If you’re on LinkedIn and currently looking for a new job, it’s extremely likely that you’ve come across posts where people complain about recruiters.
These ‘gatekeepers’ of the application process are often the recipients of lots of negative sentiment. And it’s not surprising as they’re the ones that reject applications, or worse, ghost candidates completely.
But, a fundamental mistake that job seekers make is viewing recruiters as ‘the enemy’. A good recruiter can be a lifeline in your job search, and partnering with recruiters can aid your career for years to come.
Yes, there are some bad recruiters (there are bad eggs in every industry), but there are lots of great ones too.
I use the word ‘partnering’, as an effective relationship between a recruiter and a candidate should function like a partnership. When both parties are clear on their expectations and what they bring to the relationship, positive things can happen.
Can a recruitment agent really help you find a job?
In this article I’ll give you an overview of the role of a recruiter, plus a framework and some useful dos and don’ts for developing a positive working relationship. A relationship that ultimately results in you landing a great job opportunity, and the recruiter winning a placement – more about that later.
Everything that I'll share with you in this article is based on my personal experience working as an agency recruiter in Dubai and from friends and colleagues in the industry.
I’ll also be pulling back the curtain on the recruitment process, giving you a glimpse behind the scenes, after all, it shouldn’t be a secret.
I'm going to cover:
• What a recruiter is and how they actually work
• How to identify which recruitment firms to work with
• How to make contact with those firms
• How to build a positive relationship that yields results
What is a 'Recruiter'?
In this article we're talking about agency recruiters. These are the recruitment consultants that work for recruitment agencies or consultancies, they can also be self-employed or work freelance.
An agency recruiter is tasked by a company (their client) to find potential candidates to fill a vacancy, typically for a specific role.
An agency recruiter usually works for and is paid by a recruitment company, however they will also earn a commission based on how much income they generate for their employer on a monthly or quarterly basis.
The way they generate income for their employers is by filling roles for organisations.
Typically, a recruitment agency will be paid a fee equivalent to 15 - 25% of the hired candidate's annual salary. The individual recruiter will then be awarded a percentage of this fee as commission, on top of their monthly salary. Agency recruiters are therefore very motivated to represent the best candidates for roles and to secure the highest salaries possible.
It’s important to understand this as it has a huge bearing on the way an agency recruiter works, and the type of relationship that you can expect to have with them.
Agency recruiters need to be sales people. They first have to sell their service to hiring companies and agree terms of business. They also need to ensure candidates are happy to work with them, and they will also be ‘selling’ opportunities they are working on to candidates.
A good recruiter will then work to market their candidates to the hiring company and will be very incentivised to ensure that their candidate is the one selected for the role and that the candidate accepts an offer.
Remember, they won’t get paid for any of their work unless a candidate starts in a position and remains there for a minimum period of time, often 3-6 months.
I'm telling you this because people often wrongly assume that a recruiter is working for them and thus expect an unrealistic level of service from the recruitment agent they are working with.
Yes, the recruitment agent will be representing you, and hopefully your best interests, however, do not forget that it's the client that will be paying them and they'll only be paid if they fill the role.
Ultimately, they will put their best efforts into the candidate who is most likely to be offered the job and therefore win them the fee. Recruitment is about making money and so don't expect an unrealistic degree of loyalty from a recruiter.
Should you work with a recruiter to find a job?
Having said all of the above, I still believe that working with a recruiter to find a job is one of the best routes to success. A good recruiter can offer a huge amount of value to your job search which is what we're going to explore below.
Which recruiters should you work with?
Start searching for recruitment companies and you'll realise that there are no shortage of agencies out there, ranging from global giants such as Micheal Page, all the way to small boutique firms and one-man bands.
So how do you know which firms to work with?
Well, it’s important that you align yourself with a trustworthy recruiter that is working on positions that would interest you and that you are confident would represent you well to their clients.
Ultimately you'll only really know if you are gelling with a particular firm or individual recruitment agent once you have been in communication for a little while, and there is no reason why you should not terminate a relationship if it's not working out for you.
However, there are a few things that I recommend you look for when hunting for a recruitment company.
I highly recommend that you look for the following:
Identify recruitment companies that specialise in your function or industry
One of the great benefits of working with a recruiter is the wealth of knowledge and understanding that they can provide you with.
A recruiter that understands your industry can be a source of invaluable advice, can answer your questions and help you into roles that are truly right for you.
They can also be honest with you and give you an accurate assessment of your skills, experience and the likelihood that you will find the role you want, at the salary you require.
Recruiters typically specialise based on role function (Accounting, HR, Legal etc.), however, there are also recruiters who specialise by industry i.e. FMCG, hospitality, healthcare or financial services.
You can find the most relevant recruiters by searching for roles that match your skillset on job sites like Indeed.com - Indeed is a web-scraping tool and will show you all roles being advertised around the web.
Make a note of the recruitment agencies that have the most relevant positions. You can also visit recruiters’ websites and check which functions they recruit for or whether they specialise in particular industries.
You can also make use of LinkedIn’s Boolean search function to find narrow down search results and identify the right recruiters you should reach out to. You can read more about this here.
Identify recruitment companies that recruit roles at your seniority level
Typically, recruitment firms will have their own ‘sweet spot’ for the seniority of roles they work on and generally firms will fall into one of three categories:
• Manpower/blue-collar Recruitment: These are high-volume, quick turnaround roles. These recruiters may have less time to meet with you and the best approach is usually to apply in the first couple of days to any roles they have advertised.
• Professional Recruitment: These are more specialised roles and agencies that work on these positions will often focus on the types of positions that hiring companies struggle to fill. They’ll typically be looking for candidates with specialised qualifications and experience for the roles they are hiring for.
Examples include; Robert Walters, Michael Page and Robert Half. You’ll find roles advertised on their websites and on LinkedIn.
• Executive Search Firms: These firms work on high-profile, executive-level positions and will often headhunt roles or source candidates through their network.
Examples include; Egon Zehnder, Korn Ferry and Heidrick & Struggles. These roles may be advertised in specialist publications or headhunted.
Identify recruitment companies that are well established in your region
These will be the recruitment companies that have been present in your city, state, country, etc. for a number of years, have a presence on the ground, have built a team, and have a track record of success.
These recruitment agencies are much more likely to have a large client base (companies that they have developed long-term and trusted relationships with) and they will likely have more open doors into organisations and will be working on more job vacancies.
A recruitment firm that has not had the time to develop these partnerships will likely struggle to represent you for good opportunities. If you are speaking to a firm who is new to the region who is promising to represent you to lots of great companies, be wary.
They may not actually have relationships with these organisations and may be sending your CV as a form of bait to get the attention of organisations. This can backfire on you as a candidate, and in such instances, you may be better off applying directly to the hiring organisation.
Identify recruitment companies that are reputable and trusted
Often these recruitment agencies are the ones with strong and visible brands, longevity and a professional approach. How you’re treated in your first interaction is usually a good indication of how you’re going to be treated, and whether or not a company will represent you well.
Consider how responsive they are to you, how they communicate with you, how much time they are willing to give you etc.