Whether you’re feeling age-insecure at your current job, planning a reinvention or trying to get back into the workforce, Dave Perlman, an executive recruiter and career coach, put together a getting started guide that is specifically targeted to a seasoned worker.
Last time we talked about job boards and how to use them effectively. This time we’ll look at recruiters, specifically at independent recruiters who source candidates for hiring companies. These people are typically paid by the hiring company, as a percentage of the hired candidate’s first year base salary. Any recruiter who asks you, the job-seeker, for money is to be avoided completely.
Recruiters are generally classed as a necessary evil. And that’s the good news.
Most recruiters are deeply ignorant about the jobs they’re trying to fill, and about their client companies Many are more focused on closing the deal than on the relationship or the truth. That’s one reason I chose the field of executive recruiting: it’s easy to stand out if you are informed and honest.
Yet despite all this, recruiters do handle most of the really good jobs. Especially at the senior levels, hiring companies tend to believe that the right recruiter has a large and fertile candidate and referral network, and consequently are happy to outsource the tasks of contacting and screening potential candidates.
How can you find the right recruiter for you? A careful reading of job boards can help to identify those recruiters who are active in your target zone. For example, if you’re looking for a VP of Software Engineering job at an early-stage but funded startup in Boston, there are really two or three recruiters who dominate that market. As we discussed last time, it’s much better to get a warm submission via a recruiter or via a member of your network than to apply online.
As a recruiter, I never use job boards to post jobs. When I do I’m deluged by folks who simply don’t fit the role, but who are so indiscriminate – and so eager to land a job – that they apply to anything that might be a remote possibility. The time I spend wading through these folks’ resumes only to politely tell them thanks, but no thanks is wasted — not only on my part, but theirs.
Pull not push
Good recruiters proactively reach out to candidates they see as a potential fit for the role they’re trying to fill. To become visible to the recruiters you want to work with, create good search results for yourself online and polish your LinkedIn profile with keywords, published articles and references from your previous colleagues (you can make this part of your LinkedIn profile by requesting a recommendation.) The Muse has put together this useful guide to further improving your LinkedIn profile.
Reaching out to a plethora of recruiters is not a complete waste of time, but it’s not likely to yield results. Always email, never call. A call is an intrusive demand on time, while an email allows the recipient to choose when or if to respond.
“Getting on their radar” seems like a logical step, but many recruiters have the memory and attention span of a chipmunk. Most recruiters don’t have the patience to speak with someone unless they have an immediate opening for them. The better ones sometimes do, though.
A Good Recruiter
- Is low-key and doesn’t waste time
- Tries to surface potential deal-breakers at the beginning of the process (Are you willing to relocate? Will you take a pay cut to be part of a startup that has huge upside potential? Does job title matter to you?)
- Knows what they are talking about: they know the company, the role, the challenges and the opportunities
- Tells the truth, especially about the risks and downsides – every job has them.
- Successfully crafts win-win offers and closes them. A deal which benefits the hiring company and victimizes the candidate, or vice versa, is unlikely to last.
If you’re lucky enough to find a great recruiter, they will become a trusted partner, giving you good advice, and bucking you up when you get discouraged. They’ll faithfully pass valuable data back and forth between you and the hiring manager.
Is there value in a bad recruiter?
There may be value in a bad recruiter with a connection to a job you want, but you need to be careful. Bad recruiters routinely misrepresent what you say and what the client company is saying. Their misguided attempts to close the deal at any price frequently boomerang and torpedo otherwise closeable deals. Compensation is one area where poor recruiters are often tempted to tweak the truth.
Listen closely and ask questions when you meet with a new recruiter. If you don’t like the answers, walk away. If the job itself is your dream job, you may opt to grit your teeth and persevere, but prepare to be disappointed. Try to build your own rapport and communications channel to the hiring company and ideally to the hiring manager, so that if the recruiter puts the deal in the ditch by misrepresentation, by employing an ultimatum, or by crafting a one-sided deal unacceptable to the other party, you can try to winch it out again.
Moving forward with a recruiter
Determine if a recruiter makes sense for you. For most executive jobs, it’s mandatory. For many positions, your chances of getting the interview are much better if a trusted recruiter can make a detailed and determined case for you with the client company.
Evaluate the recruiter just as carefully as you evaluate the job. You’re empowering this person to represent you in a high-stakes situation and most of their work will take place outside your vision. The very best situation is when someone you trust introduces you to a recruiter and tells you that they are honest and hard-working.
Validate what the recruiter is telling you when you can. For example after the first phone screen the recruiter tells you that the screener had three reactions, one each positive, negative and neutral. Later in the process, if you encounter the screener again, you can casually ask about feedback and see if it matches the recruiter’s narrative.
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Dave Perlman has reinvented himself many times. He’s been a software developer, a motel desk clerk, a historian, a forklift driver, a CTO and a few other things.
Currently he runs his own high-performing executive recruiting firm from his home outside Boston. He handles career coaching and resume polishing as adjuncts to that business.