry leader, and how you keep abreast of events. Use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters, both internal and external. This is mutually beneficial because recruiters can easily research you. Join industry-specific groups, college alumni, and corporate alumni groups within LinkedIn. Not only will you stand out among other users, but these are also places recruiters frequent on the service when they are searching for talent.
Once you have the attention of a recruiter there is more work to do to make sure you are placed in front of a hiring manager. A recruiter’s goal is to narrow job applicants down to one from three per job description in their quest to present the best candidate to their client. To avoid being cut during the screening process, demonstrate you did the research for an employer by presenting a recruiter with a T-table with the requirements against your qualifications, and a one to two-sentence blurb about something unique and valuable you offer above and beyond the requirements. Your résumé needs to be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t include your references on your résumé, and this brings us to our next critical piece of advice on working with recruiters:
When it comes to qualifying recruiters, you need know that some will keep your references information in their sales database and try to reach out to offer recruiting services to them. Would your references appreciate that? Wouldn’t it be better if you offered to recommend the recruiter if they did a great job placing you? Give references to recruiters after you get their reassurance that they will use the information for references only. If they violate this, blacklist them. They’d do the same to you (stay tuned for a blog on how and why recruiters blacklist you.) In fact, there is a lot more you need to understand about a recruiter before you let them represent you.
Good recruiters limit their submittals, or candidates send, to one to three. The bad recruiters send too many and hiring managers stop giving their candidates attention. Ask the recruiter how many candidates they have presented already and how many are still in play.
Know your external recruiter’s vendor relationship and how it connects to the employer your interested in. Companies can ask external recruiting firms to go through a vendor approval and tiering process. Tier A vendors get priority. Tier B vendors are still approved, but their candidates are only consider if their Tier A didn’t send the match. The tier that your vendor is in can also impact whether the recruiter interfaces with hiring managers directly or not, although some vendor management systems forbid third-party interfacing with hiring managers regardless of tier, which makes it hard for them to influence the hiring decision. These are questions you can ask to better understand your best way in. – Another BIG warning – do not be submitted by multiple recruiters or try to go above your recruiter’s head or you may be eliminated from consideration! It can be perceived as deceptive AND companies avoid candidate ownership disputes at all costs. They probably will not see you as a good enough reason to go through that.
Disclose your criteria and salary requirements up front. Many people trained or coached to negotiate their salary will have been taught to keep their salary requirements private (we don’t coach that way!), but with a recruiter, you have to tell them up front or they won’t bother with you. They don’t always have the leverage to negotiate above the budgets they are given, which is also why some career coaches recommend you avoid them completely. I know this appeals to some job seekers, and if you can effectively leverage alternate job seeking resources, such as your network, then the limits on your future possibility diminish. However, if you cannot generate good JoMo (Job Momentum) without them, give them a try, but make sure you read the next section first.
A recruiter doesn’t always have all opening on their radar. If you see another job position open, ask them about other positions you see posted (but be careful not to apply to too much.) They may have already qualified you, and may be able to present you to a hiring manager faster. If you have already qualified them as a reputable professional, you may have a competitive advantage in working with them. Don’t apply for a position directly through a website; let your recruiter represent you. If they don’t get credit for a successful hire, they don’t get paid, especially if they are an external recruiter.
If you land a job because of a recruiter, thank them for their work by giving them great referrals for other candidates, use them when you hire people, and recommend them when your company is in need of talent.
For a full presentation on how to get interviews using recruiters, view my slide deck, “Get More Interviews: Partner with Recruiters.” (Now included on my LinkedIn profile.)
Recruiters are a vital part of the hiring process. They can make or break your job hunting prospects. Keep in mind they can help you get a job, but they work for their clients. There are many types of recruiters. There are internal recruiters and external recruiters who either work on contingency or are retained. They may work onsite or offsite. You may also have Tier A and Tier B external recruiters who are approved, or may have unapproved vendors. Knowing which type you’re working with will help you determine who you go to first when you see an open position and who your best shot is at getting the interview and the job offer.
Having a good relationship with a recruiter ensures that you know about high-level jobs that aren’t being advertised. Additionally, forming a connection with a recruiter can mean they consider you first when their client is hiring. Going through recruiters isn’t the only way to land a job, but working with them can make it easier land a position for the job you’re interested in. Better yet, a great relationship with a recruiter may mean they bring offers to you, while you’re passively looking for work. A recruiter works for the employer, and leveraging their position with a potential employer is great way to make moves in your career.
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