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I’m Looking for Job! What is the best way to work with a recruiter?

On many occasions I have been asked the question “what is the best way to work with a recruiter to get a job?” What I have found is that the question usually lends itself to a discussion how recruiters work. As a recruiter I know there is a lot of confusion on what expectations individuals have from a recruiter, when they need a job.

Working with a recruiter can be a great benefit in your job search, but it is just as important to understand how a recruiter fits into the hiring process. Here is a very candid explanation to demystify how recruiters work.

The first question in many job seekers minds is “don’t recruiters work for the candidate?” Recruiters are hired by their clients and paid by their clients. Typically, an outside recruiter is hired when a company needs to fill a role. There are several reasons companies work with a recruitment partner. They either are unable to fill through internal means or they need special skills for a position or they are strategically hiring for the position where they want a consultant to assist.

In other words, recruiters are asked to find individuals that fill specific skill sets, which means a recruiter’s responsibilities are to listen to their client’s needs and then go to the market to find the person that will fill the role. Their responsibility is not to find a job seeker a new role. The recruiter’s goal is to find someone who has the required skills for the job.

As an external recruiter there are more expectations from the client that candidates will have a higher percentage of the skills that parallel the job description. External recruiters do not typically have opportunities that help people to transition into a new field or a new industry, because the expectation is that they are finding someone that will step into the role and hit the ground running.

Now that we’ve defined what a recruiter’s role is, the next question I usually get is why do recruiters tend to not return calls when I call them? Recruiters tend to really like people and want the best for them. I can’t speak for everyone here and yes there may be some that are not as friendly, but I can talk about myself and my peers. We would love to help everyone. We tend to have individuals ask us for free coaching. The problem a recruiter runs into is that we get a lot of requests for our time to discuss many individual’s job searches.

If we talk to everyone, even the individuals who do not fit into a current role we are working on, it is not going to benefit the job seeker or the recruiter. A job seeker is not going to learn about anything that will help them find a job and the recruiter will not be able to speak with them about a role that fits. Recruiters also have a limited amount of time in a day, like anyone who has a work or family role that requires their attention.

For this reason, it is important that a job seeker speaks only to recruiters that fit within their space, industry, or function; but more on how to approach a recruiter later. Also, if a job seeker is in need of professional services such as overall career coaching or resume writing it is best to speak to a professional in these areas. These services do not come free and are extremely valuable; they are priced to fit an individual’s needs.

I also get asked “why there seems to be different styles of recruiters?’ Like most industries recruitment does have segments and differences. There are essentially two types of external recruiters that work in full time permanent hiring. I will describe both here, but I also have a grid outlining the difference between the two main types of recruitment.

There are contingency recruitment companies and retained search firms. Contingency recruiters are not paid unless their client hires a candidate that they submit. Competition among the contingency firms can be intense. The positions that a contingency firm is asked to work on will frequently be offered to multiple recruiters at different recruitment agencies.

The contingency recruiters go to market with the same role, and the firm who finds the right talent will get paid. That is why you may hear from a few recruiters about the same role. They are not working together, so if you are interested in the role the first recruiter that piqued your interest will be the one who will go through the rest of the recruitment process with you.

If you are offered the job and you accept the offer the firm who presented you gets paid. If you decline the offer or don’t get an offer they may get paid if they have another candidate in the process, otherwise they will not get paid. The situation here is that timing is critical, and these firms are not expected to take much time to present candidates.

Retained search firms are paid by a client to take on a role that is worked on exclusively by one firm. The expectation from the client is that this firm will provide a higher level of service because they are being paid during the duration of the search.

Retained firms are expect to only present candidates that are a very close match to the position or that have attributes that will fit successfully into the position. There is a more detailed discussion and interview that takes place with retained firms.

Retained firms are often used for executive search, hard to fill positions with a smaller talent pool and definitely positions where the recruiter needs to dig deeper to speak to candidates that are not available on the surface (because typically the company has vetted those candidates already).

Retained firms get paid a consulting fee which is paid out to start a search and typically at milestones hit during the search.

A retained recruiter sits down to map out who needs to be networked with and talked to about the role. When the recruiter reaches out to the market we talk in detail about the position, the company, and the challenges. At TLR Search we also talk about the value the role brings to the company, the differentiation of the company from its competitors, and why this may be a good opportunity for the candidate. We spend time to listen to the candidate and to make sure the role aligns with their career goals and those goals align with what the company can provide as a career.

Retained recruiters are not competing to get the first candidate in. We are expected to know a person will fit into the job, so our clients only have to focus on the interview and make a final decision.

As promised, here is the best way to work with a recruiter: The best way to work with a recruiter is to do research on the recruiters in your industry or function and reach out to those recruiters. Email is usually best. Let them know you are looking for opportunities and wanted to share your details in case the right opportunity is available in their firm.

Don’t be offended that a recruiter can’t take time to talk on the phone or step away for an all-morning meeting to discuss your current job search. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, we love to network and talk with people, but it is not always conducive to our client’s demands on our time, especially if a person’s skills don’t match a current position we are working on.

However, it is important to network with recruiters because the searches we work on happen quickly. We may not have something today, but we may have something tomorrow. We are just one step in your job networking process.

Another great way to work with recruiters is to build the relationship before you need it. I have been recruiting for more than 20 years and in that time, I have met a lot of different people. So, I would like to share an example, before giving tips on how to do this. Over the years I have reached out to very talented individuals that I think will be perfect for a role. I don’t assume I will get a yes or a no, but I realize the role I have is a solid match and may even be a great opportunity.

I typically share my phone number and email. I am never offended by an answer of “I’m not interested.” When I talk to someone who says I am not interested we spend 5 minute and I typically learn what would be intriguing for a person to even consider a move or I learn they may have friend that is seeking a new job. Either way I now know more about that individual when we end our conversation.

If I have a role in the future and I hear their company is transitioning I can call them before they even start looking. I will also remember them if they call me.

What’s most fascinating to me is the people who do not reply for years and then find themselves seeking new opportunities. They will tend to be frustrated, thinking recruiters are not responsive and have stopped calling about roles. Recruiters are human and though we have a job to call the right candidates, if we have called a person 20 times in the past with no response, we may feel we are bothering someone again.

So, that person may not be the first person being called for the next role. Which is truly unfortunate for this individual, because when they call upset that they want a job now, that paints the picture that it is all about them in that moment.

It is best to integrate recruiters into to your strategy for your career. You don’t have to call every recruiter, but you never know who your advocate in the future may be. To stay on a recruiter’s radar just send a quick email or call to let them to let them know you are not interested at this time.

It will also help the recruiter to take you off their list and it will save you time in the long run. In addition, put this recruiter’s name in your contacts in case you are looking for a role in the future. You also may be hiring some day and want to talk to that recruiter, because you like how they connected with you.


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