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10 Tips for Dealing with Recruiters

1) Find a recruiter BEFORE you absolutely have to have a new job. Let’s face it, you’re probably wasting everybody’s time talking to a recruiter unless you’re at least thinking about making a job change. But the absolute worst time to make first contact with a recruiter is when you’ve been RIF’d, fired, or quit and you need a new job right away! The purpose of this first contact with a recruiter is to:

  • let the recruiter know that you exist, you’re sort of looking around, but you’re in no big hurry
  • give the recruiter some idea of your technical talents
  • share with the recruiter your career plans and goals

Some recruiters don’t want you to call them until you’re desperate for a new job. Avoid these recruiters. Continue searching until you find a real professional.

2) Find a recruiter that specializes in your talents. Most recruiters specialize. A recruiter usually specializes by geography, technology, or industry, or some combination of the above. When looking for a recruiter, try to find a recruiter who specializes in your technical field and geographical preference. We get lots of non-I.S./telecom resumes sent to our office, and they always wind up in either the paper shredder or get processed with a ‘delete’ key.

3) Find a recruiter that you like to work with and that you trust. No matter how perfect the technical and/or geographic match you are with a recruiter’s specialty area, you MUST like working with this particular recruiter. If a recruiter “bugs you” for any reason, find another recruiter. It is far better that you find a recruiter that you like and can trust but is slightly out of your talent area, then continue to work with the “perfect recruiter” under a lot of friction and stress.

4) Don’t be too quick to send your resume to an unknown but “smooth talking” recruiter… especially if you’re still employed. When you finally find a good recruiter, your goal is for that recruiter to keep you in mind for career-building positions as they arise. Most recruiters are true professionals with very high ethics. They will gladly keep you in mind for new positions that are “right up your alley” as they are uncovered. However, there are a few unethical recruiters in the marketplace that will do whatever it takes to get you to change jobs. For example: How would you like your resume to wind up on your current boss’s desk next week? How would you like your resume “shotgun blasted” to hiring managers at every one of your current employer’s competitors in the U.S. and Canada? How would you like to have your carefully crafted resume “doctored” to say things you haven’t done, mention technologies you haven’t used, or credit you with academic credentials you don’t have?

All of the above has happened to others. Some intentional, some maybe not. Be careful! Before you send a resume to a recruiter, make sure you know exactly what they will be doing and not doing with your resume.

5) Provide the recruiter with current salary information and expectations. Most people (including most recruiters!) find it hard to discuss something as personal as compensation. And that’s fine. However, there are at least three people in this world that need to know your current salary: the IRS, your spouse, and your recruiter. The first two need to know for obvious reasons. Recruiters need to know for the following reasons:

  • Suppose you are making $50,000/year, but you wouldn’t tell us this fact. How many interviews would you want to go on where the job paid a maximum of $40,000/year? How many times would we continue to call you until we “guessed” your current salary?
  • Suppose you are making $50,000/year, but you wouldn’t tell us this fact. Suppose we asked you to interview for a great career-enhancing position that paid a maximum of $40,000/year, but since we didn’t know how much you currently make we neglected to tell you how much the new job paid. Suppose you went on that interview, you loved the company and the job, the employer loved you and made an offer of $39,000/year. What would you think of the employer? What would the employer think of us?
  • Suppose you are making $50,000/year, but we “guessed” you were making $70,000/year. Would we call you to interview for a great opportunity in your field that only paid a maximum of $65,000/year? Probably not, since we seldom ask our candidates to take salary cuts

6) Don’t put important facts in the cover letter you send to a recruiter. Cover letters tend to get lost in the shuffle, are often not even read, and most recruiters only keep the resume anyway. Keep your cover letter short and specific. On a cover letter, you may include:

  • your salary expectations
  • your geographic limitations
  • specific things that you want to say, but are not normally found on a resume

7) Make it easy for a recruiter to get and read your resume. Don’t assume that every recruiter has every possible technology in place to receive and read your resume. We sometimes hear:

  • “Use your Web Browser to logon to my personal website and download a copy.”
  • “I’ll send you the latest copy of my Multimedia resume on a ZIP disk.”
  • “Watch your Email. I’ll send you a copy of my resume in Quattro Pro format.”

