Working With Recruiters

In our first Communications Manifesto we acknowledged that everyone is suffering from junk information overload. We have all had to create filters to survive the bombardment day to day. We looked at how trouble arises when these filters and the filter of attitude is carried into the workplace. We learned how we can stand out from the crowd by simply having a proactive communications attitude and responding to others in the workplace in a full, timely, and appropriate manner.

In this second Communications Manifesto we will look at how and why (on earth?!) you should communicate with a recruiter. The first and most important reason to communicate in a full, timely, and appropriate manner with a recruiter is because it benefits you. Remember, we learned to leave our filters behind in business. This is business – the business of your career.

The bottom line is that we’re all out in the world and we can readily see that everyone is surgically attached for their phones. So everyone knows that, if you’re not taking or making your calls, that you’re being intentionally rude and/or unprofessional and/or incredibly lazy. There’s no longer any way for you to hide that.

Recruiters are hired by companies to fill important, hard to fill, and/or senior jobs. Firms also bring them in when, for a variety of reasons, they may want to keep a job opening confidential. Many jobs are never posted anywhere and you won’t know about them unless you have a relationship with a recruiter who does.

Even if a job is posted, posting tend to be the least effective way for companies to fill a job opening. Why? Almost everyone has responded to a job posting and never heard anything back. What happens is that because applying to a job posting is just a click away, hundreds of unqualified people apply for almost every job. Rather than having a Hiring Manager wade through all that, the resumes go to the Human Resources Department. There they are rarely reviewed by the head of H.R. Instead they are sorted through by the lowest H.R. clerk on the totem pole. The clerk is probably the newest person in the Personnel Department and they probably don’t really have a good understanding of the systems and processes that allow the company to do what it does.

On the other hand, recruiters talk to Hiring Managers. Often, when I ask a Hiring Manager about the quality of the resumes they’re receiving from HR I am told: “None of the people are qualified. They don’t seem to understand what we’re looking for.” I then like to ask: “If they don’t know what you’re looking for, how many qualified resumes do you think they’re just throwing away?” That’s when I hear, Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! – the sound of a Hiring Manager’s head being slowly pounded on his desk. And that is why you never hear back from online job postings – unless you happen to get a carefully worded automated piece of H.R. nothingspeak.

For hard to fill and important jobs, companies bring in recruiters. The recruiter’s job is to find, evaluate, and deliver the best possible candidate pool to the employer. With the advent of LinkedIn and other online databases, finding candidates is easier than it used to be. However, the best candidates generally aren’t the ones out there waving a flag, instead they usually have their heads down and are working hard for one of the employer’s competitors. Recruiters keep databases that are far more comprehensive than those online. They include many “hidden” people who aren’t out there actively looking for a job or even posting profiles of themselves. They also include a person’s: salary history, what a person doesn’t like about his current and past job/boss/company, what people are looking for in their next position, geographic availability, and notes on the recruiter’s various interactions with the person.

Recruiters evaluate candidates based on their work history, their motivations, and through the discussions that the recruiter has had in the past with both the candidate, his former bosses, and colleagues. Finally the recruiter is tasked with “delivering” the candidate that the employer chooses. Strong recruiters are highly skilled in the art of hiring negotiations and working with both parties until a mutual agreement is reached.

Recruiters use a person’s communication skills as part of the evaluation process. As we saw in The Communication Manifesto, companies value employees who communicate in a full, timely, and appropriate fashion. They value them because those people enable everyone in the organization to complete projects quickly and efficiently.

Companies also want to avoid hiring the type of people who try to hide problems because they think they can fix them before anyone finds out. Other people seem to think problems will just go away. Please realize that in business, problems will always occur. A far better path is to bring them to the attention of your manager. Your manager has more experience than you. He may have seen this situation before and know how to handle it. This is true at every level. Jamie Dimon, the Chairman/CEO of JP Morgan Chase has been quoted as saying: “If you have a problem and you tell me about it, it’s our problem. If you don’t tell me about it, then it’s your problem.”

