Life as a Consultant: Traits of the Best Recruiters

Having worked in the IT staffing industry for many years, I have had numerous interactions with recruiters of all shapes and sizes. Not as a candidate or consultant, but as a colleague. My opinions of them individually varied of course, but overall I found recruiters to be smart, ambitious, friendly, and disciplined. But I didn’t really know exactly how they worked. Some succeeded spectacularly, some moderately, and some didn’t succeed at all. I was never really privy to the reasons why. They all had equal access to the same, jobs, tools and techniques, candidate database, etc., so there were obviously some intangible “work strategies” I wasn’t aware of.

My job was to support all of them through various marketing outreach and activities. I was very aware our recruiters were paid on commission, so I was careful not to waste too much of their time on frivolous requests, or even spend time getting to know them better, while they were on the clock. (Actually, they are almost always on the clock).

When I left that world and became a consultant myself, this relationship dynamic changed. Now recruiters were trying to help me, instead of the opposite. I did all the things I had instructed others to do when first job hunting. I networked. I connected on LinkedIn and other social media. I put my resume on various career sites. In doing so, I interacted with dozens of recruiters in different scenarios. My experience with recruiters has become enriched and now I understand their world better.

First thing to keep in mind is that most recruiters really want you to succeed. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as your success drives their success. They have not reached out to you just to pass the time; they have found your resume or experience to be the best shot they have at getting themselves a placement fee. Yet it goes deeper than that. Most recruiters are “people persons” and genuinely do enjoy talking to and helping candidates. Nirvana for recruiters is having candidates who they can place multiple times and really get to know personally. I equate it to a family doctor who might get to know your children over many years, versus an ER doctor who sees you once. (and hopefully saves your life!)

Good recruiters are able determine your goals quickly and effectively. That helps them find the right jobs for you and not to waste your time, or theirs. Most calls I got from recruiters lasted less than ten minutes, but I felt that we both got what we wanted to. Beyond the job itself, a good recruiter will know something about the client, the competition, and the hiring process. You should always ask them about these. If they don’t know, be suspicious. I always asked them how or where they found my resume (marketing background kicking in). If they don’t know that, be very suspicious.

You can help them build a good match by having a clear idea of what you want to do, how much you want to be paid, what your top skills are, what kind of company you want to work for. Don’t waffle or act wishy-washy. Know yourself and be realistic. Nobody is hiring on potential these days. Though I had many marketing skills in my background and on my LinkedIn Profile, I decided that my top skill and top interest, was B to B business/technology writing. So I rejected other job request that came my way, even though I was flattered by the interest.

What separates the good from the great recruiters, in my opinion, is follow up. If I have been submitted to a position I want to know, good or bad, whether I have progressed along in the selection cycle. Very few of the recruiters called me back with a status check. Sometimes you get an automated email but this is impersonal. This is a missed opportunity for them to build a longer term relationship. I know they are busy with other candidates and may not have time, or even know the status, but with discipline I think they could carve out a time follow up.
Better yet, is a recruiter who will tell you that you were not selected and tell you why.

This has only happened to me once, and I felt so grateful for her honesty when she told me “The client felt you had too much xxx on your resume and not enough yyyy. Next time we will learn from that.”  Yes, and next time I will learn from that too.

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