How to Effectively Work with a Recruiter?

By Kevin Peters, senior IT Account Executive

As a senior Information ...
bonuses, and is paid on a Net 30 basis. The placement fee does not affect the salary that a
candidate is paid. On the cont...
other. Regular communication helps the recruiter to better understand your needs and career
goals. And, it helps you to ga...
would provide a baseline income. Good recruiters will often have in excess of 20 consultants out

The Philosophy
Bull, a local firm. In this scenario, the client gives the placement firm exclusive rights to the
search and pays a retain...
job search and what a recruiter does. Building and nurturing that relationship is key for both
parties. As a candidate, yo...
my network is bigger than theirs! If you are forming a true partnership then you should be able
to trust your career advoc...
On the contrary, for consulting work, you may have different recruiters represent you to
different managers in different d...
don’t notify their references about a job search, current interviewing activity, or their willingness
to be a reference.

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How To Effectively Work With A Recruiter


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Effective Recruiter relationships

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How To Effectively Work With A Recruiter

  1. 1. How to Effectively Work with a Recruiter? By Kevin Peters, senior IT Account Executive Overview As a senior Information Technology account executive, our current economic situation has exposed some trends that I haven’t seen before. Namely, the volume of individuals who are currently in transition and have never worked with a recruiter before. I feel that this trend is due to the depth of the job cuts in this recession which has impacted individuals who typically don’t get laid off or have such a good network that they land their next opportunity rather quickly. Even for these top performers, the lack of hiring has taken its toll. For those accustomed to working with recruiters, challenges have emerged due to the sheer volume of quality applicants for a given position. The ability to “stand out” to companies as well as recruiters has become a real task. Many professionals are seeking the help of professional career coaches to assist them in re-marketing their image and presentation skills, help with job search focus, resume writing, network building, and how to effectively work with recruiting companies. To effectively work with a recruiter, one first needs to understand the various types of recruiting, roles of recruiters, and how they work. This article will explore the recruitment process in more detail. Types of Recruiters There are three categories of candidates – those that have never worked with a recruiter or placement firm before, those who have worked with recruitment firms in the past and had a positive experience, and those who have worked with them and didn’t get the results they expected. The first key to a successful relationship or engagement with a recruiter is to thoroughly understand what they do and how they work. Let’s look at the different types of recruitment firms. All staffing companies can be broken down into four categories - retained search, contingent search, fee based and non-fee based. The majority of the firms in all industries are contingent based and are non-fee based. A small percentage will charge a fee in advance for their services or work on a retainer only. These two classifications work a little differently than contingent and non-fee based firms. Non-fee based: This represents the majority of the companies across all industries, they do not get paid until they make a successful placement of a candidate to a client, and the placement fee is paid for by the client company. This service is completely free to the candidate. “Successful” placement varies depending on who you talk to, but contractually it is defined as a candidate who stays employed with a client until the completion of the guarantee period. The guarantee period varies from client-company to client-company, but generally is 30 to 90 days. For executive search firms, the guarantee period ranges from 6 months to one year. If the candidate leaves or is terminated prior to the agreed guarantee period, the placement agency doesn’t earn the fee or may only earn a portion of the fee. The contractual arrangement between client-company and staffing firm sets a percentage (20% to 35%) of the placed candidate’s first year salary to be paid as the placement fee but is usually not inclusive of All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  2. 2. bonuses, and is paid on a Net 30 basis. The placement fee does not affect the salary that a candidate is paid. On the contrary, since recruiters work on a commission basis, the higher the salary offer, the more a recruiter makes so it is in his best interest to get you the best salary possible. Other arrangements call for flat fees (fixed placement fee) and in the case of consultants, the recruiting firm earns a spread between the pay rate to the consultant and the bill rate charged to the client. An often misunderstood issue surrounds the spread on consulting arrangements. Many consultants feel that the staffing firm is making too much money. This is because they do not understand all the costs associated with payrolling consultants. Since the consultant is an employee of the company, the staffing company has the same cost structure that a regular employee has for a company. This has to be built into the “burden” as the bill rate is calculated. Fee-based: These firms position themselves as more of coaching firms which offer access to job leads. They charge an upfront fee to