A recruiter can be an ally in your job search, but only if you know how they work. And what they don’t say is more important than what they do.
You may believe job recruiters are your ally, there to help you land the career of your dreams. While recruiters do come with many positives, it’s important to understand their motives — namely, how their end goal differs from yours.
The recruiter is beholden to the client; their most important task is helping clients find the best talent. ( to tweet this thought.) If you don’t play your cards right and tailor your relationship to this need, you may miss out on a great opportunity.
If you find yourself in the position of working with a recruiter during your job search, be aware of the gray areas, understand how they work and know what you can do to optimize the relationship. Understanding these basic elements of their job can help you to land a job of your own.
Here are a few things recruiters probably won’t tell you:
1. “I care more about my client than your job search”
Recruiters have a job to do. Like you, they have to work for their bosses. To understand recruiters better, know the difference between contingency recruiters and retained recruiters.
is a service performed by a recruitment company for free until the day a candidate represented by them takes a position with their client. Recruiters working on this basis may have to compete with the client’s internal HR department, direct applicants and other recruitment companies.
Retained recruiters operate on an exclusive basis — the job will only be filled through this recruitment company. These recruiters work closely with their client, take their time and use an agreed upon system to find the best person for the job. The process is usually rigorous, with a number of names being presented to a client before the .
Tip: Approach recruiters according to how they work, not how you work. Contingency recruiters will throw your resume against any position to see where it sticks. Retainer recruiters will only introduce you if you’re a perfect fit.
2. “I’m not going to do all the work for you”
A recruiter doesn’t want to sit down with anyone unless they’re appropriate for a job. They want to help you, but they may not be able to help every job seeker. While this may come across as a lack of transparency or honesty, their lack of follow through is often because they’re busy.
Tip: Manage your expectations. While recruiters can counsel you on some areas of the job search, you have to do most of the hustling.
Follow the recruiter’s lead in terms of timing, materials they need and appropriate times to . In the end, it’s up to you to be proactive and cast a wide net. You can also help recruiters by referring good people. This can go a long way: They may be more likely to keep you in mind for an opportunity down the road if you help them with valuable referrals.
3. “I’m not your career counselor”
Recruiters can offer you advice, but they have an obligation to work on behalf of their paying client. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek some guidance. On the contrary, you should talk to recruiters since they can offer perspective on the job search.
Just don’t expect them to sit down with you every night to , work on your interviewing skills or show you how to dress for a meeting.
Tip: Talking to a recruiter can be as valuable as talking to a business contact, college peer or HR representative. For example, if you come to your meeting with two or three specific questions, you’ll be able to gain some valuable advice, which can positively contribute to your candidacy.
4. “I’m looking for a needle in a haystack”
Recruiters are looking for a needle in the haystack. When it comes down to it, they can “look” at someone and tell if they’ll be a strong fit by looking through traits such as personality, interests and values.
For example, if the client has a lot employees with an interest in sports, and someone with zero athletic appreciation shows up, they’re not likely to be a cultural fit. The recruiter’s client may be looking for something specific, and it’s their job to find that key employee.
Tip: Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and what you can do to fix them. It’s OK to ask the recruiter if you come across as nervous, unprepared or knowledgeable. They’ll be more honest if you’re aware of what you lack and bluntly ask about certain elements. Be honest with yourself about what element of the hiring process you might have fumbled, so you can drill down your problem areas.
Recruiters have a job to do, plain and simple. You should never take anything they do personally. Instead, work with them to optimize your candidacy while creating the best outcome for everyone.
Have you worked with a recruiter before? What tips would you add?
Skiddy von Stade is the founder and CEO of , the premier destination for employers to connect with high quality finance talent. Connect with Skiddy and OneWire on , and .