Resume Tip Tuesday: How to Build a Relationship With a Recruiter

Posted February 07, 2016

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Recruiter Relationship

How to Build a Strong Relationship with a Recruiter... in 10 Easy Steps

It's Friday night, and a group of recruiters from rival Recruitment firms have gathered at their favorite social watering hole to swap comments and stories about their nightmare candidates.

"You wouldn't believe how many people call me up out of the blue and just say, "I need a job! Get me one, right now!" gripes Frank, a thirty-something Senior Recruiter from a popular Financial recruitment firm. He wears a brand new, expensive-looking charcoal suit, but his exhaustion is evident from the dark rings under his eyes and his slumped, defeated pose in the coffee shop armchair. "No introduction, no friendly chit-chat. I'm lucky if I get an up-to-date resume from them. Yes, it's my job to get people jobs, but when a candidate gets pushy like that, it makes me not want to work with them."

Just as there are many different types of jobseeker, there are also a wide range of recruiters who you may work with over the course of your career. At the one end of the scale, you have your high-end Executive Recruitment Specialists, who are salaried internal employees at large HR firms and may hand-screen fifty or sixty candidates for one CIO or VP position. At the other end, there are your recruitment agency job brokers, who work on commission only and may have to place thirty or forty people in new jobs each month, just to break even.

What Recruiters Really Want

One thing both types of recruiter have in common: they are both human beings. Despite a popular image to the contrary, most recruiters are decent people who find fulfillment in helping others find work, so they can support their families and build a satisfying career. The ability to build a relationship with another human being is one of the most important things you can bring to the table in a Recruiter-Candidate relationship, but it's often one of the last things people think about when they need a job - any job - right now.

Want to stand out from all the other job hunters and get your recruiter to truly work for you? Follow just a few basic rules, and with any luck, you won't be featured in any bar-room discussions that start with the popular line, "You'll Never Guess What My Candidate Said Today."

To research this article, CareerBliss spoke to a number of recruiters* about what a job hunter can do to improve their working relationship with a recruiter. The results may surprise you. (*All names have been changed for the sake of privacy).

1. Have 'The Talk' Before You Begin

Most relationships end with 'The Big Talk.' Your relationship with your recruiter should begin with one. Any recruiter worth his or her salt should kick off by asking you at least a few facts about your current or last job, your skills, your physical location, your career goals, and other important information. It is important that they go into this 'relationship' with their eyes open and get to know you as a whole person, not just as a peg they have to fit into a hole.

Explains our friendly local recruiter Frank, "When I first engage with a new candidate, I like to get a sense of where this person is in their life; what they've done before, what they want to do in the future, any unique skills or hobbies they have. Very often, I'm chatting with a client company representative and they start to talk about a new role that's coming up in the near future. I love being able to say, 'You know what? I know the perfect person for that job.'"

2. Know What You Want

If all recruiters have one bugbear, it's the disorganized or 'wishy washy' candidate who has no clue what he or she wants - both for their next job and in life. It's one thing having difficulty choosing between applying for the Editorial Assistant or Editorial Intern position. It's another not knowing whether you want to be a Fireman or an Astronaut.

As noted before, a large proportion of recruiters are paid on commission. Every minute you spend flip-flopping between separate careers, asking them, "What do YOU think I should do?" or sending them off on a wild goose chase to ask about jobs at companies you couldn't care less about, you're taking money out of their pockets. This leads us on to the next point, which is...

3. Have Your Ducks in a Row

This one's easy. If you have an up-to-date resume, a fully updated profile page on LinkedIn (with a tasteful modern headshot), a professional website or portfolio site with work samples, and you know what job title, in what company, in what location you want... congratulations, you're in the top five percent of candidates the recruiter may work with that year.

4. Don't Issue Demands

This is how the recruitment industry works: the hiring company pays the Recruitment Firm a set sum of money to find a candidate to fill an open position. They pay that money so they don't have to waste valuable company time screening and meeting 200 candidates in order to choose the best one. If the Recruitment Firm finds and screens you, then sends you to an interview with the hiring company, and you get hired, the individual recruiter you worked with gets paid a commission by their firm.

In this particular hiring ecosystem, the one with the money gets to call the shots, and in the above scenario, that person is not you.

It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like the recruiter is working for you, since you are the eventual beneficiary of all their hard work. The fact of the matter is that the hiring company is the consumer who is shopping for a product, and that product is you. The recruiter is the person who helps the consumer by shopping around for the 'best deal' and by doing all the pre-hire legwork.

When you start making demands of the recruiter or treating them as though you are the one in charge of the whole transaction, you have the whole equation backwards. If you are rude, pushy or demanding, you instantly decrease your value to the recruiter. They will then be less inclined to recommend you, as it's their neck on the line if your bad behavior carries over to the hiring company and loses you the interview, and their firm loses the hiring fee.

Moral of the story: know your place in the recruitment chain, and act accordingly.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Interview Tips

Many recruiters will have a pool of company clients who they have worked with for a number of years, who they recruit for regularly. If you get to the interview stage, don't be afraid to ask the recruiter if they have any good interview tips. It's in the recruiter's best interests if you get the job as then they get paid. In most cases they will be happy to share some tips with you about the company you are interviewing with.

