What Recruiters Want, What They Really Really Want

Understanding how to best use a recruitment consultant as part of your job search will not only cut your paranoia and stress levels down a lot, but will also accelerate your journey to that dream role.

So, let’s talk about recruiters. They’re often criticised and regularly despised by both job hunters and employers alike. For every candidate who tells you what great help they received from a recruiter, four others will foam at the mouth, punch a wall and burn furniture at the mere mention of the R word. For every hiring manager who swears by agency recruiters, several others would slaughter their first-born if it meant they’d never have to use another one.

So what’s wrong with recruiters? Well, I suggest they’re misunderstood and the problem is yours, not theirs.

Okay, I’m used to the hard stares and long silences at this point in the conversation. I’m also wearing a gum shield and a cricket box so I’m hoping you’ll bear with.

Recruitment. How hard can it be, really?

Agency recruiters are misunderstood for several reasons, but mainly because a lot can go wrong for them. Recruiters are often in competition with other firms, so if you fail to win a job, they get literally nothing after putting in a lot of hard work. Failing to understand that both you and the recruiter have skin in the game is often the point where it all starts to go wrong.

Employers can be mercurial. Hiring freezes, changes to the role or person specification and employers endlessly searching for that perfect person abound. Candidates themselves can be a minefield. Without warning, they can drop out of the running, refuse an offered role or fail to turn up for one, even after they’ve signed a contract. Factor in misleading CVs, exaggerated qualifications, dodgy references and a lack of work permits and you can wonder how recruiters ever manage to place anyone.

A recruiter is investing time and money and is therefore taking on a risk. For you, as a job hunter, the world is all about being seen as a low-risk, fast-win, high-gain choice.

Are you a good bet?

Let’s look at how you can build a positive relationship with your recruitment consultant and thereby encourage them to invest in you, rather than someone else on their books.

Do your preparation first

Figure out what makes you a good bet. Focus your CV, tidy up your online presence and get ready with a life-story that shows you are THE number one perfect choice for that next role.

Take responsibility for your search

Don’t abdicate responsibility and wait for others to deliver opportunities. It’s YOUR job search and a firm of recruiters should only be part of your strategy.

Take charge of the relationship

Don’t just register online and upload a CV to their site. Pick up the phone, find out who’ll be handling your interests and start building a relationship with them. Base that relationship on trust and nurture it.

Define your objective

Be specific about the job you’re looking for, the sectors you work in, locations you’ll consider, your capabilities and your needs and wants. If things change, let your recruiter know.

Talk to multiple recruiters

Different clients work with different recruiters so you’re not being a harlot or trying to set them against each other. After all, they have more than one candidate on their books.

Know where your CV is going

Be very explicit from the outset – you don’t want your CV blasted everywhere as it makes you look desperate, tired and unprofessional. Insist on knowing what they’re putting you forward for, and with which companies.

Agree a pattern of contact

Ask how they work and what’s reasonable for regular contact. Weekly works well to keep everyone on the ball without feeling hustled and also helps limit the time it takes to get feedback.

Use an agenda

When you call, in addition to any specific opportunities, some items to have on a regular list are: what’s happened since last week? What’s the plan this week? How’s the market looking? Any general thoughts or feedback?

Be positive

A recruiter is not your counsellor, nor are they there to keep you motivated. If you’re feeling down, don’t talk about it. Be strong, be positive and be optimistic. If they think you’re weak, you’re a bad bet and they’ll sideline you.

Be a friend

Since you’re not paying them, why not introduce a friend or colleague? Even better, why not introduce a company that may be able to put some work their way? If they feel obligated, you’ll get preferential treatment.

To summarise …

A recruiter is not your agent, so you need to respect the relationship and not run conversations as interrogations. By following the above you can maintain control and keep up the pressure, whilst still being able to develop a close and trusting relationship. Knowing you won’t be hassling them every day leaves recruiters the mental space to do their job properly, whilst knowing you’ll be calling on Friday keeps them on their toes.

About the author: Jon Gregory is an author, editor, blogger & trainer on all things job hunting, interview prep & career development.

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