provide various transition services and claim to market you to targeted companies and jobs. The services they offer include education and assistance on rewriting a resume, they provide access to online job boards, assist with interview coaching and coaching on presentation techniques, help you develop target companies/industries, introduce you to networking groups, and may have some job leads. In my opinion, they are an extension to the self-help process. They really don’t offer any additional services that a seasoned professional non-fee recruiter offers. That being said, there are many seasoned recruiters who cut corners and don’t offer the complete services just mentioned. The level of professionalism and service varies widely between recruiting firms and from associate to associate. Executive search firms offer the most in-depth service while temp agencies offer the least. Do your homework! You will tend to find fewer “career management” services offered in companies specializing in contract labor. Recruitment firms which specialize in “perm”, “search”, “full time” or “direct hire” placement tend to be more thorough and offer more complete services like that of fee based companies. One area of recruiting that offers the best level of service is executive search, which specialize in “C level” executive placements. They specialize in placing “C level” candidates, VP’s, directors and senior managers. Caveat: Many recruiters call themselves executive recruiters but don’t perform executive level searches. If the majority of a recruiter’s searches are below the management level, they are not executive recruiters. Types of Recruiting There are two types of recruiting that staffing firms provide – direct hire, also called perm placement, and contract labor, also called consulting. This is indicative of all industry specializations whether it be Information Technology, Manufacturing, Accounting & Finance, Sales & Marketing, Aerospace, or whatever niche they support. Direct hire recruiters place candidates directly to a client’s payroll as an employee and collect a one-time fee for their services. They offer a guarantee period of 30 to 90 days typically on the placement of the candidate. Since most professionals will only stay at a company for 2 to 5 years, a good recruiter will stay in touch with his placed candidates to continue to build that relationship, provide job market insight, and keep the candidate apprised of job activity. The recruiter knows, that when the time is right, he will have the opportunity to work with you again on another job search and expects that you’ll call him first when you are ready to make a move. The relationship and trust are built over time as you gain a better understanding of each All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  3. 3. other. Regular communication helps the recruiter to better understand your needs and career goals. And, it helps you to gain the trust necessary to rely on the advice of your career advocate. There are unwritten expectations when working with recruiters. In meeting these expectations, you will be put on the recruiter’s “preferred list”. The following are various examples that can be implemented to earn loyalty and strengthen the relationship. Placement Made - When a placed candidate is hired into a role where he/she is in a position to hire people, the recruiter will expect to be called first about the search. Providing exclusive rights to the search, or a head start, will earn even greater loyalty from your recruiter. Even if a placed candidate isn’t a hiring manager, it is expected that you keep your ears open for opportunities to engage the services of your recruiter at your organization. Value Added - If a recruiter adds value to your search but doesn’t place you, it is recommended to provide him the opportunity to work on your open requirements if you are in a position to hire. You can also recommend him to peer managers with open jobs or assist him with sponsorship so that he can get a contract signed with your organization (without a signed contract, most companies won’t recognize a staffing firm as a legitimate vendor). Referrals - another way to show your appreciation is to refer other good people that you know even if that individual isn’t looking to make a move. This should not be considered intrusive. From past experience, I can honestly say that people are more receptive to talking to me about passive job searches than their friends or colleagues. As a practice, I do not “name drop” in making referral calls unless permission is given. If the recruiter is good, you have provided a valuable contact to someone you respect and care about. My best candidates market me regularly and are “my voice” to the marketplace. I hold these relationships in the highest regard and go the extra mile for them whenever they ask. No matter what niche a recruiter practices, these relationship-building techniques are always well received. Contract labor recruitment also spans most industries and works differently yet similar to direct hire placement. Both involve recruiting and relationship-building but the contract labor market moves much quicker and doesn’t require the depth in relationships that is required in direct hire recruitment. The consultant needs a job and is mostly concerned with the rate and the project scope whereas the recruiter is concerned about the rate and whether the consultant has the required skills. It is very transaction oriented. Another difference is that contract recruiting efforts are typically directed at the job boards while direct hire recruiting tends to be a blend of networking, referrals, cold calling and job boards. Also, consultant jobs tend to be very specialized in need, whereas permanent