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As a recruiter with over 30 years of experience in the industry, I’m always interested in improving the candidate/recruiter relationship. While a lot of things have changed in recruitment (the rise of social media and content in attracting talent, for example), some things will always remain the same; like the importance of being forthright with candidates and helping them understand the best way to work with recruiters.

It’s important to clear up misconceptions about agency recruiters and how we operate, in order to develop fruitful, long-term relationships with candidates. Here’s a list of things that candidates absolutely need to know when working with recruiters:

Like any profession, some are better, some are worse.

Unfortunately, recruiters often get a bad rap. There’s a cult of people on LinkedIn complaining about recruiters sending them unsuitable opportunities. The truth is that there are bad recruiters, possibly owing to the fact that anyone can call themselves a recruiter without necessarily having knowledge of, or experience in, the jobs they’re recruiting for. These recruiters give us all a bad name. But there are bad practitioners in every industry! That’s why it’s important for candidates to do homework about recruiters who contact you, or before reaching out to one. Check their website, ask them questions, and see if they actually understand the field they’re recruiting in. It’s worth it, because with the right recruiter, you can get tons of leverage and strong results across the entire duration of your career.

Which leads us to the next point…

Working with a specialist is likely to get you more results.

Because anyone can hang up their shingle and start recruiting, there are lots of “generalist” recruiters out there who will agree to fill any job in any industry, seeing the potential money at the end of the line. These recruiters are often very active at reaching out to candidates they don’t know at all, which is no surprise, because they don’t have the investment in building up networks in the same way a specialist would. They’re less able to build long-term relationships because they might be filling an IT job today and a truck driver job tomorrow. If you’re thinking of working with a recruiter, reach out and find a specialist in your field. They’re not only more likely to understand your unique skills and talents, they’re also more likely to find you a job. This especially goes for skill-intensive niches like IT, Supply Chain and various executive positions. You want someone who knows your industry and function well, rather than someone who’s throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

The best recruiters (and candidates) think long-term.

What so often leads to frustration, both for recruiters and candidates, is short term thinking when it comes to the recruitment/candidate relationship. Too often, a recruiter contacts a candidate for a specific job, and, if it’s not successful, the candidate never hears from them again. Or a candidate makes an introduction with a recruiter, and, when the recruiter doesn’t have any leads for them at that exact moment, they get frustrated and move on. Candidates can’t expect recruiters (especially specialists) to have a perfect job for them at all times, and recruiters can’t expect candidates to jump at every opportunity. The best recruitment relationships are long-term. My own practice has connections with individuals we’ve worked with for over 10 years, both as candidates, and later clients. It’s important for recruiters (and candidates) to realize that building a long-term relationship is the best way to succeed.

You should be open.

Sometimes candidates are cagey with certain information, and it always ends up hurting their candidacy. You need to be open with your recruiter about your expectations, whether it’s about salary, location, responsibility, etc. If you already have an existing relationship with another recruiter in the same office, don’t reach out to a different recruiter on the sly hoping to get a better result. Don’t pretend to be fine with a job description, then go to an interview and try to haggle for more responsibility or salary – it’s happened quite a few times, and it never works for the candidate.

The relationship between a candidate and recruiter is built on trust. The fact that it’s hard to trust someone you just met just underscores the importance of long-term relationships I mentioned above.

I hope these tips form a mosaic picture of the best way to work with a recruiter. Unsurprisingly, it’s the same attitude that works best when working with people in general: openness, empathy, and the willingness to build real relationships goes just as far in the world of recruiting as it does in the “real world”.

About the author: Bronwen Hann is President and Senior Partner of Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm that specializes in recruitment for Supply Chain Management and its related functions including Procurement, Logistics, Operations and Planning.


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