In a professional world that seems to be swarming with more and more recruiters, it may not surprise you to learn that over 5,000 new start-up recruitment firms formed in the UK last year alone. It is no wonder then that candidates can feel somewhat overwhelmed, if not outright pestered, when they are approached by yet another recruiter asking if they want to leave their job.
So how do you distinguish between those agents to whom you are happy giving the time of day and those you need to cross off your list? How to know which LinkedIn inmail out of the 37 you received last month you should respond to? Unfortunately, there are too many recruiters out there tarnishing the industry with sloppy malpractice. But there are also many experienced and specialised consultants that are well worth connecting with and who might just prove invaluable to your career.
This commentary is not targeting incompetent recruiters out there but rather candidates looking for clarity. No matter the shape or size of your recruiter, there are a few simple codes of conduct that are probably worth noting. Here's a short guide as to how you can avoid some of the pitfalls associated with using a recruiter:
You can quickly gauge the care factor and professionalism of your recruiter by the level of communication and engagement offered. If there is no follow up when promises were made, if the initial interview or getting to know you process is not much more than a 'how much are you earning?' interrogation, then don't wait around to find out if they're any good. A recruiter worth their salt knows that communication, not just the content of what is actually communicated but also its consistency is the key to building genuine professional relationships.
But, communication is a two-way process. If you are a job seeker and are using the services of a decent recruiter, then follow up when you say you will and keep the lines of communication open. It’s amazing how many candidates will start the job hunting process with a recruiter and then just disappear off the face of the earth. Don't forget, if you have already been represented to that recruiter's clients, you won’t look good if you are remembered as the candidate who stopped returning calls.
It saddens me to say but a shady recruiter may use a grey window of opportunity to manipulate a situation in their favour using tentative language that often eludes the truth of their intentions. Don't fall victim to this. Total honesty on behalf of your recruiter should, of course, be presumed but don't be afraid to ask for it anyway. Take control of where your CV is being sent, for example. Not disclosing where the recruiter has sent your CV, intends to send your CV or the company they are representing can otherwise be seen as amounting to dishonesty. If you want to maintain control over the process, ask your recruiter to be honest and upfront at every stage.
But it’s just as important to be honest with your recruiter in return. After all, your recruiter is your ambassador; your representative in the eyes of your next desired employer. Don't think that by keeping all your cards close to your chest or not revealing otherwise important facts that may influence your job search, that you are painting yourself in the best light either to your recruiter or their client. This can be specifically said of salary discussions and details around other interviews you are attending or companies you are speaking with. It is not worth hedging your bets. A transparent and open approach on both sides will only strengthen the rapport between you and your recruiter which will ultimately be to your benefit.
The recruitment industry has been tainted over the years by a handful of hungry and less-than-always-professionally-ethical graduates with no vocational path to otherwise take. Making a quick buck can unfortunately be achievable in a candidate-short market for a silver-tongued recruiter, but those who burn their bridges never last. A recruiter who has been in the same profession in the same industry sector for a number of years is often a good bet. If your recruiter knows who is who in the zoo and can display genuine knowledge and industry insight or has worked with their clients for many years, you can have more confidence that they will represent your best interests. This is not to say that an inexperienced recruiter cannot be brilliant, just be sure to ask the right questions to ensure you are comfortable with your recruiter's approach.
Please also respect the recruiter that respects you. There is huge trust involved when you place your career in the hands of a recruiter and the process deserves respect on both sides. You are using the services of a recruiter for free but it does not mean that person is there to serve you at all costs. A good recruiter will not care if the relationship they are forging with you does not result in a placement this time around. Successful recruiters build relationships for the long-term and take the bigger picture into account at all times.
No truer have the words 'what goes around comes around' been spoken than in the world of recruitment. Imagine for example, you decide to ignore or blatantly lie to your agency recruiter because it seems less confrontational or easier at the time; you then apply for a job at your dream company two years later only to find that same recruiter is now their internal 'Talent Acquisition Manager', managing the entire recruitment process across the whole company.
So, do choose your recruiter wisely. But do know there are some exceptionally professional and considered individuals out there working in this industry that really do care about more than making a fee. I get my kicks from recruitment by building relationships. I am still in touch with many clients and candidates that I worked with years ago and it is amazing how often these relationships can prove rewarding in providing a lead or a returned gesture of good will.
Everyone likes a good moan about recruiters hounding them but maybe take a minute to respond to those you like the sound of or who catch your attention. Ultimately, they are reaching out to you because you are valued in your chosen profession and in demand. Don't be ignorant to the ways of a wily recruiter, but do understand the genuine value a good consultant can add to your job search. Work with a decent recruiter closely and you may end up achieving your professional career goals far quicker than you otherwise imagined.
Melani King, Heron Partnership