Recruiters and Your Job Search

Are you trying to figure out how to work with recruiters (aka headhunters) in your job search? If you find this challenging, you’re undoubtedly not alone. It could be because you don’t have enough information about how they work or it could be for other reasons. While I don’t claim to be the #1 world expert on this subject, I have come into contact with it often enough, in one way or another, to at least be able to offer a few tips that might be useful.


Recruiters are Not Your Find-A-Job Friend

You might be fortunate enough to already have a professional relationship with one or more recruiters–maybe you’ve even been contacted by some of them when they’re trying to line up candidates for a client company’s open position. If so, lucky you. Just don’t get the idea that it always works that way. It doesn’t.

I’ve pointed this out before, but the question keeps coming up, so I figured it was time for a repeat run. Recruiters work to fill assignments, not to find you a job. Unless you realize this, trying to establish recruiter relationships on your own initiative is likely to become a frustrating exercise in futility. Why is that?

For one thing, recruiters receive a lot of unsolicited contacts from job seekers. Unless a miracle happens and they coincidentally have an open search assignment that beautifully fits your experience, they probably won’t respond to your emails or phone messages. You’re just not their #1 priority–not even close to that.

You need to be able to add value to a recruiter in some way. If, for instance, you’ve been able to provide them with information about someone you know is a great fit for an assignment they have on hand, even though they don’t have anything you’re suited for, they can get value from that. It might help them keep you in mind when/if they do come up with an assignment you’d be a good match for. However, things like that happen on their timetable, not yours.

It’s Your Job Search, Not Theirs

Recruiters prefer to deal with candidates who are as easy to place in a position as possible. You might be planning to change career fields, for example, and think about finding a recruiter who deals with people in your target field. The problem is, he/she would have a tough time pitching you as a candidate for an open assignment because you won’t have directly related experience. Even if you could actually do the job and do it well, which is hard to prove ahead of time, you would represent a problem the recruiter has no time or desire to cope with.

Recruiters generally don’t like problem situations–challenges that can get in the way of successfully concluding a search. Such situations could include:

  • Being currently unemployed, even if it’s through no fault of your own.
  • Holding a position that’s at a lower level than you previously had and trying to return to the previous level.
  • Needing to relocate for personal reasons. (This one always confuses me–they recruit people all over the country, but recruiting someone who actually needs and wants to move seems to be a stumbling-block.)
  • Having a series of somewhat short-duration jobs, regardless of the fact that there were reasonable explanations for those.

Find a Job - Business People in MazeIn short, don’t totally discount recruiters as a job search resource. Just don’t count on them as a near-term “fix” when you need or want to land a new position. More than likely, you’ll need to be able to navigate the job search maze without their help.

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