Whether you love them or hate them, chances are you will come in contact with a recruiter while job hunting. As a former recruiter and hiring manager myself, I know that it's often a complicated relationship between job seekers and recruiters. I read dozens of posts on LinkedIn from frustrated job seekers who bash recruiters, and from frustrated recruiters who bad-mouth job seekers.

In my opinion, there is simply a lack of understanding on both sides. This article will help you better understand the role that recruiters play, and how you can work with them in a positive and constructive way during your search.

Three Basic Rules for Interacting with Recruiters:

1.There's More Than One Type of Recruiter. Working with an agency recruiter will give you a different experience than an in-house recruiter who works directly for the hiring company. Agency recruiters often work on commission, so they are usually more motivated to push your resume through the pipeline than an in-house recruiter. They may even coach you a bit on how to optimize your resume before it's presented to the hiring manager. Within agencies, there are two types of recruiters: Contingency and Retained. Contingency recruiters are non-exclusive (they do searches for numerous companies) and are commission only. Retained recruiters are exclusive (they work to fill positions for only one company) and receive a salary, or retainer, for their work.

2. Recruiters Don't Work for You. It's hard to be patient when you need a job quickly. Unfortunately, some candidates depend too much on recruiters to get them a job. At the end of the day, a recruiter’s job is to fill a position with the best candidate, which may or may not be you. Their own work performance is often graded on the retention of those hired (especially if they are in-house recruiters), so finding the right fit really DOES matter to them. I learned this lesson myself the hard way when I was unemployed years ago. I still remember getting the "we work for the company, not for you" speech from a recruiter!

3. Don’t Forget the Human Factor. There is one terrific benefit to working with a recruiter: they're human! In today's modern job search, you need to do everything you can to avoid the online black hole and to "humanize" the job search. Establishing relationships with recruiters is a way to do that. You’ll have a much better shot at getting feedback on your candidacy from a recruiter than you ever would from a computer. The more connections you make with recruiters, the better. Relying on any one person (or strategy) in your search never works.  So cast a wide net!

Not sure how to find recruiters? Start by doing an online search for staffing agencies. You can look for ones that are local or that specialize in your line of work. Then either submit your resume through their website, or even better, email them directly. (Their contact information may be on the agency’s website.) Another option is searching on LinkedIn for people with the job title of “recruiter” or “talent acquisition.” If you have LinkedIn Premium, you can funnel these results to get very specific. Then you can message them on LinkedIn or reach out using the contact information provided in their profile.

As someone who has recruited and worked alongside many other recruiters, I can assure you of this: most recruiters would love to help you and answer every email you send them – but they just can't. At a large firm, one recruiter could easily have 100 open positions. They are busy and doing the best they can, just as you are with your job search.

Recruiters can play a pivotal role in a job seekers’ future. The hiring manager makes the final decision about whom to hire, but recruiters can block or advance job seekers at their own discretion. It’s also important to remember that recruiters don’t always know specific details of the job they’re recruiting for; some may only be familiar with the information in the job description. Either way, they are very much under time pressure to produce results for their hiring managers’ urgent needs.

To help establish realistic expectation of a recruiter’s role in your job search, here’s a rundown of what they can (and can’t) do to support you.

In general, here is what a recruiter can  do for you:

  1. Give you access to hidden jobs before they are "broadcasted" to the world.
  2. Give you more in-depth knowledge about a company than you could gain from the job description or general internet research.
  3. They are often able to promote you and your attributes to a hiring manager while downplaying your shortcomings, better than you can do yourself.
  4. They can help you manage the processes of interviewing and negotiating. Because a recruiter deals with this process daily, they understand the “ins and outs” more than job seekers do.
  5. They can help candidates maximize their compensation options. An agency recruiter is paid based on the salary package the candidate receives, so it’s in their best interest to help you get the best compensation possible.
  6. A recruiter maintains confidentiality. This is helpful for professionals who don't want their job search to be made public on the Internet, or anywhere else for that matter.

Here are some things that a recruiter cannot  do for you:

  1. They cannot get you a job. They can introduce an opportunity, coach, teach, advise, strategize, and help. But the candidate still must take ownership for getting the job.
  2. They can’t read every resume that is sent to them. They receive hundreds of resumes each week, so  it’s just not possible.
  3. They aren’t likely to give you advice about a career change. It’s not part of their job description.

Working with a recruiter can be a win-win for you and for them. By using these tips, you can maximize your relationship while establishing realistic expectations about your work together.

For more information on this topic, listen to Episode 121 of the Career UpRising podcast, How To Work With Recruiters on iTunes or at
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