Choosing a recruiter can have a major impact on your career: the right recruiter can play a major role in achieving job success and security; the wrong recruiter get you stuck in a bad or even career damaging situation. In over twenty five years in the recruiting field, I have observed recruiters on both these poles, and mostly somewhere in between; observing both the career benefits and unhappiness a recruiter can cause in your life. Of course, you need not make an uniformed, or ill informed choice, on who you pick as your recruiter. In this post I will offer some key points for finding the right recruiter for your job search.
1. Trust: As in most areas of human interaction, trust, or a lack thereof, can be a determining factor in successful personal and professional relationships. Without, at least, some initial intuition of trustworthiness, based upon your first impression of a recruiter, I would suggest you find someone else ASAP. When I started recruiting in its earlier, what I like to call pre-professional “wild west days,” trust was almost always a concern, using a recruiter could often devolve into a “buyer beware” scenario. Today I think reputation, knowledge, recruiter consistency, ethics and career recommendations, are among key indicators in trusting, and working, with a recruiter. If you have a major negative assessment on any of these issues, then don’t select, or fire, a recruiter immediately. To borrow a phrase from one of our favorite cultural icons, some recruiters are “masters in the art of deception.” These recruiters should be avoided no matter what “rosy scenario” they paint of the job positions they offer to you. Finally, always be aware that a recruiter, no matter how effective, is paid by the hiring company, which can seriously impact the recruiter’s objectivity and, occasionally, honesty.
2. Knowledge: If a recruiter doesn’t understand what you do and what, and why, you want to do next, then forget about working with him because he is not qualified to assist you. Beyond this basic qualifier, it is important that the recruiter you choose has knowledge, and contacts, in your area of specialization: either on their own or through a reputable firm who trains junior and intermediate recruiters. Length of experience shouldn’t necessarily be the determining factor in your recruiter selection, although businesses, and business people, have a tendency to use length of experience as a main selling point in working with them. For the most part this may be true because unethical business people, and often their firms, quickly develop a bad reputation and do not stay in business very long. Moreover, an energetic and ethical junior recruiter may work very, very hard on your behalf to establish themselves and a good reputation, while a few highly experienced recruiters can sometimes become jaded and/or burned out (recruiting can be an extremely high stress occupation) and only give minimal effort to your job search
3. Track Record: How successful is your potential recruiter in placing people in situations close to what you are looking for? There are many successful recruiters out there. In itself, that is an important bit of information, but these placements may not be in your area of expertise. However, these recruiters may often have friends, who are very familiar with what you do, and for a finder’s fee from the other recruiters, or purely professional courtesy. When I first stated recruiting these recommendations or referrals were relatively rare except if the recruiters operated in different geographic regions. However, today many recruiters make a good part of their income through referrals, usually referred to as splits, to and from other recruiters with another placement firm. This is often beneficial, but make sure that your recruiter gets your prior authorization before forwarding your resume to a “split partner.” The increasing specialization and globalization of career opportunities, particularly is the service economy like IT, has contributed to this trend. Finally, finding a recruiter who has exclusive access to a hiring manager or company can be major plus in finding a career enhancing position.
4. Chemistry: As in most areas of human interactions, the chemistry between a recruiter and his client is essential for a satisfying relationship. If you are a “laid back” or deliberative type of person, then a high powered, very aggressive recruiter may not be for you or visa-versa. You might be on such different “wavelengths” that you may come to dread interacting with this person. Remember. there are a lot of recruiters who want your business. Take the time to find someone you feel comfortable working with. If you make a wise decision, your recruiter may evolve into an invaluable long term career asset, finding you future jobs, and even filling your job requisitions if you move into management
5. Source: Today, where an increasing large percentage of personal and social introductions occur over the web 2.0, a major source for finding a recruiter can be found there as well, particularly on Linkedin. Also, job boards like Monster and, my favorite, Dice are a good source for recruiters. However, job boards are quickly losing their drawing power as the job boards lost their drawing power to print advertising before them. However. on a more personal level, for many years it was thought that getting a referral from a friend or trusted associate was the best way to find a recruiter. This may still be the preferred method in some cases. However, unless you have a background similar to the person who referred the recruiter to you, the value of the referral may be negligible. Furthermore, negative chemistry towards the recruiter, and an unrealistic sense of loyalty or obligation to the referring source, may, occasionally, lead to a very negative outcome.
6. Shop Around: Your career is a very critical aspect of your life. If you allow someone to represent you, you should be fairly certain that this person values you as something more than a quick placement commission. To avoid being treated like a commodity, I would recommend that you speak with at least 3 recruiters to feel comfortable that you have found someone to represent your best interests. Next, after careful consideration, I would choose no more than 2 recruiters. If a recruiter senses you will work with anyone, then that could prove to be a disincentive for the recruiter to exert maximum effort on your part. However, if your recruiter(s) don’t either get you some interviews or stay in close contact with you within a few weeks, then It may be time to consider other, or additional recruiters.
As stated earlier, finding the recruiter who can most adequately satisfy your short and long term career needs is essential. This recruiter “must have your best interests” as a top priority. Although there has been a major improvement in the quality and legitimacy of recruiting professionals in the last 20 years, there are still shysters out there that should be detected and avoided to avert a potentially disastrous career move. Luckily, the increasingly competitive job market and very cautious employers have made unscrupulous headhunters an endangered species.
By Michael Jay Sullivan: So now your concern in working with a recruiter should generally focus slightly less on the recruiter’s ethical legitimacy and more on issues related to competency, chemistry, and clientele. Interviews and job offers can often be confusing and inconclusive experiences. A good recruiter, should have the expertise to clarify ad coordinate this crucial situation, leading to a win, win, win, outcome for you, your future employer and you.