Web Browser? Download a copy? Multimedia resume? ZIP disk? Email? Quattro Pro format? A recruiter is usually a business person, not a technology person. Before you send your resume, ask the recruiter how they prefer to receive it (fax, email, postal mail, etc). And remember to send the best, cleanest, and clearest resume that you can. For example, when faxing a resume always use “high resolution” mode. The fax’d image that the recruiter receives of your resume is much sharper in “high resolution” mode.

8) Recruiters are usually NOT good vehicles to help you change careers. For example, a technical person with great programming skills and no sales experience wants to become a sales person or account manager. Or a seasoned project manager wants to return to the “technical trenches” and become a Web Programmer. In both cases, the people described above probably have great potential to do the jobs they really want to do. However, employers do not usually use recruiters to find them people with great potential. Employers use recruiters to help them find people with a particularly well-honed skillset, and several years of practical experience in a particular field. If you’re an unrecognized “super star”, recruiters are usually quite good at helping you get recognized and accelerate the advancement of your career. We are not very effective at helping you change careers.

9) Executive recruiters recruit; career counselors counsel! Recruiters are inundated with requests for free career counseling, free resume writing advice, free practice interview sessions, etc. Although most recruiters are very qualified in all of the above, our “real” job is to find qualified people to work for our client companies. Most recruiters spend half of their day uncovering great job opportunities with their clients and prospective clients, and the other half of their day searching for qualified candidates to fill these jobs.

Recruiters are usually pretty good at career counseling, resume writing, and interview prep sessions. However, a recruiter’s “real” job is to uncover the best career-building positions in their specialization, and then recruit qualified people for these positions. Although part of the recruitment process often includes some career counseling, some resume “tuning”, and some interview practice sessions, if you really need extensive help you may need to hire a professional career counselor.

10) Executive recruiters recruit; bus drivers drive busses! Recruiters get lots of calls that go a bit like this:

Monday afternoon, a Systems Analyst gets notice that he will become part of a major RIF at his current employer. He immediately calls a recruiter that he just found in the phone book and says: “I’ll fax you my resume. Now go find me something!”
Two days later, the same Systems Analyst calls the same recruiter and says: “You guys find me anything yet?”
Two weeks later, the same Systems Analyst calls the same recruiter and says: “You guys aren’t worth a #$%^! You never find me anything when I need you to.”
The above scenario happens much more often than you may think. We affectionately refer to these candidates as “ticket to ride” candidates! These candidates must think we are bus drivers waiting to collect their “ticket” (aka “resume”) and move them along to the next “stop” (aka “a better paying job”).

See Tip #1 for a better way to work with a recruiter!

Questions Recruiters Receive From Candidates

Q: I received a phone call from a recruiter last week, but I hung up on her right-away because I’m afraid my boss could find out that I’ve been talking to a recruiter. I really don’t like to hang up on people. Is there a better way to handle a call from a recruiter?

A: I sure hope so! If every one hung up on me, I’d be pretty depressed after a while!

off, congratulations! Statistically speaking, very few people ever get a call from a recruiter. You must have some very valuable skills to have received a call from a recruiter.

