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How to Successfully Work with Recruiters

Q. I am working with a headhunter for the first time and I’m not sure I understand all the rules. He understands my background, likes my resume, and has asked me about one job which wasn’t right for me, which we talked about. Last week he called me about a job I really want. He presented my background, and I was able to go in and interview. I thought it went really well, and he told me they liked me for the job. I know he most likely presented other people too. I really want this job. Can I tell the company directly? How can I be his favorite so he’ll sell me more than anyone else?

A. It sounds like you and this recruiter are off to a great start. Understanding how recruiters (contingency headhunters not retained search, or in house corporate recruiters) work, how they are paid and who they work for is vital. Without this knowledge, you will most likely be disappointed in your interaction and a difficult client, if you even get to that point.

Job seekers first need to know that working with multiple recruiters is the preferred method of success for you and is not preferred by recruiters. Recruiters secure job openings through relationships with companies. They are paid by the company after the hire occurs, but first they must identify, interest, recruit, educate and present the best candidates for the job based on the criteria the company has provided. Most recruiters understand the culture of the company and the specific candidates that will succeed in the environment.


Recruiters are not career consultants, resume writers or company databases, though they are very knowledgeable in all these areas. If you are a candidate they think they can place (which involves getting paid by the client company), they might help you in any of these areas. If they do not anticipate being able to help you, they will not offer you their time or expertise (which they will not be paid for) to support you in these areas. They may refer you to other career management resources.
The recruiter presented you because you fit the criteria, and he or she most likely presented other candidates as well. You might be the recruiter’s ”favorite,” but he or she needs to make sure each candidate can be the company’s favorite to increase the chances of a payday. Developing a strong relationship with recruiters involves having them know you have a compelling background in their area of expertise, will be easy to work with, have strong presentation materials and skills and you are interested in a new job.
Companies often choose to work with recruiters so that they don’t need to communicate with each candidate for the job. So make sure you let the recruiter know how much you want the job, and get that same message across in the interview, and in a strong thank you communication.
Whether you get the offer or not, make sure to ask for feedback from the recruiter. Find out what you did well, what you can improve on, and try to capture as much direct company feedback as possible.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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