Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

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Recruiting Your Recruiter in the Job Search

line of peopleMany of us have many stories to tell about working with external recruiters during job searches.   Some good, some not so good.  It is no different than any other professional role–some folks you can collaborate well with and some present challenges.  One of the key hurdles specific to recruiters is that you are working with them during a pivotal time in your personal life:  your career transition points.  That’s what makes these experiences stand out more.

With this in mind, I’d like to share and collect guidelines for candidates to use to ensure a best-in-class experience working with their present or next recruiter.  Being one myself, I appreciate new ideas and insights in this area.  So please comment on this list and add your own in the “Comment” section.

Guidelines for a Good Experience with a Recruiter

The Expectations

  • Before engaging with any recruiter, realize that the recruiter’s role is to serve the companies that pay him or her.  The recruiter’s primary role is to find the very best candidate for a job.
  • Be clear about what you are interested in pursuing:  type of job and company, size and location of company, company culture and type of clients.  Also make sure your recruiter understands any question marks in your work history.
  • Set boundaries.  Make sure your recruiter knows which companies you are pursuing on your own or are absolutely off your list.
  • Don’t assume you know the level of knowledge or size of your recruiter’s network.  Many recruiters have “reach” into companies that may not even being hiring, yet.
  • Good recruiters should know a great deal about the company, employees, and the job itself.  You can leverage this information.
  • Don’t expect recruiters to be career coaches.  Those people are out there, too.  These specialized coaches are professionals and can help more than a recruiter, especially when career direction is involved.
  • Only pursue jobs you really want.  Wasting employers’ and recruiters’ time will hurt a reputation in the long run.

The Process

  • Recruiters should always let you know when and to whom your resume is being submitted.  Make sure of this.  Recruiters should NEVER submit your resume without your permission.
  • Stay in touch with your recruiter, but not too often.  He/she may not be able to follow-up as often with you as you’d like, but you certainly can keep the line of communication open from your end (especially when there is recent activity to follow-up on).  Many appreciate emails over phone calls so they can manage their day better.  Communication is essential when your situation changes (i.e., another job offer pending).
  • It is not wise to work around your recruiter.  With the best ones, you can build a relationship and trust.  Be open about your desired strategies and come to agreement as to what the best approach is for each opportunity.  If you circumvent the recruiter, the employer may view you as impatient or a rule-breaker.
  • Recruiters can help with the salary question.  In many cases, there are other benefits (some monetary, some not) that a recruiter can share that helps with the decision.
  • Good recruiters act as your agent and move as swiftly as the employer process allows.  Listen carefully to what the recruiter is saying about the timeline and make sure it sounds sensible.
  • In some cases, there is an online application or audio-screening.  These are useful tools for conveying your fit for the job.  It can also confirm if you truly want the position.
  • There is no requirement to work with only one recruiter; however, keeping track of what is going on with each is essential.  Confusing these facts can lead to some embarrassing moments!  And make sure you’re only submitted ONCE to any given opportunity.

The Resume

  • When submitting a resume to a recruiter, realize he/she looks at many resumes every week.  Your resume should tell a story about you and convey your strengths.  An accompanying email can have three bullet points about the job you are looking for, even if you’ve already discussed this on the phone.
  • Also realize that resumes having exact keyword matches as job requirements have a better chance of being reviewed by a recruiter.
  • Reasons resumes get rejected early in the process: spelling errors, small font, weak summary/objective statements, poor career progression, and unrelated experience.
  • A good recruiter can offer advice on your resume and fit for jobs you are discussing.  Caveat:  This typically happens only when the recruiter is working on a job that is a good match for you.

The Interview

  • Good recruiters are expert coaches in interviewing.  If they don’t offer help for a scheduled interview they set up for you, I would question how good they really are.
  • Debrief with your recruiter after the interview.  Let him/her know your thoughts on the company/job.

The Person

  • Good recruiters talk with a lot of people each week.  Give them a little time to refresh their mind on your last conversations.  The very best recruiters are super organized and can reference all notes and activity regarding you and the jobs your are working on together.
  • Consider a recruiter a life-long friend in your career process, not two ships passing in the night.  If you have a well-established relationship with a recruiter, he/she is more likely to go beyond the norms to help you (or a friend) when you need it most.  And, the recruiter will know you as a person, not just as a candidate.  With this in mind, keep your recruiter appraised of all career changes.
  • The best way to return a favor to a recruiter is to network him/her to a new client you know is hiring.
  • Feel free to provide timely feedback, both to the recruiter and the employer.  Both stand to learn from this first-hand information.

April 7, 2009 - Posted by | Careers, Interviewing 101, Job Search, Resume Writing, Working with Recruiters


  1. Great information Jeff! This augments what you have written here

    Comment by David Graziano | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Great advice and information Jeff! I think you’ve done a very nice job of covering the process and expectations for job seekers. My advice to job seekers is always to ask the recruiter how their process works, what happens to their resume if they send it to the recruiter and what should they expect from the recruiter in terms of follow up or actions. If job seekers would ask these questions of each recruiter they interact with, it would go a long way toward eliminating some of the frustrations with recruiters. We’re all different, so it’s important to understand how the person you’re speaking with works – versus putting all recruiters in one group and treating them all the same.

    Comment by Jennifer McClure | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. EXCELLENT post Jeff! Thanks so much…this is great information for job seekers, and a good reminder for recruiters of what we can and should do to add value to our candidates and clients.

    Comment by Stephanie A. Lloyd | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  4. This a great article! It all comes down to the relationship and being “present” for the process and conversation.

