Many job seekers are confused about how hiring works, and, specifically, about how to work with recruiters. It is important to understand their role and how the process works in order to be successful.
1. Recruiters are not career counselors.
Don't expect a recruiter to look at your resume and immediately understand where you would fit into their organization or to suggest which career path you should choose. They don't know you well enough, and they aren't mind readers (fortunately!).
It is your job to know what you want to do and to tell the recruiter where you fit into an organization -- which jobs you want and, hopefully, which part of the organization.
2. Recruiters are not for hire by job seekers.
They work for the employer who pays them. Many will go out of their way to help you, if they can, but do not expect them to guide you in your job search.
3. There are many different kinds of recruiters, but they all fall into one of two major categories:
Internal recruiters (also known as "in-house").
They are employees of the employer they represent, paid a salary by that employer.
External recruiters (also known as "agencies," "headhunters," "search consultants," or "sourcers" depending on how they work and how they are paid).
They are employees of recruiting or "staffing" firms or agencies usually helping many different employers find employees.
External recruiters may specialize in a location, a profession, an industry, a job level, a search technology/method, or a combination. Some firms focus on helping employers find employees for temporary assignments, often called "temping agencies" or "contracting agencies" which may specialize in a location, profession, etc.
4. Recruiters are seldom the decision-maker determining whether or not you get a job offer.
They often have input into the decision, depending on the organization, and they are often the person who delivers the good or bad news to the job seeker. But, someone else, often a committee in very large organizations or the hiring manager, makes the hiring decision.
5. Recruiters are seldom in control of the hiring process.
Their job is to find good job candidates, and they try to keep the process flowing smoothly. However, because the hiring process usually involves many different people and functions, particularly in large or widely distributed organizations, the process is seldom as smooth as anyone wants it to be. And that is not usually the recruiters fault.
How to Identify the Kind of Recruiter You Are Working With
Internal recruiters, also known as "corporate" recruiters, work inside the employer's organization and usually collect a paycheck (salary) from the employer who has the jobs open.
Their office will typically be on the employer's premises, and their email and phone will typically be part of the employer's email and phone system. So, their email will probably be Jane.Doe@[employer] or possibly HR@[employer], recruiting@[employer], or something similar. To reach them by phone, you may call the employer's main number and then ask for their extension, or you may call them directly.
External recruiters, also known as "independent" recruiters, do not receive a paycheck from the employer who has the open jobs. They work for someone else, a recruiting firm or agency, which issues their paychecks. Some, of course, work for themselves. None are on the payroll of the employer with the open jobs.
You usually know you are working with an external recruiter when you visit their office and it is not in the employer's premises. Email will often provide good indications, too. Notice the domain name in their email address, if you send or receive an email from them. If their address is not from the employer's domain, like Jane.Doe@[recruiting company] or JaneDoeRecruiting@gmail.com, they are most likely an external recruiter.
How to Work with Internal Recruiters
Very carefully. They are not "on your side" in this process. No matter how friendly, they are not your friend (yet). Always present your "best" self to them. Do not confide in them, or ask them to do you any favors. Be professional and business-like in all your communications with them. Wear your interview outfit if you are invited in for a meeting with them.
Typically, they are your official contact for the process. So, when you have questions or concerns, you are usually advised to contact the recruiter. Be careful not to abuse this contact function because it can have a negative impact on your opportunity with that employer. Do you best to avoid the "difficult-to-work-with" label, because that will greatly reduce (if not eliminate) your opportunities inside that organization.
How to Work with External Recruiters
The best part about working with an external recruiter is that you both usually have the same goal -- getting you placed with the employer. Again, don't tell them your deepest secrets, but do be honest with them about your interests and experience. If you have gaps or other issues, they may be able to help you strategize a way to present yourself in the best light.
Don't expect them to help you figure out what you want to do, but do expect them to provide you with some insight into what is going on inside the employer's organization - what the "hot" issues are, who are apt to be your allies in the hiring process, and who the real decision makers are.
After you have been in for an interview, they may be your primary source of information on what is going on "behind the curtain" during the often extended hiring process. Try very hard not to drive them crazy with daily calls, but do stay in touch.
If you land a job through an external recruiter, be sure to send them a thank you. A good relationship with an external recruiter can be an asset to your career for many years. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Send cards during the holidays. Refer top performers you know to these external recruiters to strengthen your relationship with them and help them to remember you with positive feelings.
Connect with Recruiters
Most external recruiters, and many internal recruiters, are open to LinkedIn connection invitations. Being connected to as many people as possible in LinkedIn is an advantage to them because it enables them to do a substantial amount of research in LinkedIn without paying the extra fee LinkedIn likes to collect from recruiters.
Recruiters often use LinkedIn Groups to find, connect with, and monitor good potential candidates, so join the professional and industry associations appropriate for your career. And don't forget to join both college and corporate alumni groups, too. Currently, LinkedIn Group members may message each other without being officially connected or having an upgraded membership.
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Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org. For more information, read Job-Hunt's Guide to Working with Recruiters, written by recruiters!