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5 of the Most Common Mistakes Candidates Make When Working With a Recruiter

02/18/2015 06:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015
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By: Patricia Lenkov

Searching for a job is never easy. The process requires strategy, patience and a whole lot of attention to detail. In addition to a stellar resume, in our online world you must manage your various social media accounts and online perception and reputation. Add to this the oftentimes necessity of working with a recruiter who is representing the hiring company and the whole process can become overwhelming.

People tend to understand the mechanics of resume writing and interviewing and are even becoming savvy at online job search and the tools available. But the whole realm of working with a recruiter is still ambiguous and mysterious to many. At the very least this can lead to sub-optimizing your job search so here are a few insights to help remedy this:

We Work for Who?

Perhaps the most common misunderstanding about the work of recruiters pertains to who we work for. Recruiters, whether retained or even those that work on a contingency basis are duty-bound to the company that is seeking to fill a role. This is particularly true for retained executive recruiters. We get hired by Company A to fill a particular position and hence are contracted to find the best and most suitable candidates who meet the specific criteria set out for the search.

This is not to say we are not always in the market to receive resumes and talk to new people. It just means that, as a job seeker, your expectations should not be that the recruiter will search for an opportunity on your behalf.

Compensation Sensitivities

Traditionally we are led to believe that we must defer any discussion of compensation until we are well into the interview process. This is a common misstep when working with recruiters. Think about how much time can be wasted if there is no possibility of alignment on this very important aspect of any job.

I typically ask for these details in the first or second phone call. No, I am not trying to pry. This is an innocuous question to determine whether your current and desired future compensation is in the same "ballpark" as the potential for the position in question. This question should not make you squirm. Be prepared with facts and future expectations and try to remove the emotionality. We are professionals and this information is for practical purposes and should always be kept confidential.

Our calls

Even if you don't have an interest in the position we are recruiting for, it can be a mistake not to return the call or email. Building a relationship with a recruiter, particularly one that works in your field or industry can yield long term benefits. You never know when you will be in the job market and that is not the time to begin establishing recruiter relationships. The most astute and experienced executives take the call and try to suggest a candidate or two. At the very least, many claim that this is a good way to learn about what is going on in their industry.

Going Direct

I have not personally experienced this, but have definitely heard about it and it is a major "faux pas." Job seekers should never try to circumvent the recruiter by going directly to the employer. This usually backfires since it shows both a lack of understanding of protocol and failure to respect the arrangement that the employer has decided upon for a certain opportunity. Again, this is particularly true when the search is being handled by a retained recruiter. In these situations, even if the company itself comes up with a potential candidate idea they will ask the recruiter to evaluate and add the person to the recruiter's assemblage. So, mind the process.

Make it Easy to be Found

This last point is important because without heeding to this advice you may not even get practice what you learned above!

It is impractical to attempt to send your resume to every recruiter that potentially works in your area of expertise. But what you can do is make yourself easily found. This means, at the very least, have a fully populated and up-to-date LinkedIn profile. Above and beyond that, you should consider joining relevant associations and organization and even getting on the board or leading projects. This will raise your profile and perhaps even get you on their web site. Write a blog or articles for relevant publications. Again, this helps us find you. Speak at appropriate events and serve as a source of information and quotes for the media. Some executives have their own personal web site which displays their career history, education, awards and other career details that help recruiters understand and assess their background.

The thrust of this article has been stumbles and lapses on the part of the job-seeker. Make no mistake, recruiters are also prone to errors and oversights as well. Stay tuned for more on this perspective.

Patricia Lenkov is president of Agility Executive Search, LLC located in New York, NY.