For candidates, dealing with recruiters can be a lot of work and hassle, or it can be a productive experience that makes your life easier and opens up doors for career progression.
As a candidate, it’s usually easy to tell which recruiters know what they’re doing and which don’t. Equally, as a recruitment consultant, you speak to people who have varying levels of understanding of how the process works. Here's my top tips for how to navigate the process.
1. Be prepared to answer questions, and answer them honestly.
The main reason any good recruiter asks so many questions is because they want to find out how to help you. I’ll usually ask about current situation, experience and motivations, but all the while there’s an internal monologue asking ‘What would this person enjoy doing? How can I find them what they’re looking for?’ and, crucially ‘What are the selling points?’
Be up front about your strengths and weaknesses. If you do that, we find it much easier to find you a role that fits.
If I can sell you in to a client, I’m more likely to get you what you want. Some people I speak to don’t like having to answer questions, or answer in a way that tries to mask their shortcomings. The best thing to do is be up front about your strengths and weaknesses. If you do that, we find it much easier to find you a role that fits.
2. Ask the right questions
It’s always a good idea to ask a recruiter how you compare to other candidates for a role. There’s no point in wasting energy if you don’t fit the mold as much as the rest of the people in process, and a good recruiter will be honest about that. It’s also a good idea to ask what the timelines are likely to be, but understand that in many instances this is out of our control- if the hiring manager hasn’t got feedback for us yet, we can’t just make it up. Instead of asking when we’ll have feedback (honest answer: sometimes I don’t know), why not ask when should I call you to check in?
Another question I’m asked a lot is ‘what’s the market like?’ This one depends on the context- if I don’t know anything about you or your priorities, then how long is a piece of string? If I know you well, I can give you a good picture of who’s hiring for what you’ll want to hear about. If you haven’t known the consultant for a long time, then why not ask specifically about the market you’re interested in?
Probably the best question I could advise asking is ‘what are my chances?’ In other words, how many people with similar profiles to me have success in getting this type of role? If you ask this, you’re likely to find out what’s missing from your profile, or how to put yourself in a position to get the role you want.
3. Don’t be afraid of talking turkey (ie. talking about money)
Some candidates don’t want to disclose their current salary. I understand this, but also it’s my job to know this, and it’s the first question a client will ask. You will need to tell us at some point, and it’s hard for us to get you a raise if we don’t know what we’re aiming for. The ironic thing is that most of the time it’s the people who are underpaid who are hesitant to say, and someone who’s underpaid is usually a dream for a recruiter. Here’s how it works- I’ll ask about your experience and motivations to determine if you have the right skills and personality for the role. I’ll ask about the money to determine if they’ll pay enough to get you. If you’ve got the skills and personality, being underpaid just makes me keener to get you down there and profit from getting you a massive raise!
When we see the same CV for 10 different jobs, none of which are a good fit, we can’t help but automatically associate the CV with rejection.
4. Don’t apply to everything
Nobody is appropriate for every job, and there’s no point in applying for them all. In fact, you’re more likely to do damage to your chances of getting a callback if you do. We’re human beings, and when we see the same CV for 10 different jobs, none of which are a good fit, we can’t help but automatically associate the CV with rejection. So when you do apply to the job you can get, you might be overlooked. A lot of people will read this and think it goes without saying, but I’m convinced that some people don’t even look at the ads they’re applying to. Just ask the client I met recently who had a Landscape Gardner apply to a VP Financial Control Change role.