Recruiters engage in some of the most career-impacting activities in our society: helping people find fulfilling work that matches their skills and connecting talented people with enterprises that need their skills in order to grow and prosper. When done right, recruiting is a true win-win.
When recruiters make this magic happen, it may seem like they have an unrivaled mastery of the complexities of human interaction.
This type of understanding doesn’t happen over cocktails and golf or emerge from a computer algorithm. Those things are certainly part of the mix, but the “secret” in the recruiter’s so-called “secret life” is neither glamorous nor high tech. Rather, it’s a lot of hard work and long hours. The connection you see a recruiter work today may well be the result of relationship-building that has taken place over many years.
“Our job isn’t about closing a transaction,” says Todd Dorfman, a Krauthamer & Associates principal executive search consultant with a 98 percent success rate. “Our clients are making a significant investment of time, energy, and financial resources to identify the best possible candidates who will make a significant impact on their business. We are asked to make sure there are no surprises. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; the key is to identify those early and ensure you can play to their strengths and support their weaknesses.”
A good recruiter is always “on,” always taking advantage of opportunities to make connections and expand their networks. They’ll use computer software to help keep track of those connections and link them to opportunities, and they’ll build and maintain relationships through a variety of activities, including socializing, but the true value they bring is the depth with which they get to know their clients and the candidates in their networks.
If you’re looking for new career opportunities, here is how you can crack the code and become part of a top recruiter’s network:
1. Be Real
As noted earlier, a big part of a recruiter’s job is to make sure that a potential hire is truly a good fit for an organization. Don’t waste your time or a recruiter’s time going after a position that requires sales or business development if that’s something you hate. Don’t put on a brave face and say that you’re willing to relocate if you’re really hoping you can get the job and then telecommute.
2. Be Honest
Top recruiters tell us that they don’t have lists of pet peeves that automatically disqualify candidates, but exaggerating your education, experience, work history, or other important factors is a surefire way to get dumped from a recruiter’s network. A good executive search professional will take a deep dive into your background to be certain there are no unpleasant surprises. No executive search consultant wants to be associated with a hire that ended in an embarrassing revelation or otherwise negative outcome.
Take heart: Recruiters tell us they look at education, but not because they care whether you went to an Ivy League school or a state college.
“I just want to know how you got there,” says Dorfman. “Did you bootstrap yourself, get in on an academic or athletic scholarship, other traditional avenues? Nothing is a red flag. It just helps us understand what makes you who you are.”
3. Be Clear
If you’re at a crossroads and you’re not sure what you want to do, leave the executive search consultant out of it. Again, they’re paid to find the best candidate, not to introduce people who are window-shopping for their next career move. Do your homework and your soul-searching on your own time. Introduce yourself to a recruiter when you have a career path and goals mapped out.
4. Be Concise
Hate writing cover letters? Guess what – Recruiters hate reading them.
“Many of the letters we see are verbose and oversell, and [they] are littered with grammatical errors,” Dorfman says. His advice: Keep it short and direct. Show that you understand the organization’s needs and outline how your background relates to those needs.
5. Be Prepared
Any recruiter worth their salt will want to know the story behind your resume. Why were you at this business only a year? Why did you make this transition? How did you find that position?
“I never look at a resume and uniformly dismiss it,” Dorfman tells us. “But I will want to understand the candidate’s career progression.”
6. Be Respectful
Most top recruiters will take the time to review your resume and have a conversation with you even if you’re not a good fit for an opening they’re currently trying to fill. That’s because they understand the value of building relationships and maintaining them over time. It’s not at all unusual for an executive search consultant to stay in contact with top candidates for many years.
That said, recruiters represent the organizations that hire them to help fill positions. It’s okay to reach out to update a recruiter about a promotion or other significant professional development, but if you are in their system, they will reach out to you when there is a potential match. When you talk to the recruiter, ask how often they would like to hear from you. Each recruiter has a different approach, so it is a question that they will appreciate.
7. Be Reciprocal
If you know someone whose work you admire, refer them to your executive search consultant. If you work for a company that needs to fill key positions, make the introduction. If a recruiter calls you to ask for a referral, share your time. They’ll remember it – and you.
Remember, quality recruiting is all about building relationships and making high-value connections. The more you’re able to facilitate that, the higher your stock will rise within your respective labor market.
Aaron Elder, CEO, and Mark Barrett, CCO, are cofounders of Crelate Talent, candidate sourcing and talent relationship management solutions for executive search and agency recruiting firms.