Now that you know how agency recruiters make money, let’s talk about how to best work with them.
Take the time to meet with your recruiter. When you initiate contact with an agency, a recruiter will generally respond to you and request an in-person interview. This may or may not result in an immediate job lead, but it is vital to establishing a base relationship. When you meet with them, treat every encounter like an interview and/or business meeting. Conduct yourself in the way you want them to represent you to potential employers.
PRO-TIP: Some recruiting agencies are part of a firm that periodically hosts special events. Plan to attend the event and contact your recruiter in advance – say “I’m attending XYZ event at your office on W date and would love to swing by to catch up with you for a few minutes before or after.” Keep it short and sweet. Your focus here is reinforcing the relationship.
Check in regularly. After your initial meeting with an agency recruiter, you may not hear anything. Do not despair. Rather, check in with them periodically. Recruiters see a great many candidates, unless they are in an incredibly niche firm. When you check in from time to time, it keeps you in the forefront of their mind and it affirms that you are serious about your job search. Every few weeks when you’re actively job hunting. 2-3 times a year (at least!) when you’re not. There is a not-so-fine-line between being a pest and remaining engaged on their radar. Once a week is the tipping point. Unless you are actively working on a specific opportunity, a good frequency is around 2 weeks. Tell them where you have applied recently, what you are doing in the interim, and what your current availability is.
PRO-TIP: If there is a role open at a company that would be your dream job, reach out to your agency recruiters and ask if they have a relationship with that company. It tells the recruiter that you value the relationship and it can potentially lead to an “in” with a company that you might not have otherwise.
Register and establish relationships with multiple agencies. Some agencies are specialized in specific industries (such as manufacturing vs. medical) or specific job categories (such as accounting vs. human resources), while other agencies are more broad, and still others are focused on specific tiers of workers (such as day labor vs executives). Many of the large, international staffing firms have multiple different internal brands that have specific foci.
Find a couple that are appropriate to what you are looking for and establish relationships with each of them. As an example, I currently have relationships with a regional HR-specific agency (because that is my career focus), a local boutique agency (local, low-volume, diverse industries/job categories), the HR arm of another local agency, as well as two (competing) international agencies. At each, I have a specific recruiter with whom I have established and continue to maintain what will be a long term relationship.
Be open to temporary and temp-to-hire contracts. Even “temporary” contracts, that were never meant to be a long term role, can turn into a job offer. If you are currently employed, this is less of an issue and you can insist on only direct hire roles, but if you are between jobs, it is generally unwise to snub a role just because it is currently labeled temporary.
The above represent things that you can do to make your relationship with an agency recruiter more effective, but I also want to share with you one big “do not ever.”
DO NOT EVER APPROACH A COMPANY INDEPENDENTLY WHEN YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SUBMITTED BY AN AGENCY RECRUITER FOR THE SAME JOB. Similarly, if one agency has submitted you for a job and another agency approaches you about the same job, be honest with the second agency and tell them you have already applied for/been submitted for that role.
I mean it. This is a big deal. At worst, whether you get the job or not, it creates a really ugly situation (in multiple ways) between you, the recruiter, and the company. I have seen this happen before and it does not end well for anyone involved. At best, you get the job but it undermines the trust relationship between you and the recruiter and the bridge is permanently burned. JUST DON’T DO IT.
About the Job Seeker Series
The Job Seeker Series is a set of weekly reference materials developed for a Facebook group that is dedicated to Job Seekers providing mutual support to each other through the taxing and uncertain journey of pursuing new employment. Topics for these posts are selected by a vote of group members on a weekly basis.