How to Impress a Recruiter

In your efforts to find a new job, you might want to contact a recruiter. Here's how to get the most from the relationship.

Most job vacancies are not advertised, so persuading a recruiter to work on your behalf can save you a great deal of time and effort in a job search. But recruiters
do not represent every applicant they meet. They screen applicants to identify those who are placeable. What can you do to get a recruiter to help you?

  • First, be aware of the recruiter's function and of who pays for the service. A recruiter costs you nothing. Client companies pay for the service on a retainer or contingency basis. The recruiter's mandate is to find the right person for a job. If you are seeking a career change from one field to another, you are unlikely to get help from a recruiter. The onus is on you to demonstrate your suitability for openings.
  • Second, approach a meeting with a recruiter as you would a job interview. In deciding whether to represent you, the recruiter will gauge whether you are likely to impress an employer. Make yourself stand out as a polished and highly marketable candidate.
  • Third, do your homework. Go to the meeting with a clear idea of your skills and strengths. Prioritize the aspects of your career that are most important to you. Update your resume in advance. The recruiter must leave the meeting with a clear idea of your background and goals.
  • Sell your personality and values as well as your skills. Many applicants overlook the fact that the recruiter must assess how they will fit in to a particular workplace. Think in advance of evidence that supports your view of yourself. Be prepared to answer questions about the kind of work atmosphere you enjoy and why. Think of specific examples that show how you interact with your supervisors, peers, and subordinates.
  • Treat the recruiter as an ally. Your relationship should be based on mutual trust and honesty. It is counter-productive in the long run to withhold or misrepresent information about, say, your present salary or the number of staff you supervise. The recruiter must be able to accept as accurate the information you give. If you do not feel comfortable about talking openly, you are dealing with the wrong recruiter. Find one you can trust.
  • Recognize the recruiter's knowledge. A recruiter acquires a vast amount of information about market conditions and successful career strategies. By asking the right questions, you can identify the employers who are most likely to be interested in your background. In addition, you can learn about realistic salary expectations and possible career paths to reach your goals.
  • Be open to suggestions. You want the recruiter to show you a range of openings. While it's important to know what you want, some degree of flexibility is in your own interest, especially in a tight job market. If your requirements are not negotiable, the recruiter may never find a position that exactly suits you and may never call you about anything else.
  • Indicate your readiness to change employers. Recruiters waste a great deal of time with applicants who are just testing the waters. You will be much more vigorously represented if you make it clear that you are serious about a move. Repeatedly indicating that "my employer really likes me" or my career path with my present employer looks very exciting" may mark you as someone susceptible to a counter-offer. Sell your past achievements in a balanced way, acknowledging why you are ready to move.
  • Be available when needed. Recruiters, especially those working on contingency, must move quickly. You may be asked to attend employer interviews at very short notice. Make sure that the recruiter can reach you easily and that you are flexible about interview times. Statements such as: "I am only available before 8 a.m. and after 6:30 p.m." may suggest that you are not very serious about finding a new position.
  • Give honest feedback about interviews with client companies. If, at any stage, you realize that a position is definitely not suitable, do not prolong the process. Receiving an offer may be flattering, but you are wasting everyone's time if you already know that you will not accept.

Suppose you do all the right things, but the recruiter is unable to place you. Was your meeting pointless? Not necessarily. You may have gained all kinds of valuable information and advice. Furthermore, you are free to keep the recruiter informed of your subsequent career progress. Who knows? You may get an unexpected call just when you need it most.