How to Successfully Work with External Recruiters to Advance Your Job Search?

Creating professional relationships with external recruiters can significantly advance your job search and career. Knowing proper etiquette when dealing with recruiters (those who are external and work for search firms) will create mutual respect and lead to a more rewarding professional relationship.

Before we begin our discussion on candidate etiquette when working with recruiters, the first thing you should know is an optimized LinkedIn profile is pivotal to your success.

In today’s job market (and business world), an optimized LinkedIn profile is the platform recruiters use to get their first look at you as a potential candidate. (If you want information on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for maximum impact, check out the book Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles.)

Let’s start our discussion about etiquette with things you want to do that will impress a recruiter. Here are your “To Do’s.”

1. Profile your desired job
When you speak with a recruiter, know the type of position you are looking for, the industry, the type of company (small to publically held), and so on. Be reasonably specific without being too narrow. This will help the recruiter in targeting positions that will potentially appeal to you.

What you want to avoid is “I’m open to anything,” or relying on the recruiter to guess what would appeal to you professionally.

2. Research recruiters
Do Internet and LinkedIn research and identify recruiters that specialize in your industry of interest, positions, and potentially their client types. Only contact those recruiters that fit your profile (or close).

Contacting recruiters that cannot help you is a waste of your time. Blanket email campaigns to recruiter lists are a waste of effort.

3. Be responsive
When contacted by a recruiter, respond timely. When a recruiter is working on filling an opening, he or she will want to speak to you as soon as reasonably possible. Even if the actual conversation cannot take place for a few days later, your responsiveness is noticed by the recruiter and creates a positive impression.

When you do speak with the recruiter, do not treat the conversation as a “transaction.” You don’t want to be treated like that and neither do recruiters.

However, if you get the feeling the recruiter is treating the engagement as a transaction (caring more about the placement fee than a good career move for you), be sensitive to this fact.

Conduct your interaction with the recruiter with this in mind if you pursue the opportunity and for the future conversations.

4. Develop a relationship with the “good” recruiters
In the course of your career, you will undoubtedly be contacted by several recruiters. Some may come-and-go while others will establish themselves as true recruiting professionals specializing in your industry (position type, etc.).

Once identified, the good recruiters are those you want to align yourself, be connected on LinkedIn, and develop a line of communication. Recruiters can provide valuable information on a host of industry trends and career topics that can help direct your career path beyond actually placing you in a position.

5. Make relevant referrals
Refer talented colleagues to recruiters. The key here is to make your referrals relevant. Only refer colleagues that match the specialty of the recruiter.

Referring people that are not within a recruiter’s specialty is annoying to the recruiter and could result in the recruiter not responding to your referral’s outreach. This is simply the recruiter protecting his or her time and could reflect poorly on you when your referral tells you the recruiter did not respond.

If you truly want to ingratiate yourself to a recruiter, refer a potential client-company. You will be forever remembered by the recruiter if you refer the recruiter to a potential new client (and if that referral results in a placement).

6. A Toss Up: Sending an unsolicited resume
Most experienced recruiters cringe when they receive unsolicited resumes. The vast majority of those resumes are from candidates the recruiter can’t help. It’s a waste of time for everyone.

However, if you identify a recruiter that specializes closely with your background, sending an unsolicited resume could get you some traction with the recruiter. The key is the match must be near perfect. For example, if you are an underwriter with experience in the trucking industry and you find a recruiter that specializes in placing underwriters focused on the trucking industry, then sending an unsolicited resume might get the recruiter’s attention.

Let’s now shift our discussion about etiquette to the “Don’ts” list.

This is really where etiquette comes into play. Violating these etiquette rules will reveal to the recruiter your professional naiveté, an unprofessional attitude towards the recruiter, or disrespect towards the recruiter and their profession.

This could result in a limited conversation or “black balling” you from future contact.

1. Never ask who the client-company is
When contacted by a recruiter, it is bad form and unprofessional to ask the recruiter “who is the company?” This is especially true if you do not have a previously established relationship with the recruiter. Moreover, recruiters resist putting the name of their client in writing (in an email or InMail).

Most recruiters will reveal the client’s name in conversation after it is established that you are qualified and sincerely interested in the opportunity.

2. Never ask about compensation
Asking about compensation in response to an initial communication from a recruiter is poor etiquette. It reveals, possibly inaccurately, that your career is only about the money.

Compensation is important but there is a “right time” for it to be discussed. Most all recruiters will discuss compensation parameters in an initial conversation. They are looking for the right match and that includes compensation.

If you want to be viewed as a true professional, volunteer your general salary and earnings with the recruiter during the compensation conversation. This fosters a professional relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Pay Equity Laws
There are a growing number of jurisdictions that prohibit employers and recruiters from asking about your compensation. If you live in one of these jurisdictions, you are granted the right not to disclose your compensation. All of these pay equity laws allow you to volunteer your compensation, if you choose.

If you live in a jurisdiction that has a pay equity law, it is up to you whether you want to disclose your compensation to a recruiter. Most recruiters will still provide you with the general compensation range for the position they are looking to fill, even if you choose not to disclose your compensation.

3. Do not lie
Sounds simple but sadly some candidates do not tell or stretch the truth. Recruiters talk with a lot of people. This includes your colleagues, upper management, competitors, vendors, and so on. It is remarkable what recruiters learn that will reveal a lie or a stretch of the truth.

When your misrepresentation is discovered by the recruiter, your candidacy is dramatically diminished. If the misrepresentation is severe, the recruiter may discontinue the engagement and not contact you in the future.

4. Avoid asking for a meeting or a call
Avoid asking for a meeting or a call from a recruiter (especially a recruiter you do not know) to discuss how the recruiter can help you. It’s permissible to offer your availability if the recruiter has an opening or would like to discuss your candidacy in more detail.

However, asking that the recruiter call you can be viewed as poor etiquette. Recruiters do not work for candidates. They work on behalf of their client-companies.

5. Do not decline or reject InMail messages
If you are not interested in a position, either reply with a professional “not interested” or do not respond. Recruiters understand and are not offended if you remain silent or simply indicate that you are not interested. Avoid declining or rejecting an InMail message from a recruiter.

When you do, it creates a record in LinkedIn that the recruiter can see. The recruiter may choose to not contact you for future opportunities. Someday when your circumstances change (and circumstances will always change), you may be thankful that a recruiter reaches out to you.

Regardless of how secure you are in your current role, it only makes good career-sense to have a flow of opportunities coming to you regardless of whether you pursue them.

6. Never insult a recruiter
Never make a derogatory remark, either directly or in a passive-aggressive manner to a recruiter. This could be done in conversation or in writing. Doing so is incredibly unprofessional and will result in the recruiter not contacting you in the future.

In the event that a recruiter “has done you wrong” and the behavior is significant and can be traced directly to the recruiter and you need to distance yourself from the recruiter, take the highroad. Disconnect on LinkedIn, and professionally inform the recruiter that there are other candidates that would be better aligned to working with him or her.

Wish the recruiter well in future endeavors. Then, take solace that unprofessional recruiters seldom survive very long when they conduct themselves inappropriately.

By following proper recruiter etiquette, you will enhance your relationships with recruiters, advance your job search, and potentially shape the future directions of your career.

This article is also featured on CareerMetis