June 22, 2018

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Career Advice

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Working with Recruiters

It is not uncommon for someone say that they are working with a search firm or recruiter. Actually executive search firms do not work for individual job seekers, they work for companies. Recruiters are paid by their corporate clients; they are not talent agents for job seekers. View the recruiter as an intermediary between yourself and a hiring employer. They will be interested in your background only if it meets the parameters of a search they are conducting. Published sources such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today have both indicated that about one in 10 job hunters find a new position through search firms or headhunters. As a result using this resource should consume no more than 10% of your job search time. So how do you maximize your ability to find suitable positions through using search groups?

There are basically three types of recruiters. Retained and contingency search companies and corporate recruiters. Corporate recruiters are usually company employees seeking to fill internal positions. The contingency firm is paid a fee if they make a placement and they do not usually have exclusive engagements. The retainer search firm receives an up front “retainer” and the remainder of the fee is paid on an installment basis as the search progresses in much the same fashion as a consulting firm. In fact, the retainer search firms are staffing consultants and are typically more thorough and cautious in handling candidates for their clients because of the retainer/consulting arrangement. This type of recruiter will have worked with the company in some depth, perhaps advising on organization structure, qualifications for the position, position description, and other key areas relating to the search. Retained search firms always have exclusive engagements.

Additionally the internet is a recruiting tool and job posting vehicle that helps both the candidate and the employer. Sites such as,, and offer a forum for the employer to feature opportunities and recruit suitable candidates, and they provide the job seeker with a medium to assist them in locating the right opportunities as well as tools to assist them in their search campaign.

We suggest making a list of those search firms in your area. A listing of the top executive search firms in the Twin Cities is published annually by “The Business Journal.” Others may be found in the yellow pages of your telephone book. Contact them by telephone and ask for the recruiter who handles your area of expertise. Be prepared with a two-minute synopsis of your background and then ask the recruiter if they have a current assignment where your experience would be relevant. Follow up with a resume and cover letter highlighting any particular areas of importance to the recruiter. Call again to ensure that your resume was received and find out whether you can provide any additional information. Don’t be disappointed if a recruiter does not respond to your resume, return your call, or react favorably when you call them. It probably means that your skills and experience are not applicable for any of their current projects.

When speaking with a recruiter, maintain formality rather than being too casual. Answer all questions directly and present yourself as professionally as if you were actually in a job interview. Be prepared to discuss your entire background including education, career and salary history, why you left your last job (or wish to leave your current employer), and your greatest areas of strength. Many recruiters will conduct a thorough background and reference checking process. So be completely honest and prepared for probing questions. Demonstrate a passion for what you do, and a sense of enthusiasm and energy level in describing your talents and accomplishments. If your discussion is focusing on a specific job, then you have the right to be fully informed about the position, compensation, working environment, and other pertinent areas. Don’t over embellish your achievements even though you are anxious for new employment. Stress your ability to take risk, your diversity of talents, your ethical principles, and your critical thinking skills.

Remember that the recruiter is the employer’s advocate – not yours. However it is still fair to talk about lifestyle and balancing work and personal life. Family life, self-renewal time, and vacations are important if you are to maintain productivity and minimize the rigors that stress normally produces.

Other types of firms that can help you to get in front of hiring employers include large accounting firms which often have a search component, and will assist their corporate clients in finding qualified employees. Consulting firms, although they typically do not perform search functions, might possibly recommend someone they feel can help a corporate client solve problems or fill an established need. If you are contacting local accounting or consulting firms, our suggestion is to call the Managing Partner. Your approach could be one of seeking advice regarding a career path you are considering.

- Lawrence Alter

Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques. Call (952) 697-3663 or send ideas and questions to:

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