When a recruiter calls, try the following:

  1. Smile and remain calm. The recruiter is probably more nervous than you are. I know I am!
  2. A good recruiter will usually identify himself and say “Is this a good time to talk?” 99.99% of the time if you’re at work, its not a good time to talk. So just say “No, but I can listen for a few seconds.”
  3. Professional recruiters are discrete and are used to working under these conditions. The recruiter will usually proceed with the “short version” of a presentation about a position that a client company has asked him to fill. The recruiter will usually finish with the question: “Do you know anyone that may be interested in taking a closer look at this opportunity?”
  4. If you’re not interested and don’t know of anyone who is, just say “No I don’t. Thanks for calling. Good-bye.”, and politely hang up the phone. This is a professional and polite way to answer a recruiter’s phone call. However, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to discuss your careers goals and plans with an expert in the field. Recruiters are a “fountain of knowledge” when it comes to the job market in their specialty. A better way to finish this phone call is to say “No I don’t, but I have something much more important to discuss with you. Can we talk at a later time?”, and then proceed to setup another phone call meeting at your convenience.
  5. If you are interested or know of someone who may be, just say “Yes, I might know of someone, but can we talk at a later time?”, and then proceed to setup another phone call meeting at your convenience.
  6. If you’re lucky enough to be called on by a professional recruiter, you could wind up with a “friend for life.” But if at anytime you feel “pressured” for any reason by the recruiter, terminate the relationship immediately. You’re not dealing with a professional recruiter. Be sure to read our “Tips on Dealing with Recruiters”.

Q: Why does a company pay you recruiters “big bucks” to find someone to fill a position when there are always lots of good people looking for work?

A: Great question! Chances are very good that before an outside recruiter gets a call from a hiring company, the following has already taken place:

  1. The company has already searched internally for a qualified person to fill the position. They either found no one qualified internally, or no one qualified that could be “freed up” from another position within the company.
  2. They’ve already considered training someone from the internal ranks but decided against it. Training someone who already knows their business is often the best way to go, but it does take time and money to do the training.
  3. They’ve already asked for “outside referrals” from internal employees but couldn’t find a suitable candidate. This is a great way to go because who best knows the culture of the company than the people that already work there?
  4. They’ve already run a classified or two with mixed results. With technology changing as rapidly as it does, when a company runs an employment ad they can either get 1000’s of resumes or they get no resumes.
  5. If the company needs to fill a position that requires a very specialized skillset in a very short timeframe AND they get no qualified candidates in response to advertising, this position is usually turned over to an outside recruiter.
  6. If the company gets 7500 of resumes in response to a classified ad, whose job is it to evaluate these resumes? The hiring manager? The human resources department? The mail room? Have you ever tried to just read 1000 resumes? How about just 100? Is anyone in the company really qualified to evaluate a technical professional whose expertise is in a technology that the company just started using? Although less often so, this position may also be turned over to outside recruiter. Most companies have a lot better things to do than read resumes.

Now, about the “big bucks” we recruiters get paid. If a recruiter’s only job were to “sit around” and read & evaluate resumes, I for one wouldn’t be doing this job! A recruiter is paid to deliver results. Nothing more, nothing less. If we don’t deliver, we don’t eat.

Thank you for contacting us. We are sensitive to the fact that undergoing a career search may be an unfamiliar process to you. Because of this fact, we have compiled some very valuable information for you; including resume tips, interviewing tips, and strategies to help you in your search for a new career opportunity.

This has been compiled to help you – the candidate – to successfully land a new position. Please take the time to read this.

  1. 10 Tips for Dealing with Recruiters
  2. Questions Recruiters Receive From Candidates
  3. Resume Do’s and Don’ts
  4. Candidate Interviewing Tips
  5. Interviews
  6. Important Interview Questions and Your Answers
  7. 10 Reasons for Not Accepting a Counter Offer
  8. Resume Design Tips & Example
  9. Beefing Up an Anemic Resume
  10. The Dangers of Resume Overkill
  11. Improve your Resume – In today’s competitive employment market, your resume has to stand out in order to get the attention of the decision maker and create a strong impression
  12. Top 10 Interview Blunders
  13. Resume Tips for Engineers Over 40
  14. Book – How to land a Job in a World of High Unemployment

For additional information on interviewing, and career search methods I highly recommend a book called: Knock em Dead and Knock em Dead Resumes, written by Martin Yate.

Gary Perman is a certified recruiting professional and owns PermanTech, which specializes in recruiting technology executives, managers and engineers. He hosts an employment-technology blog.

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