Recruiter etiquette
August 7, 2017 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I've kicked my job search into gear and I've been communicating with recruiters, but I've never done this before.I'm wondering if I'm going about it the right way, and if these are normal interactions. I'm looking for tips/tricks to make the most use of them. Context: I am looking for IT project manager and business analyst jobs.

Scenario one: I met a person at a networking event who had contacts at recruiting firms. He introduced me to them via email, and all 4 contacted me asking to call. I talked to them, sent them my resume, and had an in-person meeting with one. That person also contacted some of my references. Two submitted me for jobs, and I've had little/no contact since. Am I supposed to keep contacting them to see if they have more available?

Scenario two: They make a cold contact via email because they saw my resume on CareerBuilder/Monster/LinkedIn. I respond to the suitable jobs with a short cover letter, resume and invitation to call me. I ignore & trash the obviously unsuitable ones (sales, software developer). I heard back from one and it turned out I didn't meet their qualifications. I haven't heard back from the rest. What's a normal timeframe?

Scenario three: I cold-contact them, mostly via LinkedIn and tell them I'm looking for JOB TITLE and offer to send my resume. A couple have asked for it, and then nothing after a week.

Are there other ways I should be approaching this? Should I be treating communications with recruiters as formally as job interviews? Should I be perfectly honest about my experience or stretch it a bit like I would in an interview? How long should I wait until I contact them again, and how I should I do it (email vs. phone vs. LinkedIn)? Is it better or worse to go through a recruiter than applying directly to a company (via their website or an aggregator)?
posted by AFABulous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That person also contacted some of my references.

Sorry to say that this means nothing at all. Many agency recruiters use reference calls as an excuse to make their own contacts (in order to network for their own purposes having nothing to do with you.)

What you ought to do is research who the local recruiters are in your town who place the kind of professionals that you are at the kind of companies you want. This is not always easy to find out, but it's the most important question. Don't talk to other ones: it is a big waste of time and can lead to interference in your search. Anyone who contacts you, research them first before you send them anything. And ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations. You don't need to say it's for you, feel free to invent a college buddy who's moving to town or whatever white lie.

Once you are connected with someone legit, you need to ask them specifically about the kind of placement you want -- when was the last time they did one? What's the demand like for candidates like you? Which of your skills are in demand right now and what else should you be brushing up on? - if they can't provide good info on these questions then they are useless to you.

If recruiters aren't getting back to you it is because something in either your background or theirs makes them think you won't make them money (for instance, they only really do software engineer placements so you're not the right candidate for them; or they do IT placements, but tend to require some skill you don't have...) You need to find the ones who know how to make money with someone like you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:06 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]

I personally find it much more effective to just research the companies I want to work for, and then talk directly to their internal recruiters. I have received job offers from leads I got via external recruiters, but never one I accepted, and the signal to noise ratio is very poor. I do talk to external recruiters if they reach out to me; I try not to burn any bridges, and as I said, a couple have lead to opportunities interesting enough that I've interviewed and gotten offers. But so few of them are truly helpful, and it's very hard to know the difference ahead of time.

Also, from the other side of the table as a hiring manager, I get external recruiters contacting me all the time with a "perfect" candidate for some openinig I have. The problem is, we simply do not use external recruiters. We have an in-house recruiting team who does that job for us, and no candidate who is brought to us via an external recruiter is going to get an interview via that route (the one exception being a handful of executive-level positions where we retain a specialist firm to help us). If you want to work for my company (and we are definitely not alone), external recruiters can't really help you.
posted by primethyme at 11:30 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]

+1 primethyme. Having spent many years as an external recruiter I can tell you that it is true that many companies just don't use them at all.

It does get weird sometimes when companies don't use external recruiters for their direct hires, but do use them for temps, who can sometimes become temp-to-hires. Do a lot of homework if something like this comes up (eg if an external recruiter promises to present you to one of the big tech companies, better do your own research on what that could actually mean.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:38 AM on August 7

There is no etiquette with recruiters. Mostly, they are only concerned with who they can place today, or maybe tomorrow. They don't keep in touch. They don't care if you call. The only thing that really disturbs them is if they don't get a commission they thought they were due.

