Ah recruiters. Used car salesmen, pyramid salespeople, real estate agents. There really is some stiff competition for the most contemptible of professions. Unfortunately, there is some basis for this, but of course there are good people doing the right things in each of these professions.

We’re going to look at how to identify the recruiters that can provide value to your career, and how to best engage them.
If you ask a thousand people about their experience with recruiters, the vast majority will relay stories that fall into one of three categories;

  • I’ve applied to dozens of suitable roles and never get a response. I’ve been a high-performer my entire career, so not sure what’s happening.
  • I get approached on LinkedIn or calls from recruiters asking for a resume, and don’t hear back.
  • I went for an interview but didn’t hear back from the recruiter. Not sure where things went south, and found it quite rude.

Recruiters talk to hundreds of people every week, so it’s important to understand that your candidacy, while important to you, isn’t (at least initially) as important to them. What you need to do is set yourself apart and provide details to expedite their understanding of your value to the market. If we wish to address each point above, we can look at the fundamental causes of each, and the better alternative.

When working with an external recruitment organisation, the opening phrase of a job ad will typically read ‘My client is…’ or ‘This company is..’ or similar. Once identified, you’ll know that unless they have a close relationship forged over years (unlikely) they will not be able to provide much detail about the role or the company, or their products or services. They could be an exception to the rule, and the more senior the position, the more likely they have the requisit detail. Regardless; do your best to understand who the organisation might be – a good recruiter will typically be forthright and tell you if you call. Your own research may well prove fruitful if you can deduce the possible client company.

If you’re able to piece together a few likely suspects; ‘a global software company that underpins most modern enterprises’ might be Microsoft. Checking out the LinkedIn profile of the recruiter that posted the ad, you might see that you know several people in common at Microsoft – most hiring managers or HR…
This will provide fuel for adjustements you’d like highlight in your application. Again, this isn’t about bullshitting, it’s about putting the spotlight on the right areas. Your profile can only provide account of a small section of your experience and skill-set, and you simply must know what to bring to the fore.

If you’re applying to dozens of roles, you’re doin’ it wrong. Our mantra is ‘Always the rifle, never the shotgun.’ meaning if you’ve a certain amount of energy to throw into a task, spreading your energy across too many applications in a shallow way isn’t your best bet. Instead, focusing your time on a handful of roles will yield better results. More in depth research, more (considered) time spent writing your applications, and proper follow-up are what make the difference. Firing off a résumé or CV blind is literally the least you can do.

If you’ve sent across your résumé to a recruitment consultant and not heard anything, your résumé might be poor, or just not suitable for the position on closer examination. Or the recruiter isn’t great at their job. The likeliest cause, however, is that it’s not the answer to the question posed by the role. If you are indeed right for the role, the responsibility lies to you to ensure your application and follow-up are compelling answers. When the recruiter makes contact initially, ask them about the role and what problem their client is trying to solve by hiring. Then you can customise your application, drawing forward the relevant areas of your career that might otherwise of remained in the background, and hence excluded your application.

If all is going well with your application and you’ve been to an interview, set-up expectation for feedback upfront – good or bad. When you’re speaking to the consultant to organise the interview, ensure they understand that you would prefer actionable and real feedback rather than the generic ‘No.’ most recruiters provide.