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  • Carol Ann Wentworth

How a "good" recruiter can positively impact the success of a company---and the life trajectory of a

It's a smart career move to cultivate a strong relationship with two or three top recruiters in your industry. A good executive search firm provides many benefits to the job-seeker. The key is to find a "good" recruiter, one who is mindful of your particular skills, qualifications, and personality---and has built a strong collaborative working relationship with their own clients.

Recruiters are in the business of finding the best talent available for firms willing to pay to attract the most qualified people. These companies understand that the quality of their people is directly linked to their future success.

"There's nothing more important to success than finding the right team."

--- Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin

Think of recruiters as career matchmakers. It's in their interest---and their clients' interests---to make a successful match. No one wants to work at a company where they fail. It can stop the momentum of your career path. And if you fail the recruiting firm may have to give back all or most of the fee they got for placing you. Since a successful placement can take 80 hours or more of intense work to do---and a replacement will take the same amount of work---good recruiters do everything they can to get it right the first time.

The key word here is "good." Good recruiters are as rare as pandas in the wild. Like any profession there are some who are very good at what they do and many who are unskilled and unprofessional. For many young recruiters the job is simply a stepping stone to a job they really want. A way to pay the bills. Many others simply don't have the engaging personality, tenacity, and perseverance necessary to excel as a recruiter.

Nearly everyone has had a bad experience with a recruiter who only sees you as a number---a fee to collect---and not a person. It's just a sales job to them---a numbers game.where the more people they present to a client the greater they think the odds will be of finding someone who "sticks." They troll the job boards and throw as many candidates as possible against an open position, hoping one will work out. This isn't the professional way to find top talent for a client and it isn't in the candidate's best interest either.

RECRUITERS ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE JOB MARKET.

Most companies simply don't have the time, resources or capabilities to find, vet, and evaluate potential hires. Nearly half (47%) of small and medium size companies report they are unable to fill a critical hire.

Even with in-house recruiting it's often helpful for companies to have the outside perspective and unique search capabilities of an outside independent recruiting firm. Our firm, for example, has built over many years a proprietary network of excellent candidates in the industries we specialize in. We know many of these hundreds of potential hires personally. We invest heavily in specialized search software that gives us access to both active and passive---those not actively looking for a position---potential job candidates. 

We also spend considerable time and money to belong to industry-specific organizations, attend conventions and conferences, and participate in other groups where we can personally network with potential hires. We also market our firm in trade publications, invest in advanced search engine optimization, and promote our capabilities in several social media channels. We often act as a brand ambassador for our clients at these functions and in our advertising or marketing efforts.

Our firm also produces a custom video to help market every job search we conduct. We're the only recruiting firm in the nation to do this. The cost to create and produce these videos is included in our normal fee. We then distribute the videos across a range of social media platforms, on dozens of job boards, and on our own website. The cost to create and produce a video for every open job would be prohibitive for most companies.

We also invest in applicant tracking software, a background checking service, and other systems to help find and evaluate job candidates. The cost to acquire and utilize these programs would be a substantial investment for a company, in addition to hiring their own full-time in-house recruiters. So, a good recruiting firm can provide a valuable service at a reasonable price to companies who want to build first-class teams.

Most of the largest and most successful companies have ongoing relationships with top recruiters---Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, Ford, Kaiser Healthcare, among others. Even the Federal government frequently turns to outside recruiters to help them fill critical hires..

RECRUITERS ARE IN THE MARKET EVERY DAY.

Recruiters are "in the market" every day and have an advantage over most companies, even those with their own HR department, because the recruiter's only job is focused on finding great talent. When companies give the task of hiring to their CEO, Office Manager or department heads, they usually don't have the resources to find top talent, interview properly, evaluate the candidate's capabilities and qualifications with a non-prejudiced eye, negotiate fair compensation, and then on-board new talent successfully. 

Recruiters are especially valuable at finding talent that are outside the core expertise of a company. High-tech firms are often at a loss when it comes to finding a Marketing Director or accountant.  A manufacturer may have no idea how to search for and evaluate candidates for a Creative Director for their in-house marketing operation. Recruiters can provide this valuable service. 

It's valuable for a company to establish a "partnership" relationship with a recruiting company, rather than thinking of them as an outside vendor. A mutually respectful and mindful long-term collaboration, where the recruiter fully understands the culture and needs of a client, can be an important contributor to future success.

RECRUITERS COME IN THREE SIZES.

