While I tend to give primacy to networking in career management activities, recruiters still play a significant role in job search programs.
Having worked around them for most of my career, I'm asked ALL THE TIME, for recruiter recommendations - to which my response is always the same. The best recruiter is the one that's going to provide the bridge between you and your ideal job. Which means the best recruiter may not be the kindest, most respectful or responsive person you'll ever work with (though hopefully, they are), but if they can get you in to see an employer you want to work with, then you know what you've got to do.
For your sanity, always remember who pays the piper - it's not the job search candidate, it's the client - and it is therefore to the client where the recruiters' loyalty lays. That doesn't mean they'll be unethical - it just means that client needs and expectations will take priority over you.
What recruiters can add to your job search
- There is a recruiter, or number of recruiters, that specialise in filling roles in your professional field
- They provide meaningful advice on market activity, salary info, employers looking for your expertise, where your experience sits in the market, possible skill gaps, along with an abundance of another career relevant advice
- Many will coach you through interview preparation and talk directly to potential employers to compensate nerve related poor interviews (I appreciate that not everyone wants/needs that, but if you are a super-nervous interviewee this support can be invaluable)
- As professional specialists, if they have their client's ear (and they generally do) and see you are a fit, even if you don't have essential criteria, can get often get you in front of an employer
- If they like your experience, and with your agreement, recruiters will alert potential employers to your availability, even when a role hasn't been advertised.
- They can help you negotiate sticky issues like salary, start dates and flexible work arrangements
- Recruiters can guide you through contract positions while you're waiting for a permanent role
How do find a recruiter that wants to work with you
- As always, do your research - look at recruiters on LinkedIn, Seek and Google who are advertising the types of professional roles you're skilled at
- Don't place any dependence on them to answer random questions or enquiries - they receive far too many general enquiries to answer everything, and will prioritise responses to people they feel they might work with.
- Do try and get a meeting with them if you are fresh to the market and have the types of experience they are looking for.
Here's what you need to know about working recruiters
- Be honest, transparent but not naive - while many recruiters who place an emphasis on candidate care, remember it's the employer that pays their wages.
- Being honest means don't tell them lies - don't lie about your experience, education, reasons for leaving your last role, technical skills - if you make it to the reference check stage, and the recruiter finds out you've lied to them - their fury will be totally warranted (one way they earn their fees is quality checks they do on behalf of employer - if your lies put their earning potential at risk, you will know about it)
- Be prepared to talk in detail about your skills, experience and future role expectations (responsibilities, location, management style, type of organisation you're looking for, feedback from previous managers, strengths etc).
- Despite a disclaimer that they will only reply to candidates they'll be moving forward with, you are totally entitled to call them to ask for feedback on your application, at any step of the process. However, as always, manage your expectations about whether they will respond to you, or not.
- Recruiters are not, nor do they set themselves up to be a community service. They are essentially salespeople whose job it is to source a specific set of skills to fill their clients need.
- Be prepared to talk about your salary expectations - though I have a slightly controversial opinion about sharing current salary. I really don't think a future employer needs to know what you currently earn and handing over this information creates perceptions that may limit your ability to negotiate. Recruiters may have a very good reason for needing to know your current salary - however, if they can't share that very good reason with you, I aim to stick to salary expectations only.
I could write about recruitment forever, so if you have any specific questions, send me a note and I'll post it back here.