Dealing with recruiters

We looked around on the web and the offerings were pretty dire (can you recommend any good posts for this?). So we wrote our own list. Bear in mind we’re talking from the perspective of contractors who often have to get their next contract under time pressure. The process is a bit slower and more personal if you’re a permanent employee.

  • Don’t take it personally. No sugarcoating. You’ll probably deal with lots of annoying people. You’ll probably get asked dumb questions. You’ll get promised updates that don’t come. You’ll leave messages that aren’t returned. Yes, this sucks! But that’s the game, so try not to take it to heart. Just cross them off your list and move on.

  • Make them work for you. Get them to find out more about the job and company. Get them to tell you the steps in the application process. Ask them is there an approved budget for the position, when will the final decision be made and are they also looking at internal candidates. Follow up with them regularly for updates.

  • Make a preferred recruiter list. Remember the good ones and keep in touch with them. If they contact you about a job and you’re not interested, let them know if someone else is. When you change jobs drop them an update. Unfortunately good recruiters are rare. If you find one, stay in touch.

  • Make it easy for them. Be specific about what you do and what you want. We never want to pidgeon hole ourselves, but guess what? Recruiters try to match the job description with the perfect candidate. Crazy as it sounds, to an average recruiter an overqualified candidate is almost as bad as an underqualified one. You should base your CV, cover letter and conversations with them around exactly what they are asking for in the job description. The client should be interested in your full range of skills but the recruiter? Not so much.

  • Don’t give too much away. There are horror stories of the worst recruiters trying to pry information so they can place someone into your current or previous jobs. On the other hand good recruiters will be put off if you aren’t open and honest. You’ll need to use your judgement. Just be aware of the potential consequences in telling where you are working now (if you have warning bells - tell them the industry but not the company), what you are earning (ask them what the client is offering and then say whether its in the right ballpark), your references (you can give them after you’ve had an interview with the client).

  • Sell yourself. First you sell yourself to the recruiter. Then the recruiter sells you to the client. Be positive, be interested, be confident. It helps to prepare a few short stories of career highlights and successes that you can refer to when asked.