Enlisting Recruiters to Support Your Candidacy

Employers may be their clients, but recruiters may push back on behalf of the right job seeker. Here’s how that can work to your advantage.

Never forget this simple fact about the recruiting industry: Recruiters work for employers, not for job seekers. Nevertheless, some recruiters are willing to take a chance on pushing for a candidate who doesn’t precisely fit the job-description mold.

Take Steven Landberg, for instance. His executive search firm, Claymore Partners, does something better than most of their competitors — Claymore says ‘no’ to its clients.

Actually, the firm positions itself as a strategic partner that is willing to push back. When the client is moving in what Claymore considers the wrong direction or refuses to take their advice, Claymore has made it a practice to end the relationship.

The practice allows Claymore, an executive search and recruiting firm based in Darien, Conn., and focused on financial services, to offer their clients the best possible service, Landberg said. It also protects Claymore’s reputation and relationship with the candidates it needs for future opportunities.

Landberg, Claymore’s managing director, said four principles guide his firm in maintaining a proper relationship between the executive search firm and its clients and lets Claymore say “no” when it must.

1. Be a strategic partner, not just a vendor.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, for a recruiter to be effective if they’re treated simply as a vendor, Landberg said. They might get lucky flinging warm bodies at companies with open positions, but the “quantity” approach doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run.

“For us to be effective, we insist on knowing not just the skills and qualifications needed, but the value proposition for candidates who might join the organization,” he said. “Why is the position open? What is the next logical upward move from that position? What is the culture of the organization ? Why would a candidate want to work there?”

Landberg’s firm insists on holding thorough intake sessions with each of his clients before he begins any search, and he’s refused to work with job seekers who are opposed to this practice.

This information can be helpful when guiding the job seeker through the interview stage.

“It has to be a collaborative relationship with in-depth intake sessions, ongoing reviews, open communication and feedback, so we are constantly refining and targeting what we’re looking for. One long-term client had a number of positions open, but they refused to do these ‘intake sessions,’ so we said we weren’t going to even attempt to begin a search.”

2. Insist on a fair, respectful and positive candidate experience.

Regardless of the economy, top-quality candidates are always in demand, Landberg said, and it’s as important to develop a strategic partnership with job seekers as it is with hiring managers.

“The experience candidates have with you and your client impacts their interest in joining that organization now and in the future, as well as when they interact with other potential candidates and other organizations,” he told Ladders. Landberg said he has been shocked at the treatment some candidates have received at the hands of his (now former) clients.

“Over the last two months we’ve gotten rid of clients we felt were treating candidates poorly,” he said. “That creates a culture of negativity — one bad experience reaches many more people than a good experience does, so it affects their reputation as well as ours as a recruiter. We demand courtesy and respect from our candidates, and it should be no different with our clients.”

3. Create and use a feedback loop.

This is closely connected to the development of a strategic partnership with clients, Landberg said. Constant feedback can help recruiters refine their approach, change their search parameters and make sure they’re delivering the best candidates to their clients and finding the greatest opportunities for job seekers.

In addition to soliciting feedback from clients after candidates have interviewed to learn how closely that candidate matched the clients’ needs, Landberg’s firm performs candidate surveys two or three times a year. “We publish those results and input back to the candidates, to the HR community in general and to our clients specifically, so everyone is on the same page and is aware of what the hot-button issues are.”

4. Don’t be afraid to walk away (or to tell your candidates to do the same).

“If we don’t think a client’s position is a great opportunity for the candidate, we will tell them that,” Landberg said. “We’re not afraid to stop doing business with clients whose hiring and retention practices weren’t in the best interest of our candidates.”

This approach sounds harsh, but as a niche firm, Landberg and his staff aims to develop long-term, strategic relationships with a small number of clients, all of whom are leaders in their field.

“If they aren’t treating candidates well, that doesn’t speak highly of their leadership qualities and their ability to attract and keep employees.”