Working with staffing firms, recruiters (both third party and company/organizational) can be intimidating. In a recent interview and discussion with one of our longtime networking friends I found some notes I thought would be helpful to our readers. I posed a number of challenging questions to to find out some of what I call the insider secrets to networking with and building a relationship with recruiters. What I like to focus on with key staffing contacts is on this issue of staffing and recruiter communications.
Remember, most staffing firms are paid by the companies or their clients but they want a strong relationship with the talented candidates. The idea is to not necessarily ask them to do your job of job searching but find ways to help them do their job and they may become an uncommon asset to you in your career advancement. Helping them find you is one thing but you can also create a positive reputation by being known for referring candidates and companies to them.
When preparing for an interview with a staffing firm and/or a recruiter, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or what to expect. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to merely be at the whim of your interviewer. With a few simple tips, you can take the reins and steer the tone and even the content of the interview by forming the appropriate relationships and asking the right questions.
1. Establish a Relationship with at least One Staffing Firm
A good starting point is getting to know your recruiter on a more personal level. Get out of the “I just need a job” mindset and really get to know them to help them prioritize and classify you as more than just a client. It’s similar to networking – you don’t just want to blindly hand out business cards to everyone you meet but instead you should engage in conversation so you become more than just a name.
After establishing some personal and professional rapport with the key person inside a staffing firm, check in with “your partner” at least every 30 days whether it’s a quick phone call or brief e-mail, it will keep you at the top of their mind when that perfect opportunity comes across their desk. They may also refer you to other staffing firms or suggest you look at companies even if they don’t get paid to place you. That kind of person is planting many positive seeds with you for the future and with the marketplace no matter where you live. But this level of help is often earned by building the relationship.
Recruiters deal with a copious number of companies and candidates so if you don’t maintain contact, you become easily forgettable. Since they do deal with so many candidates, they often times keep a personal hot list. This list is reserved for the people who take the aforementioned steps and go the extra mile to stay recent and relevant. If recruiters put you in their system, it makes it so anyone in the firm can find you if a requisition may come through and strategic connections can then be made.
2. Shift from Answering to Asking the Questions (Politely of Course!)
Asking questions is key. When a recruiter calls you with a job opportunity- you interview them about it. Not obnoxiously. But think through what the environment is like and how it may benefit you. Integrate this thought process into the discussion. Show that you know what you are doing and have a grasp on the work-life balance. Some companies want you there 24/7 and others have a work-life balance focused culture. Don’t settle for not knowing their expectations or acting desperate about your next career move. Be polite but set expectations with your recruiter. How are you going to communicate with me?
Even if you do not ask these questions this can be a helpful guide to thinking as you deal with recruiters.
Think about these kinds of questions. You won’t get them all asked or answered but think about these and come up with your own.
Here are some questions for you to get the ball rolling as you talk to a staffing firm and start your interview process:
Do they promote work-life balance?
Tell me about the culture of the company.
What type of relationship do you have with that client company and hiring manager?
How long has he or she been there?
Is he or she a micro-manager?
What are any habits and pet peeves?
What are the people like who work there?
Is there turnover? Are people flocking to get in there?
What’s the facility look like? Where will I be – physical location and office set up? Is it nice?
Why is the job open? What happened?
Even if you are anxious about your next job don’t ignore the signs or red flags. Ask about the job turnaround. Do they make quick decisions or do they take a long time to make a decision? How do they operate? What are their timelines? Try not to let the process drag on and be interested in developing a response time that will help you pace the rest of your job search.
3. A Few More Do’s and Do Not’s of Connecting with the Staffing Company
If you’re not feeling the connection with a recruiting firm or if it does not have a reputation of connecting with candidates, here is the one way to establish a relationship with power that top recruiters that we talk to suggest. Appeal to their business motives and find their business development leader. Let this person, possibly a recruiter, owner or manager, tell you about what their target companies are and then you can tell them what your list of target companies are so that you see if you can trade referrals. The business developer type recruiters or leaders will be very interested in your knowledge of companies that could hire them. Never forget this and always keep this in mind because it could help you get introduced to their key companies even if they don’t get a placement fee up front or in the transaction of you.
So find a way to give a referral first. Believe you have something to give. Believe you have contacts too. We all know people. We are all capable of making connections with people to help those who you need help from in your transition. Always fully utilize your personal on LinkedIn and elsewhere as a network to help your recruiter connection and the staffing firm.
Reiterating the point of personal networks, most of us have no way of knowing who knows who and what connections we have that could be helpful to our network and to recruiters or staffing companies. Think about it. Everybody has value and just about everyone has someone you need to know in their network!
While it is easy to get caught up in the needy mentality during a job search you actually need to channel just the opposite and have a giving mentality. That’s sometimes what will open a door with a recruiter or anyone else.