Monday, May 10, 2010

Working with Recruiters

4 Tips for Working with Recruiters
By David Staiti, Vice President and Practice Manager at The Charles Sterling Group

A good recruiter can be worth his or her weight in gold to a job seeker. Good recruiters have access to jobs and information about the market, and they can even give you advice that will improve your chances of getting interviews and offers. Many job seekers find working with a recruiter to be challenging, but it doesn't have to be.

The following four ways to work more successfully with a recruiter may help you with your job search:

1. Understand what recruiters do
Recruiters work for their clients because the client pays the bill -- they don't work for their candidates. If you understand this dynamic, you can use it to your benefit. The recruiter's relationship with the client means that he typically has access to inside information. Listen to a recruiter's advice very carefully when it comes to résumé changes, interview coaching, etc. This advice is given to candidates because recruiters know what will maximize a candidate's chances of getting an offer.

2. Work with the best recruiters
To find the best recruiters, start by asking colleagues for referrals. Also try to identify recruiters who specialize in your job field, geography, career level, etc. Recruiters want to work with marketable candidates, and that means you want to talk to recruiters who specialize in your discipline.

Once you have found a recruiter, don't be afraid to ask her about her experience, process and approach to the job search. Recruiters are not obligated to work with you as a candidate, nor are you obligated to work with them. Recruiters will be highly selective about whom they work with, and so should you. A recruiter works for her client, but she is also representing you, so make sure you are comfortable.

3. Work with them, not against them
If you have little or no experience working with recruiters, you may be put off by some of the questions they ask. Understand that recruiters need a detailed and thorough understanding of your background, education, work history, compensation, etc. A recruiter may even ask you if you have a criminal history, bad credit or an arrest record. It is best to answer these questions openly and honestly. If you have some skeletons in the closet, it does not mean that the recruiter won't work with you. On the contrary, the recruiter may be able to offer advice on how to handle sensitive subjects (such as a drunken-driving charge).

You should also openly share feedback with the recruiter throughout the search process. Honestly discuss your career goals, salary expectations, feedback from interviews, level of interest in a given job, etc. The more the recruiter knows about what makes you tick, the more likely he is to find you a job that is a good fit.

4. Even if you are not actively looking for a job, talk to a recruiter If talking to a recruiter when you are not looking for a job seems pointless, I can assure you it is not. The most valuable candidates to a recruiter are those who are not actively looking for work.

If you consider a recruiter's point of view, the reason for this is clear. First, employers generally consider employed candidates more favorably than those who are unemployed. Right or wrong, gainful employment suggests that the candidate is good at what she does and relatively stable. Second, a passive candidate means less competition for the recruiter, thereby maximizing the recruiter's chances that he can earn a placement fee. Conversely, if you contact a recruiter when you are actively looking for a job, the recruiter knows that his chances of placing you are minimized because of other competition.

Finally, and most importantly, a good recruiter can be your eyes and ears on the job market when you are too busy to pay attention for yourself. If a recruiter understands your background and goals, he can contact you if and when a potential opportunity arises. When you have a job that you like, you are probably too busy to keep up on the job market. A recruiter can keep you connected to the market so you don't miss out on a potentially great opportunity.

David Staiti is a vice president and practice manager at The Charles Sterling Group. David manages the firm's accounting and finance executive search practice.