How to Use a Recruiter in Your Job Search

If you’re looking for a job, and you have more than two years of experience, you can consider using a recruiter. Some recruiters have entry-level jobs, but that’s rare in this economy.

The more experience you have, the more senior you are, and the more specialized your experience is, the more you need a recruiter. You are more likely to be looking for a position that is unique and less likely to be advertised.

So how do you find and use a recruiter?

Use Someone Who Helped You Find a Position Before

Did you find your current or most recent position through a recruiter? Was it a good experience? Call that person again. If it was not good, don’t call that person.

Ask your friends for their references. Ask your LinkedIn colleagues for their references. Ask people who have found positions through recruiters who they like. Word-of-mouth referrals for recruiters is the best kind of referral.

You can even ask the hiring managers in your organization which recruiters they use, although that starts to put the recruiter in a sticky situation if you are still employed.

Use Someone Sourcing for Your Open Positions Now

If you’ve been a hiring manager, you can use a recruiter you’ve trusted to find you people before. And, you must be careful if you in the middle of hiring others for your department and looking for a new job yourself. You don’t want to put the recruiter in a no-win position. Discuss this with the recruiter.

Ask the recruiter if he or she has jobs at the level you want. Not all recruiters have jobs at all levels. Maybe you are not qualified for the level you want. You need to work with someone who will provide you honest feedback. You may need someone in the same organization as your current recruiter, but not someone who is sourcing for your open positions.

What About a Recruiter Who Cold-Calls You?

Some of my best ongoing relationships through the years have been from recruiters who cold-called me. They had heard of me, as a senior engineer, or as a manager who had open reqs, so they called. I listened to some of them. When I was a hiring manager, I let them prove themselves to me. I now have a short list of six trusted Boston-area recruiters, whom I refer and recommend.

Good Recruiters are Not Like Bad Car Salespeople

Yes, recruiters are salespeople. Yes, they serve the hiring organization. And, that doesn’t mean that you can’t both win from a long and lasting relationship. Bad salespeople exist in all industries. And, the great recruiters are not like the bad car salespeople, or like ambulance-chasing lawyers. You can trust great recruiters.

I cultivate my recruiting colleague relationships. I refer people to them. In exchange, I hear about new positions early, increasing my value to my network. I can’t always make a connection, and when I do, it’s great.

If you are senior enough, consider a recruiter. Choose one recruiter, maybe two. Do not use more than two recruiters at a time–they will be showing you the same jobs, especially in a down economy. Decide how long you want to give the recruiting relationship. If at the end of that time you’re not happy, end the recruiting relationship and move to another recruiter. And, consider the feedback the recruiter has provided. Are you taking advice on your dress, your resume, your interview style? Because, your inability to land a job could be about you, not the recruiter.

Recruiters can help you iterate on everything in your search, if you let them. They can hold up a mirror, if you let them. The question is this: Will you?


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