For a wide variety of reasons, companies value, hire and, promote people who communicate. On the flip side, they want to avoid employing people who either don’t want to communicate or only do so reluctantly. In recent years, as a recruiter, I’ve had more and more companies ask me to track candidate’s response times as part of the evaluation process. Remember recruiters are evaluating people ALL of the time and they keep comprehensive databases which means they have long and strong memories.

So how are recruiters likely to go about contacting me? First, it’s important to understand that companies push recruiters to work very quickly. Think about your own company. When was the last time they didn’t want everything done yesterday, even if they subsequently took their time about acting on it. A recruiter must work fast, which means he will try to be very efficient. First, they will put together a contact list consisting of everyone that they think is qualified to do the job, who might be interested in it. This list can be pretty large because the recruiter doesn’t yet know who or how many people will want to pursue the position.

Typically, the recruiter will then send out an email blast to everyone on the contact list. This is your first opportunity to respond to the recruiter and if you email him back that you are interested in the position, he will respond to you very quickly. If you are not interested, the recruiter will certainly value any strong recommendations you may have. This is also a good time to update the recruiter with any changes in your job search parameters or wish list. Perhaps your youngest child has just graduated high school and you are now open to relocation. If you let the recruiter know, then he can widen the geographical scope of the jobs that you’ll be contacted about. Even if you respond to the eBlast that the position just doesn’t interest you, the recruiter will appreciate that, because after sending out the eBlast…

…the recruiter will phone down the contact list. Take his call. Return his call. It’s in your best interest. The recruiter is going to present you with an opportunity that you are probably unaware of. You may not be currently looking to change jobs and that’s all right. Most candidates that recruiters place in new positions weren’t “looking for a job” when the recruiter first called. Who knows?  The position may spark your interest or you may be able to recommend a friend or colleague.

A reluctant communicator might start running a script in their head: “Why do they keep calling me?” The simple answer is – because it’s their job to. A recruiter’s job is to put together the best possible candidate pool for his client, and until he knows who all is interested, he can’t evaluate who that candidate roster should consist of. A strong recruiter isn’t going to just blanket his client with resumes. Part of the reason he was hired was to save his client time by narrowing the field. Once the recruiter knows who’s interested, he will then evaluate who to put into the candidate pool. The number of candidates on the roster will vary by client, position, and candidate availability. It can be as few as three but is usually no greater than twelve.

Remember that a recruiter is always evaluating people. They are most likely logging the calls and emails they send you. They are also keeping notes on their interactions with you. These will be included in the evaluation process that recruiters go through in assembling a final list of candidate to be presented to the employer. Your communications history will also go into the recruiter’s database.

So, what if you aren’t actively looking for a job this week and instead of being proactive, you’re feeling all passive aggressive. You allow your communications filters to invade your career business. Suppose that you decide you just won’t respond to the recruiter – at all – ever. What that means is while you might feel a little smug and superior for the moment, you may have sabotaged your career by refusing to even listen to what may have been your next big promotion. You will also have caused yourself to be documented and labeled as a non-communicator in the recruiter’s database.

It’s going to be difficult for you to attract that recruiter’s interest in the future. If, five years down the road, you’re extremely interested in a position that the recruiter is handling, or you have been part of a layoff and are desperately looking for work – the recruiter knows you are reluctant to and often refuse to communicate. They know that you are difficult to work with. You have already indicated that you don’t value them, their time, or what it is that they do. Certainly, they will not be too anxious to present you to their clients who, as we know, are actively trying to avoid people who are reluctant to communicate. You will have to put yourself in a bit of a pickle because in the past, you refused to do something that was in your best interest in the first place. All of this could have been easily avoided. It’s silly but sad – and it happens every day.

So, who are a recruiter’s favorite people to deal with? That’s easy! Salespeople. Salespeople are proactive. They’re naturally always on the lookout for opportunities. They’re trained to always leave the door open and never burn a bridge. “It’s just a phone call or an email. We do that every day. Just maybe it will be something I’m interested in.”

