How to Play Nicely With Recruiters

Learn the ground rules of effectively working with recruiters. 

In a perfect world, recruiters would reply to every application they received and provide answers about the progress of each job seeker’s candidacy. Unfortunately, this behavior is rarely the case. All too often job seekers find themselves stuck in the dreaded ‘black hole,’ wondering why their application was rejected, or if it was ever reviewed at all.

While I can’t eliminate all the frustrations of the recruiting system, I can arm you with information to make the most of the situation. Here are five tips to help you effectively work with recruiters.

Make it personal

Identify specific recruiters to reach out to individually, rather than posting your resume on the agency’s site. There’s more incentive for a recruiter to speak with you when you’re not already in their agency’s database. Whenever possible, locate the recruiter’s email address on their company site or online professional profile so you can email your message and attach your resume. Your message should clearly state what type of role you’re targeting and how you can provide value to one of their clients.

Play the odds, but stay targeted

Keep in mind that recruiter outreach is a numbers game. Reach out to at least five new recruiters every week, and follow up one week later. Search online for top recruiter lists such as Ladders’ Top Recruiters   and ELITE Program, and other directories to identify recruiters or agencies that recruit for the types of jobs you’re qualified for and interested in. Additionally, look for recruiters or agencies that routinely pop up in your search results when you’re looking for online job postings. If you’ve worked with a recruiter in the past or have a trusted colleague who has, don’t be afraid to reconnect or ask for an introduction.

Help recruiters find you

Build a strong online presence so recruiters find you. This includes uploading the most current version of your resume to all the targeted job boards you use and maintaining a professional online profile that’s aligned with your resume. Actively participate in targeted groups on LinkedIn and industry-specific membership associations. Post comments, attend meetings and events, and share relevant articles – recruiters are notorious for trolling these groups to scout for potential candidates.

Spell out your qualifications

Only apply to positions for which you meet the must-have requirements. Applying to a role for which you’re unqualified is not only a waste of your time and the recruiter’s, but it also shows the recruiter you didn’t read the job description carefully. Recruiters are extremely busy – they spend an average of 6 seconds looking at your resume before deciding if it’s a fit. Make this as easy as possible for them by spelling out your qualifications in your cover letter, and incorporating key terms from the job description in your resume.

Become a resource

If a recruiter sends you a job that’s not the right fit, refer talented friends and colleagues who might be a better fit. This gives you a chance to pay it forward and keep your name top of mind with the recruiter. You’re also helping to clarify your brand and job goals to the recruiter so when the right opportunity pops up, you’ll get the call.