Working With Recruiters: Insider Tips for Success

Working with recruiters, a young man shakes hands with recruiter following success in a job interview.

Job seekers inevitably interact with a recruiter at some point in their job search. One of the prime goals of a recruiter is to find the best qualified candidates to fill vacant positions in the shortest amount of time. Career professionals diligently prepare their clients to impress the recruiter and help them land their target job. With careful preparation and current information, a win-win outcome is possible! Recognizing that everyone has their own work processes, and likes and dislikes, I’d like to share – from my perspective – a behind-the-curtain glimpse into working with recruiters and offer some insider tips for client success.

Types of Recruiters

Applicants and career professionals may interact with various types of recruiters along the way. Generally, there are 3 kinds recruiters: corporate, staffing agency, and executive.

  • The corporate recruiter (sometimes called an in-house recruiter) is employed within an organization and generally works in the human resources department. This individual recruits talent exclusively for the company they work for.
  • The staffing agency recruiter is employed by a recruitment firm. Recruiters in these agencies are sometimes called “contingent recruiters” because they only get paid contingent upon them placing a successful candidate in the role. They receive mandates from a wide variety of external clients and match job openings to qualified candidates. This type of recruiter may specialize in a specific field (for example: construction, IT, accounting, finance).
  • The executive recruiter, also known as an executive headhunter, specializes in recruiting high level management positions. Their job is to use all legal means possible to find the best possible match. Known to be exceptionally well networked, the headhunter’s goal is to attract successful, employed executives rather than those who are actively job searching.

The Start of the Recruitment Process

When a recruiter (any of the above) is contacted about a position that needs to be filled, an interview is often set up with the hiring manager. The recruiter asks a series of questions to fully understand the job description and the profile of the ideal candidate; their required education, experience, interpersonal skills, specific knowledge and skills, etc. Based on this information, the recruiter will start “hunting” for the most qualified individual for the job.

Recruiters use diverse sources and methods to acquire talent. They will follow up on referrals, search on professional networking sites (like LinkedIn), leverage their own network, place job ads, conduct internal recruiting, post on the “careers” page of the company website, advertise at job fairs or campus recruitment events, etc.

The Importance of the Résumé and Online Presence

I like original and beautiful résumés, but I really look for the keywords and key phrases to assess the caliber of the candidate. Is the candidate appealing to our Buying Motivators? The résumé has to be concise and create a good impression within the first few seconds of reading. I find the reverse chronological format is easiest to read and follow, but a hybrid résumé (a functional section – highlighting the job seeker’s skills and achievements – plus, a section outlining the chronological work history), if presented clearly, is also a great format. The design and colours used are a bonus; the cherry on the cake.

Candidates who present a strong, customized, quantified, and to-the-point résumé score major points. And if they are articulate, polite, motivated, and confident, they get even more points. Recruiters and managers look for a candidate who is clearly able to demonstrate they are the best fit for the job.

I pay extra attention to résumés that are referred to me by an internal employee, spending more time to review the document. Afterwards, I give the referee feedback about their referral’s fit for the job. It’s important to do this because I want to keep the internal referral pipeline open. I have found great candidates in the past through employee referrals!

When recruiters receive an impressive résumé, they will often look at the person’s LinkedIn profile, including their job history, endorsements, qualifications, written communication skills, etc. to learn more about the person behind the document. This supplementary information can really help determine whether or not the applicant might be a good fit for the job. Facebook and other social media sites can provide revealing information, too. If inappropriate pictures, videos, or commentary come up, the candidate will probably be disqualified.

The Phone, Online, and/or In-Person Interview

I do the résumé screening and phone interviews. If the résumé and LinkedIn profile are consistent, I will contact the applicant to speak to them directly. I find speaking to the candidate over the phone and conducting a phone interview helps me gauge if they are a fit for the job – or not. Often candidates are removed from the short list if they don’t perform or are unprepared over the phone.

Next, I shortlist 5 to 6 promising candidates based on the strongest, best matching résumés and the initial phone conversation and I introduce their résumés to the hiring manager.

Once the candidates have been selected, the interview process begins. I always include the hiring manager because, in the end, they are my client and I want them to be involved in the process while I do the heavy lifting. We meet with candidates in person and conduct a joint interview.

After a hiring decision has been made, I personally call each applicant to let them know whether or not they were the successful candidate.

Preparing for an Interview

“Review your résumé in advance and be prepared to talk about your career history.” – Sharon Graham

“Know the company and the job posting requirements well. Be prepared to address pain points with demonstrated skill sets/achievements.” – Adrienne Tom

“SMILE, even over the phone. It can be heard in the voice.” – Skye Berry

“Even on a phone interview, I think it helps boost the candidate’s confidence and professional demeanour if they’re groomed and dressed as if they were attending a face-to-face interview.” – Cathy Milton

Candidates should be prepared to highlight their achievements and qualifications for the role. They should talk, but not dominate the conversation; the interviewer should be allowed to guide the discussion. And, as cliché as it sounds, the employer really wants to feel that the candidate has an interest in the job and success of the organization more than the potential salary and benefits.

Additional Insider Tidbits

Recruiters are in-and-out of the office and are often bombarded by calls and questions from managers, internal staff, and clients. They rarely have time to take calls from interested candidates, especially without having a résumé in front of them. If the job posting asks that candidates not make contact following their application, they should follow that directive. If there is no such instruction, the job seeker should wait a week or two before following up, unless the job posting lists a specific closing date. In most cases, this gives the hiring team enough time to review applications they’ve received. And, if an applicant does follow-up, they should not message/call more than twice in one week.

Recruiter performance is partially based on how many successful job placements they make. They want to hire high-quality employees who will “stick” and not have to restart the hiring process all over again in a month or two. If the hiring process seems “slow,” it’s often because recruiters want to “get it right.”

Oh, and personally, I like to get a thank you email following an interview. Most recruiters I know truly appreciate the gesture and it helps to make the candidate memorable.

Video Resources

Working with Recruiters: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Job Hunt Solutions (9:53 minutes)

30 Seconds to Impress | D’Youville College (6:52 minutes)

Karine Touloumjian is an award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. A former recruiter and HR specialist, she established Distinct Résumé, a résumé writing firm, with the aim of enhancing the success of business professionals and executives in advancing their careers. With writing, recruiting, and coaching experience in various industries, Karine has gained valuable insight into what it take to create quality branded career documents in an ever-changing job-market. 

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