How to Work With a Recruiter to Find a Job

Improve your chances of getting hired by understanding how recruiters work and what you can expect from them.

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Lindsay Olson
For job seekers, working with a third-party recruiter often raises questions. Who exactly do they work for? What’s the best way to use their connections to your advantage? And more specifically, what should you do if you’re contacted by more than one recruiter who represents the same company?

Unlike internal recruiters, who work directly for a company that’s looking to hire, third-party recruiters work for an employment agency that’s contracted by a company to find talent.

Say Recruiter Joe contacts you about a position for a software company. He collects your resume, says you’re qualified and indicates that he’ll talk to the software company about your candidacy. A few days after that conversation, Recruiter Jane calls you about another position with the same software company. You’re really interested in this second opportunity, but you haven't heard back yet from Recruiter Joe. Should you pursue the position with Recruiter Jane?

Candidates sometimes think they’ll increase their chances of landing a position if they have more recruiters "on their side." But in reality, it's quite the opposite.

In most cases, the recruiting firm that first introduces a candidate to a company receives compensation for that introduction if the candidate secures employment. That means recruiters need to move quickly to find candidates for the hiring company. Once a candidate is referred, the referral is valid for six months to a year, depending on the service agreement with the company.

[See 21 Secrets to Getting the Job.]

But when two recruiters present the same candidate for a position, problems arise. The hiring company doesn’t want to get stuck in the middle of two recruiting firms each trying to claim their service fees. They’ll do anything to avoid that, including moving on to another candidate who doesn't present potential contractual issues.

Working with more than one recruiter can also damage your relationship with both recruiters. A recruiter takes a candidate’s word about their previous candidacy for a position with their client company. It's in the candidate's best interest to disclose his or her prior knowledge or experiences with the company and any recruiters who represent it. In this case, if Recruiter Jane unknowingly presents you for the opportunity that Recruiter Joe already presented you for, she looks bad in the eyes of her client company. The employer may also question your integrity.

[See 10 Things to Know About Applying for a Nonprofit Job.]

To prevent this from happening, consider these tips:

• Organize your job search. Keep detailed notes of the companies and positions you apply for, including conversations with recruiters and the specific positions they have presented to you. Dates are important.

• Be honest with a recruiter if you’ve sent your information directly to a company or if an opportunity has already been presented to you by another recruiter. You’ll get points for that honesty.

• Ask every recruiter you have contact with about their confidentiality policies. Make it clear that your information should not be sent to any company without your permission. Unfortunately, not all recruiting firms adhere to the same confidentiality guidelines, and you can’t assume strict confidentiality unless you ask. You don't want to be recruited for a position by a recruiter you have a good relationship with only to find out you've been submitted by another recruiter without your knowledge.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers.]

Third-party recruiters can be an excellent resource for both companies and job seekers. Improve your chances of getting hired by understanding how these recruiters work and what you can expect from them.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.