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Working With Corporate Recruiters: The Basics

Recruiters choosing a candidate from a group of business people

Few events in the corporate world cause as much excitement than a call from a corporate recruiter (a.k.a. headhunters). You are likely familiar with some of the big names like Korn Ferry, Spencer Stuart, and Russell Reynolds but there are literally hundreds of smaller, boutique agencies that focus on specific functions, geographies, or markets. I have worked with recruiters to help me fill roles (where they work for me) as well as being contacted by recruiters for external opportunities. The purpose of this post is to provide insight on the role of recruiters and advice on how to get them to contact you.

What do recruiters do, anyway? 

Basically, recruiters are hired by companies to fill difficult to fill positions where the talent profile required is unlikely to be filled using traditional methods (company website, job posting boards, etc.). They are generally compensated through a retainer (fixed fee for support over a certain amount of time) or are paid a percentage of the salary of the roles they fill. Good recruiters spend a lot of time understanding the needs of the role, the style of the hiring manager, company culture, etc. so they can help “sell” the opportunity to prospective candidates. They then leverage social media, personal connections and other tools to bring a slate of qualified candidates to the hiring manager.

Notice what I just said: the role of a recruiter is to bring a slate of candidates to the hiring manager and to sell them on the company and role. To do this, they need to get several candidates excited about the role and engaged in the process, generally by trying to convince each candidate they are exactly what the hiring manager is looking for. Good recruiters personally engage in the process and are a strong resource for both candidates and hiring managers and can provide “insider” information not readily available.

What should I do if a recruiter calls?

First, be flattered that someone is impressed by your background and thinks you are a fit for a potential role! Second, consider asking some of the questions below to dig deep and really understand the role and your potential fit.

  1. How did you hear about me? Often the response will be social media or a recommendation from an existing or past client.
  2. What is it from my background/profile that makes you think I am a good fit for this opportunity?
  3. If you are not familiar with the company, feel free to ask a lot of clarifying questions like: how would you describe the culture? What is the short and long-term growth potential of this company?
  4. Where is the position located? Will it require a move?
  5. Beyond this current position, what does a future career path look like? Remember, you should be looking to optimize your career growth instead of just looking for a “job.”
  6. Where is the company in the hiring process? Sometimes you will be in the “first wave,” other times the company has OK candidates and wants to see more resumes. It even happens that there is a strong “finalist” but the hiring manager wants back-up candidates just in case the finalist says no. It’s good to know where you stand.
  7. Are there any internal or favored candidates in the process?
  8. Why is the position open? Was the person who held the role fired? Promoted? Did he or she leave the company? This can provide clues into the corporate culture.
  9. What is the profile of the perfect candidate for this role?
  10. Invariably the recruiter will ask about compensation. Be open and honest about all of your compensation today (salary, bonus, stock options, etc.) and also be open about what your expectations are to make you justify a move.

As you move through the interview process you should get a lot of support from your recruiter either through background and bios of each interviewer, what elements of your background to emphasize, insight into culture, etc. Don’t hesitate to use the recruiter as a resource. This is doubly true if you get an offer. A good recruiter will coach you through the process, help you negotiate salary and benefits, and keep in touch with you from beginning to end. Keep in mind, though, that the recruiter does not work for you; rather, they work for the hiring company. As such, be professional, don’t make unrealistic demands, and always be respectful. Finally, great recruiters (and these are rare) build a lasting relationship. I have lunch every three months with the recruiter who brought me into my current role and he still provides insight and advice regarding culture, career paths and other areas.

What should I do if I am interested in a career move but don’t have recruiters calling me?

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Make sure you have a strong social media presence. Especially on LinkedIn. Ensure your profile is updated, complete, has strong keywords, and is results-focused. Clean up your profile on Facebook and other platforms (remove non-flattering pictures, offensive language, etc.)
  2. Submit your resume to the major recruiter websites. Almost all the recruiters have a portal where you can create a profile and submit your resume. When you do this you become part of the database they search when roles open.
  3. Leverage your network. Even if you don’t have recruiters calling you, I bet they are calling someone you know. Keep in touch with past colleagues, friends, etc. Let them know you are looking for a career change and ask them to keep you in mind if they are approached for relevant jobs.

If you follow the advice in this post you will better understand the role of recruiters and leverage them to their full potential to turbocharge your career.

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