Using Recruiters – Part 2

 The second part in my series on how job seekers can use third party recruiters more effectively

Getting a meeting

A good recruiter is aware that having a great resume is not necessarily an indicator of placeability. As long as your resume looks moderately okay, i.e. doesn’t make you look crazy or completely incompetent, a recruiter will generally meet you if he/she thinks you look like you might be ‘placeable’ . You can refer to my earlier post on placeability, but it is essentially a function of how attractive you are to their client employers, and how likely you are to accept an offer if you get one. You will be a lot more placeable to a recruiter who specialises in your area of expertise, so if you have sent an unsolicited resume, try and make sure you have sent it to someone who is knowledgable and respected as a recruiter in your area of expertise.

After you have sent in your resume, it will not hurt at all to follow up with a phone call…and then another phone call, and another if necessary. If you appear super-keen, that tells the recruiter that you are more likely to accept an offer if you get one, so your placeability increases. You shouldn’t give the impression that you are dealing with multiple recruitment firms – that makes you a much less attractive candidate to invest time in, as you may end up getting a job through someone else.

There are a couple of things to watch out for when meeting recruiters. Many larger recruitment firms have very strict KPIs (key performance indicators) which recruiters have to hit on a weekly basis. This is how large firms guarantee a certain level of performance per head of staff. A very common KPI is number of candidate meetings. If you get a call on a Thursday from a recruiter who is very keen to meet with you the next day, even though he doesn’t seem to have the perfect job in mind for you, it may be that you are just making up the numbers on his weekly candidate meeting KPI target.

Some firms have candidate ‘ownership’. A recruiter may just want to meet you so that they ‘own’ you, and get a portion of the fee if you happen to get placed. The problem with this is that it will make you a less attractive candidate for any job, because if that job is ‘owned’ by a different recruiter within the firm, he/she will have to share the fee with the recruiter who ‘owns’ you the candidate. The job-owning recruiter will prefer to place one of their own candidates.

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Using recruiters – Part 1

Recruiters are a fantastic resource for job-seekers…they spend much of their time developing and maintaining relationships with hiring managers…meaning they often know about requirements before the internal HR people do, and can use their credibility with that manager to get candidates they represent interviewed for jobs.

Every professional should work on building relationships with recruiters in their area of specialisation. But don’t be naive…recruiters work for you only as long it is in their best interests. You should go into the relationship understanding exactly what is motivating your recruiter.

The first thing to understand is how recruiters are remunerated. Most recruiters are extrinsically $$. A candidate who interviews to work at a recruitment firm, and says they want to be a recruiter because they “want to help people”, will be laughed out of the room.

 Most recruiters are payed a large commission on top of a relatively small base salary, so their results really make a difference to their take-home pay. Some firms pay bonuses based on group performance, and others on individual performance. In some firms the recruitment fee is split between the person who found the candidate, and the person who deals with the client. Some recruitment firms will work mostly on “retained” assignments, where the client pays a portion of the fee up-front…others work on a 100% success fee basis. Sometimes one recruitment firms works exclusively on a role , other times multiple recruitment firms work on one role.

The relationship with the client, and the way they are remunerated, will impact how the recruiter behaves during the screening, interviewing and offer processes.

Ask the recruiter what their relationship with the client is, and how they get paid…this will help you understand how they are motivated…and how you can use them, to help you.

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Negotiating Salary

I have seen the salary negotiation process from every possible angle, and if you are going through it now, congratulations on being offered a job!  A lot of my ideas on salary negotiation are derived from “Getting To Yes” a great book on negotiation by two Harvard academics, Roger Fisher and William Ury. Kind of a slog to get through at times, but a great book on negotiation generally.

1. Know your walk-away point
Your walk-away point is the salary level at which you would no longer accept the job. It is determined by the alternative available to you – what  you would do if you didn’t take this job. Employers will tend to assume that your current salary, or another standing job offer, will determine your walk away point, as this is your alternative to taking their job. If you are unemployed and have no other offers  then they will assume that your walk-away salary point is pretty low! (so don’t quit your job before getting your next one if money is important to you!!).

2. Have other offers
Point one leads to this point, which is that you will get a higher salary if you have multiple offers going at the same time. You absolutely can’t be seen to be playing one off against the other, but having other offers will raise your walk-away point. On no account should you lie about having other offers, unless you are a very good poker player – you don’t want anyone calling your bluff.

3. Be creative
You want to work for them, they want you to work for them, but you want more than they can put on the table – some employers have narrow salary bands for certain level roles and cannot go outside them. Try and find other forms of compensation – can they pay for further study, a car or telephone or home office? Could they offer a bonus or equity? Alternatively, would you accept a lower salary in return for greater flexibility ior alternative working conditions? There may be other forms of compensation other than guaranteed cash.

