An Interview with a Recruiter

by Frank Traditi, author of Get Hired Now!

To help you better understand the business of recruiting and executive search, I had an email conversation with Sue Wyman. Sue is President of Jivaro Group, www.jivarogroup.com, a national executive search firm, to share her expertise and straightforward opinions on the recruiting business.

Let’s start with the basics. Tell us how the business of recruiting works.

“Both corporate and third party recruiters (search firms) all search for candidates for a company or group of companies. They have a specific position with a specific location in mind when they conduct a search. The requirements for the positions are generally very narrow and recruiters can’t deviate from the requirements if they want to make a placement. It is very unusual for recruiters to represent a candidate (rather than a company) and try to get them into a company.

Contingency recruiters get paid after a candidate is offered a position, accepts, and starts working. There is generally a guarantee period involved, so if a candidate leaves before the guarantee is up, the recruiter either has to refund the money to the client or has to find another candidate. Contingency recruiters compete with other firms, corporate recruiters, internal candidates, candidates who apply on-line and employee referral programs. This is an unusual profession in that a whole lot of work can be done and the recruiter may never receive any compensation for it.

Retained recruiters are usually paid in three-part installments during specific points during the search and upon candidate placement. They have no competitors on a retained search as they get paid no matter where the candidate comes from. Generally only very high level searches (VP and C-level) are retained.”

What are some of the biggest mistakes job seekers make working with a recruiter?

“1) Many job seekers feel they are ‘perfect’ for every position that catches their eye. They often focus on a couple of the requirements that they meet and overlook the rest. My firm adds a category of ‘Must Have’ requirements to our position descriptions and job seekers still ignore them. Be it exuberance or naïveté, it’s frustrating and it slows down the process.

2) Job seekers need to be straight with the recruiter. Let the recruiter know if you’ve applied on-line or have talked to another recruiter about the position. If you’ve already been presented to a client, the ‘new’ recruiter can’t work with you on this position. If they present you and the client comes back and tells them that another recruiter has already presented you or that your resume is in their database, the recruiter looks either dumb or sneaky and isn’t going to be very happy with you.”

What key qualities must candidates demonstrate to you before you submit them to your clients?

“1) Achievement – companies want high performers as employees. A candidate must demonstrate that they’ve been a high achiever. There are metrics around every position and candidates have to be able to articulate how they’ve excelled. Know what your position’s metrics are/were and be able to explain your performance relative to both the goals and others on your team.

2) Attitude – Individuals who find a way to be positive and productive even in the most challenging times are the ones who rise to the top. Most of us have had a number of things to whine about in the last four years, but negative attitudes can suck the life out of teams and organizations.

3) Maturity – Individuals who are introspective about their past positions and companies and who know what they want next. Individuals who understand what their strengths and weaknesses are and who are actively engaged in developing themselves.

4) Honesty – transparency in all pertinent areas.”

What is the best way for motivated (and often anxious) candidates to work with recruiters?

“Understand that there are many ways to find a position. Recruiters are only one of those ways. Recruiters can only work with you if they have a position that fits your profile. If we don’t call you, it’s because we aren’t working on anything that you’re a fit for. Believe me, if we’re working on something that you are a fit for…we’ll call you immediately. Set up reasonable communication expectations with the recruiter – don’t become a stalker.

If you find a recruiter that you respect and like working with…bring something to the table. Recruiters need good referrals of both candidates and companies who are looking for people. Ask the recruiter how you might be able to help them. This will help make you a memorable candidate.”

What helpful tips and advice can you share with our readers?

“1) Make sure that your resume reflects your accomplishments. If you’re a sales person, make sure that it’s easy for the reader to find out what you sold (brief description of products/technologies), who you sold it to (listing of recognizable clients and industries), how much of it you were supposed to sell (quota) and how much of it you actually sold (% of attainment). If appropriate mention your ranking on your team. If you’re in other disciplines, determine your teams metrics and articulate them in the resume.

2) Networking is critical … learn how to network the right way. It’s about giving, and not just looking to receive.

3) Be introspective and understand your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re interested in working for a company, do your research and come up with three strong reasons why you want to work there. Then, come up with three strong reasons why you’d be a great person for a particular position in that company. Take the initiative on your career…no one else will.

4) Read Frank’s book!”