Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What has Your Recruiter Done for You Lately? Part 1

More importantly, what do you "expect" her or him to do for you?

Following is an excerpt of an email I recently received from a reader of my book, Four Degrees to Your Dream Job.

“Hi Dennis:

By coincidence, my son brought a copy of your (Four Degrees) book home for Christmas break from college, and I started reading it. I found your perspectives very accurate, and your advice very practical. Last year, I resigned my position as president and chief executive officer of a $3 billion retail grocery company chain based in Northern California. After taking a much needed sabbatical, and then doing some consulting work, I am now beginning to explore opportunities to assume another CEO or senior executive level position in a company."

“This is my first experience interacting with executive recruiters as a ‘candidate’ and I have found the process highly unproductive! After reading your (Four Degrees) book, I now understand why that is! Thanks for opening my eyes to the reality of the situation. I plan to alter my approach, based on the advice in your book.”

Bill C.

I often hear complaints from job seekers echoing Bill’s comment of how "unproductive" the process of working with a recruiter can be. The reason job seekers find the "recruiter experience" unsatisfactory is, I believe, simply a matter of ignorance or complete misunderstanding of what a recruiter actually does for a living and false expectation of what a recruiter can or will do on behalf of a job-seeking candidate.

For those of you who have not worked with recruiters, a little education may prove valuable. First of all, let’s distinguish between a hiring manager and a recruiter. The hiring manager is, as the term implies, the person at the company to whom the position reports.The recruiter’s job, on the other hand, is to search for, identify and present candidates that would be good matches for an available opening. Recruiters also generally serve as preliminary screeners for the hiring manager. Ideally, the recruiter makes it possible for the manager and other relevant administrators to interview a small pool of highly qualified candidates and to ultimately hire the best one.

There are two types of recruiters: corporate or in-house recruiters and (the less common) outside recruiter. The corporate recruiter is usually employed directly by the hiring company, generally as their employee. Sometimes, corporate recruiters are retained by the hiring company on an exclusive contract basis and work on-site. Outside recruiters (or as we are more commonly known, “headhunters”) generally fall into two camps: retained and contingent. ‘Retained’ means that a company has retained or paid in advance for the recruiter’s time. ‘Contingent’ means that the recruiter is paid contingent upon his or her ability to successfully find a candidate that the company subsequently hires.

Whether retained or contingent, outside recruiters are always paid by the client company, not the candidate

This is an important point. Candidates sometimes make the mistake of thinking that outside recruiters will work for them and market them even though the candidate is not paying them! An outside recruiter will market a candidate only if the candidate is well-suited for a position that the recruiter is seeking to fill. Simply put, recruiters like me are usually hired to find a particular round peg for a particular round hole. Square pegs need not apply.The problem that most people encounter in dealing with recruiters is that they are not the particular round peg that the recruiter is seeking for the particular position she or he needs to fill. The recruiter is looking for someone who is best-qualified to fill a particular niche. If you happen to be that person, then you are in luck.

Most people, however, do not qualify for consideration because the specific requirements of that position severely restrict the number of qualified candidates. Recruiters, when used properly, can be a useful tool to find or create your dream job. They are, however, generally of limited value to the job seeker.

So with this understanding, what are the best strategies for engaging with recruiters? I will answer that question in my next blog post. In the meantime, keep in mind that unless you’re the “square peg” a recruiter is looking for at the moment or you are paying for his or her services; it is unrealistic to expect recruiters to work for you. That said, in the interest of helping all of us (recruiters and jobseekers) work effectively together, please know that I am interested in hearing about any experience (positive or negative) you have had as a candidate in working with recruiters. I welcome your comments.