Financial services recruiters can be a great resource, but if you don’t pick the right ones or fail to work with them strategically, you’ll end banging your head against a wall and going home jobless. Here are some hints from recruiters themselves on how to get the most out of the relationship and make the process as pain-free as possible.
Recruiters are representing you and acting on your behalf; your reputation is tied directly to theirs. There are plenty of good recruiters out there, but there are some unethical ones too. Use your network to identify a short list of recruiters who friends, family and colleagues have worked with before and who are properly vetted.
Assess them as they assess you, said John Landers, regional vice president of Robert Half Financial Services. Do they treat you professionally? Are the reliable? If not, they’re more likely to tarnish your reputation on the client side.
“If they’re a jerk in the first five minutes, they’re likely to remain a jerk,” said Richard Lipstein, managing director at Gilbert Tweed Associates.
Ask how long they’ve been in business and inquire about their area of specialization, Landers said. If you’re a trader, there are plenty of recruiters out there who specialize in that niche and who have access to the best jobs: the un-posted ones.
The more recruiters you work with, the less control you have over the process. It’s also more difficult to develop a relationship built on trust. If a recruiter doesn’t know what makes you tick or fully understand your career goals, you’ll end up wasting your time.
As a former recruiter, I worked with several firms who had a hard rule: candidates who are submitted by multiple recruiters will not be considered. Some companies simply don’t want to be placed in the middle of a commission war. Worst case scenario, you lose out on the opportunity. Best case, you look disorganized. Demand to know where your resume is being sent and keep an updated list.
This can often be tricky as some unethical agencies will send your resume without your knowledge, said Landers. It’s another good reason to do your research and only work with recruiters with sterling reputations.
“Ask the recruiter what he or she would do if they knew you were perfect for a job but had already been presented by another recruiter,” said John Breault, chief executive of hedge fund recruiter Breault & Smith.
Once you find a recruiter or two who you trust, open up and be transparent about what you really want in a new job. Arm them with all the information necessary to represent you properly and put you in the right places. “This means what job you’re looking for, what pay rate you are expecting and pending interviews and submissions,” said Landers. “When a position isn’t a perfect fit, provide honest feedback as to why.” This will help a recruiter retool their strategy.
Show a little willingness to help a recruiter, and they’ll be more willing to help you, said Lipstein. Introduce them to some friends who may be looking or drop them the name of a manager from a previous employer. It can go a long way to building trust and relationship equity.
Also, be willing to take calls and network with recruiters when you may not be actively looking. “You network best when you don’t need to network," said Lipstein. “Then when you need a recruiter’s help, they’ll already know you.”
Make sure you are ready to make a career change before picking up the phone and dialing a recruiter, Landers said. “It’s one thing if you went on interview and it wasn’t right position. But to go through the process and say it’s a great opportunity, and contradict yourself on the 11th hour – that could tarnish your reputation with an agency,” he said.
Before you start working with a recruiter, have a rough sense of where you want to be in a year or more, how much you want to be making and other career goals, added Suzanne Havranek, fulfillment manager at Wall Street Services.
“Don't expect us to work miracles. If you're an entry level candidate with very little experience and you only want jobs that are way out of your range, we can't help,” said Havranek. “What we can do is find you a stepping stone job to get you there in the future if you're willing to listen and consider alternatives.”
If you are not working together on a specific job, but remain active in your search, stay in touch, but be reasonable. “Dropping a line every month or two months is helpful," said Landers. “But not every day.”