Nikki Reyes is a marketing executive in the ad tech industry, specializing in product marketing and high-growth, B2B start-ups. This is her first post for The Hired Guns.
Last December, I finally decided it was time for a break. I left my job and took some much-needed time to travel and think about my next career move. When I re-entered the job market jungle in July, I thought recruiters were going to be an ultimate resource. And they would’ve been, had I better understood the recruiting process.
After a month of underwhelming interviews with all types of recruiters (one actually called me “dude”) and unreturned calls, I realized that I must be doing something wrong. So I did my homework, altered my approach, and changed my luck. Here are the lessons in how to use recruiters that I learned along the way.
1. Recruiters are Not Your Personal Job Match Makers
Once I got my resume and online presence in shape, I started reaching out to recruiters. Each of my messages was a variation of, “Hey, I’m ready and actively looking!” I naively thought that was enough for a recruiter to take me under their wings and and put me on the next rung of the career ladder.
A month later, I found myself averaging a hit rate lower than I expected. What happened? By this time, I thought I would have a healthy list of quality leads, and hiring managers would be vying for in-person interviews with me.
After a few more weeks of the same mediocre meetings and disappointing leads, I went back to the drawing board and investigated the business side of recruiting. That’s when I realized I was missing a few key pieces.
So here’s the deal: recruiters work with a finite number of positions that they’ve contracted to fill. This whole time, I thought recruiters were taking my preferences and matching them against databases equaling the size of an Indeed or a Monster (most will keep your resume on file and contact you if something good comes up, however). Rookie mistake.
2. Develop an Overall Job Search Strategy and Set Goals Before Reaching Out to a Recruiter
My strategy with recruiters was simple: blitz everyone in my rolodex. At the same time, I was trying other job search tactics. On any given day, I would check job boards, Google open positions for my title, search LinkedIn associations, email personal and professional networks, host coffee chats, scour top company lists, and search individual corporate sites for openings.
Although I pursued the gamut of best-practice activities, what I lacked was a plan with goals. Because of this, I turned to recruiters as a crutch. Easily avoid this mistake by setting concrete activity goals.
How many people should I meet with each week? How many custom resumes and/or cover letters should I send out per day? Having a plan with goals will help keep you focused and on track.
3. Know How to Clearly Articulate Your Dream Job to the Recruiter
All recruiters ask roughly the same questions: What type of companies are you looking for? What are you looking for in your next role? What is your ideal job? What is your salary range?
I stumbled with these basic questions. On the surface, they require straightforward answers. But on a deeper level, I still hadn’t fleshed out my overall vision. I was hoping that recruiters would coach me to find those answers. While they can certainly help, recruiters can’t read your mind.
After more soul searching, I finally had clarity. Before recruiters even asked these questions, I would start pitching exactly what I wanted within 30 seconds. As a result, recruiters were sending me more appropriate opportunities.
Do you know your pitch? If you don’t, you need to figure it out. If you do, practice.
4. Find the Right Recruiter by Asking Questions
When I go into job interviews, I always have a list of thoughtful questions to ask my interviewer. Some are designed to show that I’ve done my homework and am fully engaged. Others are questions about the company and the position itself. I ask these to make sure I’m not wasting my time on a job that’s not right for me. Why didn’t I think of doing the same with recruiters?
Not every recruiter will be the right recruiter. To find the right one, ask questions like:
- What positions have you placed before?
- Which companies have you worked with in the past?
- What is your timeline?
- What does your pipeline look like for someone with my experience and skill set?
5. Be Patient, But Don’t Forget to Follow Up
The job search is an emotional roller coaster. Some days, I felt confident in what I had to offer. Other days, rejection would bruise my ego and reduce my will to move forward. You won’t be right for every job you apply for. That’s not your fault, and you shouldn’t let it get you down.
Patience, young grasshopper. Even if a job opportunity leads to a dead end, recruiters will keep your info on file and will contact you if a potential fit comes along. If a recruiter tells you that you weren’t a fit for a job, you should still respond with an optimistic attitude. Keep that relationship warm. You never know what opportunity will come next.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to the job search, recruiters can either be a great resource or a source of frustration. The good news: you have 100% control over this. Just make sure to do your research and have clarity with what you want before engaging. Hopefully the lessons I’ve shared here in how to use recruiters to your greatest advantage will alleviate any anxiety or frustration, and help you on your way to fruitful recruiter relationships. Happy job hunting!