The Other Audience: Maintaining Recruiter Relationships

two_callsI just had a call from a recruiter. Years ago (yes, years) I’d set up a “profile” on this recruiter’s site, entering my personal details and work history, samples of my work and a resume. This was the first time I’d heard from the recruiter since. He asked if I was still looking for work (I wasn’t, and hadn’t been for 18 months). He had a contract job with an immediate start that “fit the details you entered in our database.” Great.

Despite this experience, I know there are good recruiters out there. And good recruiters are worth hanging onto, because as well as work, they can be a valuable source of advice.

So I tend to treat recruiter relationships with the same care and attention I give to client relationships. Here are a few of the tactics I use to maintain good, fruitful relationships with my favorite recruiters.

1. Appreciate their position.

Yes, recruiters get paid to fill positions, but they’re not all simply out to get backsides on seats in their client organizations. Your preferred recruiters are likely to be the ones who know you, like your attitude and work, and want to make happy matches between client organizations and professionals.

Recruiters aren’t just job machines: they’re real people, just like us. When you speak to them, they may be under pressure. They may be working to a strict deadline, or keen to give you first dibs on a new contract that’s come in.

When I get a call from a recruiter, I always speak to them on the spot (or call them back asap). I respect the fact that they’re busy with other clients and positions, but I’m also conscious of the fact that I need information about the job — so I’ll try to extract as much information as I can from them in that first call. This means I can make a decision about the project sooner, rather than later, and all recruiters love that!

On the other hand, if I send them some work samples, an inquiry, or some other information, I keep in mind that my contact may not be their top priority today, and only follow up if I haven’t had a response in a week or so.

2. Tell them what you’re doing.

Have you just completed a cool project? Tell your recruitment agent about it. Perhaps you’ve updated your CV or folio; send your recruiter a copy of the new version. Going on a holiday? Let your recruiter know when you’ll be back in action.

Keeping your recruitment agent informed about what you’ve been working on — at least every few months or so — is a good way to keep in touch, and make sure you’re top of mind when the ideal project comes up. It’s also a good way to demonstrate your capabilities and indicate the kinds of work you’re interested in.

3. Ask their advice.

There are a few occasions on which it might be worth your while to meet with your recruiter to pick their brains. Perhaps you’re thinking of altering your career focus, changing your physical location, or looking for more or different work? In all these cases, your trusted recruiter may be able to provide you with sound advice and direction.

Of course, if you’re to be considered for a position they’ve recommended, they’ll likely be happy to provide all sorts of advice — from the company culture and workplace ethics to what sorts of items you should include in your folio. They’ll be able to tell you what sorts of research and preparation you should do for the interview, and when you can expect to hear if you’ve been successful.

Asking a recruiter’s advice doesn’t just give you the opportunity to benefit from their marketplace and client knowledge: it also helps to build a trusting and respectful relationship, and promotes the understanding that you’re both interested what the other has to offer.

4. Help them to help you.

The three tips we’ve already discussed all point in the same direction: you need to help recruiters to help you. Basically, I try to give recruiters as much current information as possible so that neither of us is wasting the other’s time considering jobs that don’t fit the bill.

I try to make it really easy for recruiters to offer me positions: I try to be easy to contact, I let them know what sorts of work I’m interested in, and I regard every project they call me about as an opportunity — I don’t tend to discount any project out-of-hand. If I can’t take a project, I explain why, so that they understand the circumstances and, if need be, they can develop a clearer picture of the kind of work that interests me.

5. Treat them as another audience for your business.

You have clients and prospects — why not consider recruiters as another audience that you can communicate with in a professional, regular manner? If you have a few recruiters to manage, it might be worth setting reminders in your schedule to contact them regularly, send them updates on your projects and professional movements, and so on.

Building recruiters into your regular contact schedule, and making time to maintain these relationships, can really produce results. A properly managed recruiter can be a great asset to your business — and beyond. So do what you can to find — and build lasting relationships with — good recruiters.

What do you do to manage recruiters, or build relationships with recruitment agencies?

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  • Shane

    My experience of recruiters have been mixed, but frankly, enough of them are shameless crooks to give them all a bad name. Of course, there are good ones, but in my experience (10 years as a ‘pro’), the majority have been dodgy to say the least. I won’t go into details here, but the worst part of looking for work isn’t the interviews, or the uncertainty, it’s the arseholes that you have to speak to over the phone.

  • PHPKick

    That’s certainly the proactive side of dealing with recruiters. At some point when you’ve got enough experience they become a nuisance as you’ll be qualified, or in their minds qualified enough, for nearly every position that pops up and they’ll bug the heck out of you.

    It may be that they’re not just about money but that’s their number one objective. The fees they get are huge. 20-30% in my experience. At certain project amounts that’s a really nice toy for them. At certain salaries that’s a new car.

    I’ve made recruiters a whole lot of money through the years. The biggest thank you I got was lunch. That particular one was a $30K lunch. So just because they’re not all about the money doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be showering us with gifts and thanking us for making their year. My experience is they don’t. That puts them in a certain category of scavenger to me and until one shows me otherwise, that’s where they’ll stay.

  • Glenn

    I’ve found recruiters in South Florida to be incredibly useless. They’ve only gotten me phone interviews, not in-person interviews. And none of them ever helped me land a freelance or full-time gig.

    I tried to work with them. I sent them everything they needed — my resume, references, and samples. But, alas, they only wasted my time. I really wish I could have a better opinion of them, but they have no abilities here in South Florida.

    Since I’ve pursued work on my own, I’ve gotten better results.