As a talent strategy consultant and career coach, I tell clients all the time: “I get the other side of the equation.” Companies like that I coach job seekers, and job seekers like that I consult with talent acquisition teams at companies.
Having a foot in both worlds means I don’t forget what it’s like on both sides of the aisle. It’s like recruiting bipartisanship. But every once in awhile, I take sides. And job seekers, this is for you.
There are a million nuances to being a recruiter — like many jobs, to an outsider it may seem straightforward. But there are multiple stakeholders, laws and budgets vying for attention that make it really difficult sometimes. And the more you know and understand, the more effective you’ll be. Recruiters may not want you to know their secrets, but here are five tips to help you get both feet in the door and the attention of a recruiter. You’ll thank me now. They’ll thank me later.
1. An important part of a recruiter’s job is inside sales.
Like any job, recruiters are measured, evaluated and lauded (or not) based on how well they perform. But it’s often with strange (to you) metrics like time to fill, or percentage of job postings (called requisitions) that have closed. More rarely are they measured on quality of hire (i.e., how well you’re performing a year after you’re hired). This means recruiters are biased towards selling candidates to the hiring manager. Hard. They want that job to close fast. So make it easy on them to sell you.
Bottom line: Don’t assume they’ll figure out your skills are transferable. Apply for jobs where you’re clearly a fit and supplement any networking, cover letters and phone screens with clear examples they can turn around and use. One time a candidate had a unique technical skill so he called to explain it and tell me why it mattered in our business. I loved that.
2. Weird behavior makes recruiters nervous.
Being on the phone all day can make a recruiter crazy. That means in between interviews, sourcing calls and offer deliveries, they’re sharing tales of insanity — odd calls, strange answers to interview questions and tales of incredulity (such as: “Why did this guy apply to three different jobs? Does he not know I can see all of them?”) There’s nothing wrong with getting a recruiter’s attention, but if you cross a line, they’re just going to ignore you. It’s just like dating. Say “I love you” too soon, call too many times in a row or try too hard and you’re out.
Bottom line: Make an effort to get noticed but don’t border on pathetic. Follow up and check on your candidacy but don’t call every day or start sending LinkedIn invitations to the entire team. If it feels strange, don’t do it. Making the recruiter nervous is a reason for them to focus on someone else. I once had a candidate email me every day. Stalker — you’re out.
3. Sometimes it’s a crapshoot.
A recruiter typically has a collection of requisitions she is responsible for. In most companies, it’s usually an unmanageable number (at least to the recruiter). So in the morning, she may come in and open her ATS (applicant tracking system) and start looking at what resumes came in for what position (requisition) overnight. She’s human, so while scanning resumes, she might be distracted by her boss popping by, a tweet or a phone call. That means some resumes get the six-second glance, some get 30. There’s no guarantee of fairness — it’s absolutely impossible. And if she already has enough candidates interviewing, she might barely glance, if at all, at new resumes.
Bottom line: Sometimes it’s a crapshoot. You might feel like you’re a perfect fit for the job, but the timing of when you apply or simply how busy the recruiter is that day could determine your fate. That’s where networking comes in. Never apply for a job cold. Make a connection in the organization first that can check up on your candidacy with the recruiter. Depending on where she is in the process you might not get a fair shake, but at least you’ll be in the know. As a recruiter, I could ignore resumes in my ATS queue but I couldn’t ignore a colleague at my door asking about a referral.
4. They influence but rarely, if ever, decide…
A hiring decision usually comes from the hiring manager. It may even have to be approved by his boss. The recruiter doesn’t decide. She will contribute to the discussion and provide opinions on interactions with candidates. She’ll provide context like salary ranges or market analyses, but she won’t decide.
Bottom line: Don’t rely on the recruiter throughout the entire process. Figure out who else is important in the decision-making process and build relationships. Send follow-up emails that show you did your research and take them up on the offer to ask additional questions. Just don’t go overboard. Weird behavior makes hiring managers nervous too. (See #2).
5. …but they have a tremendous amount of insider information.
Recruiters know what the hiring managers are like, what matters most to them and what interview strategies succeed. So don’t ignore them. It’s really important to have the recruiter on your side. You want to make their job easier and set them up for success. In turn, the recruiter can share that valuable insider information if you just ask: “As I prepare for the interview later this week, any suggestions you have on what matters to the hiring manager are greatly appreciated — I really value your advice.” The worst they can say is no.
Bottom line: A strong relationship with the recruiter is part of the equation. Recognize that she’s busy and may have a million priorities (while the job you want is your only one right now). Respect her time and help her help you. In return, she may be able to help you prepare, understand and strengthen your candidacy over others who don’t even bother to ask or care. As a recruiter I often felt under-appreciated. Thanks from a candidate and recognition that I played an important role in the process went a long way.
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