Recruiters get a bad rap – some are compared to used car salesmen, others accused of underhand practices that don’t benefit financial services job seekers. While undoubtedly there are limits to how recruiters can help your career, it would be foolhardy to disregard them entirely.
In the interests of balance after an article criticising recruiters (and in response to some angry comments from those in the industry), here’s how recruiters can actually aid your career.
Any recruiter worth their salt will be constantly mapping the market to find out the recruitment intentions of both their clients and banks who work with competing recruitment agencies. It is, of course, unlikely that they’ll be open with this information to you – even if some recruiters probe candidates about where else they’re interviewing in order to purloin some market intelligence – but it does mean that they’re more likely to put you forward for an otherwise unseen role that they think you might be suitable for.
It’s pointless bringing emotion into the job search; if you’re getting consistently rejected for roles, or ignored completely by recruiters despite feeling that you’re well suited to the role then there’s a reason. Often, this reason can be a small one – you might have most of the relevant skill-sets, but your market may have shifted slightly and employers are demanding new, or niche, expertise that your CV is currently lacking. Any good recruiter should be willing to take a few minutes to advise you on this.
Recruiters, contrary to what most candidates believe, have the interests of clients rather than job applicants at heart. It’s therefore a common tactic to milk candidates for colleagues who could potentially make the shortlist, only for the recruiter to then ditch the original applicant. The key is to keep your cards close to your chest on this front, don’t alert any colleagues (no matter how close) to the opportunity and then set about convincing the recruiter that you’re perfect for the role. “If you’re stupid enough to tell a superior colleague about a job you’re applying for, then of course we’re likely to put them forward ahead of you,” said one recruiter.
Using recruiters and headhunters is an expensive option, and – as we pointed to before – it’s largely the larger, more high-profile firms who are likely to employ their services. This, according to academics at IE University who researched the topic, means that recruiters are usually the best route into a job a large bank or financial services firm.
Yes, recruiters may often appear obtrusive (or disappear entirely) to candidates who don’t make the cut, but there’s ultimately little financial incentive for them to engage with applicants whose profiles don’t match the job description. Recruiters are expensive for the clients, who pay the fees, but free for the candidates. As we mentioned above, they can be a good source for the state of the job market in your area, but can also provide detailed feedback for the roles you failed to get, which could help in your future job search.
Scared of leaving your career in the hands of a 20-something recruiter with pointy shoes, spikey hair and a ruthless sales-driven mentality? Then do your research. While it makes sense to use the larger agencies who have the a large number of roles, experienced recruiters also tend to gravitate to smaller players with more of a specialism and have a genuine understanding of their space. This can be a recruiter who focuses on banking IT or operations or a niche headhunter who only recruits for front office fixed income roles, for example.
Assuming you’re not spamming out your CV to the same recruitment firm for roles you’re patently unsuitable for, the best way to stay off the blacklist and in the good books is to stay front of mind and in regular contact with a recruiter you have an existing relationship with. This doesn’t mean harassing them, but a quick call or coffee once a month will certainly help build a bond.
Also, going back to the point about recruiters earning no money from candidates, treating them like a service and berating them for failing to meet your needs will do you no favours. “Don’t act like a jerk, and you’ll have no problems staying off the blacklist,” said another recruiter.
If you’re asking for a bigger salary than an employer would like, or have any other requirements that could be awkward to bring up with a potential employer, then a recruiter will fight your corner to get a good deal once an offer has been extended. All of this assumes, of course, that you’ve already gone through the rigmarole of convincing a recruiter that you're the right person for the job and getting the employer to agree.
In contrast to assumptions that recruiters only consider perfect candidates, research by IE University academics suggested using headhunters was the best way to secure a promotion. Because employers tend to trust the information supplied by recruiters, they’re more likely to consider a candidate than if they pitched themselves for a role above their current position. Again, though, this assumes that you’re able to convince a recruiter of your suitability.