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How to Tell an Effective Recruiter From an Ineffective One

If recruiters are so helpful in finding people jobs, why do they get such a bad rap sometimes? We’ve all heard the stories: a candidate’s resume ended up on his boss’s desk, or the current company was called for a reference without the person’s permission. The recruiter misrepresented the candidate to the company or vice versa and wasted everyone’s time.

Too often candidates aren’t any more selective about the recruiters with whom they work than they are about the companies with which they interview. That’s understandable considering candidates often buy into the myth that all recruiters are omniscient and omnipotent. When you don’t know how a recruiter works, it’s easy to assume they know what they’re doing – until you find out differently.

So how do you tell if a recruiter is adept at their profession? Here’s a hint: don’t bother asking how long they’ve been a recruiter. It’s irrelevant. Instead ask a few questions about the position they’re representing. If the only thing they know is the salary range - and they tell it to you – proceed at your own risk.

If a recruiter fails to take an in-depth search assignment from a client, how does the recruiter know what the client is looking for? More than that, how will the recruiter know if they come across that person? Without a detailed profile of the position, the company, and the hiring authority, all the recruiter is doing is faxing resumes and hoping something will work. It’s tantamount to shooting arrows at a target in a dark closet.

Furthermore, if a recruiter is deficient in that area, he’ll also be deficient in other areas. It’s likely he’ll have little to no influence in subtle decisions that are made, because his input carries no weight. He won’t be acting as a hiring consultant to the company because he hasn’t set himself up that way from the beginning. What does this mean to you? You’ll learn nothing about where you stand in the process. You’ll be kept waiting until the employer feels like getting back with the recruiter. You may learn little more than “they liked you” or “they didn’t like you.”

Granted, you can’t get hired if you aren’t in front of the hiring authority. So in that sense, even a bad recruiter has some use. However, if that happens, probably the only service the recruiter provided to you was to send your resume to the company.

With a thorough and experienced recruiter, you can expect a multitude of questions, and a lot of them are very personal. If they’re to present you to a client, they need a total picture of you: career, family, salary history, job search strategy, what you’ve done, what skills you have, what you want, and where you envision your career going.

So when one approaches you with a position and you show interest, do they dig deeper to learn who you are? Or do they just get your resume and pass it on to the employer? Do they grasp over time what you’re suited for? Or do they continue to run things by you that have no appeal at all? Is it about your career or their commission?

There are subtleties to the business that too many recruiters miss. The most basic is that every company is unique, and every individual is unique. The good ones understand this. The others think that if they just throw out enough lines, they’ll eventually catch a fish. If you like pasta, you can call it the al dente technique. Either way, they’ve completely missed the point of why a recruiter exists. They rarely make a placement, except by accident. They function more as a resume service and less as a recruiter. Their fees are likely to be very low or negotiated.

Unfortunately, because of the internet, the number of these recruiters is increasing. Any contingency recruiter can call an employer and join the race in the first resume to the finish line. They find your paperwork posted on a job board, and you – who are more likely passive than active in your search and haven’t carefully thought out your requirements for your perfect job – are easy picking. Off to the interview you go, possibly with unsatisfying results for everyone involved. The internet means a recruiter doesn’t actually have to work at recruiting.

An effective recruiter can make a difference in your search by fully understanding the depth of what’s involved in bringing a company and an individual together long-term. These recruiters are in it for the long haul. Their rewards are repeat business with client companies, referrals from relationships they’ve developed with individuals, and the joy of a candidate who’s ecstatic about the new opportunity.

It’s your career. When you’re looking to further it, shrewd discernment will always bring you closer to what you want, while universal optimism will often result in discouragement.

- Judi Perkins