How to approach a recruiter

A how-to-guide to advancing in your career from those who know it best. Photo: Jeff Davis

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 — You are looking to advance in your career or find new employment. So, you put on your favorite pair of sweats, click on as many LinkedIn jobs as possible and send out a bazillion resumes. Sound familiar? It’s not wrong but it’s not efficient. The best recruiters, many featured below, will tell you that it all comes down to developing relationships and making yourself more visible. 

Develop Relationships

What has made job searching so easy has also made it increasingly more difficult. Tammy WestDirector of Executive Recruitment and Human Resources for Major League Soccer, explains it best. “I’ll receive 500 resumes a day. LinkedIn is an additional 100 or 200. If you have LinkedIn connections, reach out and ask for an introduction. Internal submission goes farther. I don’t have the resources to reply to everyone.”

West shows just how difficult is for job seekers to stand out in a market that allows for rapid and easy submission. “Do a little research, reach out directly. If it’s a career change, outline transferable skills. We need to know the bullet points. Stand out. Keep it short and 3 to 5 sentences.”

Peter Polachi, Partner at executive search firm Polachi, echoes these thoughts and expands. “While executive recruiters are easy to find, reaching out is difficult unless you map to a current search. If you’re absolutely set on reaching out, do your research. Executive recruiters have specialties within their fields – just because a recruiter places an executive at a tech company does not mean they service healthcare. Recruitment firms often post their recent searches and placements, which is a good place to start when understanding their specialties.”

  • The best approach to connecting with a recruiter is through a direct referral. Recruiters are highly networked individuals and appreciate insight from their network on worthwhile candidates. A recommendation from a respected source goes a long way.
  • Make sure you return calls from career developers who make the bulk of cold calls – they have a great memory and attention to detail.
  • Heighten your brand to the point we’ll see it. By making yourself and your career semi-transparent online and through social media, such as LinkedIn, you give yourself a much better chance of being noticed.

Be visible

Heightening your brand is vital. There are tools to be aware of so that you can maximize your visibility and be properly prepared. Tom Armour is the co-founder of High Return Selection, helping companies improve profitability, productivity and sales. Tom has been an HR executive in global companies including several of the ‘Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For’. 

While Armour echoes the importance of referral he also points out that “LinkedIn is the tool. Many company recruiters purchase a high end demographic search tool from LI that allows them to search, screen and connect with great candidates better than ever before. The tool generates so many results that it’s very important for candidates to stand out from others when the search tool is used. Therefore, develop a very clear and compelling profile. Anticipate and use the terms the interviewer will use in their search criteria. Avoid jargon at all times.” 

Consistent activity is crucial. “The search engine also searches relevant groups and postings so participate. When participating be seen as intelligent, professional and adding value. This is important because although 99% of LI group members don’t post, they still develop opinions and may make referrals. When applying for jobs, use LI to identify mutual connections and ask if they will provide a referral.”

Steven Savage, The Professional Geek, simplifies the process of approaching a recruiter, saying “Show what you can do to help THEM. Pass people on to them. Work with them to improve your chances. Working with a recruiter is forming a relationship. People should act like it!” 

Avoid Common Mistakes

Being proactive and persistent is key. Yet, without fully knowing the industry mistakes can be made. Sandy Charet details a few very honest mistakes job seekers can avoid. “We are paid by the corporate client, not by the candidate, so don’t expect us to look for a job for you. WRONG approach. I don’t want to be mean but I’m not here to find you a job. Half of the resumes i get start out with something like “I just started my job search and wanted to enlist your help.” 

Rosemary Hook, Hook The Talent, explains, “The majority of unsolicited requests will a) have no reply back and/or b) will not send a LinkedIn request to stay connected. If it’s my time you really want, send a second email: Thank you. I understand there is no current opening. Would you still be willing to spend 15 minutes over the phone so I could ask questions about (_________).” 

Tiffany Peery, Program Manager for Intel, stresses research. “Did I mention you should DO SOME LEG WORK before blasting recruiters? If you reach out with a very specific interest at Intel, I’m 100x more likely to respond. Send me a job number that caught your eye. Don’t just ask me “What kind of jobs do you have for me?” It also helps if you’ve already applied directly to a few positions that match your interests. Recruiters hate guessing what positions would be attractive to you. Only you know that. 

Charet adds, “I’ve been a recruiter for over twenty years for the PR and marketing industry. I work mainly with mid to senior level professionals and my clients span every industry. I think the most important thing in approaching a recruiter is to take a moment to think about what the recruiter’s job entails: We might read over 50 resumes and cover letters a day, so please keep it short and don’t make me work too hard. Connect with me on LinkedIn, see the key terms I’m looking for to attract my attention, don’t email me in a group with all my competitors.” 

Be Patient

It’s quality of the relationships developed rather than the quantity of resumes sent. Still, many seekers are motivated, impatient. Bill Rowe, Vice Chairman of Pearson Partners International, Inc preaches patience. “Finding the next best opportunity for your career takes time. Making the effort to develop several consistent recruiting relationships will reap rewards. Recruiters are a tremendous source of information on markets, companies and individuals. Ask them who they know at specific companies or leaders. During this exchange they will gain further insight on your business capabilities and learn more than simply your resume details.”

Be Proactive

Ben Long, President of Travaille Executive Search, a Washington, D.C. based recruiter expands on patience and how to get ahead of the process. “Keep in mind that finding the right opportunity for experienced professionals can take time. Start reaching out to recruiters before you are in full search mode. Waiting until you are out of a job is too late to start building a relationship. Finally, approach working with a recruiter as an ongoing informational relationship, versus one that is transaction based.  

Work-Life Balance

Finally, it’s important to consider your goals before you start the process of approaching a recruiter. Now that you have the advice, figure out what matters most to you and develop a plan.

Seventy percent of both women and men believe they can have a successful career as well as a full life outside work – however, 50 percent also said they cannot “have it all at the same time.”  Further, more than half (52 percent) say they have turned down a job due to concerns about its impact on work-life balance. In fact, work-life balance tops respondents’ definitions of career success, ahead of money, recognition and autonomy (cited by 56 percent, 46 percent, 42 percent and 42 percent, respectively).

“Over the course of their careers, professionals will continue to define and re-define what success looks like,” said Adrian Lajtha, Accenture’s chief leadership officer.  “For many, career goals and personal priorities will take precedence at different times.  As today’s professionals strive to find the right balance, leading companies will find innovative ways to help them develop, grow and thrive.” 

The research also found that technology plays a role in achieving work-life balance, although respondents express mixed feelings about its impact on their personal lives. More than three quarters (77 percent) agree technology enables them to be more flexible with their schedules, and 80 percent report that having flexibility in their work schedule is extremely or very important to work-life balance. Yet 70 percent say technology brings work into their personal lives.

To close, an infographic


Jeff Barrett is a recognized leader in public relations, experiential marketing and social media. CEO of Status Creative, 2012 PRNewswire Award Winner for “Best Use of Video In Social Media” and once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.


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Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is an experienced columnist and business leader. He has been named Business Insider’s #1 Ad Executive on Twitter, a Forbes Top 50 Influencer In Social Media and has previously written for Mashable and The Detroit Free Press. 



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