Last week in Think Like a Recruiter – Part 1 I began talking to job seekers about a method of conducting the search for a new position using the concept that it is like recruiting in reverse. Adopting the mindset of the hunter does not necessarily give the advantage to the hunted, but failing to recognize how this process works is flying blind. The relationship between the candidate for a job and those looking for new talent should not be one of mystery but of discovery and communication…both ways. Engagement with a recruiter can begin with either party but they must communicate on common turf.
… the job seeker must assume 50% of the responsibility for effective communication. Also recognize that the role of “information transmitter” and “information receiver” will switch back and forth several times as the parties decode the messages being sent to them. It is equally as important to listen as to speak. While this ongoing dialog progresses, the concept that a job search is just like reverse-recruiting may be totally foreign as a job seeker slips into the sneakers of the recruiter for the long run. It is unfamiliar turf. The significance of the visualization of this role reversal is to gain an in-depth understanding of the recruiting process put in place by companies which are second nature to recruiters.
So, now we need to consider what the term “recruiter” actually means. It is easy for a job seeker to fall into the trap of thinking there are only two types of parties in the searching and hiring universe: us and them. One of the key rules of any form of communication is to know your target audience, so understanding who the recruiter may be is of prime importance. You will have your core message based the skills and accomplishment you bring to the table (to be discussed in more detail later) but how you communicate that message could differ based on the perspective from the other side of that phone call. The recruiter’s motivation may be different based on their specific role in the talent acquisition process.
- Contingency Recruiters – Some third party agencies provide companies with candidates for a job opening with their fee being contingent upon one of their candidates being hired. This is like the lawyer who represents your claim in court but will not be paid unless you win a settlement. Such recruiters may operate in a large agency with distinct functional areas, a smaller firm where the recruiters handle both marketing and sourcing, or an independent recruiter who manages the entire business. Regardless of the size of the agency, they build relationships with companies through contacts with hiring managers and HR. They fill positions based on a fee for placement, usually around 20% of the candidate’s starting base salary. In working through the mindset of how to think like a contingency recruiter consider the fact that they usually do not have an exclusive contract with the company and are competing with other contingency recruiters to fill a job. It is also important to realize the fact that they may provide more than one candidate for an opening to improve the chances of getting a hire and the related fee. No, most of them are NOT mercenaries peddling meat to the job market, but it is naïve to think that they are representing only you. Understand that this is a business relationship and they are not being paid to be your friends, but that this can be a fantastic source of information about how to present yourself to the job market. You will get valuable advice on your resume, honest appraisal on your chances to get a job, and great feedback from submissions and interviews. Your relationship with your recruiter is highly important.
- Retained Search Recruiters – Unlike the contingency agencies, a retained search firm is given a contract as the sole provider of candidates for an opening in a company. There may be a competition between agencies for the contract, but when commissioned to fill a job they will be paid regardless of whether the job is filled or not. If the opening is cancelled, the agency will still be paid, so obviously companies are careful about finding the best search partner to fill the opening. These types of searches are generally reserved for higher level positions in an organization or critical, tough-to-fill types of jobs. Fees are typically 30% to 35% of starting base salary. How do you engage a retained recruiter? Be visible! You may reach out to them, but the more likely way to be hired through such a recruiter will be when they find you. As in most cases where your resume is a ticket to the game, you can expect that the retained search recruiter will also provide their client with an in depth analysis of your background related to the job requirements based on an in-depth interview with them. There will probably be more than one candidate presented for the opening, but you can expect to be fully briefed on the company, the culture and the bio of your interviewers.
- Corporate Recruiters – These are the people who are in-house and are either paid employees or dedicated contract recruiters working exclusively for the company. In larger corporations there will probably be more than one individual responsible for this task and their workload is generally divided by functionality of the position or department. Global organizations may be centralized in their approach or local to the job site, but either way their job is to find the best match for position requirements at the least cost in the shortest time. You may be contacted by a sourcer or full cycle recruiter from a company, or you may get to them through one of the agency recruiters mentioned earlier. If you apply directly through a company web site or a job board, these recruiters are the ones charged with finding the needle in the haystack. Thinking how these people operate is not difficult to understand: They filter through hundreds of applicants, relate them to hiring manager’s requirements, and manage the relationship both internally and externally to fill the job. If you are caught up in a “black hole” it is probably not the fault of the recruiter, so don’t damage a possible future relationship by lashing out at the gatekeeper. Some companies restrict how much feedback information can be given to a candidate because of legal liability issues, but most are knowledgeable enough about feedback concerns to really be of help in tailoring future application to that company or others.