    Comment by Gretchen | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. Nicely written. I wish more recruiters would read this ūüėČ

    Comment by Mike Wilson | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  6. Perfect. Thank You

    Comment by Suzanne Levison | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  7. It should be a pre-requisite for job candidates to read this before engaging with a recruiter. Perfect for setting proper expectations.

    Love the call to return the favor by referring your recruiter to a new client who is hiring, as well as giving the employer feedback about the recruiter. Great stuff!

    Cheers, CF (@fishdogs)

    Comment by Craig Fisher | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  8. This should be required reading for anyone using a recruiter. The more people that understand how to approach using a recruiter, the better the process works for everyone. Throw that “recruiters are a commodity” thinking out the window. Good recruiters are few and far between, it’s important for job-seekers to maintain those relationships just as they would with an employer.

    -Brad (@JavaSTL)

    Comment by Brad Hogenmiller | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  9. Good article, very helpful for job seekers. That said, I’m thinking it’s probably also helpful to understand the two main types of recruiters out there as well: retained recruiters, who are paid by a company to focus on filling a particular position and who are more or less guaranteed payment (usually for a higher level management role); and, contingency recruiters, who compete with recruiters from a number of agencies to fill the position and who are paid only when and if their applicant is hired.

    In my experience, the type of recruiter can make a big difference in both the amount and quality of time spent with a job seeker. So, knowing which type you are dealing with is often helpful in managing your expectations about the recruiting process.

    Your thoughts?

    Comment by Jenifer Olson | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  10. Thanks for this – I posted on my blog for the jobseekers that are members there. Well done…

    Comment by Dorothy Beach | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  11. Jeff – this is a great post and will no doubt help many Seekers get the most out of working with an executive recruiter. The #1 frustration I hear most often from job seekers is that exec recruiters aren’t following up with them. In all fairness, they say this about corp recruiters as well. As you can imagine though, in this environment its extremely frustrating. Often times exec recruiters are hot on the trail when they have a specific job they’re working on but when the Seeker is trying to reach out and build a relationship too often the recruiter does not respond. I realize time is probably more of an issue given the volume increase but with the technology and tools available today what should a Seeker expect from an exec recruiter?

    Comment by Susan Burns | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  12. […] Recruiting Your Recruiter in the Job¬†Search […]

    Pingback by If you seek a job « SocioTeque | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  13. Excellent post, Jeff. You have certainly covered the bases. well done.

    Comment by glhoffman | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  14. I know a lot of Recruiters are here reading this and it serves as a great reminder to be all you can be with your clients. But get this out to candidates! Most have little understanding of what the relationship should be and this is a great guidline.

    Comment by Karla Porter | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  15. Jeff,

    Nice job on this blog. Too often I read mis-information regarding the candidate-recruiter relationship. As you stated, there are good and bad just like every other industry. A good recruiter cares more about ‘fit’ than making a placement.

    Comment by David Benjamin | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  16. Great post. As professional resume writer and former recruiter, I cannot tell you how much time I spend educating clients about recruiters and their valuable role in the entire process; and also, what is NOT a recruiter’s role.

    The one thing I have to re-emphasize is “Don’t do an end run around your recruiter.” Many clients think if two recruiters submit their information they doubled their chance at the job. WRONG! They’ve just knocked themselves out of the running. Few companies get into a candidate/fee argument between two recruiters. They disqualify the candidate

    You summed it up best when you said to consider them a lifelong friend in your career process. Don’t back-stab your friends or your recruiter. I’m off to link this article to own blog. THANKS for putting together such useful information.

    Comment by dawnbugni | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  17. Great information

    Comment by Kim_Randall | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  18. Jeff-
    Excellent information, well written and right on point. I give presentations on this topic (and others) and will reference your post often.

    I might add the fact that recruiters talk to each other, and stress the point that if a candidate burns a bridge with one recruiter he may be burning a bridge with many others, including clients. It’s only happened to me once, but I had a candidate go directly to the client. She happened to be a very close, personal friend of mine. Needless to say, but he didn’t make it far.

    I’ve written a piece on how to specifically maximize your relationship with a long-distance recruiter and will make public at

    Comment by Steve Jones | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  19. I definitely think this is a must-read for anyone working with an executive recruiter – great post!!!

    Comment by Chris Havrilla | April 9, 2009 | Reply

  20. […] frustrating to navigate the terrain of interviewing but Jeff Lipshultz has written a¬†series on Recruiting the Recruiter (Part I) and Recruiting the Recruiter (Part II).¬† It is one best writings I have read on the “How […]

    Pingback by Recruiting the Recruiter | Gretchen Benes | April 10, 2009 | Reply

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  23. I found a great post that talks to the point of how to set your resume apart in recruiters’ crowded email inboxes. Check it out:

    Good advice!

    Comment by jefflipschultz | July 15, 2009 | Reply

  24. […] Jeff Lipschultz¬†of A-List Solutions (@JLipschultz) from his post, Recruiting Your Recruiter in the Job Search: […]

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  25. […] for them in the future. Jeff Lipschultz¬†of A-List Solutions (@JLipschultz) from his post, Recruiting Your Recruiter in the Job Search: Stay in touch with your recruiter, but not too often.¬† He/she may not be able to follow-up as […]

    Pingback by Build Winning Relationships with Executive Recruiters | Career Management Alliance Blog | April 12, 2010 | Reply

  26. […] and not-so-good ones.  Recruiters are no different.  As job seekers, first you need to understand how to work with recruiters and what they do.  Then you must find the ones who can offer the right connections to job […]

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