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12.10

Six Things Recruiters Will Never Tell You

By Elizabeth Lions

Early in my career as a recruiter, I was treated poorly by a job seeker and couldn’t understand why. After several conversations that felt more like a heated sparring matches than professional dialogue, I mustered the courage to ask him why he was so curt and dismissive with me. I had mistakenly assumed that because I had a good job to show him he would want to talk to me.  It turned out that, over his career, he had a history of unproductive relationships with recruiters. As he put it, those recruiters had exhibited a lack of professionalism and even told him outright lies. Consequently, he had strong bias against anyone in the profession, and he perceived no value in such relationships. As he told me, “Talking to recruiters is like dealing with the root of all evil. I’d rather not bother.” 

As a recruiter, I often naively think that we’re not viewed as negatively by others in the engineering profession — but rather that we are a valuable and valued piece of the job search puzzle. Recruiters are human beings, and are certainly capable of missteps and transgressions.

When recruiters and job seekers aren’t communicating openly and honestly, the relationship is already at a disadvantage. In the spirit of openness, I want to try to clear up some of the misconceptions about recruiters that stem from a lack of open communication. Being rude to a job seeker is indefensible, but there are usually other reasons why recruiters don’t respond to your queries. Following are six things that a recruiter will not say to you during the job hunt…but probably should.

1. “We have no intention of calling you again — for any job.”

As a recruiter, working for a firm, you have billings to make. It’s pretty simple. If you don’t place candidates and bill clients, you don’t get to keep your job.  Statistically, in the first six months on the job, only one out of a hundred makes it as a recruiter. Recruiting isn’t a normal sales job. Recruiters are selling people. Above-average recruiters need to know their product (people) and what the market demands. Job markets shift like the stock market shifts. Supply and demand of the skill set du jour is what makes a candidate hot or not. Tight commissions and high expectations from management force recruiters to look for perfect candidates on paper.

Your resume is a marketing statement and good recruiters will know within two minutes of reading it whether or not they can help you. It may seem harsh, but their judgment is immediate and usually final. They know from a quick scan if they can put you into any of the positions they have available. Perhaps your education and skill sets are exceptional, but they have no job openings requiring your particular skills. Smart recruiters will keep track of you, putting you aside until they can "use" you.

It may seem petty, but seemingly inconsequential details or comments can make a recruiter decide they don’t want to work with you, as well. It could be a statement you made in the phone interview. It could be your tie.  If they judge you as unprofessional, or that they don’t think you will present well in front of their client, they won’t take a chance.

When you don’t hear back from a recruiter, you’re left wondering why. The blunt truth is that because of the “burn and churn” nature of the industry, if the recruiter hasn't contacted you with interviews, he or she has likely moved on to the next set of candidates. Wise job seekers ask for a recruiter's advice on what skills sets are in demand. If you possess those skills but omitted them from your resume, you can tailor the resume to better fit the position. If you don’t already possess those skills, you can seek out training and continuing education opportunities in those areas to give you a leg up. Regardless, ask the recruiter — he or she knows the market and can guide you.

2. “The jobs we have posted aren’t real.”

The practice of posting phony jobs is unsettling and unethical, but it does happen.  Jobs that are posted online for weeks at a time, but aren’t getting filled, may or may not be real. A recruiting firm is only as good as their inventory (i.e., you). If, for example, a recruiting agency's supply of electrical engineers is running low, the agency might post a bogus ad to entice EEs into the organization. Employers like having options, so recruiters need a stable full of good people to show clients.

If you have questions about the veracity of a job posting, call the recruiter that posted it. Ask specific questions about the position and see if he or she gives reasonable answers. If you’re told the job has been filled suddenly, something might be amiss.

To save money on advertising fees, some agencies with numerous job openings will post blanket ads designed to attract several skill sets, rather than posting each job individually. Once the pool of applicants responds to the ad, the agency can  then divvy up the suitable prospects for the various openings.

3. “Your resume looks embellished.”

I had a green recruiter tell me that he didn’t want to work with a particular network engineer because she looked “too perfect on paper.” Often during a recession, some candidates put everything they have ever done on paper in an attempt trying to trigger keyword searches. I told my colleague to pick up the phone and call the candidate directly to better understand her skill set, rather than jumping to the conclusion that she had embellished her resume.

Unfortunately, e-mail, social media and the internet have made some in the recruiting profession lazy. Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to talk to people directly, opting instead to communicate online. Whether through an in-person meeting, a phone conversation or by e-mail, recruiters should be able to clarify what they are looking for in a resume, and candidates should be able to detail their qualifications for the job under consideration.

4.

 “I am new to recruiting, I don’t really want this job, and I have no idea what you do for a living.”

This is one you won't hear, but it sure would save everyone a lot of time and aggravation if it was disclosed up front. Many junior recruiters enter the profession excited about finding people jobs, but they don’t understand that upper management will be pressuring them for numbers and billings. Some new hires have no prior experience and aren’t even able to read technical resumes. You may have to educate your recruiter on your industry background or technical skills if you want to work with them.

Recruiting should not be limited to finding a job for a candidate. It’s about partnering with the job seeker and guiding him or her down a path to a successful career. The recruiter/job seeker relationship shouldn’t be a one-hit-wonder that fizzles out with time.

I’m not suggesting that you shy away from new recruiters — you may come across one with fire in his belly and a strong desire to succeed — but you may need to stay on top of him to make sure he knows what you are qualified to do, and that he is working to find job leads for you.

5. “Our client won’t call us back.”

This is one of the most common — and confusing — situations for candidates. You find the perfect job online. You sneak out of work on your lunch hour, drive downtown in your suit and meet with your recruiter. After what you thought was a good interview, the recruiter agrees to put you forward to the client for the job. Then you never hear back. After a few days, you call the recruiter to see if your resume was given to the hiring manager. You're told it was, but they haven’t heard back.

Almost always, this lack of feedback occurs when the recruiter is selling to the wrong person (i.e., the recruiter is dealing with HR and not directly with the hiring manager). Hiring managers know where you stand in the interview process and will usually take a few minutes out of their day to comment on your resume. Unfortunately, recruiters will never disclose who they deal with in their accounts. With the sale stalled, and no feedback to give you, the recruiter will avoid you… hoping that you will go away.

6. “I will blast your resume all over town hoping to place you.”

This business practice is completely unprofessional and can be hazardous to your career. If a recruiter thinks you are a hot candidate, he may go through his  address book and send your resume — without your knowledge — to all of his clients, hoping to pop a fee. In smaller cities, this can be harmful to your career — especially if your current boss find out. Or if word gets out on the street that you are looking for a job and your peers start sharing that information. Job searches should be confidential.  Be direct with recruiters to ensure that they will not give your resume out without your express consent.

Much of recruiters' bad behavior can probably be attributed to the underlying fact that they don’t want to hurt candidates' feelings or damage working relationships (not realizing that being nonresponsive is equally damaging). Or because of the sales quotas or thresholds they need to meet on an ongoing basis, they just plain don’t have — or take — the time to break the bad news to you. It takes a lot less time to say “yes” to one candidate than it does to write “dear john” letters to all of the disqualified candidates.

Just because a recruiter didn’t get you into the last job, doesn’t mean they can’t find you something else. Be choosy about which recruiter you want to work with. Build a relationship. Drive and control your career.

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Opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of IEEE-USA or IEEE.

Elizabeth Lions is an author and career coach, specializing in working with engineers. Her book Recession Proof Yourself! can be found at www.elizabethlions.com

Comments may be submitted to todaysengineer@ieee.org.


Copyright © 2010 IEEE

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