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How to be your recruiter’s dream candidate

Recruiters want to place people in jobs. You want to be placed in a job. It should be a pretty easy relationship, no? Well, not always.

There’s lots you can do to help your recruiter help you better. Here are some basic points of strategy, etiquette and common sense that will help you be the go-to candidate they can put forward with confidence.

  1. Choose an agency that does a lot of what you do. If you’re a piping engineer, if you’re a DBA, if you’re an aircraft designer, it’s all the same. An agency that deals a lot in your particular skill set will have some powerful advantages. They’ll have more roles that fit you, and they’ll have a better understanding of which assignments are right for you. Before signing up with a recruiter, quiz them on the state of your technological area, the major skills and technologies it requires, the different types of jobs currently available in which sectors. You want someone who knows your field and where you fit in it.

  2. Be honest about the other irons you have in the fire. Jobhunting isn’t like dating -- nobody will think badly of you if you’re pursuing multiple leads! You are allowed (and expected) to have relationships with more than one agency. If your recruiter knows that you are interviewing for other roles, they may be able to get the client to speed up the decision-making process or even rethink their offer.

  3. Be honest about your level of interest in a job. Many candidates are afraid to say, “no, I don’t want that one,” for fear that the recruiter will not come back again in the future. It’s okay to say no thank you right off the bat, and most recruiters actually prefer an up-front “no” rather than a lukewarm, “well, maybe, I guess.” What does frustrate them is going through a full submittal and interview-arrangement process before finding out that you were never really interested in the first place.

  4. Take feedback on your resume. Recruiters see a lot of resumes come and go, and more importantly, they see which ones catch an employer’s eye and which ones get consistently passed over. Take their advice when it comes to any aspect of your resume, and submit an updated one. Maybe that unusual font or the 15-page length weren’t the best idea after all.

  5. Do some deep thinking. It’s best to have some of your gotta-haves/can’t-do’s worked out before you embark on the job hunt. What is the maximum time/distance you are willing to commute? Would you consider relocation? Shift work? What is the lowest wage you will consider? What are your short, medium and long-term career goals? If you’re currently working, what will it take to cause you to leave your current position? The more specific you can be about these things, the better the recruiter can weed out the opportunities you won’t want from the ones you will.

  6. Find out how they prefer to communicate. Recruiters are individuals. For one agent, a candidate who checks in weekly is doing a good job of demonstrating interest and keeping their profile high. For another, that much contact crosses the line from “go-getter” to “pest”. Ask what their expectations are in terms of contact, then carry through with the contact at the ideal intervals. Likewise, some enjoy the opportunity to “talk shop” and hear your perspective on the state of the industry you work in, where others prefer a “just the facts” style of interaction. Both approaches are fine, but don’t be afraid to ask which one works best for them.

  7. Develop a mutual-trust relationship. Don’t treat recruiters as temporary inconveniences. Choose a few, and get to know them. Many recruiters have a stable of reliable “go-to” candidates who function well in many environments and with many personality types. They’ll offer the big opportunities to the known performers first. On your side, you need to let your recruiter in on any issues you’re having on the job. They can often intervene to fix or improve things... but that’s easiest done before problems become insurmountable. Keep them in the loop from the get-go.

  8. Be accessible and responsive! You would be surprised how many candidates give contact email addresses, then only check them once every couple of weeks. By that point, the job has gone to someone else. By phone, email, or fax, make sure that your recruiter can find you when your dream job comes up.

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