Recruiters Aren’t a Finishing School

Recruiters don’t work for you and they don’t have to help you, but they can be a valuable resource to help you be the right candidate for the job.

There are a few things you should know about recruiters before you work with them.

  1. Recruiters’ measure of success is filling open positions, not getting people hired.
  2. They’re not there to be a finishing school for candidates. They’re paid by hiring companies to find the right candidate, not to make you the right candidate.
  3. No one knows better than the recruiter what the hiring company wants in a candidate.

Put together, recruiters don’t work for you and they don’t have to help you, but they can be a valuable resource to help you be the right candidate for the job. And most are willing to help do that. While not a finishing school, most good recruiters can recognize a candidate with all the right pieces and help polish them for presentation to the hiring company, said Lynn Hazan, founder of Chicago-based Lynn Hazan and Associates.

Hazan goes further than most recruiters. For the right candidates, the search firm does extensive career coaching and counseling and offers tools designed to help candidates adjust to a cutthroat job market. Their special focus is on changing the candidate’s attitude and flexibility.

“We have candidates who’ve been laid off after years and years at a company, and we also have entry-level candidates who’ve never held a corporate position before,” she said. “But we emphasize the market conditions, and help them realize that they can’t bully their way into a position, so to speak, no matter what their experience, credentials, who they know.”

In the current “buyers’ market,” where hiring companies have plenty of good candidates from which to choose, hiring managers have grown more selective. In such a situation, a candidate might possess all but one required element and help in adding that element or a positive, accommodating attitude can often win the day, said Hazan.

“It can be a tough pill to swallow that companies have so much leverage,” she said. “If a candidate doesn’t want the job or is not a perfect fit, there can be hundreds of other applicants who’d be happy to snap it up.”

Practice, Practice, Practice

What can be trickiest for job hunters is simply that they don’t get much practice using their preparation, search and interviewing skills, Hazan said. Hazan finds that most candidates don’t interview or even apply for jobs on a daily basis, and therefore have a tentative understanding of what works in a search and/or interview and what does not. She said that many are also struggling with time management and making a job search strategic rather than just applying to various positions on a whim.

Keeping accurate records of your job applications, contacts and the various recruiting professionals you work with, and managing those relationships as though it were your job, is key, Hazan said.

“Practice is important, and keeping your interview skills well oiled, so to speak, is extremely important nowadays,” she said. “It’s no longer a situation where you can just throw a bunch of resumes out there and see what sticks.”

Hazan and Associates specializes in marketing and communications professionals, a field you would expect to be replete with candidates skilled at self-promotion. Not so said Hazan.

“It’s a lot easier to market and communicate about something — a product, a service — outside of yourself,” she said. “For candidates, looking internally to identify strengths and weaknesses can be difficult.” So Hazan said she makes sure to bring candidates into the feedback loop after they’ve interviewed and been critiqued by the hiring company.

“We give them tips on how they came across to the interviewer – that includes their resume, their professional demeanor, their speaking skills and, of course, overall attitude.”