Over the years I’ve read a lot of articles about how to get a recruiter’s (headhunter’s) attention and how it is no fun to be ignored. Most articles provide some tips and tricks to get noticed but few ever get into how headhunting (recruiting!) really works and what recruiters need most. Just like I suggest for job seekers who want to attract the attention of hiring managers, job seekers who want to befriend recruiters should learn about their needs.
Whatever you want to call us, Recruiters or Headhunters, the fact is, we don’t work for candidates, we work for employers. I like to help as many candidates as I can, regardless of who pays the bills, but the fact is my “job” is finding candidates for my clients’ jobs. Understanding the relationships involved is the first step in understanding a recruiter’s needs.
Recruiters have to constantly earn and maintain credibility with their hiring manager clients. There’s not much loyalty in this business. Good recruiters understand that their clients want what they want and will rarely be convinced to deviate from their stated desires. What does that mean? It means that we probably won’t be able to talk our clients into interviewing candidates who aren’t specifically qualified for the positions they want to fill. No matter how much we want to help, we have to focus on client needs first.
Recruiters trade in information. I regularly joke that in my job I don’t make any decisions. I make suggestions, introductions and if I get really fired up, sometimes recommendations. Hiring managers and candidates make decisions. Recruiters provide options. To do this we need information: job leads, contacts, connections, and referrals.
How can job seekers develop productive relationships with recruiters?
Number one: Recruiters like to make placements. If you want to get a recruiter’s attention, make sure that you are a future placement for them. That means understanding that recruiters are specialists, usually only working within a small set of job disciplines or specific industries. Find one that works in your industry and on your job type and it’s a lot easier to get their attention. For example, I only work on supply chain and strategic sourcing jobs in manufacturing and energy – that’s all.
Number two: Be generous with information. Remember, recruiters like to make placements. We’ll place you if we can (especially since we’re already talking) but if we can’t it’s not because we don’t want to, it’s just that our clients need something else right now. If you know someone else that we can place, refer them and you’ll be remembered forever. Recruiters love referrals and suggestions.
Number three: Send recruiters leads to jobs that you want to pursue – but make sure you haven’t applied to them. I tell candidates this all the time. I can’t find every job but I can bypass the normal process and get my candidates to the front of the line. It’s what I do. I can also use your suggestions to find other similar jobs and market you to them too.
Number four: Send us leads and contacts for jobs you know about but don’t want or won’t get too. We have other candidates and maybe we can help one of them. Remember, we trade in information. Help us help someone else and maybe someone will help us help you! That’s a mouthful but it’s true!
Number five: Stay in touch but don’t overdo it. If I have a job that is a fit for you there is nothing that will stop me from finding you – so emailing me your updated resume twice a day is not necessary. Most recruiters don’t make more than 10-20 placements per year, depending on the level and complexity of their assignments so it could take time for the right job to come along but when it does, we will find you.
Number six: Don’t just sell yourself without asking about what I’m working on. Find out what I need just like you would with any hiring manager. The candidates who move forward in any interview process are the ones who find out about the needs of the job, of the manager, or of the recruiter they want to work with. The conversations you have with recruiters are also interviews.
If followed, these basic suggestions will allow you to develop more productive relationships with fewer, more specialized recruiters and get better results. Despite the constraints of our assignments, all of the recruiters I know are empathetic and really do want to help candidates find new jobs, better jobs or just jobs in general. The more you help us, the more we can help you!
Kurt Schmidt is the author of “Modern Job Search” and the President of Converging Point, an executive search firm focused on supply chain and strategic sourcing jobs in manufacturing and energy.
Photo: Sunrise, Benicassim, Spain 2012