How to Work with Executive Recruiters

A step-by-step guide on how job seekers can work effectively with executive recruiters.

You met with a recruiter, but now she’s not responding to your e-mails. Maybe your background is perfect but you don’t make it past the phone screen. How could it be that you’re “not a good fit” when you’re so clearly made for the position?

Ladders spoke with several current and former third-party recruiters, as well as job seekers, to learn more about the nuts and bolts of the process of working with a recruiter.

Job hunters tend to view recruiters as an unfortunate necessity in the search process, regarding them as the people who don’t respond and don’t really know what the hiring company is looking for.

It turns out that many job seekers have misconceptions about the most basic role of a recruiter. “They don’t understand that we don’t work for them,” said Greg Bennett, a headhunter at the Mergis Group in Cary, N.C. “We work for the client” — the hiring company.

Below are some typical scenarios in which job seekers may find themselves. We asked the recruiters what’s happening at their end.

Scenario One: You think you’re a perfect fit for the position, yet the recruiter isn’t responding to your application or your follow-up calls and e-mails. Potential red flags may include:

You’re not qualified for the job.

You’re a good fit but not an ideal fit.

Your recruiter — or the hiring company — isn’t effectively communicating the job specifications.

Your e-mail subject line could be slowing down the process.

Your resume may not be conveying your story at a glance.

Misspellings of any kind turn off some recruiters.

A generic cover letter could be your undoing.

Superlatives may be getting in your way.

What can you do?

Not much if you’re not qualified, but applying for a specific job and making sure that you’ve dotted all your “I’s” and customized your cover letter will at least ensure you’re getting the attention you deserve.

Scenario Two: You didn’t make it past the recruiter’s phone screener.

Your general attitude could be a mismatch with the hiring company.

You didn’t listen to the questions.

What can you do? Follow up with the recruiter to ask her why you’re not a good fit. She should be able to provide a concrete reason. If she can do that — and you trust her assessment — let her know you’d like to be considered for future positions.

Scenario Three: You met the recruiter in person, but now he doesn’t think you’re right for the job.

Your work style may not be suited to the position.

Your personality may not be a match for certain company or department cultures.

What can you do?

Talk to your recruiter and find out exactly why you’re no longer in the running. Gather as much information as you can and ask if there’s anything about your personal performance that you could improve.

Scenario Four: The recruiter is being vague about why the hiring company doesn’t want to proceed with your application.

She may not have all the information.

She may be reluctant to talk about personal quirks.

What can you do?

Strike a friendly tone when probing for details. Help the recruiter understand that you value his feedback and would appreciate any information he’s able to supply.

Elizabeth Bennett Elizabeth Bennett is a freelance journalist.