If they are not calling, it's because they don't have a opening that's a match for you, or they are busy frying bigger fish.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:41 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]

Like the others have said, internal recruiters are a different beast - you want to maintain a polite presence with them - from external/third-party recruiters. Overwhelmingly those people have little to no relationship with the employers, they're just running searches and inserting themselves into a process that you do not necessarily need them for, since you could search and apply directly yourself.

When an external recruiter offers you a job description, even a snippet, google it. Likely you can apply directly. Do not contact those recruiters back. Do not be concerned about a relationship (they use pretty robust CRM systems so when they make a match on you 3 months later and call you again, they'll probably know they spoke to you before but have no actual memory of you). They will contact you when they stand to make money off you.

One of the few value-adds third-party recruiters can offer is prescreening - check that your references are actual living humans who don't curse your existence, make sure you are a relatively functional human who knows to show up at a meeting in work-appropriate clothes, and have a conversation without talking too much about how much you wanted to kill a previous employer, or about the UFOs etc. They are at best saving an hour of the employer's time doing this. Sometimes you'll run into a recruiter who knows the industry quite well and can really help you, but as far as I can tell most recruiters stay in the business 18 months at most and then move on into some other kind of sales and marketing.

But there does appear to be some kind of Code in business that the first recruiter who contacts the employer about you - if they beat you yourself across the line - the employer has to work with them. "Work with them" means paying a bounty, which sometimes is a flat fee, and sometimes is a percentage of your salary (this is good, it incentivizes the recruiter, if they are doing the middleman negotiations, to play ball on your pay), and is sometimes based on them getting you to accept less pay or worse benefits/perks.

They may not have your best interests at heart.

And employers mostly hate them. My very specific industry has two big recruiting companies with their fingers in all the pies, and so it's kind of accepted that most hires will go through them, but when I was the one hiring I highly prioritized direct applies over recruiters because of the additional levels of salesy sleazing and skimming and game-playing involved.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:00 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]

Pretty much every contracting job I've gotten the last 10 years has been with a random recruiter that contacted me. They either saw my resume online or I'd applied for a position at some point and my resume was on file. Most applications go into a black hole to be possibly pulled out at some date far in the future when a real job like the one you applied for actually comes about.

It's a numbers game with recruiters. There are a lot of (Indian) call center-type recruiters that are mostly screeners and if you're interested, you talk to the real recruiter. This creates a lot of noise but most of it can be ignored

Most recruiters submit their top 3 candidates. If you get contacted by two recruiters for the same gig, don't apply a second time.

My advice is stay in casual touch with a few with whom you have had decent conversations or that have submitted you for positions. It's OK to follow up and ask what happened with the submission. The position could have been cancelled, the hiring manager could be on vacation, or they went with someone else. Don't ever rely on just one recruiter. Recruiters have contracts with different companies. It becomes clear who is helpful and who isn't, but you have to take the lead and ask questions - what do they think of your resume, what additional info can they give you to improve your chances, have clients provided any feedback, etc.

Recruiters get paid by placing candidates; they don't provide career counseling and they're not going to hold your hand. Out of sight, out of mind, so jogging their memory to say, "hey, I'm still looking" is OK. Most recruiters forget you the moment they submit you so you have to remind them to think of you for the next job that comes in.

Applying directly with companies is the obvious other route. This can require research once you go beyond large, well-known companies to learn about smaller, local companies. Many companies use external recruiters for contractors but in-house recruiters for full time positions. There is a lot of contract-to-hire (for PMs and BAs in financial services) but these are never assured and make sure you're hearing the same thing from the company as the recruiter if that is important to you.
posted by shoesietart at 12:05 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]

Except for my first position shortly after completing my post-doc, which I was chosen for as a result of a referral from one of my references, every position I've held since then has been through a recruiter (I've had three lucrative roles well-suited to my experience and expertise.) Thus, my experience working with them has been relatively successful.

