Whether you’re actively looking for a new job and thinking about reaching out to a recruiter, or you’re a “passive” candidate who’s been approached by a recruiter with new opportunities, there are certain strategies and expectations that will help set you up for success. There are also certain behaviors that will send a (skilled) recruiter running in the other direction.
As recruiters who’ve worked in the industry for more than a decade, we encounter lots of candidates who just don’t know how to deal with recruiters. We get it: lots of people have never dealt with a recruiter before. Some people have had a bad experience with an unscrupulous recruiter – the kind of churn-and-burn, fly-by-night people who give us a bad name – and decide that they don’t want to learn how to work with a recruiter. Whatever category you fall into, whether you’ve never worked with a recruiter or you’re a seasoned pro who’s used recruiters to get multiple jobs, use these tips to help make your next call with a recruiter successful.
Like so many things, it’s all about optics. A good recruiter isn’t just paying attention to the keywords you put on your resume, or the companies you’ve worked for. They’re paying attention to the way you conduct yourself – which is a huge predictor of success in a job interview or series of interviews.
Here are 7 of the top things that cause recruiters to want to politely decline your candidacy:
1. Blanketing us with applications for tons of unrelated positions
Nothing shows a lack of focus in your search more than sending the same application for multiple, unrelated positions. We sometimes hear from people who have experience only in Procurement, but all of a sudden they’re applying for every Logistics, Supply Planning, and Materials Management job we have. For general labour or administrative jobs, this kind of “shotgun” approach might be more acceptable, but good corporate recruiters are specialized; we understand the nuances of the experience requirements for all our positions. If you apply for a bunch of various positions at once, it shows that you don’t.
2. Trying to work with every recruiter in our office
If applying for many different unrelated roles shows a lack of focus, applying with many different recruiters at the same office shows a lack of discipline and trust. You might think that you raise your chances by submitting your resume to many different recruiters at the same office, but any recruitment firm can only submit your candidacy once for any particular job. You’re wasting the recruiters’ time, and also showing that you don’t trust them to submit you for every role you’re qualified for, so why should they trust you? If you’re working with a firm like Argentus that works closely as a team – with an open office where we chat throughout the day— you also just look silly.
3. Being generally impatient
As mentioned above, some recruiters run fly-by-night operations where they forward candidates for roles that they barely themselves understand, then move on to the next candidates whether they were successful or not. But good recruiters pride themselves on building long-term relationships with people across their careers – and it’s not just out of the goodness of our hearts. We recognize that a long-term professional relationship with a great candidate can lead us to a lot of revenue, both from successful placements and from that candidate eventually becoming a client.
Some candidates, unfortunately, don’t show enough patience to get fruitful results. A certain amount of follow-up and regular contact helps you stay top of our mind if you’re doing an active search. But it’s best not to get impatient and start calling us every day: as a specialized firm, we don’t always have the right job for you right now. If you’ve interviewed, we don’t always have the client’s feedback right now. But if we’ve connected because we truly think you’re a place-able candidate, rest assured that we’re working on it – because that’s how we get paid.
4. Treating a recruiter like a placement agency:
This is related to the one above. Recruiters aren’t the right partners for every job search. Maybe we don’t work in your field, or if we do, we don’t have anything at your seniority level at the moment. We’re ultimately beholden to our clients’ needs. It works great because it gives the right candidates an inside track to employment with some of the world’s best companies. But sometimes, people don’t understand that we have to service our clients first and foremost. Sometimes people act as if a recruitment firm is a service designed to “get them a job,” and they get frustrated if we don’t have anything for them.
If you’re an executive with bang-on experience in our industry (Supply Chain), we will sometimes go out and find you an opportunity. But if not, our main priority is filling jobs our clients need filled. There’s a reason why the client pays our bills, not the candidate.
5. Letting someone else apply on your behalf
This one is a little less common, but still happens from time to time. Recruiters will get calls from spouses, family members, or friends who are inquiring or applying on someone else’s behalf. While it doesn’t hurt to call to do an initial inquiry for a loved one, applying for a loved one sends the message that said person couldn’t be less interested in a job search. If you’re looking for a new role, apply yourself. It’s that simple.
6. Being dishonest
The truth will come out in any job search, eventually. Sometimes we encounter candidates who think that they’re better served hiding or misrepresenting crucial information only to reveal it at a later date. But trust us, it never works when candidates try to do an end-run by giving us bad information in the hopes that they’ll “convince” the client in an interview. Sometimes candidates will tell us one salary expectation only to tell the client another. Sometimes they’ll say that they’ve never applied for a job when they have. Sometimes they’ll lie about educational achievements. But it never works. The truth always comes out, and if you lie, you make the recruiter – but more so yourself – look super untrustworthy. On the flipside, if you’re honest with a recruiter, we can help you work around limitations in your background. And if the salary doesn’t work? Wait for a better opportunity to come along instead of torpedoing your credibility by lying to the recruiter and saying that it does.
7. Not putting effort / focus into your resume before sending it
We get that people don’t spend as much time thinking about job searches as we do. The best employees spend more time being good at their jobs than polishing their resumes, and sometimes recruiters approach you at a time when you haven’t even thought about your resume in months. But if you agree to let a recruiter represent you for a role, put the time into polishing it and giving it the focus it deserves. Even if you’re more “passively” looking for a job, your resume is still the document that represents you as a professional. It speaks for you and affects your reputation, but sometimes candidates send us resumes – for submission to companies! – without quantifiable achievements, accomplishments, and metrics. A good recruiter can help give you advice at this stage if you aren’t confident in your resume-writing skills. (Stay tuned for our upcoming series where we delve into what makes for the best resume).
For many in our network, these tips are common sense and second nature. But hopefully they’re helpful for those who haven’t worked with recruiters much in the past, or have, but haven’t yet found the results that you’re looking for.