If you’ve been following job leads through a recruiter, the initial contact is likely to be a phone call.
Typically, the recruiter introduces himself or herself, mentions that your name came up, offers an imprecise, holistic picture of the job that needs to be filled, and then asks questions. Don’t expect the recruiter to tell you the name of the company, and don’t take it personally if the recruiter is evasive when you probe for details. At this early stage in the process, the recruiter is on an exploration quest.
Meeting the recruiter
- If you pass the initial phone screening, the next step in the process is a meeting with the recruiter. The meeting usually takes place at the recruiter’s office, or it could be over a meal, or even drinks. Here again, you can expect a series of questions. At this stage, the recruiter is generally verifying that the list of accomplishments on your resume is a genuine reflection of your qualifications and potential value.
- Many of the questions you are likely to be asked at this stage require specific answers: number of people and budgets managed, specific skills, and so on. Try to answer each question as directly as possible. The vaguer you are, the less you assure the recruiter.
- What happens next depends on several factors, most of which are in your control at this point. If the recruiter thinks that you are a great fit, and your references check out, you’ll probably get an opportunity to interview with people at the company that’s hiring. It’s not unlikely that you’ll be competing with several candidates at this stage, and you may be asked to come in for more than one interview. Don’t rush it. It won’t work. You can certainly keep the recruiter informed about other developments in your job search, but you can’t expect the recruiter or the client company to act according to your timeframe.
Establishing the relationship
- You can start a relationship with recruiters in one of three ways: by answering an advertised opening, by calling them, or by visiting their offices.
- The busiest days of the week in most firms are Mondays and Tuesdays – the heaviest response days for advertised postings. If you’re not applying for a specific position but simply want to establish a relationship with a firm, plan to visit later in the week.
- Typically, if you have good credentials, you won’t have to jump through many hoops to get a face-to-face meeting with someone who has the authority to send you on interviews. If you have the background and experience that clients are looking for, you’ll no doubt be welcomed. A good recruiter should be able to give you an idea of your marketability.
- You’ll learn early on if there’s a reasonable match between what you want and can offer and the kinds of jobs the firm normally fills. If there isn’t a match, a recruiter may be able to look at your background and experience and offer suggestions that may not have occurred to you.
- On your initial visit, you’ll probably be asked to fill out an application and to verify, by your signature, that everything you said on the form is true. You may be asked to take a skills, personality or other assessment.
- You might also be asked at this point, to sign an exclusivity agreement. This represents your commitment to work with only that particular firm for a specified period. Whether this works to your advantage is hard to say. If you’re a highly qualified candidate, you may not want to do this. Never allow yourself to be pressured into signing this type of agreement. If you do sign one, try to set a time limit of no more than a few weeks.
Making the relationship productive
- Establishing a productive relationship with an ethical, good recruiting firm should not be hard. Successful firms go to great lengths to provide a supportive, positive environment. They’re willing to work with you and give you constructive feedback.
- The keys to a productive relationship, from your perspective, are comfort and trust. You have to feel comfortable when you’re in the firm’s office and when you’re talking to staff over the phone. You shouldn’t be reluctant to check in every now and then (as long as you’re not doing it daily). Talk to your recruiter to see whether anything is imminent or on his or her radar. If the people you have to deal with are rude or unprofessional, find a firm where you’re treated respectfully.
- It does cut both ways. When you probe your recruiter as to “Why didn’t I get that interview?” and he or she says, “Because it wasn’t a good fit for you,” you need to trust the recruiter’s judgment. Good recruiters will often do more than simply tell you that a job wasn’t right for you, however. They will typically explain why. And they should also give constructive feedback if you’ve gone on interviews but haven’t received an offer.
Whether they specialize in finding CEOs or in placing entry-level assistants, recruiters do not work magic. They can give you leads on jobs that you may not otherwise hear about and can help you prepare for interviews. But they can’t manage your job search for you. Nor is it to your advantage to ask them to assume that role, even if it were possible (some firms DO expand their services to the job seeker, so it something to vet). Recruiters are one of the many resources that you can use, and they can be an excellent one if used sensibly.
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