How to Work With Retained Recruiters

To work successfully with retained recruiters, you need to be on their radar by maintaining a relationship with them, even when you’re happily and gainfully employed. Recruiters need to know where you are and how to reach you as soon as possible, in the event that something opens up that you would be perfect fit for you.

© xtock -
© xtock –

Having said that, don’t expect recruiters to find you a job; that’s not what they do. They work with companies in specialized niches and industries (there are generalists as well), and they are retained by these clients to go and source talent.

When they get a job to fill from a client, it’s very specific and they have certain criteria to meet. To seek out this talent, typically they go through their own database, and then they access LinkedIn (many recruiters use an advanced version of LinkedIn). See my tips on how to be found online by recruiters.

They start with a big pool of candidates, anything from 20-100, who they review carefully. From there, they may cut that list down to between 8-12 and give those people a call. After an initial conversation, they’ll put forth the job details – if they can. Many of their contracts are highly confidential, i.e., their task is to replace a current executive. In those cases they cannot even give you the employer’s name.

They’ll whittle those 8-12 down to maybe three or four, and then start their interviews. If it’s long distance, then initially it’s via Skype video. If it’s local, it’s usually in person. In a confidential search, these will be in the recruiter’s office or some other location. Otherwise, interviews are normally held at the client’s office.

These are deep and thorough interviews. Sometimes there are second rounds, or as many as 12 interviews with top candidates. That’s why this process takes time – as long as three months.

When the recruiter passes a candidate’s list to the client, it can include many pages of detailed recommendations on each person. The client may also ask for a psychological career assessment. From there it’s time for the client to conduct their own interviews and come to a decision.

So there are basically two ways for you to work with a retained recruiter. One is to already be in their database when they’re sourcing talent for a job. The second is to show up when they search LinkedIn.

That’s why if you’re serious about your career, you must have your phone number and email on your LinkedIn profile. You want to make it quick and easy for recruiters to contact you. If they have to look up your number, they may not bother to take the time; they’ll just move on to the next potential candidate.

To build relationships with recruiters, start when you’re still employed. No one wants to know you just when you’re in disaster mode! Connect with them online via LinkedIn or email, and then stay in touch.

Every four months, send them a STAR story (Situation, Task, Action, Result) that outlines your success in your current position. Include a note about how much fun you’re having, but that you’re always on the lookout for your next opportunity.

Here are three more tips for working successfully with retained recruiters:

  1. Always be professional. Dress at the executive level, and carry yourself accordingly. Send a thank you note after every meeting or interview.
  2. Treat them with respect. Don’t pester them about not returning your phone calls. They’re working for their clients, not you. Top recruiters get an average of 50 resumes a day. Imagine if they tried to meet or even speak to all of those people!
  3. Be careful on social media. Don’t vent your frustration over the job search process or feeling ignored by a recruiter. Recruiters are on social media, too! They want to work with happy, positive people. You certainly don’t want to burn any bridges by insulting someone.

Do these things and recruiters may very well put a call to you if they see you as a potential candidate or want you in their database. In fact, if you build that rapport and maintain that relationship, a recruiter can manage your career for the rest of your life, steering you through good times and bad times.


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