Mary Despe
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Recruiter, Advisor, Writer, Presenter.

Finding a job can be difficult. While the internet has made job searching an easier process, it still takes a lot of effort to land the job of your dreams. Though plenty of people use the internet to conduct their job search, scouring job boards and sending out hundreds of resumes alone will not always help you secure a great opportunity.

This is where you might enlist the help of an outside party. While many job seekers are comfortable interacting with recruiters from hiring companies, consider working with an external or third-party recruiter as part of your job search strategy. Sometimes referred to as “headhunters,” this kind of recruiter typically works for a staffing agency or search firm. They act as the middle person between the job seeker and the hiring company. These recruiters introduce qualified job seekers to the hiring company and often employ tactics that build upon the traditional ways of finding talent. 

These recruiters use multiple methods to find more of the right kind of talent. They don’t just post a job description on a company’s career portal or mine resumes of those actively looking for a position on a popular job board. They actively build relationships with passive candidates—professionals who are qualified for opportunities but who are not actively looking for a new position. They work with many clients and have the ability to connect you with managers hiring for opportunities not always advertised online.

While this might sound like a great way to amp up your job search, here are five tips to keep in mind before working with a recruiter.

1. Realize you’re one of many great candidates with whom they’re in touch. 

Working with a recruiter can be a lot like dating. There are many great professionals out there; the truth is, you’re not the only one. Recruiters make it their business to get to know as many stellar candidates as possible, aligning those who are stand-outs with opportunities their clients present to them. The more strong candidates they meet, the more likely they are to introduce several well-qualified professionals to the client.

2. Understand whose interests they represent. 

Keep in mind that your objectives may not always align with those of the recruiter. They may have a hand in scoring an interview for you with that company you’ve been eyeing. They may give you a heads up about the interviewer’s quirky mannerisms. However, recruiters do not serve as your personal job-finding agent. While they want you to succeed, recruiters are doing their job to equip companies with slates that have many worthy candidates. Just as companies engage recruiters to find and evaluate talent, these companies also compensate them. Recruiters may be paid on a contingency-fee or retainer basis. If recruiters are paid on a contingency-fee placement, they are paid a percentage of salary only if the company hires the referred candidate. Retained recruiters, on the other hand, typically have an exclusive relationship to search for the company and are paid even if the search is unsuccessful.

3. Be open to the feedback and guidance they give about your job search.  

Recruiters want to place candidates at companies; they strive to present the best professionals to their clients. Many will take time to prepare you for all stages of the hiring process, including helpful critiques of your resume or your responses to interview questions. Furthermore, recruiters can provide inside information about a role that you can’t find on a job posting, including reasons why the company opened up the new position or details about the personality types of the people on the hiring team. They may even share why previous candidates were not successful in the interviewing process so you can avoid making similar mistakes. In productive relationships, a good recruiter shares insight and feedback about your performance for the benefit of ongoing development and improvement—not just for a specific opportunity.

4. Build honest rapport with each other.  

As you share the details of your work history with a recruiter, don’t be afraid to share the good, bad and the ugly as it relates to your professional background. For example, if you’ve changed jobs multiple times within a few years, it can be helpful to inform your recruiter of the reasons for such movement. They can offer suggestions on how they can best present you to future employers. 

Your recruiter will also appreciate it when you share the other places where you’ve applied and any other recruiters with whom you’re working. If you’re not that jazzed about a role they’ve talked to you about, tell them. Being upfront allows your recruiter to focus their energy on what matters in your job search. Staying quiet will not foster open dialogue. When you’re both honest, you show that you’re both committed to presenting yourself in the best light.

5. Choose to work with recruiters who understand and respect you. 

Just because many recruiters reach out to tell you about an opportunity, that doesn’t mean that you have to work with them. If they ghost you after you’ve spent time revamping your resume with their suggestions, move on. In a good relationship, a recruiter can act as a trusted advisor. They are there not just to assess your skills but to also get a solid understanding of your story as a professional. They ask questions about the many layers of your professional work life—your preferred work style, your best accomplishments, what drives you crazy about previous managers and what you feel is missing from your current role. As they learn these details about you, good recruiters can speak to your professional accomplishments in ways that work for you. This becomes helpful, for instance, in situations where there may be questions about your potential ability to lead a team of associates. A good recruiter can follow up with the hiring manager to remind them of specific examples where you guided others with confidence. 

Many times, a recruiter can become an advocate for your career. Just as you never know when you might be in search of a new job, staying in touch with a recruiter with whom you get along can contribute to your future career success.