Here's How to Find a Recruiter When You're Looking to Change Careers

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Kelly Poulson51
Coach. Career Navigator. Ass Kicker. Dog mom.
Changing your career isn’t easy. But neither is staying at a job that’s not right for you. Too many people spend their lives in jobs they hate because they are afraid to make a change or put forth the effort to get to where they want to be. There is plenty of support out there for career changers if you know where to look. Friends, family, career coaches and, especially, recruiters are the folks to turn to while thinking about what to do next. And they can also be the people to help you stand out in an interview.
So here's what to know about recruiters so you can learn how to find a recruiter that'll be able to help you when you're looking to make moves.

What is a recruiter?

There are different types of recruiters, but their jobs are all relatively the same. The two major types include the following:
  1. Corporate Recruiters: These people "are employed by a company for the purpose of finding and qualifying new employees for the organization," according to The Balance. "Third party recruiters are subcontracted to by a company for the same purpose. Several different types of third party recruiters exist, but the main difference between them lies in how they are compensated."
  2. Contingency recruiters: These individuals don't typically have any kind of exclusive working relationship with the company. Instead, they are paid a fee only if the company hires a candidate who the recruiter discovered, according to The Balance. So a recruiter (also known as a headhunter) helps you job search and, in turn, helps themselves.
In short, a recruiter will work with you to tailor your interests and find job openings for which your experience may be applicable. They'll also work with companies and match you with companies that they know are looking, if you're indeed a good fit.

What are the benefits of working with a recruiter?

Working with a recruiter can save you a lot of time and effort. That's because, though there are some red flags to watch for when working with recruiters, there is a myriad of benefits to working with recruiters. Here are just some of the pros:
  1. Recruiters know people. They usually have direct connections to the hiring managers at various companies. These are the people that get a billion resumes on their desks each week, so having a direct connection is super helpful to get your resume noticed.
  2. Recruiters want to get you hired. When you get hired, recruiters get paid. Most recruiters are paid a percentage of the new-hire's first-year salary, which means that they benefit when you get hired, too. You don't have to pay them anything, either, because the company for which they're working will pay them for hiring you.
  3. You won't have to interview as much. Recruiters tend to do the filtering for you, since companies they work with probably share information with them that wasn't in their job posting. For example, they probably know that a company won't hire a candidate who does or doesn't do something — like who wants more than X dollar amount or doesn't have X educational background. They know a lot more insider information that'll weed out the companies that aren't good matches for you.
  4. You may be able to make more money. Because recruiters get paid a percentage of your salary when you get hired, they want you to earn more money so they can earn more, too. It's simple math: The more money you get offered, the more money they get paid.

How do you find a recruiter?

It's easy to find a recruiter, as they are everywhere. That said, if you're wondering how to find a recruiter that's right for you specifically, here's some advice on finding a good fit and making it work out well for yourself.

1. Network with the recruiters in your social circle.

If you’ve got recruiters in your network (check LinkedIn and social media), network even if you don't like networking. Ask for their opinions on how to change careers. Even if not specific to your industry, you never know what insights you’ll gain by having coffee with a successful recruiter. You also never know who other recruiters have relationships with or what hiring managers they’re close to.
Whether it’s a person in talent acquisition internally within a company or a person working with a staffing agency, having conversations and gaining a variety of perspectives certainly won’t hurt you. By taking this approach, the hope is that you are creating advocates for yourself within each of these people, assuming you’re connecting authentically and not making it all about you. If they know you’re looking to change careers from finance to marketing, they may keep you in the back of their minds when they hear of a marketing gig at a financial services firm where you could be the perfect fit.

2. Do your research and be real.

Find out who the go-to recruiter is in your market and industry. In this quest, search Google, use groups on social media and ask around your existing network of friends. Once you’ve identified some names, reach out to those people and find a way to connect. A real one. Not an “I emailed you once and now want you to place me in the job of my dreams” type situation.
Relationship building is not a one-way conversation, and it’s not something that happens overnight. Get to know this person as a human being. And allow them to do the same. Help them out, make some intros for them, do what you can to build something. Show them that you are truly committed to doing what you need to break into the industry. Make it nearly impossible for them to not want to help you land somewhere.

3. Make it easy for them.

Start with a solid foundation. When you approach a recruiter, be ready to answer why you’re looking to change career paths. Do the work to understand what transferable skills you possess and why they make you an ideal hire for this field. Show them that you mean business and that you’ll make it easy for them to sell you in with your skills. Recruiters have a lot on their plates. You want to make certain you’ve done the work on your own (or with a coach) to make it as seamless as possible for them to include you as a potential option on a search they are working on. So have your summary well thought out and your resume ready to go with skills you can't afford to leave out. 
It will take some effort to find the recruiter who is not only the right fit for you but who is also willing to help you change careers. Remember, when working at a staffing agency they are paid by employers for finding the right fit for the role. It takes a special kind of recruiter to be willing to invest in relationships and play the long game so to speak. 
However, building a solid relationship with the right recruiting partner can impact your career for years to come. The more solid relationships you build, the more advocates you have out there thinking of you and your career. That is invaluable when you’re on the job search and looking for new opportunities.
Now is a great time to get that ball rolling!
Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting — if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at