There are three types of recruiters: contingency, retained, and in-house.  And it's good to know how each works. 

Contingency recruiters get paid to fill a job opening. They frequently find these job openings by searching the internet, job boards and company websites looking for open jobs. Their staff then tries to find candidates for these jobs. A company is under no obligation to work with these recruiters or accept the candidates they provide. Far too often, contingency recruiters will opt for the "low-hanging fruit" and send companies the easiest candidates to find. Usually, these aren't the best job candidates. 

These firms often hire young, inexperienced people who haven't learned how to network effectively yet, use advanced search software or participate in important social media platforms, such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the primary source of job candidates for recruiters---so job candidates should learn to use it and build their professional network on it as soon as possible in their career. 

Because contingency recruiting includes no guarantees of success, it is highly competitive and their focus is on sales---throwing as many job candidates as possible at a company, hoping one sticks. The more sales they make the more successful they are. The client's best interests don't usually come first.

Retained recruiters enter into exclusive working arrangements with a company to find their talent. No other recruiting firm will be hired. Typically, retained recruiters are the best in the business---they must be to earn the trust and respect of their clients who rely on them exclusively to find their talent. 

Retained recruiters are highly experienced in effective talent search. They have an array of tools, many costing tens of thousands of dollars, to help them find top talent. Our firm, Wentworth Executive Recruiting, invests in a special program from LinkedIn just for recruiters---LinkedIn Recruiter. We also invest in using advanced search capabilities offered by job boards such as Zip Recruiter and Indeed. We post job openings on more than a hundred job boards. We invest in an applicant tracking system to help us efficiently manager the hundreds of resumes we receive daily. Besides the custom videos we produce for every job search, we also invest in a proprietary algorithm developed just for our firm that enables us to place our searches at the top of search engine results in specific geo-targeted, industry specific places and times.

Most top recruiters will also meet with job candidates in person, whenever that is possible. We try to meet every promising candidate, even if it requires traveling to see them. In lieu of a face-to-face meeting, we use Skype or Facetime to evaluate candidates personally.

When one of our clients attends an important convention or conference we typically will also attend, even when it requires spending our own funds to do so. As a retained search firm we are partners with our clients and invest in our long-term relationship. 

Because retained recruiters know they don't have to compete to find talent they can devote more resources to the task. Like most retained recruiters we receive an advanced payment of a few thousand dollars to begin the search. Once our client hires someone we locate we receive another partial payment. Then, after 30 days we receive the remainder of our fee. If for some reason the new hire doesn't work out within the first 90 days we begin the search again at no additional cost. 

Because we are exclusively retained by our clients we are also able to invest the time to understand their company, its unique culture, and its competitors, We become de facto partners with our clients, often acting as their brand ambassadors at the events we attend. When you as a job seeker are approached by a recruiter, the first thing to ask is whether or not their search is a retained search.  The best jobs and companies almost always conduct retained searches.

In-house recruiters are typically part of the HR Department staff at a company. They have the advantage of knowing the company well---after all, they work there every day. Most large firms have in-house recruiters, although they frequently rely on outside recruiting firms as well. 

The downside to in-house recruiters is that often they are too close to the forest to see the trees. They lack the outside perspective that is often valuable in evaluating the available talent. They can also get bogged down in lengthy company processes and cultural restrictions. In-house recruiting operations, except at the biggest companies, frequently don't invest in advanced search tools. However, if you get a call from an in-house recruiter be sure to respond to it. Even if you aren't in the market for a new position it will heighten your visibility in your industry to be considered a promising or valuable talent.

RECRUITERS DON'T EXIST TO FIND YOU A JOB.

It always amazes us when our firm gets a call from someone asking us to help them "find a job." Recruiters are NOT in the business of finding people jobs. They are in the business of finding the best talent for their clients.

These aren't just recent college grads who have this basic misunderstanding of how the recruiting business works, even C-level professionals often don't know. Yet, knowing how recruiters work (and can work for you) is a critical component in successful career management.

WORKING WITH A RECRUITER CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

So, let's assume you have been approached by a reputable (and retained) recruiter. Working with a recruiter does not forgo your responsibility in the job search process. First, you must always be honest with the recruiter. Like an attorney, never lie to them. You can really damage your career this way. Also, you must let the recruiter know if you are working with another recruiter. And don't ever do an end-run to bypass the recruiter thinking you may be able to make a better deal on your own. It almost never works out well.

