Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Why you should make friends with Recruiters.

Johanna Rothman over at Hiring Technical People has recently blogged a colleague's comments about the benefits of befriending those of the Recruiting persuasion. Although being aimed more at those recruiters working in Agencies I'm not 100% sure I agree with them all.

1. Some of the best jobs / candidates are rarely advertised

This is largely true. When I used to work in an agency often we didn't advertise because we were already calling a contact we knew was right for that particular role. When a requirement arrived from a candidate it was immediately followed up with a call to discuss the finer points and acknowledge receipt, then with the call finished a "top 3" candidates landed in the client's inbox. These were people with whom I had an existing relationship and the only way you can get into this "first pass"...befriend a recruiter.

2. If you refer people to your friend the recruiter, there is the possibility of a finders fee

For some agencies this is true, I wouldn't hold your breath! The best way to supplement your income in dealing with a recruiter is to let them find you a better paid role. It's a little mercenary to trade on your friends. That said, referral networks are big business, look at commercial ventures like LinkedIn, now a billion dollar company. These networks are not closed shops to recruiters and if you have any form of online presence you should expect to be contacted.

3. They can keep you aware of trends in the local market

Absolutely, if you want to know about hiring trends, downturns and new projects launching it's the Recruiters who will have the inside track. Whether it's official or not, one of the first questions a recruiter will ask a speculative candidate is "Why are you thinking of leaving?". Ask that question to 100 people, a week and eventually you're going to build up a pretty good picture of the business landscape.

4. You might be able to get a free lunch every so often.

I'd hope this is a joke, and if it isn't candidates need to be aware that the impression they give to Recruiters will speak volumes about the professionalism the recruiter believes they will display to their clients. Chances are that to an agency recruiter a client relationship is worth more than a candidate relationship.

I'd add one major exception to the list, make friends with a recruiter you trust. It's all too easy to fall foul of an inexperienced "Recruitment Consultant" so it's important that your career aspirations are in the hands of someone you trust. Use agencies wisely and if there's a company that you know you'd like to work for contact them directly. Send a speculative CV if necessary and follow up with a personal touch of a call or email - you can further gauge the reality of that company based on the type of response you get. If you think you we're treated shoddily in the hiring process what makes you think things will be different on the other side? Recruiters are the reflection of the internal culture of any company, it's their job to find out what's best about their employer and project it further - a recruiter with nothing to be passionate about may well be working for an organisation that there is nothing to get passionate about.


Bernardo Silva said...

Great post, Matt.
I knew I was going to the right company just by the way recruiting went with Thoughtworks.
Hope you are doing well!
Bernardo Silva
Thoughtworks UK

agilechilli said...

Good post. Glad to see TW keeping up their standards.

However, the one million $ question is "how do you know you can trust a recruiter"?

As a job seeker I always had the impression they were trying to sell me whatever their current opening was as "the perfect job for me".

Now that I am on the hiring end of the deal I get calls from recruiters every week telling me that they have "the perfect candidate for my company".

Being an ex-recruiter yourself, do you have any tips on how to tell the honest ones from the lazy? Or in general, how to deal with recruiters effectively?

Matt said...

There's no easy way to know if a Recruitment Consultant you're dealing with is a tried and tested veteran who is a genuine value-add to your search or some sort of wide-boy hell bent on getting his "commission" at any cost.

It's an bit of an anti-pattern for an inhouse recruiter to bash their agency roots, but I will say one thing - I think the "good ones" are in the minority. There are a standard number of "Recruiter Ruses" they will use and still think they are inventing them each time! Sending you a "best three" candidates, calling you to tell you about "a perfect candidate who is eager to work for your company" - why wouldn't they just call themselves?

A "good" recruiter is someone who cares not only about the candidates, you'll never find someone who is wholly altruistic, but someone who cares about their own personal integrity. How do they want to be viewed in teh interaction - are they looking for the fast buck or a more seasoned approach of building a relationship. I used to work with a global consultancy placing candidates in their compliance department, I knew nothing of SOX or Basle II before I talked to them, but I made damn sure I did by the second time we spoke!

As a candidate I'd look for recruiter's who don't talk about a role immediately - they are just looking for a body to fill a hole, if they are talking about your motivations, the type of environment in which you want to work - thats a good sign.

As a hiring manager think over conversations you have with recruiters, are they trying to understand your needs? Are they considering candidates as a checklist of skills or are they asking about cultural fit? Are they considering diversity issues? If you will uncomfortable during a conversation with a recruiter don't just "make do" remember you're paying for their services, more so if you are using a retained service or "Head Hunter".

There is no ideal answer in all this, the way to build a relationship is to give that initial trust. Hopefully you won't get burnt but it's inevitable that sometimes you will. Keep looking, when you find a good recruiter stay with them, cherish that relationship and maybe even spring for dinner yourself sometimes!

Ram said...

As a candidate I'd look for recruiter's who don't talk about a role immediately - they are just looking for a body to fill a hole, if they are talking about your motivations, the type of environment in which you want to work - thats a good sign."

Wow. I so agree with that. Some recruiters I've known in the past worked like commission agents and day-to-day traders who were just out to complete their targets !