Tips for working with recruiters?
October 29, 2012 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a job and am starting to work with some external recruiting firms. Do you have any suggestions/advice/wisdom for me?

I am trying to broaden my job search and have sought out a couple of recruiting agencies (recommended by friends). I have meetings with two different companies this week. I am a bit nervous because I have only ever applied to positions directly with companies before and this is new territory for me!

I'm looking for advice, tips and wisdom from past experiences - whether you have been an applicant who has worked with recruiters or you've been a recruiter yourself. What should I be prepared for, both in terms of this first meeting and then the process beyond? Anything I should or shouldn't do in particular?

If it is relevant, I am looking for a marketing job in the SF Bay Area and I have about six years of experience.
posted by radioamy to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've worked with agencies almost exclusively the past 4 years as an IT contractor, so some of this may be different if going through an agency like Manpower as opposed to a recruiting firm, but the advice is my experience and lessons I've learned, bridges I've burnt, and contacts made.

First, make sure it's a reputable company. The problem with some firms is that they will try to place you in a job just because youe a warm body. If the firm or recruiter is sending you jobs that you're not qualified for, tell them what you want - if they still insist on sending you positions you're not qualified for, move on. It gets worst when you're an employee. That was also my first meeting, just going over my qualifications, what do I want to do, what am I willing to do, etc. It's pretty relaxed, but it's still an interview so dress nice. This is arguably the most critical part of this entire process, if you get a bad vibe or are being sent positions that you're not qualified for on a regular basis, walk away. They don't respect you enough to review your qualifications, what would it be like working for them?

Other things to consider, how is the employment set up? Is it a contract/temp position, a temp-to-full, a full time position? How are benefits configured, does the agency provide them, the hiring company, or are you on your own; what benefits 401K, medical, dental, etc.? Make sure you find out about tax status, are you W2, 1099, or any other combination (this goes directly with the benefits), it's important for tax status. Also, if you're going to be part of the agency, find out about renewals or next placement - are they willing to work with you or is it a once and done relationship? Temp-to-hire are a bit different, I would ask if there is a timeframe set up, this is your call - I don't do temp-to-hire, I've never have any success with them but YMMV.

Also, this was something I learned the hard way - how will you be classified as an employee? Is it a "temp assignment" or are you perm? It matters when you start applying for a loan, I was earning about 60K a year at one point but couldn't get approved for a 10K auto loan because I was a temp employee.

Finally, ask about the position you are applying for - how long has it been open for, how much of a relationship do they have with the client, are you the only one they are presenting or do they present multiple candidates? This is important to note because some places will apply for you positions that have been open 6 months with no movements, others are more proactive. The other thing to note about working at a temp firm, some places will not look favorably on you passing on a position that they offer. Don't work with them if you pass on one position and they act like you burnt a bridge, it gets worse upon actual employment. But this also works both ways, you can't continually pass on positions and expect them to keep throwing offers your way.

Now for the actual position, there isn't much too it in my experience. First, the recruiter presents the position, asks if your interested in it, should they apply for you, etc. Generally the recruiter presents your resume in a redacted version, if the company is interested, they let the recruiter know who in turns get in contact with you. You schedule an interview, and it follows the normal interview process; maybe not with everyone that you normally would but this depends on the position. Higher level positions most likely follow the same format but things like a temp data entry position def. don't.

When you begin your employment with a company, find out how you are set up. If you are through the agency and not a direct hire, DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN THE OFFICE DRAMA! You will seriously burn more bridges, cause more headaches, and have shorter employment then just putting your head down and doing your work. Realize if through the firm, the company can let you go at any time, for any reason just because. You have no protection, even less then standard employment. If you're a direct hire, figure out if there is a probation period, how long? What are the criteria for letting you go, is it performance based or any reason?
posted by lpcxa0 at 7:12 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: lpcxa0, can you elaborate on the difference between "an agency like Manpower as opposed to a recruiting firm"? I'm still trying to navigate these waters and figure out what's what!
posted by radioamy at 7:55 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Over the years, I've gotten lots of work through recruiters, temp/contracting firms and consulting firms. Recruiters tend to help you find full-time, permanent employment. A company has hired them to find someone. They submit your resume to a company and if the company likes it, you interview and are hired or not. Some companies prefer temp-to-hire to try you out and see if you're a good fit before making an offer of full employment. Obviously, you too can decide whether it's a good for you or not.

Some work straight up temp/contracting work. The assignment is limited; if it's office work, you may be covering someone's maternity leave or helping out through an especially busy time or big project. My brother worked for two years on closing down Enron.

