As a job seeker, it makes sense to establish a business relationship with a recruiter.  But if you don’t understand the nature of the relationship, you probably won’t be using the recruiter to your greatest advantage.

Recruiters don’t generally tell you about the business of recruiting.  They’d generally rather avoid talking about themselves and their work, and talk about you instead.  That’s how good recruiters gather data and manage their portfolios in order to make a living.  If you’ll let me pull back that curtain just a bit, you’ll see what’s going on from a recruiter’s point of view.  And you’ll learn exactly how to make the most of a recruiter’s services.

The first thing to be clear on:  you are not the recruiter’s client.  The recruiter gets paid by the employer; that’s the client.  Your recruiter only gets paid if she sells the client a person who gets hired for an open job.  That person could be you.  So, don’t get confused.  No matter how well you and the recruiter get along, you are the product the recruiter is selling, not the client the recruiter needs to make happy.

But just because the recruiter’s financial priorities lay elsewhere, don’t think the recruiter isn’t interested in making you happy, too.  In fact, a happy employer is impossible without a happy candidate.  Your recruiter is trying – hard – to find really good fits between jobs and candidates.  The long-term measure of a recruiter’s success is her ability to make repeat business out of employers’ placement needs.  Employers don’t come back if the candidates that a recruiter sells turn out to be a bad fit for their jobs.

So you are the product.  The recruiter markets you like a product.  They understand potential buyers in the market.  They know what product features buyers tend to like, and which they don’t care as much about.  They usually know who in the market really needs to buy, and who is probably just kicking tires.  They probably also know how much money each possible buyer has in their pocket, so they can often anticipate what sort of price you can demand as a product.

If you want the recruiter to help you, you’ve got two jobs to do.  First, you have to offer the recruiter an accurate picture of what sort of product you are.  A recruiter needs an accurate picture of your skills, abilities, strengths and preferences.  Second, you need to listen to your recruiter’s advice.  If a recruiter says to redraft your resume, or to get him a different writing sample, or even to get a haircut or change your handshake, do it.  You are being packaged to meet the market that’s available to you.  Since you likely want to get bought by the best employer at the best possible price, you’re smart to cooperate with your recruiter’s requests.

Next time, we’ll discuss how the recruiter understands the market, how they can take a sophisticated approach to marketing you, and why they know things job seekers simply can’t know on their own.


Jeff Schoenberg

Director Of Partner & Group Placements