hiring has more flexibility because personality comes into play more so. That being said, in this recession, companies are being more stringent about their hiring criteria for direct hire positions. Contract recruiters get paid based on each billable hour worked by the consultant. The amount that a staffing company makes is based on what they can negotiate with the client above the pay rate to the consultant they employ. Typically, the consultant is making the lion’s share of the hourly bill rate charged to the client company but there is overhead (called burden) to be taken into consideration when the gross profit margins are calculated. Reputable companies payroll their consultants to share in the tax burden and offer insurance and even paid vacation to their consultants. Some even offer paid training. All these perks come at a cost which is calculated into the burden. Since the amount that a recruiter earns from placing one consultant isn’t enough to live on, he must place many consultants to earn a living. Again, the exact number is subjective but 8 to 10 consultants All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  4. 4. would provide a baseline income. Good recruiters will often have in excess of 20 consultants out billing. The Philosophy Companies hire staffing firms to assist with challenges in identifying top talent. Search firms are solicited for assistance when an HR department is too busy to conduct a search, not capable of conducting a specific type of search (executive level, for example), has conducted a search and hasn’t identified the appropriate level of talent, or when a company doesn’t have an HR department. Recruiting for consultant/contractor (project work) almost always is given to staffing companies to fulfill. Human Resources usually conducts searches for the direct hire positions and partner with staffing partners when they are having difficulty. That being said, if a hiring manager has budget or is not confident in his Human Resource department, he may call his favorite staffing firm(s), even while HR is conducting a search, to better leverage his chances of getting the best possible candidate. Placement Fee is the cost associated with retaining a company to identify and secure top talent, whether it be a consultant or for a direct hire employee. For direct hire placements, the placement fee is a one-time expense which is calculated from the candidate’s annual base salary and usually does not include bonuses. For consultants, the placement fee is the difference between the pay rate to the contractor and the bill rate to the client. It is collected as long as the consultant is billing for the staffing firm at that client. The cost does not affect the salary which is paid to an employee because the placement fee comes out of a different bucket of funds. It is usually part of special budget for Human Resources. Expectations do exist when a company solicits a staffing firm for help. They have high expectations of the company to produce the best available talent. The staffing partner is expected to screen out less-than-ideal candidates, i.e. “one off’s”, “average Joes”, inexperienced candidates, those with dated experience, and poor fits. This is part of their responsibility. This is an important topic to understand when you are having a conversation with a recruiter. While your goal is to get an interview with the hiring manager, the recruiter’s goal is to find the ideal candidate and get him an interview. That may or may not be you. You may not agree with a recruiter’s decision in not submitting you but he/she knows best (in most cases). If you truly feel that you are a perfect fit and the recruiter you are speaking with won’t present you, find one who will!! Emphasize how your skills fit the need but don’t oversell yourself. Honesty is the best policy. If you don’t have some of the required skills, communicate that to the recruiter. Better for him to understand what he’s dealing with upfront, than finding out later. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “I can do that!” When I hear this, I can’t help but think that this person doesn’t have the skills required. Note: In this situation, make sure that the first agency hasn’t already presented your resume to the client. Types of Searches There are a few types of searches which placement firms can perform – contingent, retained, exclusive, and non-exclusive. Retained search: This type of search is typically reserved for direct hire searches and is most often used by true executive search firms. These are exclusive searches usually performed by companies like Korn Ferry, Spencer Stuart, Heidrick & Struggles, or McDurmott & All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  5. 5. Bull, a local firm. In this scenario, the client gives the placement firm exclusive rights to the search and pays a retainer for the firm to start the search. A second installment is made half way through the search and the balance is paid at the conclusion of the search. This kind of search is done through extensive research and target recruiting. Because the positions are critical in nature, only the most ideal skill sets are considered for presentation. All aspects of your communication skills are evaluated by the recruiter for an executive search. Everything from emails, to questionnaires, to your phone conversations. Contingent search: This can be either exclusive or non-exclusive and is usually given out to all the approved vendors (key word “approved”) to perform the search. Contingent searches apply to direct hire or contract positions. In an exclusive contingent arrangement, the staffing company has exclusive right to fill the position or may have a set time period to fill the position before it