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On this page: Jeff Lipschultz shares how job seekers can work successfully with agency (aka external) recruiters.

Working with Agency Recruiters

It is important to be strategic about finding your next job. You need to build strong relationships, find the best paths to the ideal job opportunities, and learn from the experience.

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There are some common mistakes and misconceptions about working with recruiters that should be addressed before engaging with recruiters, regardless of who contacts who first. In this article, I’d like to tackle some of the key areas, cite some of the advice I’ve given in the past, and provide additional insights.

Understanding how recruiters do - and do not - work will help build those strong relationships.

Common Misconceptions About Agency Recruiters

These are the most common misconceptions that job seekers have about agency/external recruiters:

1. Agency recruiters will find me a job.

Typically, a recruiter will find you a job if they already have a client who is looking for a candidate just like you.

They are not going to start polling companies they don’t work for on your behalf. Although, if you are a very unique and talented candidate, they may do some investigative work to find a new client who might need you. This depends on the relationship you build with them, and how much time they have to work on projects that have very uncertain outcomes.

“So, if they’re not going to find me a job, why work with them?” you might ask. Although you don’t pay them when they place you, they do still need you. They need to network with any candidates who may eventually be a likely fit for a job they are trying to fill. There are many advantages to working with recruiters. To learn more, see Job Seekers' Not-So-Secret Weapon - Recruiters.

2. All agency recruiters are the same.

Absolutely not.

Some recruiters work for agencies that have them working on only very specific projects for clients. They may specialize in certain types of positions (i.e., Accounts, Nurses, Java Programmers) or simply work for only one or two particular clients.

Some agency recruiters cover a broader spectrum (geographically, industry, type of job). They may still have certain key areas or networks they work in the majority of the time, but they may cover your area of interest, too.

The best way to determine their strengths and interests is to check their bio (on the company web site or LinkedIn) and the type of jobs they post. The same could be said about the company they work for.

For more on recruiting your recruiter see: Building and Maintaining Strong Relationships with Recruiters.

3. Agency recruiters are career counselors.

Some recruiters do act as part-time job search consultants (mainly pro bono). They help candidates with the approach to their job search.

Many can be helpful by sharing the mistakes of others and highlighting better approaches. But they cannot tell you what direction you should go in your career.

They can tell you what have been hot areas of hiring. They can look at your resume and tell you what they think you’re targeting for a job. They may even have some contacts for you to network with.

But they cannot replace the job search counselor. Those folks use advanced tools for helping you determine your best direction based on your strengths, experience, desires, and the industry demand.

4. Apply for all the jobs the recruiter has listed.

This is a definite no-no. It paints the picture that you’ll take any job, not the right job. Recruiters want to find a job seeker who is passionate about the job they are applying for. They need to ensure the job seeker is a perfect fit.

If there are several jobs the recruiter is working on, you might want to contact them directly to share your background and/or ask their opinion on which role is an ideal match. Be very specific about your talents that match the different job descriptions, your top strengths (most years of experience or expertise), and level of responsibility.

For more on engaging with recruiters in this situation, see:

5. All I need is a simple LinkedIn profile, and the recruiters will be banging on my door.

There is no doubt that LinkedIn is a valuable tool for “being found.” It is a virtual extension of your network to the world. However, recruiters cannot find you if your profile is brief or your network is small. Take the extra time to build an appropriate profile (and don’t just cut and paste your resume).

Also, don’t assume LinkedIn in the only online resource. The other social media sites can be valuable depending on your area of expertise, and new ones seem to pop up often.

For more on linking in with recruiters online:

Bottom Line

When working with recruiters, don’t assume you know everything there is to know. And don’t assume they are going to work with you if you take a haphazard approach. How you present yourself during this process is almost as important as your qualifications as an ideal candidate. Recruiters need to be confident you will present yourself well to their client. After all, the impression their client has of you reflects directly on their confidence the recruiter does their job well.


About this author...

Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. He is a unique recruiter with Lean Engineering experience and a Six Sigma Blackbelt. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter (@JLipschultz) and on GooglePlus.