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It is hard to network or overhaul your resume in a hurry, and building relationships with recruiters is no different.

Like much else when it comes to career development, the key is to be proactive, hiring professionals say. Even if you aren’t planning to change jobs imminently, you almost definitely will in the future, and maybe sooner than you think. Building relationships with recruiters now is an investment in that process and a buffer against any unforeseen events that might set it in motion. It can help you recover quickly from a layoff, leave a bad environment or find the best possible fit for your goals and skills as they evolve.

“A lot of job seekers wait until they’re in that reactive panic mode to plant a million seeds, but by the time they come to fruition they’re already frantic,” said New York-based recruiter Laura Mazzullo.

Here’s how to kick off a relationship with a recruiter, even if you’re happy right where you are.

Get clear on what type of recruiter you should connect with.

While recruiters share the broad objective to fill jobs, their responsibilities can vary depending on the employer or client they’re working for. It is important to know which recruiters seek candidates for the types of roles you might be pursuing. External recruiters work for staffing or search firms and often fill roles for a variety of companies. Corporate recruiters work inside a single organization. Some recruiters focus on sourcing candidates from underrepresented groups or with specialized skill sets.

Start by determining whom you should be talking to based on your skills and long-term goals. Check out recruiters’ LinkedIn and Twitter presences and whether they’re active in groups relevant to your industry.

Some recruiters recommended searching for the agencies that source candidates for a particular industry or location and then looking for their recruiters on LinkedIn. A search for terms like #recruitertwitter and #hrcommunity can help turn up these professionals on Twitter.

“A lot of us are interacting in [social media] communities already,” said Sean Page, a recruiter for a fintech startup, “or we’re just out there looking for candidates ourselves.”

Recruiters are people, too. Be kind, don’t waste their time.

The best networking is proactive as opposed to simply transactional. When reaching out to a recruiter, draw on the same interpersonal and communication skills you would use to develop any other relationship.

“You’re a person, I’m a person,” said Mr. Page, who says the most common type of message he receives is a single sentence from job seekers who have seen a role listed and want to know if he can refer them directly. “Unless you’re a close match [for a job], I’m going to give you a response of, ‘Hey, we should keep up in the future,’ or ignore you, because it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to create a relationship.”

When a recruiter responds, be clear about your intentions, even if you aren’t actively job hunting or considering doing so, and be prepared to talk specifically about your experience.

“Be upfront, even if you’re lost,” said recruiter Karen Isaacs, who focuses on filling administrative assistant roles. “Don’t go off on tangents. When I ask a candidate how many people they work for, it should just be on the tip of your tongue: ‘seven execs, three VPs and two analysts.’ ”

Manage your expectations for the future.

Once you’ve connected with a recruiter, ask how they might want to keep in touch going forward.

“ ‘I want to stay on your radar. What’s the best way to do that?’ If you ask 10 recruiters, you’ll get 10 different answers,” said Ms. Mazzullo. Some might prefer a monthly email or a quarterly coffee date. Others may prefer to reach out to you when they have time.

It is crucial to remember that recruiters are looking to fill specific openings, not to find roles for job seekers. But a recruiter getting in touch about a job that isn’t right for you at the moment could be an easy way to kick-start a relationship. So even if you aren’t interested, consider asking them for a conversation anyway.

“Engage. Be honest. Let them know you’re not interested, if you’re comfortable sharing your ‘why,’ ” said Rachel Cupples, a corporate recruiter. “Take a moment and let that recruiter know what you’re interested in for the future. Recruiters change jobs, too—who knows what they’ll have in the future.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal November 28, 2021 | By Kathryn Dill