is opened up to other approved vendors. In this kind of arrangement, you must work through that firm to get your resume submitted to the hiring manager. Caveat: I have heard of some unethical firms claiming exclusivity merely to gain control of a candidate submittal. Always ask for proof of unusual arrangements. Ask why they were granted an exclusive. This usually will ferret out wrong doing. Sometimes, in a non-exclusive contingent arrangement, a hiring manager can give a search to a preferred group that he has had good success with in the past. Generally speaking, there is no preferential treatment in most searches - the best candidate wins. In a non-exclusive search, as a candidate, you want to make sure that you have the best firm presenting you to a given opportunity. Just because someone calls you about an opportunity, it doesn’t make his firm the best one to present you. There are many considerations. Many companies won’t work with agencies that are not on an approved vendor list. This is typical of most medium to large sized companies. Even approved vendors don’t have relationships with all managers at an organization - it is not feasible. Managers work with vendors they like, who conduct themselves professionally, consistently deliver the highest quality candidates available, and seem have their client’s best interests at heart. Building relationships takes time. Sometimes agencies are approved but don’t have a relationship (or strong relationship) with the manager for a given opening which they call you about – it happens. Good questions to ask any recruiter when he calls you about an opportunity. Are you an approved vendor? For how long? How many people have you placed with this company? How many people have you placed with this manager? How long have you worked with this manager? Tell me about him? When was the last time you made a placement with the company? The manager? What can you tell me about the position that is not in the job description? Why is this position open? Where you asked to work on this search? You will find that 80% of the recruiters will not have answers to these questions or will make up answers to your questions. The Job of a Recruiter A recruiter’s job really boils down to a few key activities – research, networking, vetting, assessing and presenting. Networking is the common bond between what you do during your All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  6. 6. job search and what a recruiter does. Building and nurturing that relationship is key for both parties. As a candidate, you want to have a recruiter become your champion and become emotionally invested in you and your success. The best way to achieve this is to let him get to know you. Insist on meeting him in person at the beginning of a relationship so you can both “size each other up”. If you haven’t seen him in a while and are thinking about a job change, offer to take him to lunch to catch up. This way, he will be keeping you in mind and will develop a stronger relationship with you. Communication: When communicating with a recruiter, be direct and concise. We have to filter massive amounts of information each day and it is overwhelming sometimes. We appreciate directness. Since we are constantly filtering information, it is helpful to be candid about what you are comfortable doing, experienced doing, familiar with and where you lack practical knowledge. You are welcome to try and sell your skills, just don’t stretch the truth. If you don’t have a particular experience, just be honest. Give the facts so he can determine whether you are a strong fit for a job and don’t be afraid to tell him if you are not comfortable with certain aspects of a job. It will save everyone time and energy in the end. Touch points: Since a recruiter’s job requires serious multi tasking, be sensitive to the volume of activity – emails and calls - he manages on a daily basis. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to return all the calls. You don’t want to burden him with calls but don’t wait too long between follow ups. Stay in touch. If you take a new job or something about your status changes, keep him informed. LinkedIn is an easy way to accomplish this. Also, if you do get a call or email from your favorite career advocate, return the call promptly. It could be the perfect job that he is calling you about and you wouldn’t want to miss out on it, would you? If we called every candidate weekly just to say there is nothing new happening, we wouldn’t have time to pursue new business. Often during the interview cycle with a client, there are many links in the communication channel, i.e. managers, HR, the account manager, etc., and sometimes information isn’t provided for a long time, or the information is inadequate, or no information is provided at all. Be patient. We are as curious as you regarding the outcome of interviews. The one rule of thumb which has served me well in this business is that no news is generally bad news. If a manager likes a candidate, he will be quick to provide some feedback. When the interview doesn’t go well, the manager typically doesn’t respond to an account manager’s inquiry. I don’t agree with this but this is how it works in a lot of cases. Partnering: A recruiter’s success is predicated on finding good people and the best way to find good people is through your candidates. If you get a call from a recruiter with whom you have a good relationship asking you for help, this is a perfect opportunity to show him/her how much you value the relationship. The gesture will be reciprocated in due time. Generally with referrals, I don’t need nor want an introduction unless I ask for one. What helps is to understand a little about the person being referred, their full name and title, an email address and a phone number. The rest is up to me to handle. Additionally, you don’t have to wait for a call to refer a person either. If you know good people, refer them. It’s that simple. I will always take the time to review a referred candidate’s profile and, if I feel that I can help them, I will take them on as a client. I have run into some people who are resistant to sharing their network with recruiters. I can tell you that partnering is a two-way street. If you don’t share your network then why should a recruiter share his? I always tell my candidates that they get the better end of the deal because All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  7. 