- Human Resources Generalist – Smaller companies may not have a separate recruiting department, so that function is handled by someone who manages all of the human resources functions from hiring to firing. Other than the perspective of dealing with someone responsible for compensation, benefits, training, organizational development, employee relations and workforce planning, the relationship is pretty much like dealing with a corporate recruiter with the exception that recruiting is not their only job. A key difference is that there may be a greater reliance on agency support rather than direct sourcing of candidates. Even if there is a separate recruiting function in a company, there is probably a human resources partner involved in the hiring process even if behind the scenes. After hire, this is the person who will manage your career at the company from orientation through retirement, so learn who this is and get to know them.
- Hiring Managers – Small businesses make up a huge portion of the job market. Whether in its infancy as a start-up or an organization that has not grown large enough for a functional human resources department, your candidacy will be directly managed by your future manager or perhaps even the founder or president of the company. Smaller organizations are a great starting place for a career, but may have both a higher risk than larger companies and also greater rewards. They may be more entrepreneurial in their approach and prefer advertising for direct applicants rather than payment of an agency fee. While the process of selection, interviewing and hiring will be the same, you can expect the process to be more personal in nature. This may be the most relevant application of thinking like the recruiter: “If I owned the company, what would I want in an employee?” Listen before you talk. Question the current role and growth possibilities to get a better understanding of the company.
- Recruitment Process Outsourcing – Some key thought leaders see RPO’s as the future of recruiting. This is the process of outsourcing the recruitment process to an external provider. In practice, it could function like an internal corporate recruiting entity or a dedicated agency to provide hiring services. The advantages are that it provides scalable staffing services at a lower cost with improved time-to-hire and improved quality of the candidate pool. The downside is of course loss of continuity beyond onboarding as the RPO’s are not actually part of the company. While it is unlikely that you will find yourself in this situation, it may be important to the continuation of the hiring process to know if your candidacy is being managed by an RPO and not a direct agent of the company.
- Temporary Agencies and Job-Shop Companies – Traditionally, fluctuations in a company’s workforce has been handled by hiring non-employees to fill the gaps in workload over time. In most cases, your legal employer will be the agency that provides your services and there will be a hands-off relationship with the company. A ticklish situation in some cases, you will do the same work in the same location with full-time company employees, but without the benefits of being employed by that company. There are complicated legal reasons for this relationship, but for the most part it gives a great opportunity for future full-time employment. There is an advantage to the company by observing actual performance on the job rather than trying to figure it out in an interview. There is also an advantage to the employee in being able to get a good feel for the culture and environment before committing to a longer term relationship.
An important aspect of a job search is that it is like a chess game where you get to move all of your pieces at once. You don’t have to consider just one source or type of recruiter to find your dream job. So how do you manage dealing with multiple types of recruiters? You should be aware that there can be conflicts between agencies. If you are highly marketable there will obviously be competition to be the first to provide your credentials to a company. And yes, there can be conflicts that arise if an agency presents your resume to a company to which you have already applied. So how do you handle this mess? There are differences of opinions on this, but in my opinion the bottom line is to consider two key points: First, YOU are in control of your job search. Do not allow your resume to be submitted anywhere without your approval. Know where it goes, otherwise it dilutes your value and you cannot follow-up or control the process. Secondly, honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. Don’t lie to your recruiter or tell an agency that you have not applied to another agency or company when in fact you have. In a tight job market it is more important to build strong relationships than to try to find cheap shortcuts. Don’t sacrifice your personal brand or become your own worst enemy by lowering the impression of your character.
Are you thinking like a “recruiter” yet? These recruiter categories obviously overlap occasionally and there are certainly variables within each of the categories I have listed. Understanding the differences can be of utmost importance in managing your job search. If you are engaged in a conversation with someone about a job, find out their perspective to better understand how to communicate with them. Future articles in this series will go into more detail on how to fluently converse in recruiter-speak.