A few key things:

- There are good recruiters, and there are ex-car salesmen that try to sell you like they would a lemon. You can usually tell one from the other through their LinkedIn profiles by looking at their past experience (experience recruiting in the field of your expertise), recommendations from hiring managers and corporate human resources folks who've worked with them at reputable companies, etc. You can also tell which ones are shifty when you speak to them on the phone - they'll upsell you positions you may not be suitable for, will not listen to your preferences, and attempt to send your resume to more than one position. In my experience working with biotech recruiters, good ones are usually retained by companies to fill one or two specialized positions, and will not work with you if you do not fit the requirements of the position. They are as discerning as a hiring manager would be, because their reputations are also at stake.

- If you choose to work with a recruiter, you should feel comfortable working with them - more comfortable than you would a hiring manager. For example, let's say you have a former boss with whom your relationship was strained, not through any fault of your own, but perhaps a personality incompatibility that wouldn't impact your contribution to a team. Let's say the hiring manager requests, through your recruiter, to talk to that person, you should be able to feel comfortable enough telling them the truth about your relationship with your former boss. They should be able to help you through something like this, as well as reassure the hiring manager that you, the candidate, are still worthy of consideration.

- In my industry (from my own experience and others'), more often than not, compensation packages tend to be better when negotiated via a recruiter than self-negotiated. Recruiters that have established relationships with the companies they work for will have a sound knowledge of how competitive compensation can get, of how you fit in in the company hierarchy, etc. This is why it's key to work with the right one.

- As people have said upthread, many companies do not work with external recruiters. If and when you reach out to internal recruiters on LinkedIn, keep in mind that they are often deluged with similar messages from potential candidates and may or may not ever contact you back unless your resume is of exceptional interest and fit. In general, they will contact you rather quickly if you do fit an open position they're trying to fill, so if you don't hear from them within two weeks to a month, chances are you should move on. One follow-up within the space of two weeks might be appropriate.

- Personally, I've found working with recruiters much more lucrative than going through a job search aggregator or company job board. Then again, I've always been approached by recruiters (my skill set is fairly difficult to find) and have been fortunate to have worked with ones that have been at least looking out for my own interests just as much as theirs. All three recruiters that placed me are ones that are still doing well in the field and have kept up a respectful relationship with me, checking in a couple times a year to make sure I was happy at the position they placed me in, and to see if I was looking again.

In short, if you do work with a recruiter, do some extensive research before working with them. Going after recruiters is rarely fruitful - the ones that contact you may have seen something in your background they think they can place, but do your due diligence. A reputable recruiter is a pleasure to work with. Your time is better utilized attempting to network with internal recruiters/ employees at companies you're interested in working for, than in contacting recruiters that haven't reached out to you.
posted by Everydayville at 12:09 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]

Recruiter here with 20+ years' experience. I'm sorry that so many upthread have encountered the sleazeballs that do exist. It's what you get in a profession that has a low barrier to entry coupled with prospects for earning a good living. Here are some tips to put your relationship with a recruiter on firmer footing:

1. Talk to people doing the job you want to be doing. Ask, "Who are the recruiters you hear from that you respect?"
2. Insist that your resume never be submitted to an employer without your knowledge and permission. If you end up in an interview with an employer you did not green light, say so to that employer.
3. Ask if the recruiter is a member of a State or National professional association. These organizations promote adherence to high ethical standards.
4. Ask if the recruiter holds the CPC (Certified Personnel Consultant) designation. The absence of a CPC may not be a negative, but having it is a definite positive . . . a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, so to speak.

Good luck.
posted by John Borrowman at 1:52 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]

I personally find it much more effective to just research the companies I want to work for, and then talk directly to their internal recruiters.

How do you find out who these people are?
posted by AFABulous at 8:35 PM on August 7

You can do a LinkedIn search by company and title. That'll get you a list of people.

I spent the better part of a year looking for a job and had many encounters described upthread. Some recruiters only care about filling the req in front of them, some will stay interested in you for a while as they pass your resume around. I hate the cold call, pushy ones because they tended to be quite rude. When I finally landed a job it was with a an online application for a role where I was a really good fit and didn't have a recruiter helping me out.

I'd recommend networking over making recruiter connections.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:28 PM on August 7

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