I have stated many times that external (also known as "independent") recruiters can be helpful to you even though you do not pay them - the employer pays them. I know this may seem counterintuitive, but the reality is, they cannot do their job without you.
And if you keep them in the dark about your job situation or requirements, they will be impaired from doing their job well on your behalf.
Although a third-party candidate search process starts with a company contacting their external recruiter, it ends with an offer to you.
All the information passed between you and the company - outside of the interview - passes through the recruiter.
Just as you would expect accurate data coming from the company, the company wants to know relevant information about you.
Often times, candidates are given advice about withholding information from the recruiter because the information will be used against the candidate. Let’s take a look at some of these examples and why the advice is bad, when applied to external (a.k.a. "independent") recruiters.
Some candidates do not want to share with a recruiter that they have other active opportunities and/or may be close to an offer. They are afraid the recruiter will not present them to the company if they are nearing an offer. You do not have to share that information until after you are presented to the recruiter’s client.
By sharing this information, the recruiter is aware that he or she must move their client along. This helps gauge the hiring manager’s interest, too. It also can make you look like a more attractive candidate.
You are not obligated to tell the recruiter who the other company is. You might want to share the range of the potential offer as the recruiter will likely share that info to make sure an offer coming from their client is competitive.
By the way, you should not make up phony "other opportunities." I have had some candidates look silly during the process when they made up stories about an impending offer.
It may seem like a self-defeating tactic to share your weaknesses with the recruiter.
Remember, it is their job to make sure you are a good fit. If you do get presented, you are already “approved” to a certain degree for the position—the recruiter is putting their reputation on the line when they present you. You are much better off knowing exactly where you stand going into an interview.
The recruiter also has insider information behind the job description. By sharing where you think you exceed or come up short, you are allowing the recruiter to compare you to the "unwritten priorities."
The client may be willing to take a related skill or knowledge instead of one they have listed. If you are weak in a critical area, the recruiter can give you advice on how to manage through that during an interview.
Common sense dictates that there is no need to waste everyone’s time if you really are not a great fit for the job. Work with the recruiter to figure this out.
I covered this in detail in my Starting Salary Question post for Job-Hunt; however, one thing to add here is job offers have been withdrawn when there are disconnects in this area.
Here’s a scenario:
If you are stating you want $70,000 when your highest salary has been $52,000, you may price yourself right out of a job offer. When you interview, it may become clear from your experience and knowledge that your market value is a maximum of $60,000.
Perhaps, you are willing to take $60,000. But if you don’t share that with the recruiter and are asking too much (in the opinion of the hiring company), you are likely out of the running. Their impression of you is tarnished since you are projecting yourself as a candidate with unrealistic expectations.
Sometimes candidates try to interview with companies even though they don’t want the job they are interviewing for. Their logic is they will impress the company so much that they will be in a position to ask about different jobs. This logic is faulty. Companies do not appreciate their time being wasted.
When a recruiter is in the middle, you have the opportunity to look for the “other job” BEFORE you interview. The recruiter may know of other opportunities or may be able to “shop you around” within the company before officially presenting you.
You score a lot more points with recruiters for being up front at the beginning, than surprising them at the end. These “points” may be worth more than you think.
Along the same lines, willingness to relocate for the job is typically a clear yes or no answer. Either you are willing to move or you are not. If you need to hear more about the opportunity to determine this, simply tell the recruiter this. By listening to the background on the job, you are not committing yourself to the company. If you request an interview, you are sending the message that you are willing to consider moving. You might still be in exploration mode in solidifying your decision, but you should be open to moving. If you’re not, like in the last section, you are wasting people’s time.
Some candidates are not comfortable sharing much because they don’t trust the recruiter. If this is the case, you might not want to work with the recruiter at all. And perhaps the company is not ideal either if they employ recruiters that present themselves as distrustful. Good companies are typically careful about who they allow to represent them.
Recruiters can be your partner in the process. Their job is to present qualified candidates who are a good match for what the company expects. If you are a good candidate, they will work hard to give you the opportunity to shine. If you are holding back important information, you could diminish your recruiter’s ability to help you get the job.
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.