Skip

How do I get the best out of recruiters?
July 20, 2012 12:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm job-hunting in the outside world after many years at a single idiosyncratic organisation. Recruiters are a foreign species to me. Please teach me how to get the best out of them.

So, I'm looking for government/policy/research jobs. They're almost all advertised through recruiters. I've never dealt with recruiters before. What are the assumptions governing the recruiter-jobhunter relationship? I know I'm the product, not the customer, but how does that work in practice?

Here are some examples of the sorts of things I don't know:

- Besides applying for specific advertised positions, should I be cold-calling recruiters and asking them to shop me around? How many should I work with at a time? What can I expect from them? How often should I bug them?

- My instinct when dealing directly with employers is to be rather formal and deferential. The recruiters I've spoken to so far have seemed really casual and familiar, both over the phone and by email. Should I match their tone, or are they trying to get me to drop my guard?

- If they ask me to summarise my experience, job preferences and salary expectations in an email ("Oh, it's just for me, don't worry about being formal, it won't go to any employers"), should I take them at their word?

- Can I/should I use them as a source of career/jobhunting advice? For example, is it appropriate to ask for feedback and suggestions on my resume, or advice about whether my salary expectations are realistic? Or should I be more circumspect?

- Should I mention factors like a preference for flexible hours early on, or should I keep quiet until I'm offered a position, like I would with an employer?
posted by embrangled to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Most (USA) government work is done by contractors these days (I think I've read somewhere that it approaches 85%). So are these recruiters from contracting companies who want you to work for them, or from a government agency looking for a permanent employee?
posted by parrot_person at 2:44 AM on July 20, 2012


Check your MefiMail
posted by evil_esto at 2:58 AM on July 20, 2012


I'm in Australia. Most of the jobs I'm considering are fixed term or permanent positions, working directly for government departments, public bodies or NGOs. But really I'm looking for more general advice on working with recruiters, because I've honestly never dealt with them before.
posted by embrangled at 3:57 AM on July 20, 2012


US recruiter responding. AU experience might vary.

should I be cold-calling recruiters and asking them to shop me around?

No problem cold-calling. However, start by talking to people who have the kind of job(s) you want. Ask them, "Who are the recruiters you hear from who you have the most respect or regard for?" Call those recruiters.

No, don't ask them to shop you around. If their judgment is that you have the talent that their clients want, they'll be in action. If they don't think you have the talent their clients want, no amount of asking will make any difference.

How many should I work with at a time?

Probably no more than 2 or 3. Partly this is because the recruiters may have duplicate client lists, and you don't want them stumbling over each other. Makes you look bad. Makes them look bad. Also, a recruiter makes an experienced judgment as to how much time/effort to devote to your candidacy. Part of that judgment involves how many others are attempting to get to the same finish line. Finally, and as a practical matter, you don't want to have to be making/taking, and keeping track of, calls from very many.

What can I expect from them?

Ask them.

How often should I bug them?

Ask them. Different recruiters have different thresholds for being bugged.

Should I match their tone, or are they trying to get me to drop my guard?

No, they're not necessarily trying to get you to drop your guard. (And your question suggests you might want to examine what it is that you feel you might need to maintain your guard about.) They're seeking a relationship of candor where they can rely on you to deal in a straightforward manner.

should I take them at their word?

Yes, you can take them at their word that it's for them and not the employer. On the other hand, this has the smell of short-cutting in a way that does not serve you. As an example, I would have zero confidence in what you might write about your salary expectations without hearing you out with regard to the first two items. You could be very realistic, or quite simply out of your mind.

Can I/should I use them as a source of career/jobhunting advice?

Yes, provided that your questions are succinct and to the point.

is it appropriate to ask for feedback and suggestions on my resume

Yes, though keep in mind that this is likely one of those topics where, if you ask ten different people you're going to get ten different opinions. Instead of "What do you think?", try "What changes would you recommend to make me more attractive to your clients?"

or advice about whether my salary expectations are realistic?

Yes, though "Are my salary expectations realistic?" is about the only question you can ask to which you'll get a reliable answer. Most other questions about how much you should be making, how much the typical person makes, etc. have answers that begin with the phrase, "Well, it depends." The recruiter typically has an incentive to see that you receive the highest pay you can command. That incentive has no value, however, unless you actually GET the job. The focus on "realistic" is the best place to start.

Should I mention factors like a preference for flexible hours early on,

ABSOLUTELY. Blind-side the recruiter with this delightful little piece of information after he/she has helped you generate an offer and you will quickly lose whatever goodwill you have built. And there's no reason why you shouldn't be inquiring about this with the employer. Ask the recruiter for advice on how to ask.
posted by John Borrowman at 1:36 PM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Slightly different perspective - but great advice from John Borrowman!
posted by evil_esto at 1:52 AM on July 21, 2012


Thanks to both of you for your advice. John Borrowman, you make a good point - I actually don't have anything to hide, I guess I'm just accustomed to being rather formal as a job hunter. Maybe I need to let that slide a bit and switch from deference to a warm professional tone. Evil_esto, your memail was very helpful. Thanks again!
posted by embrangled at 4:13 AM on August 7, 2012


« Older I’ve been charged with misdeme...   |  Does anybody know of a cobbler... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post