7. my network is bigger than theirs! If you are forming a true partnership then you should be able to trust your career advocate with your network. Another way to build a partnership is to share job leads. If you decline an opportunity or aren’t a good fit for a job, share that lead with a recruiter who is providing value to your search. Most recruiters are accustomed to not getting support from their candidates. Be different! Go the extra mile and help do some sourcing for him. He’ll appreciate it and will return the favor tenfold. I know when I get referrals I treat them very well because I know they were referred by someone I know and respect. This is one of the easiest tools to quickly earning favor with a recruiter. Make his job easier. Also, finding clients is the foundation to having job opportunities to share with candidates. If you know of a job that you are personally not interested in, share it with the recruiters who have a strong relationship with. He will appreciate it immensely. Don’t be afraid to lean on your favorite recruiter for career guidance and help. Some have great networks which they will gladly share with you. It is always more beneficial to call a manager directly in lieu of sending it to HR. I always share leads if I have them. Sometimes, time permitting, I will even make a few calls to a company on behalf of a candidate who has been helpful to me. I personally provide interview coaching to all my candidates regardless of how they got the interview. Etiquette & Other Important Stuff Part of the relationship, in working with a recruitment firm, is to understand some of the practices and policies that surround how staffing companies work with their clients and what the rules of engagements are within a placement firm. Each firm works a little differently but, in general, these practices and policies guide the interaction between staffing company and client, and account manager and recruiter. Companies generally have a contract in place before they will engage in staffing services with a firm. The contracts differ between consulting work and direct hire. Direct hire agreements are short one to three page contracts outlining rules of engagement while the consulting services agreements are laden with legal precedence. The guidelines for submittal procedures, candidate ownership, payment terms, guarantee periods, refunds, various insurance coverage, and other covenants are spelled out in these documents. Some of these covenants are important for you to know. Submittals/Ownership: Once a firm has presented you to a client for a direct hire position, that recruitment company has ownership of you for 6 to 12 months depending on the contract terms. During this period, no other recruiter can present you to that company for any direct hire position. It is important to choose a recruiter with broad reaches into a company otherwise you may lose out on other opportunities within that organization. Note: Keep an Excel spreadsheet of all activity for a minimum of one year if you plan to work with staffing firms. You must know where your resume has been sent at all times. Just because you don’t get an interview doesn’t mean that you are not in that company’s database. Avoid duplicate submissions. It is bad for you and makes your recruiting representative look bad. I cannot tell you how many candidates I have spoken to who have no idea where their resume has been submitted. The shotgun approach is not a good way to conduct your transition search and can make you appear desperate if a manager receives your resume from multiple staffing firms. You will lose leverage during salary negotiations if the manager perceives that you desperate. All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  8. 8. On the contrary, for consulting work, you may have different recruiters represent you to different managers in different departments simultaneously for different roles at the same company. The key is to fully disclose all activity with all recruiters that you work with. Communicate to the submitting recruiters all of your activity within the same company and keep track of your submittal and interviewing activity in general. Note: Do not allow any recruiter to submit your resume for any position if they will not disclose both the company and hiring manager. You will find that some recruiters (usually the ineffective ones) won’t share the company name in fear that you will go around them directly to the company. I can tell you that I have never had this fear because I build relationships with the people I work with so that they prefer me to represent them to companies. Usually, you can be represented to the same manager by a different firm within 90 days of your last submittal. Sometimes, the policy is 6 months. If you are on an assignment with a company and it ends, the firm that placed you there probably has language in their employment contract that states that you cannot return to that client for up to one year through another agency for direct hire or consulting positions. Guarantee Period: All companies require some form of guarantee period in their direct hire contracts to ensure that a hired candidate delivers as promised. The guarantee period ranges from as short as 30 days up to one year (executive level positions). Should a candidate resign or be terminated during that time frame, the recruitment firm has to refund all or a portion of the fee. This is called a “fall out”. A fall out means that the recruiter doesn’t get paid or gets paid a reduced commission. Most recruiters work on a commission basis. No placements = no paycheck. