Optimize your Relationship with Recruiters

It’s time to talk about recruiters, also known as headhunters and search firms, since this is an appropriate job search tactic for many of you. Please note that recruiters are not the same thing as employment agencies. Agencies match people to open jobs and generally work with lower-level positions. Recruiters tend to work with executive-level staff.

First, you need to know that no matter what you call them, recruiters don’t work for you … they work for the employer who pays their fee (up to a whopping 30% of your starting salary!). Recruiters do their work in two key ways: on retainer, or on contigency.

In retained searches, the recuiter receives a fee whether they fill the position or not. In a contingency search, the recruiter is paid only if they refer the candidate who the employer hires for the job in question. Which of these kinds of recruiters will you want to work with?

Both! Regardless of how the recruiter is paid, you can potentially be referred to/hired for a great job. As you work with recruiters, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Make initial contact with multiple recruiters, but seek to establish working relationships with 2-3 key ones who really “get” what you have to offer.
  • Send your resume/cover letter to recruiters in your local area, to recruiters outside your local area who hire in your local area, and to recruiters who may hire to fill territory-based positions in your geographic area.
  • Keep an open mind when presented with career possibilities. Think of the recruiter as an ally, and talk frankly with them about your career interests and strengths. Be willing to explore and discuss all kinds of positions.
  • Be honest and direct … the more you can help the recruiter to “get” what you have to offer, the more likely they will be able to help you.
  • If a recruiter contacts you about an open position, and as you learn about it you determine that it isn’t a good match for you, then verify that through questioning and offer feedback to the recruiter. “If I’m understanding you correctly, employer X is seeking a, b, and c. To be honest with you, I do not have c. Thus, I am not a prime candidate for this position.”
  • If you know of someone who may be a candidate for the position, offer to refer that person to the recruiter.
  • Stay in touch with recruiters after they’ve sent you on interviews. Let them know how the interview went, who you met with, and whether you have additional questions or information you want to share with the employer.
  • Look for recruiters who specialize in your career field or industry.
  • Use your 10-30 second and 1-2 minute commercials to introduce yourself to recruiters you don’t know.
  • Remember that recruiters work for employers and not for you. Thus, don’t take their silence personally. It isn’t you … but they’re busy satisfying the needs of their clients, and they WILL call you if your background matches their needs.
  • That said, don’t be afraid to call them and get to know them. Their business success depends on relationships, so they are extremely open to forming new ones when it appears to meet their needs.
  • Be honest about your salary needs. With recruiters you can take the kid gloves off and get real!

So, how do you find recruiters? Start with these online directories:

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.