Yes Job Seekers, You Should Demand Respect from Recruiters!

The recruiting industry has a bad reputation. Especially in the advertising and creative industry. Why? Because people with highly in-demand skill sets, like interative designers, developers, software engineers and social media gurus (I use that term lightly, if you read this post), are typically getting calls and inquiries for jobs on their own. Are they the jobs they want? Not necessarily… but it gives them the impression that they’re in demand and don’t need a recruiter to act as their Ari Gold. And they’re probably right. But a good recruiter is more of a strategic partner than a pocket resource, someone who helps you take your job search to the next level, instead of telling you what you already know.

Recruiters get a bad reputation because, like any other line of professionals out there, there are simply bad ones that don’t adhere to best practices, and they throw candidates through a revolving door of false hope and poor customer service. At the same time, there are plenty of professional, talented, dedicated recruiters who understand their target market, consider their needs, and are exceptional at what they do.

I started a thread on LinkedIn & Brazen Careerist about this, asking candidates and job seekers how they prefer to engage with recruiters nowadays, with a whole schlew of techno-tools like Skype and Social Media to faciliate communication. So far the feedback has been a resounding slight against recruiters, an obvious resentment job seekers hold stemming from a lack of positive experiences and poor treatment. It’s too bad that the industry has allowed the popular opinion to swing that way, because a recruiter can be a valuable asset to your career. Unfortunately, it can just as easily be a detriment if you aren’t strategic about who you work with and allow to represent you.

When I was a full time recruiter for the creative industry, I was adamant about meeting each one of my candidates face-to-face (and I managed Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and New York markets) so I could understand their career objectives, and get to know them as a person. Very seldomly did I not meet someone face to face, and it was either because they refused due to scheduling issues, or they lived in the Czech Republic and couldn’t exactly swing an impromptu trip over to Modernista! that week.

And here’s why it worked so well. You would think, both as a job seeker and a recruiter, that all the necessary information to place someone in a job can be gathered via looking at a resume and chatting on the phone, and sometimes it can. But a big part of successful recruiting, like any job, is effective relationship building. And relationships are not built over the phone or email. They are built by getting to know someone, interacting with them, understanding how you can help them, and communicating that in a way that builds trust and rapport, and while that can happen across other forms of communication, a face-to-face conversation is the most effective vehicle. Of course, this isn’t a possible reality for many people, be it out-of-state candidates or perhaps recruiters that work from home. And that is fine… but just sayin’, I retained a lot more people that way than my less-engaged competitors did, and many of them continue to engage with me professionally nearly 8 years later.

I was in my mid-twenties when I started recruiting, and my mid-twenties still when I was in charge of managing the recruiting agency. So you can imagine the skepticism of an international Creative Director with 20+ years experience in the field walking in the door and sitting across from the likes of me. It happened every time, and every time that person also left my office with a smile on their face, a positive rapport, and confidence that I knew what I was doing and wanted to truly help them find the next step in their career. Sometimes they left chuckling, “Wow, what a relief – you guys aren’t like the other agencies I’ve been to.” And I always left them with a call to action, whether it was on my part to follow up about a lead or position we had discussed, or on theirs to update their portfolio or resume, and get back to me. There was almost always a next step, and I did that purposefully to let my candidates know that even if I didn’t have a job for them right away, they were on my radar and they were encouraged to stay in contact with me. And I would respond, because you are now my client.

There are probably a slew of third-party recruiters out there ready to lash back at me and maintain that the job of a recruiting professional “is about filling the needs of the client by finding the perfect candidate ASAP”, rather than making friends. And to them I say, get back to work instead of reading my blog. And that’s exactly it- if Agency So-and-So calls the recruiter needing a digital Copywriter who speaks Russian and sings Opera [by tomorrow], the recruiter will certainly jump on that requisition, in the hopes of impressing the client and retaining them for future business. So doesn’t it work the other way – shouldn’t recruiters also prioritize retaining their top talent so that they can retain THEIR business, so that they essentially have great candidates to fill those roles when Agency So-and-So contacts them next time around? Yes.

Unfortunately many recruiters look at job seekers and assume they’re desperate for work and will have no problem running to take their calls when a new job opens up. Except the candidate already went somewhere else… through a different recruiting company… or on their own. My former boss used to tell us that “there are three sets of customers in this industry – the clients, the talent, and your coworkers”, and each one deserves the same level of respect, because you can’t do a solid job if any of the legs of the tripod are missing. You can’t place talent without companies who like you enough to give you their business, and you can’t fill those roles without the right candidates, and the right team.

So my dear job seekers – you have every right to expect respect from recruiters, and even HR. Unfortunately, HR is a totally different animal, and honestly it is simply impossible for HR to give every candidate they’re not interested in, feedback or rejection via an email response or phone call. Don’t waste your time wondering where your explanation is- it’s not coming. Recruiters want to work with you, and they should be willing to treat you as clients, the same way they cater to the needs and expectations of Agency So-and-So. You are a client too. Your stellar qualifications are what pays their bills at the end of the day, and anyone who promises you the world and then doesn’t respond after more than 2 emails or calls… walk away. Spend your time and energy on more lucrative prospects and leveraging your own network, instead of wasting it trying to get that recruiter who promised you the client was interested in your resume, to respond. Because if a client IS interested in you, make no mistake that that recruiter will drop everything to call and make sure you’re still available for and interested in the job. It’s your turn to take back the control, say “See ya!”, and decide to work with someone who is truly invested in helping you take the next leap in your career.

This post is fondly dedicated to Tim, Naz, Karen & Sean – the right team.

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