Throughout my career, I have used my fair share of staffing agencies to help connect me with job opportunities. From first-hand experience, I can tell you not all recruiters are the same. Just like jobs themselves, you need to do your research, ask questions, and vet recruiters to see if they are a good fit for you.
For me, it is important that I am working with a recruiter who is informed about their clients/ job openings, organized, and is genuinely interested in placing me with a company whose culture matches my personality.
Recruiters who don’t check these boxes are far more common than you might think; some recruiters are more interested in helping themselves meet a quota than they are about an applicant’s career path. When you are a professional searching for a job, it’s important to be able to identify the type of recruiter you are working with.
So, what questions can you ask yourself when speaking with a recruiter to determine if they are the right fit for you?
Are You Matching Me to a Position or a Position to Me?
Several years ago, during a download with a recruiter, I was asked the timeless question, “Tell me about yourself”. I got, maybe, three sentences into my response before she cut me off mid-sentence to tell me that if I wanted a job at their client, I would need to slow down my speech because their client doesn’t like fast talkers.
Keep in mind this was not an interview; prior to this meeting it had been made clear to me that we were meeting to discuss my professional experiences and if I would be a good fit for any of their openings—either presently or in the future. At this point, I had no idea which client she was referring to, or even what the position was. In that moment, I realized she wasn’t interested in my personality, my skills, or what I wanted professionally. Her only goal was filling her open position, and it didn’t matter with whom.
A recruiter’s job is to screen candidates to see if they are a good fit for a role. How can they do this if they are not educated on the position?
Are You Listening?
Sometimes life throws you professional curveballs; not always do we end up taking the career path we laid out for ourselves in our early 20s. This happened to a friend of mine who had been in the healthcare field for a few years and went back to school hoping to begin a career in IT.
Because he had very little IT experience at the time, he gave his resume to a few recruiters to see if they could help him make some professional connections, and, ultimately, find him a job.
Unsurprisingly, my friend heard back from several recruiters saying they could help him. Surprisingly, the jobs they could help him find were all in the healthcare field. Repeatedly he would express to me his frustration with these recruiters’ “cold calls” trying to sell him on a job that he didn’t want.
His response of, “I know this would be a good fit for me, but it’s not what I want to do” repeatedly fell on deaf ears. He became so frustrated with a particularly persistent recruiter that he ended up hanging up the phone on them and blocking their number.
How Well Do You Know Your Clients?
It’s never a good sign when an hour or so of research makes you more informed about a company/position than your recruiter is. Early on in my career, I was working with an industry-specific recruiter who did a very nice job selling me on a position.
On our first call, we set up a time for a phone interview. I was very excited about the opportunity and I wanted to demonstrate I was a serious contender for the role, so I did my research on the position and the company. When I asked her if this position came with the opportunity to work from home, I received the response of, “You know, I’m not too sure about that. It might be better to ask the hiring manager once you meet him”.
A recruiter’s job is to screen candidates to see if they are a good fit for a role. How can this be done effectively if they, themselves, are not educated on the role/company? That being said, there is a caveat to this rule. If a recruiter knows the gyms I can attend using the company health program, that’s great, but a professional should not reasonably expect that level of education on a role –unless, of course, you are speaking to a member of that company’s HR team.
What an applicant should expect, however, is an educated recruiter who can answer questions about required travel, compensation range, mentorship and training availability, etc. And in this instance, the recruiter was not delivering.
Do You Follow up With Me?
In the professional world, communication is important. This goes double for recruiters. Recruiters who are position-focused rather than people-focused tend to adopt a mentality of, “If I ignore an applicant, they will go away”.
Not everyone can be a good fit for every position, and recruiters have new job opportunities open all the time. I want to know I am being considered for future positions even though I am not a match for the job openings currently available. If your recruiter reaches out to you regularly to check in on your job search and present you with new employment opportunities, you know they have your best interests at heart.
Have You Read My Resume?
Recently, I received a cold call from a recruiter to tell me about a wonderful career opportunity…at one of my previous employers. Now, because I had worked there previously, I knew exactly what the position was the minute they started telling me about it. I also knew immediately I would be supremely qualified for the role. How did I know this? Because I held that position before.
Pretty quickly through our conversation, the recruiter realized his error and tried to end the call. I assume he finally read my resume and saw that I was several years removed from the role. I assume he wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation because he was more interested in filling that role than making a successful career match. I never heard from him again.
Are You a Good Fit for Me?
Working with a recruiter during your job search is a great tool for job seekers; staffing agencies can help you gain exposure to employment opportunities you would have missed searching on your own. On top of this, you have a personal career coach helping you through the process. But employment agencies come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s important to keep in mind, that not every employment agency you speak to is going to be the best fit for you and your career goals. By vetting your recruiter with the same diligence you vet job opportunities, you can be sure that the job opportunities presented by your recruiter are ones that will lead to long-term career success.