Job Search: What You Need To Know About Working With Recruiters

CN_Marc_v1_eAre you wondering what job search recruiters do? Are all recruiters pretty much alike? Who are they really working for? Do they really have your best interests at heart?

From the comments I get, I’ve realized that a lot of job seekers don’t understand the role of recruiters – and as a result, may actually hurt their own chances for the job they want so much.

What recruiters do

Recruiters help employers find candidates for their job openings. Once they become aware of a position that needs to be filled, they begin looking for people who are the best matches they can find. Many already have internal databases with resumes of people who have contacted them in the past or whom they’ve found on their own in other ways.

They also initiate searches for new potential matches by placing ads and scouring online resources such as LinkedIn and other places where existing resumes or profiles deliver names that match various combinations of keywords or key phrases based on the job description. That’s why it’s so important that you use key words & phrases highlighting skills and experience employers might search for.

Recruiters will usually contact the candidates to perform a deeper level of screening, beyond just what they see on paper or online. This is the point where you feel like they are working for you. (See below for the truth.) They will then present the best fits to the employer to see which ones (if any) the employer wants to meet with.

Unfortunately, if you were screened and not selected, you may never hear back from the recruiter, and that part drives job seekers crazy (with good reason). Still, if you just have to know, you can usually find out what happened with a follow-up call or email to the recruiter – giving them enough time to actually get to that next step.

Types of recruiters

There are two basic types of recruiters, with subdivisions of each:

    External recruiters

  • An external recruiter works for a separate recruitment company, and will get paid in some way (percentage or set fee or combination of the two) by the employer if the candidate they find is hired.
  • Most external recruiters are paid a fee only if their candidate is hired, so it can be a competitive, shark-filled game at times as they do their best to bring only the most desirable candidates, hoping they will get exclusive contracts or at least be the ones employers turn to first.
  • Some external recruiters are what’s called “head hunters” because they specialize in seeking out people who are not especially looking (maybe even happy where they are) but have all the qualifications – and then they do their best to talk them into wanting to interview.

    Internal recruiters

  • Internal recruiters work for the company either as part of the HR department, or as a secondary duty on top of their regular jobs, or as a hired consultant, which is the kind of work I did for many years (among other things).
  • An internal recruiter may help with job descriptions (usually working with the HR department), resume and phone screenings, interviews, and even with the last phases of the process, including reference checking. They usually have input, but, as with external recruiters, they do not have the power to make the final decision.

Who do recruiters really work for?

No matter how nice they are or how much they really like you, they work for the employer. It’s important to remember that.

They will certainly try their best to get one of their clients placed, since it means money for them and perhaps a stronger relationship with the hiring employer. So if you are their only shot at getting this position filled, know that they will be doing their best whether you are busy following up or not.

BUT they may have other job seekers up for the same job, and you may not be the one they are pushing for hardest. I’m not saying this is always the way, but it could be the case. Just good for you to understand the whole picture.

Some dos & don’ts of working with recruiters

  • Don’t go behind their backs and try to win the job on your own by contacting the employer directly, unless you discuss this with them. They have the official relationship, and should be kept in the loop.
  • Do stay in touch with the recruiter, and ask what else you can do to help your chances – including sending the employer follow-up notes, additional examples of your work, updates on any new certificates you’ve earned, etc.
  • Just don’t call them every day or even every other day unless you are at a point where you both agree this is ok.
  • Do treat the recruiter with respect and ask for advice along the way. Not that they are always right, but they may have insight into this particular employer or suggestions about your resume / interview style. Do your own research, but also take advantage of their expertise.
  • When you speak with them, do use the same energy and fully-engaged attitude you would in an interview. Listen carefully and be as natural as possible with them. They will be thinking about how you present yourself when they decide whether to present your resume to a client.
  • When you contact a recruiter, do make it easy for them to clearly and quickly understand what you are looking for and your strong points that will help get you there.
  • Don’t expect recruiters to be your champions unless you are well qualified. If you have almost no experience and are hoping they will talk your way into a job where experience matters, don’t hold your breath. They prefer putting time and energy into the candidates they can “sell” easier. It also helps them since it shows their client (the employer) that they understand and respect his or her needs.

There may be exceptions, but I just don’t want you to be shocked if you never hear back after sending them your resume.

NOTE:  Your best bet when you are NOT an easy sell for them, is to go it on your own and do your best to sell yourself. Find networking contacts to help. It can be done … just most likely without the help of a recruiter!

More articles to help your job search

♦   How To Find a New Job

♦   Resumes & cover letter help (plus targeted examples)

♦   Interview tips: Before, during & after your job interview

♦   What goes on behind the scenes after applying for a job?