Who are the worst people for recruiters to work with? Without a doubt, female marketing executives, between the ages of twenty-five and forty. Let me first clarify this by saying that it is definitely NOT inclusive, but when I come across someone who absolutely refuses to communicate and clearly resents it, when you finally do reach them – 85% of the time they come from this demographic. I don’t know what goes through their heads. Most of them are trained in communications but they are absolutely the worst business communicators. This isn’t high school. You aren’t being stalked. The guy with the hairy palms and gorilla breath you met at Starbucks isn’t asking you for a date. This is the business of your career. Step up, stand out, and get ahead. There’s no great mystery. It’s really not all that hard.

Top Seven Excuses People Use To Claim They Can’t Communicate

  • I don’t have time: This is about your career. A phone call takes five minutes. Nobody doesn’t have five minutes. If you don’t have time today, make time tomorrow.
  • I can’t talk at work: Mobile News Flash #1 – one of the most revolutionary features of mobile phones is that they’re mobile. You can pick them up and walk down the hall to take or make a call.
  • I have my phone turned off during the day: If there is a family emergency during the day, how will you know? Put your phone on vibrate. Place it on a hard surface.
  • I can only talk during my commute: Yup. I get this more than you would think. Mobile News Flash #2 – scientists have recently discovered that mobile phones continue to function even when a user is not driving a motor vehicle – yes, even in California.
  • I’m traveling: Uh huh. Unless you are boldly going where no man has ever gone before, Mr. Scott should be able to hook you up with cell phone coverage. And even if the dilithium crystals are overheating – your hotel has Wi-Fi.
  • I didn’t get your voicemail: Certainly not if you haven’t checked your voicemail. Not checking your voicemail is not a valid excuse.  Rather it is an indicator that you are lazy and irresponsible.  There are even a few of you are so reluctant to communicate that you leave your voicemail purposely full. “This voicemail box is full. Please try your call again later.” If a potential customer, employer, or recruiter hears this more than once – DING! DING! DING! This guy purposely doesn’t check his voicemail. No sale. No hire.
  • “Well, if I don’t call you back that ought to give you a clue”: Yes, a young female marketing executive actually said that, snotty intonation and everything. It does give me a clue. It tells me that you don’t like to communicate and because of that none my clients will ever want to employ you.

Please feel free to send in more excuses and I’ll be happy to shoot them down and publish them. A recruiter isn’t someone trying to sell you copier paper or let you share in his recently inherited Nigerian treasure. This is the business of your career. Take responsibility for it. Make it happen.

All of this used to be obvious. Older – oops – more experienced heads will be nodding and chuckling. Unfortunately, many in the younger crowd don’t seem to know how communication and building relationships works. Sadly, for many, their only forms of communications are texting or wearing an ironic hat. That’s just not going to cut it in today’s competitive workplace. If during the hiring process an employer suspects that you are a reluctant communicator – you will not be hired. If a recruiter documents that you are reluctant or a non-communicator, he will not want to work with you. Both because you are a pain in the “neck” to work with, but also because he doesn’t want to be responsible for placing someone with his client who is likely to be a problem. Preventing the hiring of non-communicators is one of the reasons the company brought in a recruiter in the first place.

All right, I’ve had a little fun and made a few snarky remarks, but the bottom line is that working with recruiters is part of successfully managing your career. If you don’t take it seriously, they won’t take you seriously. When they contact you with a career opportunity it’s in your best interest to listen, ask questions (if you have any), evaluate it, and decide whether you would like to move forward on it. Then let the recruiter know what you’ve decided.  Let them know either way. They are not mind readers.  It’s pretty easy.

A strong recruiter can open doors for you that wouldn’t otherwise open – if you let them. All you need to do is follow the business communications basics:

  • It’s really not all about you.
  • Respond quickly, honestly, and fully.
  • Respond in kind.
  • Just pick up the phone for faster, fuller communications at a higher level.

Do these simple things and recruiters will want to work with you and you will benefit. You will have more career opportunities than you ever had before, many of which you wouldn’t otherwise ever have known about. You’ll get to choose which ones you’re interested in and which ones you’re not. More employers will be interested in hiring you. Over time, you will stand out and have your pick of the very best career opportunities.

©Tom Keoughan 2016

P.S. The Big Qualifier: “So, like, every recruiter?” No. In all walks of life, there are good ones and bad ones. Next up: separating the wheat from the chaff in How to Choose a Recruiter: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.