Also, be mindful to respond quickly to requests from recruiters. Once the hiring process is in play it can evolve rapidly. Delays can knock you out of consideration. And if you decide you don't want--- or are indecisive---about a job opportunity, be mindful enough to communicate this to the recruiter. Don't, under any circumstances, "ghost" a recruiter---the phenomena of disappearing from the process without any notice.

Second, you need to do the hard work of preparing an excellent resume, learn how to interview well, and do your due diligence to learn about the job, the company, and its competitors. Some recruiters will counsel you at each step of the process, as our company does. But don't assume it will happen. Finding or changing a job is something you will only do a few times during your life, and like buying a new car you are at a disadvantage for that reason alone. It will pay (literally) to learn as much as possible about the job search and hiring process.

Even though the recruiter is hired by the company and is working for them, a good recruiter will be mindful of you as well. We want to facilitate win/win relationships because it's our experience that these are best for both parties. A good recruiter will help you negotiate an excellent compensation package, prepare the job offer to cover everything discussed, and prepare you for each step in the hiring process, including on-boarding at your new company.  

If the company and the job candidate are happy, everyone (including us) is happy. And the new hire starts out with a positive mindset that carries over into how they perceive the company, which in turn translates into longer working tenures.

Unlike most professions, an executive recruiter can frequently change the entire trajectory of a person's life for the better. You will grow in your career, earn more money, and make new friends (and perhaps even your future spouse---about 1 in 6 married couples met on the job). As recruiters, we take this responsibility very seriously. And knowing that we've positively impacted lives---and are even responsible for new lives (as in the kids conceived by those folks who met and married a co-worker) provides a sense of satisfaction few other professions can.

WHAT RECRUITERS LOOK FOR IN A PROMISING JOB CANDIDATE.

It's said the average time a recruiter takes to evaluate a resume is six seconds. While this isn't the case at our firm, there are resumes that we receive that we know immediately do not match the Job Description in any meaningful way. Do yourself (and us) a favor and read the Job Description carefully and don't apply if you don't match most of the qualifications. It's just a waste of time.

It can be exhausting to sift through hundreds or thousands of resumes searching for the few diamonds among the chaff. Good time management requires that recruiters be experts at making a quick decision whether to review a resume in detail. Your resume is often the ticket that gets you in the door to being considered for a job, so create one that is bullet-proof.

Make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to find you (if you are qualified).

1.  Write a well-crafted Job Summary. with keywords (you can take them from the Job Description) that relate to your experience and expertise. When recruiters do Boolean searches your keywords are what show how relevant your candidacy is to the open position.

2, You'll want to create a custom resume for every position you want to be considered for so that it is as targeted to the open job and company as possible. You may want to create a bank of resumes covering any contingency that you can quickly revise for each job.

3. Your resume should be clean and attractive. Use a popular type font and, if possible, include some white space so it doesn't look crowded and hard to read.

4.  Focus on what you can do for the company. Show how you have created measurable results. Remember, in the hiring process it's about the company, not you. What can you do to make the company more successful and profitable.

5. Show some personality, assuming you have one. The people who often get hired are those with open, friendly, engaging, and enthusiastic personalities. Also, show what makes you unique and sets you apart from others.

One piece of advice you won't often hear in your career journey is the presumed credibility of the companies you work for. If your resume begins with a job at Facebook, IBM or Salesforce, it will raise your stature in the eyes of a recruiter. Even if your position isn't all that impressive, the fact that a company that is desirable to work at, has training programs, and is choosy about who they hire, will immediately place you ahead of someone who has worked at a small unknown company. You may have learned much more, been given more responsibility and had a more impressive title at the small firm, but there is a bias toward the big name companies. Your first job can set the direction of your career. This bias is also somewhat true for your education---a Harvard MBA is automatically given more weight than one from a small unknown college.

If you email your resume, we advise sending it as a Word document and PDF. You may want to send a copy to yourself to see how it looks before sending it to the recruiter or company.

Finally, we have seen cases where a typo or incorrect statistic has cost a person a great job. In one case, a person was applying for a position as the CFO of a major firm. She put the wrong year date on one of her previous positions---2115 instead of 2015. The company figured that if she was this careless on her resume about numbers just how careless would she be with the company finances. A good recruiter can usually spot these errors before they get to the hiring manager, but it's a good idea to not make them in the first place. A serious error or falsehood on a resume will not be advanced. 

--- Excerpted from the upcoming book A Mindful Career. 


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"We help our clients build the teams that lead to future success and profitability."

- Carol Ann Wentworth

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