Recruiters Aren't All Bad—Here's How to Find a Good One

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I’ve read the comments on this site and others. I am well aware of what people say. I know recruitment consultants aren’t generally trusted.

But in the interests of balance, I’d firstly like to explain what recruiters actually do. Hopefully that will explain the difference between a good and a not-so-good recruiter. Then I’d like to cover how you can uncover a good recruiter. Hopefully that will help you, the candidate, have a better experience all round.

When recruiters meet clients

Firstly, when a job comes up, good recruiters will always meet with their client (e.g., the financial services institution). So I’ll touch on a few things that should go on in that meeting.

Good recruiters will take a brief that extends way beyond the basic job description. They will want to understand why the role has come about. They will ask the client about the things that will make a person successful in the position, the key relationships the candidate will need to navigate and the expectations of the company in three, six and 12 months. They will talk about induction, training, performance management, the direction of the company and a whole lot more. Good recruiters will critically appraise the information they have been given.

They will also ask the client questions. These should include why the last person left, the attrition rates in the company and the roadblocks or difficult people the new person may face. If the client is not forthcoming, good recruiters will explain why trust is important, why they need the information and how they will use it to find the best person. If the client’s expectations are unrealistic, they will challenge these expectations. They will bed down the “need to haves,” the “nice to haves” and the “must not haves.”

When recruiters meet you

Then the recruiter will meet you. Keep in mind that when you meet a recruiter, her role is to match you to the role based on all the details she has about the client. One of the common misconceptions about recruiters is that they are career counsellors. They are not. Recruiters come from the position that you are responsible for understanding where you’d like to head with your career: your skills, strengths, weaknesses and the type of companies you’d like to work for.

Recruiters can and should coach you on how to get there, in terms of helping you with presentation and interview skills. But they cannot help you if you have no idea where you want to go. You can make the most of this meeting by reflecting on these points before you come in and by having your questions prepared. We recommend you challenge what the recruiter tells you. If you suspect she is too much in sales mode, ask her about the difficult bits of the job. If you see the hard parts as interesting challenges, then you may well be a strong match for the role.

How to find a good recruiter

Do some due diligence before you meet her. Look her up online, beyond the firm’s Web site. Anyone can take down a description of the role, but only people with intelligence, industry knowledge and life experience can develop a trusting relationship with you and the client, and have the skills to help you both navigate the tricky bits. Take a look at the business background and the consulting experience of the recruiter. Steer away from the job hoppers.

You should ask the recruiter about the process she has gone through to secure the brief and how long she has worked with that client. Listen to the quality of the information you receive about the job. If she can answer your questions readily, then there’s a good chance that she has a firm grip on the role.

If the recruiter cannot give you the information you need, this does not always mean she is being deliberately deceptive. Sometimes, despite the recruiter’s best efforts, the client is not forthcoming. Sometimes clients do not know exactly what they want. Sometimes things change within the company. However, keep it in mind that if uncertainty is a parameter of the role, you deserve to know that this is the case.

Finally, beware of recruiters who do not think it’s necessary to meet you. They may well be the ones that flick your resume around without your permission. You have a right to confidentiality and the right to decide where your details go. Remember it’s your reputation and career at stake.

Liza Garrido is the Director at Enigma HR in Sydney, Australia. 

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