Most larger temp/contracting firms pay benefits after a certain number of hours, ones like Robert Half and Manpower. You are a W2 employee being paid by said temp/contracting firm. Both these companies do temp and permanent placement and most staffing companies do as well. Some have separate divisions for office vs professional vs manufacturing, i.e. Robert Half Accounting, Robert Half Technology, Manpower, Experis, OfficeTeam.

True consulting firms are a bit more high-brow and the work is usually temporary, project-based assignments but some do permanent too. Ones that are pure consulting like Booz Allen or Deloitte don't do permanent placement. You do your gig and then move on to the next one. You are a Deloitte or McKesson employee. Some firms call themselves consulting firms and they're a cross between true consulting like Deloitte and staffing companies, they tend to be higher-end professional jobs that aren't permanent, i.e. project management, reengineering, M&A.

A few firms, and from what I've seen they are usually smaller, allow you to do corp-to-corp billing or 1099. In my experience, they're rare but not unheard of.

The benefit to being a contractor and as lpxca0 mentions about not getting caught up in office drama is that you have no horse in the race, which I find liberating. You are not vying for promotion, raises and recognition like a full-time employee. Do your job, make your boss look good and move on when the assignment is over. If it's a really good fit, you might consider a permanent gig if one is available and if it's kind of crappy, there is an exit on the horizon.

I'm currently getting lots of calls from people with Indian/South Asian accents and in my experience these firms don't actually have contracts to provide staffing. They're hoping to get lucky by submitting a good candidate. I often get more than one company calling/emailing me for the same job. They usually ask to represent me exclusively for the position. I've stopped responding to them.

I've done two really great projects at a national bank with a consulting firm, which is how they describe themselves. They have bona fide contracts to provide someone and usually submit only two or three of the best candidates. (Many companies only want to see resumes for a few candidates, otherwise, they'd do the search themselves and wade through dozens/hundreds.) A good firm will give you a lot of guidance on the company, culture, project, work style of the manager and make suggestions on tailoring a resume.
posted by shoesietart at 10:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I've worked with recruiters, I make sure to limit my engagement with them. I make sure that they understand that they are only permitted to submit my resume for positions that I have agreed with. There are some scary stories about lazy recruiters who have actually submitted a resume to the current employer of the job seeker, thereby outing them as being active in the job search.
posted by dgran at 5:46 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing I would caution you against is getting suckered into something where you're being asked for money.

For example, Haldane. They seem recruiter-like, they tout themselves as a Career Management Firm,then they charge $4,000 to teach you how to network, or some-such nonsense.

Interview the recruiter. Ask them how may folks they place annually. Discuss with them your desired placement. What kind of company, what kind of salary, what kind of benefits.

If you're okay with contract work, fine. If you're not, say so.

Manpower, Aerotek, Robert Half, they're slot fillers. They need an X, they find an X: placement. It's okay for temporary gigs, but you're not likely to find lasting, career advancing positions.

You aren't "interviewing" per se. You're meeting with a recruiter to discuss possible positions they have, and what kinds of things you're interested in. Personally, I've worked with recruiters in distant cities. I send my resume, we discuss options, what positions they have, what I'm interested in, then they submit and we go from there.

When you say meetings, I'm hoping it's over the phone, not something you press your suit for and go in person. Not unless you're just desperate to leave the hosue.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:04 AM on October 30, 2012

Recruiter with 20+ years experience responding ...

Starting with recommendations from friends is smart move. Referrals are lifeblood of our business. This should get you off to a good start.

Let your gut be your guide. Don't expect the Vulcan mind-meld with every recruiter, but do assess whether you see/feel any caution flags.

Don't hesitate to ask "Why?", or "Can you help me understand better?". Recruiters work with the interviewing/hiring process hundreds of times. It's easy to forget we're working with someone who's only done it once or twice. The good ones are patient in answering your questions.

A good recruiter should help prep you for an interview, at least with coaching that goes beyond the stuff you'll find on the Internet.

A good recruiter should be able to tell you something about the interviewing approach, or style, of the person you'll be interviewing with; sometimes even personal stuff. Not every recruiter can tell you a LOT, but the bad recruiter will tell you nothing but "Good luck".

A good recruiter will want to know your feedback from the interview. Is it a job you'd like to pursue, etc.? A good recruiter will be able to share feedback from the employer in order to help you make a good decision.

Suggestion for finding good recruiters: Anytime you're talking to someone who is doing a job you'd like to do, ask "Who are the recruiters you hear from and respect?"
posted by John Borrowman at 9:25 AM on October 30, 2012

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