My book about how to best work with recruiters, Headhunters Revealed!, was actually written in the heights of a candidate-driven market (1999-2000), but only hit the shelves of Barnes & Noble at the beginning of a client (employer) driven market (2001). We’ve now made the cycle once again.
It’s nothing new. There are both hotter and slower times for employment. Like all cycles in life, this too shall pass. However, knowing how to best interact with recruiters in these more modest times can make the difference in you getting the support you need from that front door avenue of job search.
Usually people focus 80 percent of their efforts on front door methods (applying for open positions, recruiters, online postings) and only 20 percent of their time on back door avenues (unadvertised job market, non-traditional networking, personal branding campaign). I’m a HUGE proponent and teacher of more back door methods, which are applicable in all economic times and keep you out of the crowds. I recommend that people switch the percentages to 80 percent of their time on back door methods and only 20 percent on front door. But nonetheless, having that 20 percent front door working for you while you fish your own ponds is a smart move.
Here are 5 points to keep in mind to make the most out of recruiter relationships in a tighter employment market:
1. Practice humility.
In hot times, you can generally throw your weight around a bit more with recruiters because, if you’re really good at what you do, they will want to place you. However, employment market today is not hot. So, you want to be on your humble best behavior in working with recruiters. If you get a call on something, be glad rather than perturbed because it wasn’t a perfect fit. Establish a mutually beneficial relationship with the recruiter (e.g., who can you refer who might be right for that job?) so that you remain on that recruiter’s radar for other opportunities. Realize that getting a call from a recruiter in a slower market is a Godsend because many in the headhunting profession have already left the business.
2. Know your partner.
A large percentage of recruiters leave headhunting in down markets because there’s simply less jobs to fill. So know that you will be dealing with one of two types of recruiters today: skilled veterans or newbies. Here’s why: Veterans have ridden these down cycles before and generally have a strong enough client list to get them through. Newbies become headhunters now because there are a lot of empty desks at the recruiting firms (wasted overhead)…so the office managers recruit to fill those seats. What does this matter to you? Honestly, a newbie can support you just as well—and hey, they have to start somewhere, right? It just pays to check a bit and create an upfront relationship with the person who’ll be handling your case—again, if you’re blessed enough to get a call.
3. Submit and verify.
Don’t wait for the call. Though recruiters will often seek and find the best in an industry for their hottest requirements, know that there are a lot of good people already in their database in times like these. So proactively put your materials in their hands, or hard-drives. Email your resume, in both Word and text form, and then call or email a day or so later to verify receipt.
One of the biggest issues people have with recruiters is that they don’t call back. This was exactly why I wrote my book, Headhunters Revealed!: to teach people how the game of recruiting works so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations. A recruiter is not a counselor or career guide. He or she is a salesperson, first and foremost in search of organizations who want to buy something (the client) and secondly in search of the right product to offer them (the candidate). Regardless of economic times, a recruiter WILL get in touch with you when they have a legitimate reason to do so—like your potential fit for a position. Don’t expect them to call until then. Sure, check in every few weeks to remind them of you but, if you’re smart, you aren’t putting all your hopes in being given a fish. Ideally, you’re learning how to fish better yourself through back door methods.
5. Pick three.
Recruiters can be a great source of surprise, out-of-the-blue opportunities that you may not have uncovered through your own back door means, so set yourself up with a few…but not too many. If you go too broad, getting your resume in the hands of everyone on the planet, you’ll look a bit like chopped liver when you are submitted by all to the same employer. Plus, that employer won’t want to get into a dog fight about who really represents you, so they may just exclude you from consideration.
In short, the time you spend actively locating and engaging a few talented recruiters on your behalf can pay off in big, unexpected dividends. But seek to know how they work and what their particular constraints are in these tighter employment times. Plant those seeds, water them every few weeks, and get on to controlling bigger gardens of your own design through effective back door techniques.