6. Decide Whether or Not You Will Share Your Salary History

It is down to individual preference whether or not you share your salary with the recruiter. The reason most recruiters will ask what your current salary is to make sure that both you and the hiring company are on the same page when it comes to the salary offered, or at least on the same shelf of the bookcase. The hiring process is usually long and involved, and due to the time investment involved the recruiter may ask about salary from the outset, so they know for sure they are not wasting their time.

Says HR Assistant Kelly B, "Sometimes, resumes don't tell the whole story. The last thing I want to do is introduce a person who describes themselves as a 'Finance Expert' to a company who is looking to hire a bookkeeper for $45k a year, only to find out that they've forgotten to attach Page 3 of their resume, and are in fact a VP on $110k."

Contrary to what you may think, it is not illegal or in any way against the law for a recruiter, HR person or headhunter to ask you your current salary. If you feel uncomfortable sharing your salary, it's perfectly fine to turn the question around and ask, "What kind of salary does the position pay?" Be aware though that not many recruiters will divulge an actual figure, although you may be able to get a ballpark figure out of them, with a little encouragement.

7. Do Your Homework if You Plan to Ask For a Significant Pay Increase

If you feel you are currently underpaid and you wish to significantly increase your wage with your next job, make sure you first do your research and find out what other people with your job title are being paid in your city or town. Sites such as CareerBliss, and enable you to find out whether you really are underpaid, and what salary you should be making. Make sure you take screenshots of your findings to share with the recruiter and hiring company, if need be.

8. Know When to Push Back

More often than not, your recruiter will work on commission. It's a common practice at many large dedicated HR firms to pay a recruiter zero salary and make them work for commission-only, meaning that if the recruiter doesn't successfully place enough people in jobs, they don't get to pay their rent that month. This can come at a price, with recruiters who don't fulfill their quota becoming pushy as their financial situation deteriorates.

"I've heard of recruiters who will say or do anything to shoehorn a candidate into an inappropriate position, even when they may be wildly mismatched to the job," confides Mary, a mid-level internal HR specialist. "They may go so far as to lie to a company about a candidate's availability, then push hard at the candidate to get them to quit their current job and make them available."

While most honest recruiters would think twice about using this technique, be on the lookout for recruiters who you feel may be telling white lies in order to push you into taking a position. If you feel you are being pressured to go to an interview for a job you couldn't care less about, don't be afraid to say no, or even just hang up. You are not paying for the recruiter's services, and it is unprofessional behavior on any recruiter's part to refuse to take "no" for an answer.

9. If You Find a Recruiter Who Genuinely Cares - Hold Onto Them

Just as a true friend is a rare thing indeed, a recruiter who genuinely seems to care about you is a precious thing, and you should take just as good care of them as you would a friend.

"I have worked with over a dozen recruiters over the course of my career," says one high-ranking Pharmaceutical Sales rep, who we'll call Jim, "but one recruiter really went above and beyond. Even when I wasn't in the market for a job, she would take the time perhaps once every six months to check in with me, just to chat and catch up and find out how things were going. She was never pushy, she just let me know that she was there for me if I ever needed anything. When the time finally came for me to need the services of a recruiter after a devastating layoff, she was the first person I called."

Treating a recruiter like a friend may seem like a novel concept, but a little goodwill can go a long way in oiling the wheels of your working relationship, and it will serve you well for any years to come.

10. If You Get the Job - Remember to Give Back

If you work with a recruiter who is able to actually land you a job, don't forget to thank them. While it is usually considered inadvisable to give gifts to the hiring company (which may be interpreted as a bribe), a bottle of wine, a small box of chocolates or just a thoughtful 'Thank You' card is a nice touch to express your thanks to the recruiter. While writing your resume and attending the job interview may have taken up a week or so if your time, a recruiter may have dedicated many weeks or even months to finding you, and spent many more weeks and countless emails and phone calls into negotiating with the hiring firm and sealing the deal of your hire.

If you're penniless after a long spell of unemployment and can't afford to mail or drop in a gift, there are many other free ways to say "thank you," from a handwritten letter, to a good Yelp review for his or her recruitment firm, to a nicely written LinkedIn recommendation left on the recruiter's profile page.

Adds Jim, our Sales Rep, "Since I started my new job, I set a reminder on my calendar to touch base with my recruiter on a regular basis, just as she does with me. Once a year, she gets an updated copy of my resume. After she placed me in this job, I sent her a nice bottle of bubbly at work. A card went to her boss, commending her for her services, which she later called and thanked ME for. It's a two-way street - she keeps me in mind, I keep her in mind. That's how a good business relationship works."

As with all relationships, you get out what you put in. If you keep these points in mind, you'll be well on your way to building a great relationship with your next recruiter. CareerBliss wishes you the best of luck!

photo of The CareerBliss Team

The CareerBliss Team

CareerBliss cares about your career happiness. That's why we offer a variety of great tools and resources to help you make better-informed career decisions. We believe that if you're happier at work, you'll be happier in life! Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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