To me, the business model for executive search is very simple: a company hires us to identify and recruit qualified candidates, manage the interview process, and secure the hire. But that’s because executive recruiting is my bread and butter.
Not every professional is familiar with executive search, and not every person on the job market knows how to work with executive recruiters. For all of you who would like the inside scoop on working with recruiters, here are a few pointers.
They work for the hiring company, and their job is to help their clients, not to advocate for you. They’ll only recommend you if they think you’re the best candidate for the job. Don’t think of a recruiter as your buddy whom you can talk with casually. Approach interactions with recruiters just as you would interviewers at the company where you’d like to work.
This means that when you’re talking with a recruiter, you have to be just as professional as you would with the CEO of a company you’re targeting. You can’t complain about your current or past employer any more than you would in an interview with a hiring manager, and try to not say, “I’m only telling you this; I would never say this on an interview.”
2. Use your network
One of the best ways to establish contact with a recruiter is to be referred by a client or someone the recruiter has placed. If the recruiter values her relationship with that client or placement, she will be sure to set up some time to talk with you.
3. Pay it forward.
When a recruiter contacts you about a role that is not a fit for you, take it as an opportunity to build your relationship anyway. Call back with names of people you believe are qualified for the role. While you’re on the phone, you can remind the recruiter of what you, yourself, are looking for.
Recruiters have good memories. When they are recruiting a role that might be right for you, they will remember the qualified candidates you sent their way.
4. Stay in touch.
As with anyone in your network, you have to nurture the relationship without being a burden. Send an email every six weeks to let recruiters know that you’re still on the market, and remind them of what you’re looking for. Regular contact ensures that your name keeps surfacing among the pile of resumes and messages the recruiter is managing every day.
But asking to meet for coffee once a month is too much. Like you, recruiters have limited time, and most of their time will be spent recruiting for their current roles. Once you’ve met a recruiter once, a regular email check-in is plenty.
Martha Heller is CEO of Heller Search Associates, an IT executive recruiting firm specializing in CIO, CTO, CISO and senior technology roles in all industries. She is the author The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership and Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT. To join the IT career conversation, subscribe to The Heller Report.