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Tips to Build a Relationship With Recruiters

By Gerald Walsh ©

The terms executive search firms, executive recruiters, employment agencies, placement firms, and head-hunters all mean the same thing. These firms work for employers to source and screen candidates for job openings.

Now, here’s the problem. Some of you will mistakenly believe that a recruitment firm (a collective name for the above) will find you a job. That is wrong, and you shouldn’t be misled into thinking that a recruiter is working for you. While you may have a good professional relationship with one or more recruiters, you must remember their primary obligation is to their client – the employer – who has hired them. You will only be recommended to one of their clients if the recruiter believes you have the necessary background and qualifications their client is seeking.

Having said all that, it is in your best interest to be on the radar of recruiters who regularly fill positions in your field.

Why is this?

It’s because recruiters are often aware of positions that need to be filled right away. For example, if an employer has a sudden vacancy caused by a dismissal, an employee quitting without notice, or becoming ill and not able to work anymore, they might need to find a replacement immediately. They may not be interested in conducting a full search to find the absolute best candidate for the job. Instead, they might be happy to find someone who meets many of the qualifications (but not all) and, most importantly, is available right away. If they ask a recruiter to recommend candidates and you are “top of mind” with that recruiter, you have a good chance of being referred by the recruiter.

Here are eight important suggestions you should follow to build and maintain a relationship with recruiters in your field:

1. Research the various recruitment firms to make sure they are currently working on (or have worked on) searches in your field. You should strive for a face-to-face meeting with an individual recruiter but understand that he or she will probably only want to meet with you if there is a good probability of a job vacancy in your area of expertise in the near future. Otherwise, you will be asked to submit your resume online or by email.

2. You should treat your relationship with a recruiter professionally – the same way you would with any employer. You should think of every interaction as you would an interview. Even though the recruiter does not have the final hiring authority, if you don’t get past the recruiter you will never get to meet the employer.

3. Always be helpful to the recruiter. If one calls about an opportunity that you decide to decline, try to recommend someone else who might be a better fit.

4. Be selective in the firms you connect with. Research directories and websites carefully to determine which firms regularly place candidates in your field. If a firm never has a search for the type of job you are looking for, you will only be wasting your time and theirs’ by contacting them.

5. Don’t give any firm the exclusive right to work on your behalf and steer clear of any firm that wants a fee from you to “find” you a job.

6. Be specific about the type of job you are seeking and what your expected salary expectations are. This will save everyone a lot of time. If you are interested in an opportunity presented to you by a recruiter but later change your mind, let the recruiter know as quickly as possible. If you delay and withdraw at the last minute after an interview with the employer is already set up – it will be embarrassing to the recruiter and will likely be the last time he or she presents an opportunity to you.

7. Do not expect the recruiter to prepare your resume for you. If you need outside help, ask someone else to do it. However the recruiter might have ideas on how to improve your resume and you should heed the advice.

8. Stay in touch periodically with the recruiter so that you maintain that top of mind awareness. You do this not by calling and asking, “Have you found anything for me yet?” Instead, you should refer possible leads about upcoming job vacancies to them; comment on any online posts they make; and every so often send an email saying that you’re still pursuing good job opportunities.

One final reminder: in your correspondence with a recruiter, be clear that you do not want your resume sent to any employer without your prior consent. This is necessary to prevent an unscrupulous recruiter from sending your resume, unsolicited, to several companies in the hope of collecting a placement fee should one of these employers hire you sometime in the future. This doesn’t occur often but it is worth noting.

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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn