Dealing With Recruiters

We each own our career, and from this perspective we should leverage the function of recruiters – middlemen – to our benefit.

The following was recently posted on GaryNorth.com:

I’m looking for general advise when it comes to working with recruiters. I’ve always found jobs on my own either through direct application or referral networking. What are the pro’s/con’s, general do’s and don’ts, things to say/never say to a recruiter, how to spot a shady vs legitimate recruiter, etc… I get regular LinkedIn request from recruiters, typically they go ignored, at the same time the nerd in my would like to go on interviews to maintain and build interviewing skills. Also I desire going on interviews to get a tighter feel for what my area has to offer and gauge more accurately my existing offer. (Sic)

From <http://www.garynorth.com/members/forum/openthread.cfm?forum=21&ThreadID=36862#181786>

Background

From a business perspective, recruiters perform a necessary function: that of screening out and deriving the best available candidate for a given employment situation.  As a matter of process, recruiters will represent the party that pays their fee.  As a matter of position, recruiters stand between that party and the party on the other side of the potential employment bargain. Recruiters are literally, middlemen.

In the hiring context, recruiters are Technical Buyers for whomever are paying for their services (usually acting as an extension of HR, that function itself being that of a Technical Buyer).  The role (or purpose) of any Technical  Buyer is to screen out – say “no” – to the unqualified.  (Reference the “buying types” defined by Herman and Miller in The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World’s Best Companies, <http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Strategic-Selling-Successful/dp/044669519X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390842641&sr=8-1&keywords=strategic+selling> )

In the employment market, as a seller of your services, you get to interact and “sell” to all of the buyer types, for the purpose of closing the sale with the Economic Buyer.  (The Economic Buyer being the one party who can say “yes” to the deal.  That is, the only party that has the authority to say yes; the other types only having authority to say “no.”)

To get a “yes” from the Economic Buyer, we have to get the Technical Buyers (or at least most of them) to NOT say “no.”  From this perspective, we have to sell to the Technical Buyers, including recruiters.

Because we have to get past all of the “no” answers, to receive the “yes” answer to be hired, we have to give all the technical buyers reason not to say no to our employment.  This means we have to sell our services as best meeting the qualifications each Technical Buyer is using to screen applicants.  We have to win them over and get them on our side; that is, get them to believe that we are the best qualified candidate.

From this perspective, we need to understand the particular screening problem of each Technical Buyer, if we are to help that buyer NOT find a reason to say no.

The best way to start this process of winning them over to NOT say no, is to ask them what will help them not screen us out, and to consider us as the best qualified candidate.  This requires that we interview each Technical Buyer for the purpose of helping them find the reason NOT to say no to qualifying us as the best available candidate.

General Advice

“What are the pro’s/con’s, general do’s and don’ts, things to say/never say to a recruiter, how to spot a shady vs legitimate recruiter, etc…”

Generally, the above are tactical considerations, the answers to which will be determined by how you wish to market yourself in any given context (read: situation).  That is, determined by application of your personal career marketing plan in each situation.  (That marketing plan being derived from your career plan.)

Note that if you do not have a personal career marketing plan, then you will have no alternative other than the use of tips, tricks, and techniques as a tactical reaction, as pro forma, disconnected from the fundamentals of an overall plan.  Read this article for perspective on using tips, tricks, and techniques as tactical actions, pro forma, in lieu of fundamentals (or in this context, in lieu of an overall plan):  http://theexerciseofvitalpowers.com/looking-buck-switch/

Without a personal career marketing plan providing overall guidance, you can only assume the reasons of others (with their own different plans) as the basis of your actions.  This works well if the tactical actions you take are aligned with the interests of the present Technical or Economic Buyer.  But, in such a situation, you are depending upon chance; or, procedure (pro forma) in lieu of substance.

If you have a personal career marketing plan, then that plan guides your tactical actions.  That is, guides you in answering your questions above, and deciding on how to proceed.  For example, that plan could stipulate how and when you will use Technical Buyers (e.g., screen out some recruiters) both to gather market intelligence, and to advance your agenda – promote your services.  The upshot being, that you will use recruiters to advantage (meeting requirements and criteria derived from your plan); else you will not use them.

“I get regular LinkedIn request from recruiters, typically they go ignored, at the same time the nerd in my would like to go on interviews to maintain and build interviewing skills.”

“Nerd” notwithstanding, how does the business person in you view this activity?  I suggest the following perspective and approach:

From a business perspective, “interviewing skills” are a necessary and ancillary skill component for successful career building; and as such, should be approached similar to any other required skill: as a targeted outcome from a planned set of actions.

This means you must practice the skill to become proficient; and that practice requires that you take advantage of recruiter queries and interviews.  But, because this skill building occurs in the context of expending the time and resources of others (recruiters), you need to meet the interview (i.e., meeting) requirements of those others; else you risk wasting their time and resources, and risk the potential negative impact to your credibility and reputation.

However, returning to your personal career marketing plan, it is this plan that can assist you in screening and limiting interview engagements, to the benefit of all parties; so you minimize wasting time and resources, and deliver the most value.

As a tactical action, screening each interview contact and request based on your career marketing goal, objectives, requirements, and criteria is appropriate.  Those requests that are aligned, may be entertained; those that are not should be rejected.  This screening should be done initially and interactively with each requester.

“Also I desire going on interviews to get a tighter feel for what my area has to offer and gauge more accurately my existing offer.”

Saying this another way, you wish to have current intelligence on your employment market, and how well your capabilities match the needs of that market.  This is the upfront (and recurring) activity of any marketing plan; the goal being to ensure we address the needs of the market.

Staying current with market intelligence should be one objective of your personal career marketing plan, and to accomplish this objective, you will have to take specific actions to test the market.  One of those actions should be engaging in regularly-scheduled interviews.  (Note: “regularly-scheduled” will be determined by how fast – on what schedule – you wish to progress from one career plan objective to the next.)

Conclusion

We each own our career, and from this perspective we should leverage the function of recruiters – middlemen – to our benefit.  This means that we should use recruiters much the same as employers do, to screen out, and to represent our interests in the context of our career advancement.  In addition, we can use recruiters for more subtle personal marketing and self-development actions.

This usage requires a healthy and active interaction with recruiters, if we are to achieve productive results.  To wit, recruiters can be a valuable resource to be used in furthering one’s career goals.  But, to be effective, those productive results depend upon basing our interactions upon the goal, objectives, and criteria within our personal career marketing plan.

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