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Frequently Asked Recruiter Questions

How can I stand out with a recruiter?  (Hint: It’s all in the database)

If you meet 50 people at a party, church or work function, how many of their names will you remember in a month?  Six months?  In one year?  Now use the same timeframes, but make it how much of their personal history will you recall?   The answer is probably not much.

Recruiters will generally meet several hundred people a year.   That’s why they have databases.  So when they get a search, the first step is to search their database.

Even if you really had a great meeting with the recruiter, the better way to get your name into the search results is to have a very complete resume that provides company name, industry type, position titles, functions overseen, etc.  – all the items that a search might be conducted on for the position you seek.

Why Won’t the Recruiter Meet with Me?  (Actually, you don’t want them to)

Recruiters get work by networking and calling on clients.   A call to a client is an “At Bat”.

A meeting with a candidate when the recruiter is not working on a specific role is not an “At Bat”.

You want them out finding jobs, not chatting with you.   Get your resume into them.

Offer to meet or to have a call to get acquainted and see if they can help you network.   Many may meet you.

Trust me; if you match up with what their client is seeking, you will spend a fair amount of quality time with the recruiter.

Until then, let them go to work.

Why does it seem like the Recruiters have all the jobs?

Back to the initial expectations, 75-80% of roles come from networking -the percentage will vary by both the company and the level of position they are filling.

So why does it seem like recruiters have all the jobs?

  1. 20-25% of open position is a pretty big number.
  2. You are more likely to hear about a role from a recruiter, because they openly use their network or advertising.
  3. Many people don’t really care to broadcast that they are in transition, so you may not hear the source of the job change.

For whom does the recruiter work?

The one paying their fee: the client.

Of course, the recruiter wants you to present well.  But after the initial interview, I recommend remembering the relationship is between you and the company, the recruiter is an extension of the company.  The recruiter has accomplished their three goals for their client; the rest is up to you and the company to finalize if an offer is extended.

Obviously, the company is interested in you.  Make all the future discussion directly between you and the company.  Keep the recruiter informed, but when it comes to sharing messages and thoughts the clarity of communication regarding conditions of your employment is critical, so adding another person in the mix, diminishes it for both the company and yourself.

Put another way, if you can’t have the tough conversation with them when they are trying to ‘recruit’ you – What happens after you start?

If a recruiter offers to give an opinion on your salary package, politely take their advice, but seek someone with independence from the client.   I don’t mean to imply anything other than it’s simply a good practice.

What about the “Out of the Box” Candidate?

Occasionally, a recruiter will say they are including an “Out-of-the-box” candidate – which is usually someone from outside the industry.

Why do recruiters put in someone like this – there are many reasons: client request, recruiter knows the person being submitted very well, etc.   But you need to recognize that you are still outside the requested parameters for the job.

After being submitted as one of the candidates, someone asked me “How often does the out-of-the-box candidate get hired?”.   My response was simple, “More often than the candidate who never got in front of the client”.

What if the recruiter does not see how my skills transfer?

I am a finance guy.   If you asked me to recruit a new CIO, the first thing I would ask for you to give me a list of qualities and requirements.

I have never sat in the CIO chair.  So while I might be aware of what the CIO does, I truly don’t know what combination of skills and experience level for each skill it takes to run an IT department.

My ability to translate the skills of a CIO from outside our industry would apply to our industry would be even more limited.

Do the skills of managing a software company IT department work in a manufacturing world?   My guess is yes, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which ones.

As the chair of a finance executive networking group, I’ve met with about 120 recruiters.  How many of those of recruiters have been CFOs?  One.   How many had worked in the industry for which the position they were recruiting?  Two.

Most recruiters have awareness or familiarity with the positions and industries, but actual work experience.   So unless they have sat in your specific chair – then set your expectations for their ability to translate your skills accordingly.

Sidetrack: “Industry experience required”

This requirement comes exclusively from the client, not the recruiter.

Are we doing things that mutually waste time?

In the spirit of respect each other’s time, here are a few items for you to avoid and where you can politely say ‘I understand…”

Your items

  • Describing yourself in generic terms like “I’m a change agent”, etc.
  • Spending more than 30 seconds on the background of a situation
  • Your frustrations about a job search
  • Complaints about your old boss or company


  • Explaining either of these items:

o   Difference between a contingency and retained recruiter

o   What it means to be a retained recruiter

  • Giving exhaustive detail on their database
  • Line by line review of a job description (you can read it)

What’s up with all the rotten recruiters (Like any industry, there are clunkers)

To the delight of a few and the chagrin of many, the barrier to entry into the recruiting field is low.   So you are going to get a pretty wide range of talent

If the recruiter has the job, obviously they are part of the process, but if they are bad news then it benefits you to keep their role to minimum.

My tests of a recruiter’s skill:

How long they have been in business?  Usually the longer the better, as it shows they have kept a client base.

How many firms they have been with?   If they have been with a bunch, I there is generally a reason why.

What types of roles do they recruit?   This is a bit of tricky one, but I found that a long-tenured recruiter who has only done relatively low-level roles, tend to be less savvy when it comes to negotiating, etc.

How well they can explain a clients business?  Obviously, I don’t expect them to match a company insider.  This is test of their general business skills and ability to understand the business model and what’s important.

A Bit of Fun — Interpreting rotten Recruiter’s lines

Here are a few of my favorites.  Usually these types of lines come from the weaker recruiters in the bunch – their tone of voice, inconsistency with other comments, etc. is a dead give-away every time.   On the upside, consider inviting these folks to your next poker game and bet big!

What they say: “Wow! That salary will be tough to match.”

  • Meaning: “My client is not paying that much. Lower your price”

What they say: “We have a full slate of candidates”

  • Meaning: “You are not qualified, but I don’t have the heart to tell you”

What they say: “The search is on hold, we’re waiting for next steps”

  • Meaning: “We have not heard from the client for quite a while – don’t know what the hell is going on”

What they say: “Good idea.  I’ll run it by the client”

  • Meaning: “The only thing I’m running to is the biffy after we hang up”

What they say: “I’m not sure that will be a critical factor”

  • Meaning: “I don’t have a clue what you told me, but I’m not going to ask you to explain it”



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