A recruitment consultant stands on the stairs of a recruitment agency office buttoning up his suit jacket

How to Work With a Recruiter to Find a Job

Joel Mason
Job Search

How to Work With a Recruiter to Find a Job

Joel Mason • Sep 15, 2022

Can a recruitment consultant really help you find a job?

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.


Coming up

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.

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Consider seeking out a recommendation from a trusted colleague or friend who has recently secured a job through an agency. Finding the direct contact details of a really good individual recruiter is even better than simply going through the recruitment firm’s website. A recruiter with a great personal reputation is well worth building and maintaining a long-term relationship with.

As a recruiter, we worked with some candidates on multiple career moves. These were typically good candidates who we had maintained a close relationship with. We kept in contact with them over the years, tracked their progress and were able to approach them about exciting roles when they became available. This is the kind of relationship that can be built with a recruiter and it’s mutually beneficial!


Identify recruitment companies that are willing to meet with you

You may find that there are quite a few firms that meet the above criteria, however only 2-3 may be open to meeting you. My advice would be to work with the ones that have taken the time to meet you face-to-face, over a video call, or at the very least take the time to have an in-depth telephone conversation with you. 

A firm can only represent you well if they truly understand your background, experience, skill-set and expectations. If you don’t feel that they have a good grasp of these things, it is unlikely that they will successfully place you into a role, and you may just waste your time. As mentioned, this may not be standard practice for more junior or less specialised roles.

I recommend partnering with no more than two agencies at a time. You will find that the same role is often being worked on by multiple agencies. You want to avoid your CV being sent for the same role by multiple agencies, this is more likely to happen if lots of companies are representing you.

If a recruiter knows that you are working exclusively with them, and maybe one other, they are much more likely to build a relationship with you and put more effort into representing you well.


How to contact and connect with recruiters

Once you have identified a few recruitment companies that you would like to approach, you'll need to make contact.

There's more than one channel that you can use to make contact with a recruiter or recruitment company and we'll discuss them below, but first, a few tips on your communication.

Tips for reaching out to recruiters

Use the person’s name and spell it correctly.

I receive an inexplicable number of emails addressed to ‘Jason’, I can only assume it's a mashup of Joel Mason.

I find it amusing, however, there really is no excuse for spelling someone's name incorrectly, or using the wrong name altogether, so make sure you pay attention and get this right!

For formal greetings, I recommend using ‘Dear …’.

However, if you want to appear less formal, then you could address the email ‘Hi…’

Make the message about them (or at least a little bit)

No-one likes to receive a generic message that feels like it has been sent to hundreds of others.

When I receive messages like this I don’t feel compelled to respond, and I know I'm not alone, it's something that annoys recruiters the world over. It feels like the person hasn’t put any effort into the message, so why should we put effort into a response?

Conversely, by demonstrating you have a genuine interest in the person you are messaging, that you have written to them specifically, you greatly increase your chances of engaging them in conversation.

Addressing them by name is a good place to start. However, your overall message needs to be tailored so that it’s clear this isn’t the same message you have sent to lots of other people.

Stick to the point

The best messages are no longer than they need to be. If someone opens your message and it looks more like a short story, they may very well make the determination that it will take too long to read. Aim to be concise in your communication and make every word count.

Use short paragraphs

By breaking up your message into short paragraphs, you make it easier for the person to read and digest, this is especially true if the person is opening your message on their phone.

Modern technology has changed the way we communicate, and online content that performs best is content that is broken up into small digestible chunks.

Quite simply, we have lost our ability (or desire) to read through large blocks of dense text.

Have a clear call to action (CTA)

When you compose a message, you should consider what you hope the ideal outcome to be.

Perhaps you want an interview or an introductory meeting.

Maybe, you are looking for advice or you have a question you would like answered.

If the person receiving your message is not clear on its purpose and doesn’t know how to respond, they are less likely to reply at all.

Therefore, it is always worth finishing your email with a question or call to action that the reader can easily respond to.

If you want some help, we have templates for contacting hiring managers and recruiters that are available to download here.


Channels for contacting recruiters

Let's look at the ways that you can actually get your message in front of the recruiter that you want to speak with.

LinkedIn

These days most agency recruiters use LinkedIn, and will be active on the platform on an almost daily basis which means LinkedIn is a great place to find them!

Send a connection request, and personalise it!

Keep in mind that recruiters receive constant connection requests, so if you want your connection request to stand out, you need to personalise it and give the recruiter a reason to accept it.

This means that you should not simply hit the connect button and hope for the best. Instead, make sure you craft a personal message, use the recruiter’s name and make sure you spell it correctly, making a good first impression is very important.

This personalised invite can also double as your first message so make it count.

You only have 300 characters for this message so keep it to the point. Something like:


Hi Hannah

I see you are a legal recruiter in Dubai. I’m a corporate lawyer specialised in M&A and am considering a career move. I’d be keen to discuss the market and whether you are working on any roles that would be a good fit for me.

Would you like me to send you my CV?

Pro-tip - You can also use InMails to send a longer message. InMails are a great tool because they allow you to directly message someone even if you’re not connected!

Getting yourself a one-month subscription to LinkedIn Learning/Premium will provide you with some InMails that can be used to reach out to recruiters. Try making the most of a one-month free trial that can be cancelled before you have to pay anything. 

Click here for more details.

