Whether or not you prefer working with a recruiter during your job search, you have to admit that the good ones can open career opportunities that would otherwise be closed to you. The best have relationships with hiring managers – not just HR – and can help get you a face-to-face meeting even if a job technically isn’t “open.” Lesser recruiters tend to work on older jobs that banks are having trouble filling on their own – often a bad sign about the position or group.
So when you find a good one, try to make the most out of the relationship and keep them working hard on your behalf. Here's how to stay on their good side while not tanking your own candidacy.
Tell the recruiter if you have applied to the firm previously
This may be the easiest way to make a recruiter look bad, other than not showing up to an interview. If you have already applied or interviewed at the bank or firm in question, let them know. If a hiring manager already has your resume through their own internal system or through another recruiter, only bad things happen – both for you and the recruiter.
To the client, the recruiter will look as if they have no real knowledge of the person they are representing and may lose their respect. But it’s equally bad for the candidate. You’ll look like you’re sending your resume everywhere and may come off as desperate or, worse, forgetful.
Some firms even have a policy that they will walk away from a candidate if their resume has been submitted by multiple search firms. It says something about the candidate, and they don’t want to find themselves in the middle of a fight for a commission.
If you let the recruiter know up front that you applied several years ago – especially if it is for a different role under a different department head – the bank likely won’t have an issue with it. It’s when they find out after the fact when problems can occur.
Don’t expect them to be mind-readers
The CFA Society’s New York chapter recently hosted an event for job seekers that included a panel of banking recruiters. One of their collective pet-peeves is when candidates who are new to the job market come to them expecting to be provided a roadmap to a new career. Sit down and figure out exactly what you’re looking for before calling a recruiter to “see what they have,” the panel stressed.
Have a current and tight resume, as a Word doc and PDF
“I see terrible resumes all the time,” said Ben Jordan, a former Citi banker who now oversees the asset management recruitment business in New York for Whitney Partners. List your title and two to three bullet points per role, concentrating on performance metrics rather than details on the role, he said. Too often candidates simply list their responsibilities, which can be obvious based on their title and don’t differentiate you from the pack, the panel said.
Sending your CV in Word and PDF form can also be helpful. As not everyone is up to date with the same version of Microsoft Word, resumes that are sent between several inboxes at two companies – the headhunting firm and the bank – should almost always be PDFs so that the formatting doesn’t get unraveled. However, you may also want to include a Word document as well. Then a recruiter can make recommended additions or subtractions to your resume to help tailor it to a specific job or firm.
Check in with emails, not calls
This was another pet-peeve of the panel. Recruiters are on the phone all day long. Many firms publish daily call logs to keep up on the activity of recruiters (and to shame them into calling more people). Many recruiters will make over 50 calls per day and be on the phone for north of four hours. If you’re just checking in if a firm has interest in your resume or are waiting on interview feedback, shoot them an email. They’ll appreciate it. If they don’t respond within a reasonable time frame, pick up the phone.
Don’t go around their back
Another easy way for recruiters to lose the respect of their clients is when candidates dodge the recruiter and contact the hiring manager themselves, unless discussed prior. Not following the established protocol can make you both look bad.
If you prefer to negotiate on your own behalf or take greater control over the process, just ask.
Be honest about red flags
If you have a red flag in your background that will come up in the interview or in a pre-employment verification, such as a minor arrest, tell the recruiter up front (but after you get to know them a bit). Then they can either model it more positively with the hiring manager – allowing you not to deal with that awkwardness – or they can be prepared to confront it when everything does come to light.
Recruiters want to make money. They won’t trash your resume if you have a small blip in your background. But it’s best to prepare them for any future conversations.
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