How to ‘Get in Good’ with Recruiters

Don’t burn your first bridge to the job. Recruiters speak up about what job seekers need to do to win their trust.


Increasingly, recruiters represent the bridge between you and placement with a company. Build that bridge, and you may find yourself presented with opportunities you never even considered. Burn that bridge, and… Well, we all know what happens when we burn bridges.

Ladders collected the advice of recruiters and those who have worked successfully with recruiters to provide recommendations for forging effective, long-term relationships that can lead to promising new professional opportunities.

Understand the recruiter’s job and your own qualifications. Not surprisingly, recruiters said it’s important that job candidates understand the role of a recruiter. In short, the recruiter is charged with finding the best person for the position the client is looking to fill. If you are clearly not that person, you are wasting your time and the recruiter’s by trying to suggest otherwise. “It is our job to find and recruit candidates who outshine those available in the conventional job marketplace,” said Jeremy Spring, vice president of business development and a recruiter at Elever. “When introducing yourself for consideration, try and objectively evaluate how your experience aligns with what the recruiter’s client company seeks. If you do not have VP-level experience, no recruiter will consider referring you for a VP-level position.”

Know whether you are working with an internal or external recruiter.There are two kinds of recruiters: internal and external. Internal recruiters work with one company; external recruiters work with many. An internal recruiter will have more intimate knowledge about a company’s culture and inner workings, while an external recruiter will have a broader reach. Job candidates should work with the former’s deeper knowledge of the open position and the hiring managers as well as with the latter’s wider field of contacts.

Be proactive. “An executive recruiter’s success is based on the relationships he or she is able to maintain,” said Elever’s Spring. He recommends spending time researching the recruiting firms operating in your professional space. “Most recruiting firms, large and small, post available roles on their Web sites and provide contact information for the individual consultants working to fill the role,” he said. “An introductory e-mail or phone call will put you on the recruiter’s radar. If your experience is aligned with the open position, a referral might result. If it does not, at least you’ve opened a dialog that might prove useful on other engagements.”

Don’t be short-sighted. If you’re contacted by a recruiter and aren’t currently in the market for a new job, don’t be downright dismissive. You never know when you will be looking, and you want to remain in recruiters’ sights. “You may not need a job right now, but that’s not a sure thing at any point in the near or longer term,” said Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide” and a career coach. “At the very least, thank them for the call and ask how best to stay in touch.”

Be respectful and polite. Recruiters who spoke with Ladders said, almost to a person, that respect and politeness is very important, but they don’t always receive both from job seekers. Be sure to thank recruiters for their time, and follow up with an email to check in. “Politeness is a huge key to cultivating a long-term relationship with a recruiter,” said Nicola Huns, owner of career services site

Be mindful of the recruiter’s time. While it’s important to follow up with recruiters, don’t cross over into pest territory. “One big thing for candidates to do to get on a recruiter’s good side is to respect the recruiter’s time and not take up too much of it,” Huns said. “Recruiters are normally extremely busy people, and candidates who call multiple times in one day will be pushed to the side because they are too intense and disrespectful…. If a candidate does not hear back from a recruiter, he or she should call them once and leave a message only once emphasizing how interested they are in the position.”

Treat your conversations with recruiters like you would any interview.Too many people take their conversations with recruiters too casually, experts said. They added that you should be as prepared for your conversation with a recruiter as you would be for a conversation with a hiring manager. After all, if you don’t get past the recruiter, you won’t get in front of the hiring manager. “Treat your introductory phone conversation like an interview, but without the suit-and-tie conventions,” Elever’s Spring said. “We want to hear about your accomplishments in tangible terms, since that’s how we’ll need to present them to our client company.”

Consider constructive criticism.It’s important to remember that the recruiter is working for a client and is paid to know exactly what that client is looking for in a job candidate. If the recruiter provides advice on ways to position your accomplishments to align best with those expectations, it would behoove you to accept the suggestions graciously. “The recruiter knows what will and won’t fly with a particular client,” said Matt Scheihing, president of JMiles Personnel Services.

Provide referrals. While recruiters have much to offer job seekers, job seekers have much to offer recruiters. Referrals are recruiters’ bread and butter; passing along the names of qualified peers will definitely improve and extend your relationship with a recruiter, whether you are a fit for a current job or not (and may benefit a job-seeking colleague at the same time). “If there is one thing a recruiter loves, it is getting names of good people they can place,” said Tony Deblauwe, founder of consulting firm HR4Change. “If you aren’t interested or a fit when a recruiter calls, offer to give them names. Over time, you will get called again, and the gesture of giving referral puts you in front for future opportunities.”