5 Ways To Separate Good Recruiters From Bad

By Jonathan Graham - Founder - Lawford Knight

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Finding Great Recruiters

In a recent post, ‘The first job interview; prepare to succeed’, I briefly mentioned using an external recruiter to help with your job search. This article, on how to spot good from bad, is the follow up and is designed to help candidates make the most of working with an external recruiter. I hope it’s also useful to internal recruiters and hiring managers, as some of the behaviours mentioned should ring alarm bells for client and recruiter relationships.

Engaging with a good recruiter is a clever way to put yourself ahead of the pack when the time comes for a move. There’s a widely quoted figure that 40% of jobs are not advertised. This is a good indication that there’s a ‘hidden’ jobs market which you won’t come across if you only search on job boards. Good recruiters are constantly talking to their clients and candidates and often matches can be made without the need for advertising.

There is no doubt that working with a good recruiter can help candidates to make objective decisions about which companies to approach and ultimately which job offer to accept. Working with a bad recruiter, however, can be painful and time consuming when time is at a premium in the first place. Stick with the following five tips and you’ll make your job search more successful and less stressful.


Check out their social media presence

Before picking up the phone or firing off an email, consider looking on social media for someone relevant to your search. LinkedIn has some pretty powerful search tools as does Twitter, and you can filter the results afterwards for even more clarity. This serves a dual purpose, as you’ll unearth potentially good recruiters in your sector and equally you won’t find the recruiters who haven’t bothered to work on their profiles. A bad social media presence is often an indication of the person behind the profile.

I was at the Festival or Marketing last week in London, learning about the latest and greatest things in the marketing world. It was fascinating and I picked up some excellent snippets of information. One quote that stuck in my mind was this one, attributed to Danny Santagato, ‘To know a person, watch what they do, not what they say.’ This is so true. Anyone can talk themselves up on the phone or even in person, but it’s their actions that will really tell you all you need to know. This applies to social media as well. If the person’s timeline is full of untargeted job postings and nothing else, you can be assured that this is what you’ll get if you engage with that recruiter. If, on the other hand, the recruiter is offering advice and sharing interesting content from within your sector, it’s likely that you’ll get a much better service, from someone who shares a passion for your area of expertise.


Are they listening to you?

You can very quickly get a feeling for whether a recruiter has your interests in mind or not. From the first conversation, it should be easy to assess their expertise but more importantly their intent. I’ve always taken the approach that if I can’t help someone at the time they contact me, then I’ll tell them. This would obviously come after a discussion about what the person is looking for, but it’s vital that you know where you stand. If the recruiter promises you interviews and nothing materialises, then did they really have the opportunities in the first place? You cannot let your CV become a marketing tool for someone trying to open up new clients. This approach can be very productive for the candidate if used in a targeted manner, but you must consent to it and know which companies are going to be contacted. We’ve even heard horror stories about CVs being sent to the candidate’s current employer. Not good.

A good recruiter will take the time to understand your motivations, where you want to go in your career and also what wouldn’t suit you. You should only be discussing relevant opportunities. When I was looking for a marketing role a number of years ago, I was inundated with calls about sales jobs, often from the same company, despite my pleas to have my record updated for just marketing roles.


Do they understand what you actually do?

Your best bet is usually to engage with a recruiter in your particular discipline. It takes time to understand a sector and how the different roles interlink. Sometimes it takes an outsider to suggest a sideways move into a growing area, and this is where good advice can pay dividends. If the person you are dealing with does not understand the sector, they will probably just be looking at simple progression for you, which may not be the right approach. Ten years ago mobile apps and programmatic marketing weren’t the buzzwords they are now, or were certainly in their infancy. Now many companies are asking for mobile and data skills. Recruiters need to be able to explain the changing market and where the new opportunities are arising. This comes from having a finger on the pulse, reading trade magazines and other media sources every day. In other words, a good recruiter works hard to understand market trends and to keep candidates and clients informed.


Do they return your calls?

Recruitment relies heavily on networking. This includes networking with people who might not be in a position to move, or who don’t currently match any open job roles. It’s always of value to have a conversation though and I welcome these interactions. If your calls are not being returned then it’s a good indication of the future relationship. It’s likely that you’ll only be called upon when something matching comes up, rather than have an ongoing, two-way dialogue that helps to build rapport and allows both parties to understand when to investigate options.

A good recruiter should always be willing to spend a few minutes with you to both give and receive information. It’s the basis of any sound business relationship. If you feel that you’re doing all the chasing, then act on your instinct and look for someone who will engage with you in a meaningful way.


Are they properly representing the client’s brand?

Companies spend a huge amount of money on branding, marketing and advertising. Key messages are refined, tweaked and perfected before they are signed off and released to the outside world. It’s therefore pretty stunning when you see recruitment ads, on behalf of clients, with spelling mistakes, words missing and bad grammar. Sometimes the ad has been lifted straight from a job spec and includes countless bullet points which trivialise and dilute the main messages. These recruitment ads should serve as a warning to candidates not to get involved. If the recruiter cannot be bothered to write an original ad, then they are unlikely to spend the time with you to work out which roles are suitable and to then fully prepare you for the interview process. Companies should only engage with recruiters that offer something in addition to their own efforts. Copying a job spec and putting it onto the same job boards as the client is a sure fire way to put the good candidates off. Steer clear.

Good recruiters care about the client’s brand. They are proud to represent the company in the marketplace and genuinely offer something extra; the ability to engage with candidates who are not currently looking, or perhaps have not been tempted by adverts so far. It is a privilege to be able to positively influence the success of clients and candidates, and this passion should show through in all aspects of the recruiters’ work.


In summary

Before engaging with a recruiter, check them out on social media. Are they saying credible things or are they simply using the platform to spam their followers with jobs? Are you being listened to? You should get a feeling very quickly as to whether it’s worth pursuing a business relationship. If you feel that you’re being pushed into roles that don’t suit you, find someone else who will listen and only discuss roles that you want to hear about.

A good recruiter should at the very least understand your job role and what is required to do it well. If they haven’t grasped the basics, then it’s likely that they don’t really understand what the client requires either. That could lead to your time being wasted on interviews that are unsuitable but where you have been ‘sold to’ relentlessly just so the recruiter can put another interview down for that week.

Are your calls being returned? The relationship must be two-way and consistent. You shouldn’t feel that you have to chase all the time to understand where you are in the process or worse, having to chase for feedback after an interview without a response.

Finally, how well does the recruiter represent the client and its brand? Do they really understand what the client is trying to achieve from the job role they are recruiting for? Look especially at the care and attention the recruiter takes when advertising the role and talking to you about it. Any lack of detail or understanding should make you think twice about letting that person represent you to the client.

Thanks for reading.


About the Author: Lawford Knight is a specialist recruiter for marketing, digital and sales roles. We are passionate about recruitment and building long-term relationships with like-minded clients and candidates. Please contact us today to discuss your next hire or career move. www.lawfordknight.com

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