7 Ground Rules for Dealing With Recruiters

Headhunters want to build a rep for handling clients and candidates with integrity.

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Arnie Fertig
Arnie Fertig
Headhunters, or recruiters, are all about finding top-tiered talent to fill permanent, full-time positions for their client companies. Those who do well in this challenging role understand that to succeed over the long term they must continually expand their network and build a reputation of dealing with both clients and candidates with integrity. And, like anyone else, they have a propensity to want to go out of their way to help the people who help them the most.

When you are dealing with a recruiter, here are seven ground rules you should follow to make that relationship work most effectively:

1. Let the recruiter know where you've applied. Be up-front about what companies have your resume. This will give an understanding of the kind of place you see yourself working and the kind of opportunities you value. It will help the headhunter know who is hiring.

Your recruiter may not be able to tell you in advance where they intend to send your resume. However, it is important for both you and the recruiter that you don't apply for a job through multiple channels at the same time. It diminishes your value as a candidate, and it's also counter productive for the recruiter's relationship with his or her client.

By the same token, it is totally reasonable for you to tell the recruiter that you expect to know where your resume has been sent in a timely fashion so that you don't duplicate that effort either.

2. Be able to explain why you're better than 80 percent of your peers. Recruiters don't receive their significant fees for producing mediocre candidates, career changers, or individuals that can easily be found elsewhere. That's where the "hunter" part of "headhunter" comes into play. Prepare to talk about specific accomplishments that distinguish your career, awards, or recognitions that you have received, processes that you have improved, or how you have otherwise contributed to your employer's bottom line. Your recruiter can't be your advocate unless they understand how best to make your case.

3. Be honest about your "red flag" issues. Often times a recruiter can be proactive and use their access to human resources or the hiring manager to defuse a potential issue in a way that can prevent you from being cast aside without full consideration. For example, when presenting your resume the recruiter can be your advocate by saying something like, "Look Ms. Hiring Manager, I know that you might be concerned about the fact that this candidate has a gap in employment, and I've gone over it with him. He explains it this way… which makes sense to me, and while you may want to pursue it further with her, I know that she has A, B, and C which you have indicated to me are valuable to you."

4. Make sure to get prepped for the interview. Don't just say, "thanks for getting me the interview, I'll take it from here." Often the recruiter will know the person who will be conducting your interview—the recruiter might have even placed that person at the company. They may know the topics to be covered, the kinds of things that are most important to the hiring manager, the reason for the opening, or mistakes that have doomed other candidates. Ask the recruiter for all the information that they can provide so that you're well prepared for your interview.

5. Give the recruiter a full interview debrief. It is important to let the recruiter know in detail what went on in the interview. The company will also give the recruiter their impressions of you. With this information in hand, the recruiter can sometimes clear up areas of confusion, give you the encouragement of knowing that you did well, or give you tips about how to better interview the next time. You also do him or her the favor of being able to share information with other candidates who interview after you if you don't get the position, thereby demonstrating your commitment to building a long-term relationship with the recruiter.

6. Keep your recruiter informed about your progress with other opportunities. This is especially true if you're interviewing with multiple companies. Try to synch the timing of any offers so that you can know what your options are and select the best one. Often the recruiter will be in a position to leverage your current or forthcoming offer(s) into a quicker decision and/or a stronger offer from his or her client for you.

7. Remember: It is all about building relationships. Just as you don't want to be a "hit and run" encounter by the recruiter, don't hesitate to do your part to build an ongoing relationship of trust. Recruiters are only as good as the information they have, and the more you contribute to their success, the more likely it will be that they will have an ongoing interest in yours as well.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.