4.Use your recruiter
Recruiters really come in handy for salary negotiations, as you can get them to push for your interests without you yourself being perceived as greedy. However, you have to be aware of their situation and interests. They want you to accept an offer. If you are the only candidate they have to put forward for a role, they really want the deal to go through so they can get their fee, and they will try very hard to get a win-win outcome for both parties. However if they have multiple candidates put forward for the same role, they will not care whether it is you or the other candidate/s who gets the job – they still get the fee. So take the trouble to find out how strong your position is with the recruiter.

5. Don’t pay too much attention to salary tables

There are a lot of salary tables out there showing average salaries for certain roles in certain industries – don’t pay too much attention to them. Each case is decided on how much you want them and they want you.

6. But the market rules
In the end, if they are underpaying you, you will be able to get another job – your walk-away point will change, and you can ask for more money (or go somewhere else). If they are overpaying you, you’d better work out a way to increase your value, or you will be replaced by someone cheaper!

Recruitment agents and “placeability”

When a recruiter is meeting with you, they are mostly trying to assess whether you are a placeable candidate or not. A placeable candidate is a candidate who will interview well, and take a job if offered. The quality of “placeability” is partly about how in-demand your skills and experience are, and you cannot do very much to influence their perception of this in the meeting. There are a whole lot of other factors influencing placability though, and how you conduct yourself in a meeting with a recruiter can have a huge impact on how much effort they put in to finding you a job.

A big part of placeablity is interviewing well. If you interview well with the recruiter, you will interview well with the line manager. All the standard rules apply. However there a few special recruitment agent questions to watch out for.

Why are you considering leaving/did you leave your current/previous job?This question has a lot of layers to it, and tells the recruiter a lot about you.  If you answer that you don’t get on well with your boss, or that you don’t like your company culture, or indeed any negative reason, then the recruiter will assume there is at least a 50/50 chance that the problem lies with you rather than your situation. Your answer will say a lot about your view of the world, you have to avoid sounding negative or naive. Your answer will also give the recruiter some idea of how serious you are about considering other opportunities. If your reason doesn’t seem to make sense, or may be subject to changing circumstances, then your placeability will go down. Finally, if the reason you are leaving your current job would also make you unhappy in the job you are applying for, then obviously your placeability goes way down! Your answer should always be positive, and be focused on the opportunities and experience that you want to get in your next job and can’t get in your current job…even if the core reason is something  like your employer closing their doors or cutting staff. 

What were your achievements in your previous job/s?You absolutely have to prepare for this question by working out how to articulate your acheivements concisely and clearly. Make it clear how much you contributed individually to any group successes. 

What are your salary expectations?This is a tricky question, as you don’t want to over or undersell yourself. The most appropriate answer is to tell the recruiter your current salary…if you are employed then this is your fall-back position and will give them a good indicator of what you would accept. If you are genuinely willing to take a salary cut for a great opportunity then this will raise your placeability…but you should only say so if it is true. If you are expecting an offer more than 10-15% higher than your current salary then this will substantially reduce your placeability unless the circumstances are very exceptional 

When can you attend interviews?If you cannot make time for interviews during working hours then this may substantially reduce your placeability. Always be on time for interviews that recruiters set up for you. They are unlikely to give you a second chance, as it reflects very badly on them if their client is kept waiting. 

resume writing mistakes

There are a couple of trends in resume writing which are popular but not necessarily appropriate.

One of those trends  is putting a list of your skills at the top of your resume;  like you are putting meta-tags on a web-page. As a recruiter I never looked at those skills because is they are  an unverifiable self assessment by the job-seeker. What a recruiter wants to know is what you did and achieved at particular employers. Recruiters have a mental ranking and categorisation of employers which they use to evaluate those responsibilities and achievements.

 The other trend is to use a one-page resume. I completely agree that it is useful to have a quick career summary on the first page of your resume that users can scan quickly, but if they are interested in reading more, you need to have the details on later pages for them to delve into. This is particularly important if you are submitting resumes that will be screened by individuals that don’t necessarily understand your area of expertise (like HR generalists). They will just be looking for key words in your resume that match the job description and if you are missing a key word then you could get filtered out before the resume reaches the real decision maker.  You need to cover all the key words in your resume that might be in the job description.

Put the one page summary first. Keep the formatting clean, simple and consistent. As a rough guide you should have at least one page for every 3-5 years of work experience. Make sure you include plenty of contextual information about your employer and business unit, and give plenty of information not just about your responsibilities, but also about what you acheived…what impact you had. As long as you do this, your resume will be great.