Over the years, I've worked extensively with agency recruiters as a contractor candidate, a direct-hire candidate, a referrer, and now as a consulting partner. I *heart* great agency recruiters and even thought about becoming one at one point. I've also learned that many job seekers are confused about working with agency recruiters because they truly don't understand them and their goals.

This confusion is understandable, but you shouldn't hesitate to work with an agency recruiter. Now by helping you with my insight, you'll know how to effectively work with agency recruiters as a valuable tool for your job searching and career development.


Why Companies Hire Agency Recruiters

We've all heard that companies can get hundreds of applicants per job posting, yet many of them are unqualified. Now imagine sifting, screening, and narrowing the candidate list to a few for the hiring manager to interview. The applicant tracking system will screen out some applicants, and the rest will be left to the corporate recruiting or talent acquisition team if they have one. It's time consuming, tedious, and costly.

In contrast, an agency recruiter takes ALL the sourcing and screening steps, then provides the finalist to the hiring manager. Even better, a good recruiter is skill-focused and can better market the position and better qualify candidates because they understand the skills needed for a successful candidate in the role they are recruiting for. Additionally, these recruiters usually have an existing network or pipeline to access more viable candidates. And from a job seeker's perspective, that means more opportunities within your wheelhouse (industry, skill area, type of firm, etc.) that stems from the recruiter's network of clients with matching job openings. Overall, outsourcing this work is a HUGE benefit to companies AND candidates because it speeds up the hiring process with the best talent out there, and that means connecting you with that dream job and the client with their prime candidate.


Agency Recruiter Environment

There are many different ways that recruiters work. Some are independent solopreneurs, some work for large companies and others are part of small boutique firms. Although, there are things you should know about that recruiters may encounter:

  •  Hold-ups: You know how nervous you get waiting to hear back about an offer. Well, the recruiter may be just as anxious because some things can hold up the process. Hold-ups can include hiring managers slow to make decisions, moving in a different direction, and placing the position on hold.
  • The unknown truth: Sometimes clients will open jobs without knowing what they want. Some may even use recycled or outdated job descriptions. It's tough to source the perfect candidate when the client is confused or is using outdated information. A good recruiter strives to understand the client and talent's needs and wants; their goal is to pair the client with the right talent.

Overall, I could probably write a whole book on working with recruiters, but I'll narrow it down to a few key things.

My Tips for Working Effectively with Recruiters

  • Remember that recruiters are people with a challenging job. It's hard to find the perfect candidate for a role that may be a moving target.
  • Keep in mind, the main priority of recruiters is to pair the client with the right talent. They aren't headhunters. They like helping people find jobs and will source the top relevant candidates best suited for the position.
  • Don't be afraid to connect with recruiters, especially on LinkedIn. I almost always accept connection requests from recruiters. Why? Because they know people. They can connect you to opportunities you wouldn't expect. I look at recruiters as a great resource.
  • Keep your profiles and resume up to date, especially on LinkedIn.  I've worked in a zillion roles over the years, including developer, tester, project manager, account manager, business analyst, coach, consultant, and more. When I keep my profiles updated with info about the roles, industry, company size, and geographic area that I have worked in and am interested in, it attracts the right kind of opportunity.  
  • Build long-term relationships with a handful of trusted recruiters. I have forged strong relationships with four to five recruiters throughout my career. These are the people I have lunch with at least once a year and talk to on the phone to catch up every few months. As a result, I've landed full-time jobs, contract jobs, and consulting opportunities, and so have people I've referred to them.

A recruiter is an excellent tool for your job search and career development. Don't let it get rusty! 


Want more? Check out: Career Coaching and Recruiting Roles, Demystified

Author: Diana Alt, Career Strategy Coach

Diana Alt is a connector, problem solver, and career strategy coach who uses the skills she's gathered throughout 20+ years in corporate product development roles to help people manage their careers and business. Diana helps people get out of their own way by building confidence, setting boundaries, and casting a vision for an awesome life. She lives by the principle that work should feel good, not like a long slow march towards oblivion.

You can reach Diana at [email protected] or via LinkedIn. You can also join her Facebook community. Don't forget to download Diana's Resume Don'ts guide.