Wednesday, March 18, 2009


As the job market has slid over the past 15 months, I have had a lot of newly unemployed friends contact me for referrals to great recruiters. At first, my response was, "A recruiter will only want to hear from you if s/he is actively working on an assignment for which you may be a perfect fit." Then the market worsened and my recruiter friends started asking me for referrals to companies that had open positions. So my advice to both groups became, "Great hunters always know how to think like their prey, which allows them to accurately predict where they will be and what will draw them in." This may be an odd metaphor, but it has been working so I decided to share it with everyone via my blog.

First, what drives a recruiter's behaviors? External recruiters live and die by their individual placements. They must find a great candidate, sell both the candidate and the employer on the match and then convince them to stay together for at least six to twelve months (recruiters rarely get paid if the person does not stay for a pre-determined length of time). Internal recruiters live and die by the quality and speed of placements because they must deal with the "customer" every day (i.e. they both work for the same company). Depending on how clever they are, they may rely on global job boards (not very clever) or they may reach out to a network of well-connected contacts in that industry (very clever). Greed-driven external recruiters will often spam a company with a ton of applicants hoping something will stick (aka spray and pray). Thoughtful ones will do a thorough job sourcing candidates via channels not usually used by internal recruiters and will do a nice pre-screen on the front end to make sure they are only sending a small number of highly-qualified and strong-fit candidates. Internal recruiters may spend a great deal of time only filling entry-level positions, which means they will be found at college job fairs. More valuable internal recruiters will spend that time at industry events, talking up the benefits of working for the company (to employees of competitor companies) and identifying fresh thinkers who may be delivering cutting-edge presentations.

Recruiters can also be found online. This is a great way to play "fly on the wall" and start to learn about the current recruiting market and techniques that recruiters use. (It is better to be easily found by a recruiter than to look desperate by sending your resume to hundreds of them directly - remember, unsolicited resumes from people who cannot be immediately beneficial will be tossed in the garbage.) Some of the places where recruiters are lurking include:
  • - as advertised, this is a warehouse of blogs and comments by both internal and external recruiters (you can quickly learn about fee splits, search basics, and other hot topics by poking around this site)
  • - this site is run by a media company and I believe that they cull the membership in order to promote the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership (for leaders of internal recruiting teams) and various conferences that they sponsor, but the members post great information and they have local groups that you can join
  • - look for a group like this in your neighborhood because this is where the recruiters literally meet!
For the most part, you will find that good recruiters prefer someone who is a top performer and so they are looking for people who are still employed and who are a challenge to steal away from their company. They find those types of people by using creative Boolean searches on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networking sites. They look for evidence that the candidate is an expert and is valued by others (e.g. popular speaker or writer or referred by more than one person). They want to see some longevity on the candidate's resume (no job hoppers), which shows dedication to the employer and stability. Then, once the recruiter has found you, you had better be on top of your game and honest in all that you claim to have accomplished because the interviews have just begun...

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