One of the most frequent questions I get as a career coach is, "How can I hire a recruiter to find me a job?"
While developing relationships with agency recruiters, also known as headhunters, can be valuable to your job search, you usually can't hire one. Recruiters are hired by companies to find talent for their difficult-to-fill job openings.
In other words, employers pay recruiters to hunt down talent, screen candidates, and present the best qualified individuals to hiring managers and human resources staff. And these companies pay handsomely for these services, an amount in the neighborhood of 25% of the first year salary of the person they hire.
Or more, depending on the complexity of the search, or the level of the role they're looking to fill. A retained search firm hired to find a C-level executive often charges in the neighborhood of 33% of the candidate's first year total compensation (plus expenses). Let's say the search firm places a CEO with a base salary of $400K and a projected bonus of $100K for total $500K in cash compensation. At 33%, they're set to receive a check for a cool $165K for their services. It's not hard to figure out where the recruiter's loyalty lies.
That said, relationships with recruiters are a critical part of the job hunter's toolbox. A good recruiter with an established practice may have connections – and access – to potential employers. And many hiring managers are willing to take a plugged-in recruiter's calls for a couple reasons - they present good candidates, and they may have job opportunities for the hiring manager in the future.
Want to get the most out of your job search by working with recruiters? Here are eight strategies to keep in mind as you build relationships with recruiters.
- Be smart about which recruiters you contact. Do your research - agency recruiters typically focus on particular disciplines or areas. If you're looking for a job in the finance arena, focus on getting to know recruiters who who place finance staff – a connection with an IT recruiter, for example, may be great in terms of helping you understand the general job market or making a periodic connection, but you'll be an outlier rather than their core audience. And you'll be taking up valuable time the recruiter could otherwise be using to place candidates in their area of specialty.
- Approach the recruiter with tact and diplomacy. Handle your initial contact with respect. Be professional - send your resume with a brief, well-written cover note explaining why you're contacting them, and the value you can add to their practice. Keep in mind, they are under no obligation to work with you, much less find you a job.
- If the recruiter calls you, go through the screening process. The recruiter will want to evaluate your skills to see if you're going to be a fit for any openings they're currently working or for any future potential opportunities. Don't be offended, they're doing their job. And don't hesitate to ask if you think you're a fit with the types of roles they fit. Who knows - your skills may be quite in demand. By the way, headhunting is a fast-paced business, so don't be offended if the call is brief and direct.
- Be responsive. If you've made it this far, and the recruiter reaches out to you again in the future, it means that you're on their radar. Reply promptly to any emails or calls, or you'll miss out on being considered for potential opportunities. Take too long to respond and you'll be labeled as unreliable, and shuffled to the back of their candidate list.
- Be straightforward with the recruiter about your situation. Keep in mind that candidates are their inventory, and they reflect the recruiter's ability to present quality, reliable talent. If you've got an offer on the table or in the works, tell them. Share your target salary range. And tell the recruiter if you've already applied to a company for which they're considering submitting you, either directly or through another recruiter. They're going to present you to an employer with this criteria. And be consistent - surprises kill deals, and if you tell an employer a different salary range than you told the recruiter, for example, you will be persona non grata.
- Be valuable to remain front of mind. Recruiters are taught that everybody they contact will be either a A) Potential Client; B) Potential Candidate; or C) Potential Referral Source. It's not unusual for somebody to be all three at different times in the relationship. Ask what kind of jobs the recruiter is working on, or what kind of candidates they are working with. Even if you're not a candidate at this moment, if you can provide some potential leads on either of the other two categories, then the smart recruiter will remember that you did them a solid to help put money in their pocket.
- Feel free to work with more than one recruiter. Some recruiters have exclusive relationships with companies, so you may need to reach out to multiple individuals to be sure that you capture more potential opportunities out there in the market. But working with too many recruiters may dilute your brand; 2, maybe 3 agencies, are ideal.
- Most recruiters call when there is a meaningful update. If an appropriate amount of time has passed and you would like an update, call or email the recruiter. You should expect timely responses - if they don't get back to you, it may send you a message as to how relevant your application is to their workflow.
Kevin Suksi, Vice President and Cofounder of Orion Solutions Group, a full-service staffing and human capital firm, contributed to this article.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.