I left public education for the corporate world. Once I updated my LinkedIn page and toggled on the switch “open for opportunities,” I was inundated with messages from recruiters who thought I would be the “perfect fit” for their opportunity. I was so excited! They were already knocking down my door to offer me a job. I will land my coveted IDOL role in no time I thought. I quickly learned that was not the case. I had become part of the very competitive world of recruiting. The recruiting process is more about helping the hiring company and recruiting firm than it is about helping a candidate land her dream job.
Companies often hire external recruiters to find viable candidates to fill open positions. Recruiters search for those candidates in places such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job sites. They are scanning resumes for keywords used in the respective industry and other qualifications specified by the hiring company. The goal for the recruiter is, first, generate revenue for the recruiting firm by successfully finding a candidate to fill the open position of their client – the company. Secondly, satisfy the request of the client. Lastly, help you land a job. There is a lot more in between, but I wanted to stress the candidate comes last in this three-way relationship.
Like any success story, learning to adapt is crucial. When I realized the recruiting game wasn’t really about helping me, I changed the way I interacted with them. Initially, I took a more passive approach. I let them give me the details and set my salary. I answered all of their questions while hardly asking any questions myself. I worked with the first recruiter to reach out to me instead of choosing the one with whom I wanted to work. Now that I know better, all of that has changed. Here are five strategies to be successful with recruiters.
1. Be selective in choosing the recruiter with whom you want to work. Often several recruiting firms will have the same company as a client. That means all those firms are trying to fill the same open position. This is where things get extremely competitive for recruiters. They all want to submit you first so they can be the one to earn the commission (more on that later).
Take a look at the job descriptions presented to you. If they all seem similar and come to you during the same day, chances are it is for the same role.
Talk to multiple recruiters before signing a right to represent or give them any personal information. You will find some recruiters are extremely high pressure and quick to get your information before you even realize it. They only seem concerned about getting you submitted before another recruiter. Others are extremely helpful, genuinely want to help you, and are happy to answer your questions. Go with your gut on who you feel most comfortable working with.
After you decide who you want to work with, that is when you will sign a document called a Right to Represent. Simply put, that recruiter is the only one that can represent you for that particular job posting. You are promising not to have multiple submissions for the same opportunity. It is also common to give them a unique ID number such as the month and day of your birthday plus the last four digits of your SSN or phone number. This is how you will be identified with the firm and the hiring company.
2. Ask questions. It can seem surreal when a recruiter is considering you as a candidate, especially if this is all new to you. It is easy to go along with what he is saying and not have any questions that come to mind. However, you want to vet the recruiter just as much as he is vetting you for the open position.
A lot of times the recruiter does not understand the role they are trying to fill. As Sara Hutchison writes in her article, 6 Tech Recruiter Red Flags You Need to Know About, “You want someone who understands market trends, is working on your behalf and knows which employers are lemons. This type of individual can also be a top negotiator for you….Their answers should be detailed and measurable – if not, steer clear.” Ask general knowledge questions about your industry. Ask how long he has been a recruiter for that industry and the company for which he is recruiting.
Don’t forget to ask other probing questions of the job itself such as: Do they provide any training? Why is the position open? What made the last person leave the role? Why do you think my background is a good fit for this role? Have your questions written down so you don’t forget them.
3. Negotiate your salary. Actually, if at all possible, try to ask what the rate/salary for the position is before they ask you what you are seeking. I found this worked more in my favor because more times than not they were offering more than expected. This was especially true for contract roles.
Newbies to any industry should be aware of the average salary for their role before speaking with a recruiter or hiring manager. Glassdoor.com is a great resource to gauge the median salary in your area.
Regardless of who initiates the numbers, there is always room to negotiate. The article, (4 Truths about Working with Recruiters (That They’ll Never Tell You) states, “Most recruiters in staffing agencies are paid on commission, earning a fee based on your first year’s salary when you get hired. (It doesn’t come out of your pay. It’s just an added expense for the company that hires you.)This often works in your favor. Since their bonus is typically 20-25% of your base salary, they’ll try to get you a great offer. The more money you make, the higher their rate will be, too.”
4. Know what you want. I recently surveyed my recruiter connections via Linkedln. One recruiter mentioned to get the best results from your recruiter, know what you want and what you don’t want. Be honest about it. It will be much easier for the recruiter to help you. Additionally, knowing what you are looking for in a job, a team, a company can save a lot of time in your job hunt when you can check those boxes off in the initial phone call with the recruiter.
5. Be open for advice. Despite the fact that the candidate is not the actual client in this three-way relationship, many recruiters want to be helpful and want you to get the job. It is mutually beneficial for both the recruiter and the candidate to successfully fill the position. If you don’t get the job, the recruiter does not get paid. Using a recruiter to get your resume in front of the hiring manager increases your chances to at least be called for an interview and then ultimately starting a new career.
A recruiter can provide feedback on your resume and suggest changes that may help you advance with the hiring manager. Sometimes he may have keen insight into the company culture and offer suggestions on how to make a good first impression.
Be a winner in the competitive world of recruiting by having a strategic plan in place when you are contacted for the next opportunity. Go into the conversation confident in what you want, ask questions, and go with your gut when choosing a recruiter.
Written by: Gretchen Johanson
Gretchen is an Instructional Designer and former public educator. Combined, she has over a decade of experience in learning and development. She considers herself a life-long learner and is always looking for opportunities to grow and develop her skills.Work-life balance is important to her. She enjoys kick-boxing, traveling and family time when she is not working.