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Recruitment Unbundled #2. How to find a good recruiter.

In the second post of the "Recruitment unbundled" series I share some key points about how to find a good recruiter and what you can look out for in the good ones.

The best recruiters all have one particular trait - they are excellent listeners.

There are so many different types of recruitment so for the moment let's just deal with those who are external, they work for an agency or consultancy rather than working in house, or for an agency in house.

A good charter for a recruiter whatever their style or brand should include the following as basic professional standards. When dealing with a recruiter ask them as many questions as you want about the nature of their work. The alarm bells should start ringing if they don't behave with these in mind.

  1. I will always listen to you and be courteous to you.

  2. I will ask you what you want to achieve. I will stay true to that and remind you of that if you stray.

  3. Of course you can change your mind.

  4. It is not about me, it is only about you.

  5. I will treat you like an adult and will treat you with the same respect that I have for my client.

  6. I will only introduce you to my client if I believe that you have a good chance of success. By that I mean a winning chance that you are good enough to be hired.

  7. If I cannot help you I will tell you that honestly and will explain to you the reason why.

  8. I will not introduce you to my client however much you twist my arm if I don't think it will help you, if I don't believe that you have the right skills for what they are looking for.

  9. My clients trust me to find them candidates who they want to employ. I have a relationship with my client, they know who I am and they work with me.

  10. I will return your calls and emails promptly.

  11. I will keep you updated of all developments as soon as I hear about them. I will let you know just as quickly whether it is good news or bad news.

  12. I will negotiate for your fairly and will tell you if your demands are unreasonable or will lead to a negative impression.

  13. I will never send your cv anywhere without your express consent.

  14. I will keep an accurate record of our conversations.

There has been so much negativity around the recruitment industry that all of the excellent work most people do is simply ignored and there is a fixation with the ones who fail you.

So to keep to the spirit of this post we will stick to the positives and how to find a good one. The process also works both ways and just as important as finding a good recruiter is developing a relationship with them, they may well help you many times in your career and you also may end up becoming a client of theirs. Treat them with respect and keep them informed. This will be the subject of another shorter post in the series.

Perhaps the first point to bear in mind is that they have no obligation to represent you. The contract (financial) that a recruiter has is with their client, the contract with you is a moral and perhaps a social one. Of course it is also based on trust and they will represent you as it is in both of your interests.

You will probably engage with a recruiter in one of the following ways:

  • the headhunter who finds you - this could be as simple as them sending you a connection or inmail via linkedin or through a process of research and a very targeted approach.

  • you applying to a job that they have advertised.

  • you seeking out a recruiter to help with your job search.

Now to find out whether the recruiter is a good one, you need to do your own homework and research, before you ask them a few critical questions.

If they have approached you or you have applied to a job and they have responded then still ask the same questions but if you have to go out and find one here are some tips.

  1. Find where recruiters will be posting jobs in your sector in print (though not for much longer) and digital format. Look at trade publications, websites, job boards, linkedin, facebook, snapchat.

  2. Ask your friends and if you have a good relationship with colleagues ask them as well. Just beware colleagues, so choose wisely if you ask them.

  3. Google search for jobs in your industries and also for recruitment agents or consultancies. It is not a given but the ones who rank at the top of the first page are there because they have invested time and money in their marketing strategy. Similarly look at the ads on google to see which other agencies are advertising their roles.

  4. Post a comment on linkedin or facebook and ask your network - though remember your employer could see this as well.

  5. If you are thinking of applying directly to an employer or are having an initial chat you could ask them who they suggest or use as their preferred suppliers. You would only ever do this if your conversation with this employer is never going to yield a job and it is just a chat. Again be sensitive to the situation.

Now that you have established a list of recruiters, have a look at their websites and again ask your network if they have ever come across them. See what their website looks like, is it professional, do they explain who they are, how they work and what they offer. They may list their consultants with their areas of expertise, you could google them separately and see if there is any feedback on them, they will probably have a linkedin profile so read it and see if you like it. Read their blog posts and any other articles. You will get a feel for what they do.

There are no hard and fast rules. Many people in recruitment use different labels to describe themselves, some have more information than others but get a feel for them and see what gives you some comfort.

Most importantly read what they say on their websites. If they do not advertise their jobs it does not mean they have none, those who work as headhunters rarely advertise their clients or their jobs. If they are a volume recruitment business and say on their website that "we only reply to successful applicants" then take that on board and decide whether that suits you.

When you have all of the information available then pick up the phone and talk to them. Just as you are a busy person, so are they so keep it brief and relevant. Make sure they work in your area or sector, if they cannot help you they may suggest another company, if they don't you can always ask them. They will be very busy but the good ones will get back to you. If you send an email state very clearly what you are looking for and who you are. It is up to you whether you want to attach a cv at this stage. Personally and in the interests of your privacy and anonymity I would not send a document until you have established whether you want to work with them.

Finally here are a few questions that you could ask them, remember if they have called you then you can be more direct quickly:

  • Are you working for a specific client or clients?

  • Why are they hiring?

  • Have you met the client in person, what level in the business is your contact?

  • Are you on their preferred supplier list?

  • Are you the only recruiter working on this job?

  • Are you able to help me with other jobs if this one falls through?

  • What locations do you cover?

  • Will you only send my cv with my express consent?

  • How long will it take for the process and how often will I hear from you?

  • Will I only work with you or will your colleagues call me as well?

There are so many intangibles in recruitment and variables that the only question you need an affirmative answer for is will you only send my cv with my express consent. It is your absolute right to control where your information is sent to and this applies to every application to every employer. Never let a recruiter decide for you without discussing it with you.

The substance in their answers will help you to decide whether you wish them to represent you. Clearly if they do not have the answers then you have to question how well they know their client but it also depends on what you have asked them to do for you.

Remember it is your career and you have choices - always. Be polite and courteous, try not to pester them with too many calls and emails but also know that the good ones will help you with whatever question you have, they will not be offended. They will be honest with you and you should reciprocate with them. God luck with your search and if I can help then just contact me at the Human Consultancy.

Ed Andrew has been a headhunter and international recruiter for over 20 years mainly in the legal sector. He is the founder of the Human Consultancy, helping people manage their careers and is a former barrister (attorney). He also mentors people from all backgrounds and ages and consults to businesses around the globe.


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