Notes from the outplacement seminar: How to use recruiters

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Yesterday we devoted long hours to attending two seminars run by outplacement company Fairplace in a subterranean room off Cornhill. Here is a digested version of the wisdom they imparted on the use of recruitment firms.

- Recruitment firms are not working for you: They are thinking of their bottom line and want their placement fee. Do not be surprised, therefore, if they a) encourage you to take a job that may not be ideal, b) encourage you to accept a job at a lower salary than you had hoped for, c) try to elicit knowledge about other opportunities on the market.

- Go for double digits: It used to be advisable to work with six to eight recruitment firms. In this market it is advisable to work with 10. Set up a database to track which ones are doing what and when you last spoke to them.

- Be discerning: You may be working with 10 recruitment firms, but make sure they are the right ones. Establish this by asking them questions such as: "Who are you working for on a preferred supplier basis? When did you last place someone at X bank/financial institution?" Alternatively, try asking the HR department at your previous firm which recruiters they work with on a preferred supplier basis.

- Beware recruiters who try to charge you for their assistance: This is happening. One unnamed City recruiter is said to be charging 3k for a premium service.

- Don't expect recruiters to be career counselors: It is no good turning up at a recruitment firm and saying "I might be interested in x, but I could also do y, and am not sure about z." You need to say, "These are the skills I have. These are the roles I could go into."

- Call at the right times of day Recruiters are most amenable mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

- Follow-up: For the initial introduction you can email or you can call. But if you do one, make sure you also do the other.

- Face time: There is no alternative to face time. Treat all meetings with recruiters as seriously as a formal interview. Ask questions which show you understand the recruiting world. These might be -

- 'Are there any idiosyncrasies about your database that I should be aware of in order to maximize the chance that my CV comes up?'

- If you are advertising a job that is appropriate to me, will you be sending my CV automatically, or do I need to resubmit it to you?

- Will you be altering my CV before it's sent out? Can I see the amended version if so?

- What are my chances of getting a job anytime soon? What do you think of the current market?