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Are Recruiters a Job Seeker's Friend or Foe?

If you’re on the hunt for a job, you may have thought about reaching out to a professional recruiter. But, you’ve also heard a lot of shady things about recruiters. Is it worth the effort?

The first thing to know is that recruiters are not agents for job seekers. They are hired by companies to fill open positions. They’re not getting paid to find you a job, they’re getting paid to fill a job. That’s an important distinction.

So is a job recruiter a friend or foe to the job seeker? The quick answer is that a good recruiter is a great friend to have during your search, a bad one is a foe who can drag your name and your job search down. [TWEET] Here are a few simple signs to look for when finding a recruiter to help you land your next gig.

Communication.

Friend – This may seem basic, but you want to find a recruiter who communicates well with you. That means they call when they say they will. They respect your current job and do not call during your work hours. When a possible position comes up, they keep you in the loop as things progress – good or bad – so you aren’t left hanging.

Foe – The recruiter who calls you randomly in the middle of the day and expects you to stop what you’re doing to listen to them is not your friend. If you’ve applied to a job but haven’t heard back from the recruiter in a couple of weeks, you’re not getting the treatment you deserve. Worst of all, the recruiter who schedules a phone call and then blows you off. This sort of poor communication lets you know that this recruiter only sees you as a payday.

Knowledge of the job.

Friend – A good job recruiter should do enough research to give you details into any open job they want to discuss with you. Because they are used frequently by the same companies, they can build relationships that help them get information beyond the job posting. They should be able to tell you what the job title is, the actual responsibilities, and maybe even some insight into the culture of the company.  

Josh Dubay, an Executive Recruiter in Tampa, FL believes that this could be the most important benefit when working with a recruiter. “Not only do we know more about the job, we have direct interaction with the person who has the hiring authority.” That means they can help you bypass the slush pile and even help you prepare for an interview.

Foe – If you are dealing with a recruiter who isn’t sure about the details of a job, it’s time to move on. If they don’t have the time to find out about the job and the company offering it, how can they expect to find the right person for that position? Their client is the company offering the job, so if they can’t even do that much, you do not want to do business with them.

Job fit.

Friend – You should feel comfortable that the recruiter you work with knows your skills, your pay scale, and your priorities. If you do your part, you can make it easier for them and you. Even though the recruiter isn’t getting paid by you, it is in their best interest to find the best possible fit for every job. That way, they have a happy client who has a happy person in the right job (that’s you!). It’s a win all the way around.

Foe – Not every job recruiter wants to wait for the perfect fit. Some think it’s easier to do a blanket-style approach, putting your resume out there for any job that seems even close to your field of work. Pay, location, and company culture are not something they pay a lot of attention to on a daily basis. Why bother? If a recruiter wants to put your resume in for a job that doesn’t feel like a fit to you, find a new recruiter.

Expectations.

Friend – Whether it’s good or bad, it’s always better to hear the truth when it comes to your job hunt. A good recruiter isn’t afraid to set realistic expectations even when the outlook may not be great. If your field of work isn’t their specialty, they should let you know and possibly even suggest another recruiter or firm that would better suit your needs. If your resume is selling you short, they should let you know that you need to get it up the standards that their clients expect. A good recruiter can handle the tough love approach.

Foe – Simply put, the recruiter to avoid is the one who tells you what you want to hear, always. You’ll get a job within a week. You’ll have five interviews before Friday. Your resume is flawless. You know the drill, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. When you first meet a recruiter, pay attention to the language they use. If it’s full of promises and rose-colored expectations, proceed with caution.

Relationship.

Friend – “A good recruiter focuses on interactional relationships rather than transactional,” says Dubay. “A good recruiter should see you as a resource, even if you don’t fill a current position with them.”

This means that you want a job recruiter with whom you can build a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe they can’t help you today, but a few months or even a year down the road when that perfect opportunity pops up, they should reach out to you. Why? It’s all about matching the best possible fit for each job.

Foe – What you really want to avoid is the recruiter who is focused on the transactional benefits of relationships. In that relationship you are only as valuable as the commission check you might represent. Recruiters with this mindset want to fill jobs. Period. You may feel like they’re pushing you to go after jobs that don’t fit your skills or priorities. It’s all about filling open positions before another recruiter does so they can cash that check. In the end, these recruiters don’t typically last too long in the business. Their clients and the people who get hired are not going to find the results they want. Just don’t get stuck with this recruiter while they are at it.

More friends than foes.

In reality, there are more good, honest job recruiters out there than bad ones. If they like what they are doing, it’s in their best interest to do it well for both their clients and the job seekers they meet. If you’re looking for work or just want to see if something better is out there, a recruiter can help you get a feel for the job market and possibly help you make some great connections. Just pay attention to these telltale signs to know for sure if the recruiter you’re talking to is a friend or a foe.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!