Tell Your Recruiter if You’ve Applied to the Role Before

April 26, 2017


It can be hard for us to believe as people who have been in the recruitment industry for as long as we have, but not everyone is familiar with how to deal with recruiters when finding a job. So many people are used to applying for jobs directly that when they hear from a recruiter, or seek one out when thinking of making a move, they’re not sure exactly how to transact with this third party: do they have my interests at heart? What should I tell a recruiter? What shouldn’t I tell a recruiter?

A quick Google search reveals hundreds of articles about information you should withhold from a recruiter. There are some unscrupulous recruiters out there, and it makes sense to keep certain information private. But how about more of a discussion of what you need to tell a recruiter to help ensure your own success in a job search? The truth is, a good recruiter values long-term relationships. In any given search, a recruiter does have your interests at heart insofar as they want you to get the job, and they want you to get as high a salary as you can negotiate.

So we’re doing a new mini-series on our blog laying out a few things you absolutely need to tell a recruiter before they represent you for a role. Not just to make your recruiter’s life easier, but to make your own life easier. Lots of people don’t realize that withholding certain information when working with a recruiter can scuttle the process and actually harm your reputation, especially in a tight-knit business vertical like Procurement and Supply Chain. It can make you look negligent at best, and dishonest at worst.

When it comes to working with a recruiter, honesty is the best policy. So what are the top pieces of withheld information that mess up our ability to represent an otherwise-great candidate again and again? 

You NEED to Tell Your Recruiter If You’ve Applied to a Role Before:

This is a common and surprisingly devastating oversight. A typical initial phone conversation with a recruiter goes like this: they tell you about a job, and then you talk about your experience, and then they tell you about the company. By the point, it should be obvious if this is a job you’ve seen online and applied to before. And if it is, you absolutely have to tell the recruiter about it or else you risk ending up in resume jail.

What in the world is “resume jail”? Well, here’s the thing: say you applied to a job several weeks ago and you haven’t heard anything back. Maybe the company has screened your application and you’ve been rejected (and they’ve committed the sin of failing to send you a formal rejection), or maybe the hiring manager is buried under gargantuan stacks of resumes and hasn’t gotten to your application yet. Whatever the reason, that company now “owns” your candidacy – meaning they brought you in on their own, without the recruiter’s help – and no recruiter can represent you for that role.

You might think it’s helping your chances to ignore that previous application, and hope that when the recruiter forwards your profile, the company doesn’t notice you’ve already applied. But the hiring manager and HR will always check. You’ve not only messed up your chances of getting the job through the recruiter, you’ve also likely torpedoed your original application because, from the hiring manager’s perspective, you’ve applied twice and tried to circumvent the normal process. Hence your application ends up sitting in resume jail – i.e. the company’s applicant tracking system – without ever seeing the light of day.

So if a recruiter tells you about a role and you’ve applied to work at that company in the last 3 months, you have to let them know, or it could end up sabotaging your candidacy. 


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