It’s a tough job market out there! You’re struggling finding your next job and it dawns on you… “I should use a recruiter!” “They can be my agent, and they’ll find a job for me!” Wrong!

There’s no question, a recruiter can be a wonderful resource. I am one… have been for over 20 years and love the fact that I often get to help people find their dream job. I feel like it’s been a good day when I’ve been of value to someone. However, although I want everyone I have conversations with to feel like I’ve helped them in some way, I only place a very small percentage of the people I talk to. In fact, recruiters as a whole only place 3% to 5% of the positions that get filled!

Additionally, although I talk to people all the time that I’d love to help, my primary responsibility is to my client company that pays the bill. They pay me a very substantial fee to find the best person for a particular job. That’s the person that has the best skills, experience, culture and personality match for that specific role. I may have someone I think of quite highly, but if they don’t match all those criteria, I can’t place them.

A recruiter can be a resource, but certainly not your primary resource. The only one responsible to find you a new position… is you! You certainly want them to be aware of you, have a very positive and professionally credible impression of you so that they do call you if an appropriate opportunity does arise. However, your attitude ought to be that it’s a bonus if you do get an opportunity from them, rather than an expectation. Your primary focus should be networking, and proactively pursuing companies you have an interest in on your own.

When you do work with recruiters, here are some key points to help you be most effective:

* Although a good recruiter will be able to provide great advice, they are primarily looking at you as a hiring company would. Consider your time with them a job interview, not a career counseling session. Put your best professional foot forward.

* A good recruiter may market you proactively to their clients IF they view you as bringing unique skills, an above average professionalism, or an exceptional presentation to the table. If you want them to market you, it’s your responsibility to help them see that.

* Be accessible. If they are trying to reach you with an opportunity, they want to talk to you right away, and will move on to someone else if it’s too difficult or takes too long to get in touch. Furthermore, if they have too hard a time reaching you one time, they may not try again with other opportunities later.

* Know what you want. In speaking with a recruiter, as when you’re networking with others, they can’t help you if they are not clear on what you are looking for. They don’t want to send a candidate to their client that is wishy-washy in their objectives.

* Don’t stick them with surprises, and be reliable with what you agree to. Don’t tell their client something different than you tell them… especially salary history and expectations.

* Be flexible. Make it easy for them to schedule interviews for you. They are less likely to work with you if they can’t find common times that you and their client are available to meet.

* Be upbeat and cheerful. You don’t have to be the “life of the party”, but no one wants to work with a grouch.

* Show confidence, but not cocky. “I’m your dream candidate” kind of an approach will alienate them, not make you more attractive.

* Be focused and concise. Rambling on and on to make sure they know “all” about you will not help. Give them the key points, and let them ask questions. Then give succinct answers.

* Keep careful documentation of the company contacts you’ve had. Do not have a recruiter pursue a company you’ve already presented to, and do not allow more than one recruiter pursue the same companies for you. You will likely miss out on an opportunity because of the confusion of the source of your information.

Work with recruiters, but they are not your “agent”, they are the company’s agent to find the best candidate for a job. They are an additional arrow in your job search quiver, but not the “silver bullet”!


Harry Urschel is an independent recruiter with over 20 years of experience in the placement industry and operates as e-Executives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. His background has included over 7 years as a top producer world-wide for the largest specialized placement firm internationally. He has hired and trained large staffs of recruiters and developed top teams. His experience has given him a strong understanding of hiring and job search processes, and writes a blog to help Job Seekers at

Views: 384

Comment by Kalch on August 3, 2009 at 4:58pm
great post
Comment by Elizabeth Johnston on August 4, 2009 at 1:26am
Most executive job seekers look to executive recruiters and job boards for open positions. The problem with this is recruiters get 15% of all executive searches and fill half of them, and only 1% of anybody ever gets a job from a job board.
Comment by David Wright on August 4, 2009 at 11:12am
Very good post! I think this will help clear up some of the common misconceptions that many job seekers have about working with recruiters. Harry is right that networking should be a job seeker's primary focus - working with a recruiter is only part of the game. The recruiters you choose to work with should be those whose specialty is your industry or job function. Job boards do have their place (otherwise, they wouldn't exist) but also aren't the only tool you should use. Even if, as Elizabeth points out above, only 1% of jobs are filled that way, someone has to be in that 1%. These are just a few of the many tools that every job seeker should use as part of their "job search tool box" and knowing how to use the tools effectively is as important as having the right tool in the first place.

I posted an abridged version of this article on The Job Search Strategist blog.

To your success,

David B. Wright
Author, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves
Follow me on Twitter!
Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on August 4, 2009 at 11:38am
What a great post! I enjoyed reading it and the points you make, by way of tips or guidance to candidates, are spot on, Harry. I especially think about the one about treating recruiter calls as a professional job interview. It could actually have a far greater impact on a candidate's career than they might want to acknowledge or even realize. As a recruiter, you might work with a candidate you enjoy working with for more than just 1 position, if they're a consultant, for example. Point after point, I caught myself nodding in agreement. From the candidate's perspective, I believe what catches them off guard is when they finally receive the phone call they've been waiting for after a day of recruiters calling them about every job under the sun without first carefully reviewing their resume. Conversations with candidates who are open, clear, confident, accessible and decisive can by far be the most effective to both parties.


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