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What You Need to Know About Recruiters (And What They Want to Know About You)

know about recruiters

Recruiters—for many job seekers the relationships with recruiters feels something like “You can’t live with them, but you know you also can’t live without them. Especially for senior-level positions, chances are employers are working with recruiters to help them find top candidates. But, as recruiters themselves will acknowledge, there’s often a lack of trust between candidates and the recruiters who are in a position to help them land a job—or not.

Here we take a look at what you need to know about recruiters, and what they want to know about you.

What You Need to Know About Recruiters

First, recruiters are an integral part of the hiring process. Sheila Musgrove, the owner of TAG Recruitment Group. Says: “We hear this daily—’I wouldn’t say that in a real interview’.” Guess what, she says: “An interview with a recruiter is a real interview.”

But, also know that recruiters do not find candidates jobs,” Musgrove says. “We find stellar talent for our clients.”

Damian Birkel agrees. Birkel is the founder of Professionals in Transition Support Group, Inc., a nonprofit that has offered emotional and job search tactical support since 1992. “Do not think that it is the recruiter’s responsibility to find you a job,” Birkel warns. Consider them a part of your job search portfolio.”

Birkel points out that there are two types of recruiters: retained and contingency. Retained recruiters “have been contracted solely by a company to find the right candidate,” says Birkel. Contingency recruiters “only get paid if they find the person that is hired.”

Helen Garland works as both a career coach at My Time to Shine and has more than 20 years of experience as the managing director of a recruitment agency at Progress Personnel. “The biggest thing that people need to understand about recruiters are that they are fundamentally salespeople and the whole process is a sales cycle,” says Garland. “Ultimately there is an employer with a need and the recruiter is asked to meet that need. They can encourage and help the employer to be open-minded about who they recruit but, ultimately, the decision rests with the employer. The role of the recruiter is to find someone to fit that need.”

Here’s an important thing to know about recruiters. They’re in it for the long haul, says Elizabeth Felix Webster, principal/team leader at WinterWyman. “Relationships are the number one thing this business is about,” Felix says. “Every good recruiter strives to build and preserve a strong and diverse network. Take the time to tell them what your dream job is. Keep in touch with them. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Keep them up to date with any changes in your profile. When the right opportunity comes across their desk, the first place they will look is their network.”

Another important point to know:

“If you are a career changer, rather than a job changer, then the recruiter is going to have limited scope to help you,” says Garland. “If the client asks for A, he ultimately wants the recruiter to find him candidate A—he isn’t paying them to find a B or C type of candidate.”

A misconception that many job seekers have about recruiters, says Felix, is that recruiters “are trying to lowball candidates to make more money.” The truth is, she says: “Most of the time, the more money you make, the more money we make. My goal is to get you the highest rate possible.” When talking about your salary expectations, she says, be honest.

Finally, recruiters are busy.

“Recruiters are like water and electricity,” says Aaron Daniels, founder of Source Houston. “We take the path of least resistance. Yes, I know, that sounds horrible,” Daniels says. But, he points out, most recruiters are working on about 30 active positions at a time. About 120-150 job seekers will apply for the same role. “On the low end, that’s 3600 people one recruiter has to navigate.” Recruiters are going to be more likely to move forward faster with those who are explicit and direct about their skills and experiences, he says.

Also read: Job Search Advice from a 2x Career Changer 

What Recruiters Want to Know About You

Recruiters are also eager to learn certain things about job seekers that can help them do a better job of finding the perfect candidate for their clients.

There are three things that recruiters want to know about candidates, says Daniels: What they’re good at, how well qualified they are, and what their career growth has been? His advice: Be concise!

Daniels recommends eliminating the “objectives” at the top of your resume and cutting back on the laundry list of skills. “Littering a ton of skills on your resume without a summary will have a recruiter guessing what it is you actually do.” He advises candidates to be upfront. “Say what type of job you want and why you are qualified for it.” He recommends using words, bullets, and quantitative details to present your skills.

Perhaps most importantly, recruiters want to know that you’re actually interested in the job.

“From our perspective, the one thing we most want to know is whether you are actually serious about the job opportunity,” says Rich Franklin, founder and president of KBC Staffing. “Since we are going to spend many hours working with our client to get you hired, there is nothing more disappointing for you to receive a competitive job offer and decline it.” If you work with a recruiter, says Franklin, make sure you’re actually considering a change. Otherwise, he says: “You’re wasting a lot of valuable time.”

Felix agrees. “There is no sense in setting up an interview if you know you won’t accept because the commute is too long, the pay is too low, or any other reason. If we call you on a job that isn’t right for you, just tell us so—and tell us why so we can fine-tune our searches.”

“Recruiters can be your best ally,” says Musgrove.

“We know our clients and what they’re looking for. A Great recruiter will ensure you are set for success in your interview. They want you to get the job! That’s how we get paid.”

Looking for More Advice on Recruiters?

Check out our Interview-Focused Articles.

About the Author

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer with a wide range of writing credits for various business and trade publications. In addition to freelance writing for trade journals and publications, Grensing-Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations, to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends and more.