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How to Choose the Right Recruiter for Your Job Search

A quick search of LinkedIn reveals that there are more than 800,000 profiles with the job title of “recruiter.”

That is a big number. A great recruiter can be instrumental in helping you get in front of the right opportunity, and will become a trusted ally for many years to come.

How do you find just the right recruiter for you? Here are some things to consider. [TWEET]

First off, keep in mind that there are two main types of recruiters that may be able to help you with your job search: (1) internal recruiters, also known as corporate recruiters, who recruit employees for their organization; and (2) external or third-party recruiters who work for an agency and recruit employees on behalf of a corporate client.

Internal recruiters

If you've narrowed down the companies you are interested in, your best bet is to connect with the recruiters who are on the inside. Finding a recruiter is easiest through your professional network (if you can get a personal introduction) or via LinkedIn. Run an advanced search on LinkedIn for people who currently work at your target company and have one of the following keywords in their profile: recruiter, sourcer, staffing, talent acquisition, diversity, candidate, or employee referral.

Once you've located the right person within the organization, send a LinkedIn InMail or an e-mail message. Let’s pretend you are an accounting manager, looking for an opportunity to work at Blizzard Entertainment (the creators of World of Warcraft) – this is what your message might look like.

“I understand that you are the Talent Scout for Blizzard. I am a CPA with 8 years of experience. I have been instrumental in reducing my company’s year-end close from 18 to 10 days, getting the audit timeframe shortened from 9 months to 5 weeks, and performing general ledger conversions. I love World of Warcraft, and want to be on your radar next time you are conducting a search for an accounting manager.”

The idea is to (briefly) tell the recruiter who you are, list a few relevant accomplishments, show a connection and an interest in their company, and ask them to keep you in mind for future openings.

Using this strategy when you desperately need a job is a bit of a gamble (the company may not have an opening for you just then), but building relationships with internal talent scouts can pay off in the long run. If they have an opening and you are a great fit, they may contact you directly before casting a wider net for candidates.

External recruiters

External recruiters come in all shapes and sizes. You have your pick of smaller firms, national agencies, firms that work on retainer and have exclusive access to certain openings, and companies that get a fee only if they place a candidate (and that candidate sticks for at least three months), to mention just a few.

Click on the following link for Riley Guide's list of recruiter directories to help you find the right recruiter for your job search. 

In choosing a recruiter, you are selecting a partner who will be a big part of your job search. Think as an entrepreneur, and do your due diligence. I recommend opening with these questions.

“How did you get my name?”

Don’t settle for “A professional colleague of mine spoke highly of you.” Ask for the colleague’s name, and follow up with his or her to fact-check. A recruiter who gets shady and evasive in answering this question won’t get more transparent with time.

“What is your history with this employer?”

Ask for specifics. How many candidates has he placed there over the past two years? How many of those candidates are still there? How well do they know the hiring manager?

In asking these questions, you are trying to gauge the depth of the relationship that this recruiter has with the company. If the recruiter has no “in-roads” for the opportunity, and is simply sending in your resume as a test balloon, you get no benefit from his involvement. In fact, you may be better off sending the resume yourself.

“I am considering working with more than one recruiter. Any advice on how to make sure no wires get crossed?”

I do not recommend working with more than 2-3 external recruiters at a time, because logistics become too cumbersome. However, working with more than one recruiter is a standard practice. In order to make it work, the process must be transparent to all players, and everyone must stay organized and communicate frequently and clearly. Otherwise, you risk having two recruiters send your resume to the same company. That can make you appear disorganized. It can also lead to disputes in the event that you progress forward to the job offer (who gets the credit for the introduction?).

In that vein, I do not recommend working with recruiters who will send your resume to “confidential” companies without disclosing the company name to you.

As with any other partnership, qualifications, references, and chemistry are important. Check the recruiter’s LinkedIn profile and professional certifications. Read their testimonials (it is even better if a friend or a colleague can personally recommend someone they trust). As you find a recruiter, ask yourself if you like the recruiter’s personality and presence, and whether you will enjoy working with them.

As a last piece of advice, I recommend meeting your recruiter face to face at least once. Get a feel for their office, and for the degree of personal touch and care that they put into understanding your career goals and professional trajectory. In my experience, those with a perfunctory questionnaire and a fly-by-night attitude do not get more personable or helpful as the job search progresses. Choose a trusted partner, someone who is passionate about finding the right-fit opportunity for you, and who is willing to take the long view of your career.  

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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!

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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!