Agency recruiters can be a valuable resource to any job seeker. In a competitive market flooded with resumes from online submissions, aligning with a third party that has the ear of a hiring manager or key HR contact can be crucial in landing you the best opportunity. An agency recruiter has spent their career developing and maintaining these connections and much of their value comes simply from who they know. Beyond making the introduction, you should count on an experienced recruiter to provide you with background on the role, the company and the individuals hiring for it to improve your chances of a successful interview with a positive outcome. Unfortunately, a more recent proliferation of dishonest and ineffective recruiters has hurt the industry as a whole at a time when it is most valuable – a difficult economy where human capital is a highly prized commodity.
I often hear candidates express annoyance, particularly those active on LinkedIn, over the number of times they are contacted by recruiters. Any candidate should take a certain amount of pride in this – those of us who identify talent for a living are looking to build a relationship with you. If a recruiter puts out that call, they’re spending their time and effort to identify you as a potential placement and it behooves you to see what they might have to present.
An easy way to quickly qualify a recruiter is to ask a few difficult questions about the opportunities they are pitching. Questions like “why is the role open?” and “can you tell me a little about the hiring manager?” aren’t technical questions that can be answered by simply reading off a job description. A detailed, thoughtful and prompt response usually means the recruiter understands their client and has had a conversation about this specific opening. If they can’t give you a straight answer to these questions the recruiter probably isn’t good enough to represent you.
Just as these questions are a good way to vet a search partner, their answers are the second most important benefit of working with a recruiter – insight into the role and keys to a successful interview that you’d never have in applying on your own. If a recruiter can tell you, for example, that a particular hiring manager comes from a pure credit analysis background before managing client relationships, a candidate can develop more rapport by honing in on his similar earlier career experiences. If the position you’re being interviewed for was created as a result of a new joint venture or firm initiative, understanding the genesis and the goals of the group will allow you to appropriately tailor responses. A company’s own HR recruiter won’t give you this advantage – it can only come through an outside source.
The recruiter-candidate relationship is bi-directional. You expect regular communications from the recruiter representing you and your recruiter counts on you for timely and flexible responses regarding interview scheduling, feedback and regarding offers. Keep in mind that the recruiter’s services are always free to you (hiring companies pay our fees – be extremely wary of any other arrangement!) and that, as far as products go, human beings are the most volatile things out there to sell. Be honest with the recruiter you’re working with – let them know of your other activity and where you honestly see yourself. Give truthful feedback about the interviews you’ve been on. It’s fine to tell the recruiter you didn’t like a particular role or the firm you met with but let them know why. The recruiter’s goal is to actually place you, not just send you on interviews, and transparency makes best use of everyone’s time as you move through the job hunt towards an offer and an acceptance.
Recruitment is a business with an extremely low barrier to entry. The time and cost to hire a new recruiter is far less than any technically skilled positions and too many agencies “hire to fire,” hurting their reputations and potentially harming those of their candidates as well. Probe and question enough to satisfy any concerns you have and to be comfortable having your career represented by this individual. Always remember as well that your interview performance can affect the reputation of the recruiter working to place you – treat that with the same respect you’d ask of them.