Direct contact

All recruitment companies will have a website where you should be able to source some contact information.

Go to the company’s website and find the name of a recruiter in the team specialising in your field, call up the company and ask for them by name. Explain a little bit about who you are, suggest a coffee chat, and follow-up with an email to thank them for their time on the phone and attach an up-to-date copy of your CV.

If you are unable to see anyone face-to-face or speak to them over the phone, use their website or LinkedIn to find either a specific or generic email address and send over your CV with a well-written introduction email requesting a time to meet or speak over the phone.

Failing all of the above, there is an alternative way to get on the radar of a recruitment company and that is by applying for a role that they are advertising.

Just make sure the role is a good fit for you, it’s important that you make a good first impression. If they like your profile, they will get in touch and usually your CV will be added to their database regardless.

How to build a rewarding relationship with a recruitment consultant

A recruiter’s top priority is filling their open role with the best candidate. This is how they earn their money, if they don’t find the best candidate they don’t earn.

This ultimately means that recruitment consultants do not work for you, recruiters work for the organisation whose role they are filling.

This is very important to understand and it has a huge bearing on how you go about building a relationship with a recruiter and how to set your expectations.

Here are my tips for kicking off your relationship in the right way.

Be clear about what you want

Recruiters like clarity. Remember, the recruiter wins if you accept a role and stay in the organisation.

If you begin working with a recruiter before you know exactly what kind of role you want, and what you would be willing to accept, you can end up wasting each other’s time.

This is not the basis for a positive ongoing relationship. 

If you’re not able to provide a recruiter with clarity regarding what kind of role, salary and benefits etc. that you will accept, you will likely find that they are reluctant to represent you.

The very last thing a recruiter wants is to work hard to get you an offer with a company that you ultimately turn down. It wastes their time, damages their reputation and costs them money.

It will really help you, and your recruiter, if from the beginning you can be clear on the following:

• What seniority level you are looking for
• The minimum salary you would accept
• Your ideal salary
• The must-have benefits
• How far you are willing to travel
• If you are willing to relocate
• The required job title and variation thereof
• Which companies you won’t work for
• Which companies you would love to work for

If you're unsure about how to answer these questions, download a free copy of our Job Search Questionnaire to help you to narrow down your search criteria.

Don’t tell a recruiter that you are open to anything, the reality is you are not, and they know it.

Don’t get into an interview process that you are not committed to, even for interview practice, it will only end in disappointment and a damaged relationship.

Be open and honest with your recruiter

Many candidates are either very secretive or very unclear about what they are looking for. Neither of these approaches will get you very far when working with a recruiter.

Typically, organisations will give recruiters very specific requirements for the candidates that they are looking for, this means that a recruiter will likely conduct a short interview/fact finding session with you prior to representing you for any roles.

The more open you are with them, the easier it will be for them to effectively represent you.


Be open and upfront about the following:

• Your current notice period, companies like to know this up front
• Your salary and expected salary
• How serious you are about your job search
• How interested you are in a role or company that they pitch to you


Understand what to expect from a recruiter

An important aspect of building a positive relationship is having your expectations aligned. With that said, what should you expect from a working relationship with a recruiter?

Here’s what you should expect from a recruiter

• Knowledge and expertise of your industry.

• Honest feedback regarding how likely it will be that you’ll find a role.

• Advice on what kind of salary and benefits to expect, although you should be careful that you don’t get pushed into taking an offer that’s too low.

• An initial interview in order to understand your background so that they can adequately represent you to organisations.

• Advice on your CV and any changes that may need to be made. However, they will usually only help with this if they are planning to represent you for roles. Their main job is to find the right candidate for their clients, not to help you find a job.

• To call you when suitable roles become available and ask your permission to be represented for it. They should not submit your CV to any hiring companies without you knowing.

• Transparency regarding what they know about the role and the organisation.

• Coaching through the interview process, providing feedback after each step and keeping you up to date.

• Help to negotiate a salary package if you are made an offer. They may negotiate directly with the employer on your behalf.

• Confidentiality and professionalism. They should not share your CV or details with anyone without your explicit consent and should not contact anyone within your current organisation.

• Help with your resignation process, this is where most deals fall apart as many candidates get back offered and retained by their companies.

• Professionalism, honest and integrity. If you know that they are not being honest, challenge them and make your expectations clear, failing this, find a new recruiter.


Understand what you should not expect from a recruiter

• Constant contact, they will be working with lots of candidates and will be working on multiple roles at any one time. You should give them space and time to come back to you with feedback and you should not chase them daily as they may find this frustrating.

• That they will only represent you for the role. A recruiter will usually submit 3 – 5 candidates to their client for each role they are working on. They get paid by the company to fill the position and their job is to provide the best service to their client, not to find you a job.

• Guarantees. Ultimately, they may not be able to find you a role, remember, this is not their job, their job is to fill roles with the best candidates available.

• Miracles. If the roles that suit your background, expertise and requirements are simply not available, they will not be able to work miracles.

Conclusion

I know first-hand the benefits a relationship with a good recruiter can bring to your career. I have seen recruiters become good personal friends with candidates and help them repeatedly throughout their careers.

Understanding the role and priorities of a recruiter is of utmost importance when seeking to form a partnership.

Seek out great recruiters who work for reputable organisations, and make sure that you are not being misled or under-informed throughout the process.