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a terrible feeling after all the hard work that is required to make a successful placement. If you plan to leave during this period, I suggest you contact your recruiter first to see if the situation can be resolved. If not, it will allow him to quietly start back into the search again before you notify the company of your desire to resign. This head start may be the difference in finding a suitable replacement or having to return the fee and not earn his commission. Be sensitive to the way recruiters make their living. The fact that recruiters work on commission generally doesn’t cloud their judgment in the course of providing career counseling because most are interested in building lasting relationships and preserving their reputations. Higher level search firms and executive search firms tend to operate with the highest ethics as well as highly seasoned recruiters. This is why it is important to select good recruiting partners. Referrals and References: When you initiate a meeting with a recruiter (or vice versa), you will be asked for references by the recruiter. This is a common practice. When I ask for these, I am using this process as part of my vetting to determine the quality of the people used for references. I can tell a lot about a candidate by the people he uses for references. If the references are direct hiring authorities, C level, or senior business partners, then I tend to believe the candidate has solid references. My policy is to call one of the references up front but I will coordinate this with the candidate in advance. I must advise caution when providing references. Some recruiters will call your reference merely to recruit them. So, it is advisable to ask a recruiter to not call your references until he has communicated with you the desire to speak to your references. Then, call your references to advise them of the upcoming call and their willingness to be a reference on your behalf. I am shocked at the number of people who All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797
  9. 9. don’t notify their references about a job search, current interviewing activity, or their willingness to be a reference. Interoffice Practices: There are varying practices on how placement firms handle “ownership” of candidates and clients. There are basically two schools of practice with regards to candidate ownership. Some companies believe in unilateral relationships between the recruiter and a candidate and some don’t. Staffing firms that believe in meeting candidates in person; understanding the candidate’s interests, goals, achievements and personal circumstances, probably endorse the exclusive relationship between the two parties. In these cases, policy dictates that in order to maintain an active relationship status, the recruiter must make contact one or two times per year and update the candidate’s profile in the master candidate database system. Without this, the existence of a relationship can be challenged by another recruiter. So, it is important to reach out to your recruiter at least once a year to give him an update. Also, it is important to communicate this to a recruiter from the same company should you receive a call. Loyalty is a two-way street. The firms that don’t believe in candidate ownership usually don’t meet their candidates either. Those companies merely circulate all candidates in a master database and, whoever contacts a candidate first for a specific opportunity, gets credit if the candidate accepts a position. This is a very confusing way to conduct business and often results in disagreements among peers on who is representing a candidate for multiple opportunities. In addition, as we discussed before, without really getting to know a person, how can a recruiter provide the best service possible? To be honest, I do not understand the value of this kind of recruiting methodology. On the client side, there seems to be more “protection” for the account manager who is working with a client. This is not always the case though. Some firms mandate that if you are not actively engaged with a client at all times, you risk losing the account. Under this policy, you may get a call about a position from the same staffing firm but from two different account managers. It is best to inquire about a firm’s policies and practices before you engage their services to understand if they are truly relationship driven. Closing I hope you found this article informative and educational. My goal was to provide insight into my world and to dispel any misunderstandings that may exist around recruitment practices and shed some insight into the philosophies of different recruiting methodologies. This article is by no means a comprehensive document but does provide substantial insight which I wanted to share with you. I hope you enjoyed it. I do provide additional consulting services around interview preparation, job search techniques, resume writing, and presentation evaluation. I can be reached at 310.266.2797 if you would like to inquire about how these services may benefit you. Good luck with your search!! All rights reserved. Kevin Peters May 2009 310.266.2797