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Corporate Recruiters and Your Job Search

recruiterIt’s pretty common to hear job seekers talk about their frustration with Corporate / In-House Recruiters or HR Representatives at the companies they are pursuing.

In most cases their frustration is really the result of not understanding the role, the challenges, and the processes that recruiter faces. The more that’s understood, the better your results can be, and a better relationship can be formed.

Job seeker complaints can be varied…

  • “They hardly know anything about the job”
  • “They had their list of questions, and didn’t want to hear about my other experience”
  • “They don’t return my calls or emails”
  • “They couldn’t answer my questions about the technologies involved in the position”
  • “They kept after me to get my previous salary and expectations early in the process”
  • “I never heard back from them again”
  • “Weeks went by between interviews / conversations”
  • …and others

Having a better understanding of their role and challenges can address many of these issues.

They are not the hiring manager. While the Recruiter or HR Representative may have a great deal of knowledge about the company and generally the types of people they want to hire, they are not involved in the day-to-day responsibilities of the particular position you’re likely pursuing. In small to mid-sized companies, they may have one person that recruits for open positions all across the organization. At the same time, they may be trying to fill positions ranging from a janitor, to an entry-level accountant, to a Director of Marketing,  to a VP of Information Technology (IT). It’s virtually impossible for any one person to be very well versed in the details of all of those roles.

In larger companies, there may be dedicated recruiters for each functional area of the organization. However, even there they have a variety of positions they are trying to fill. An IT Recruiter may be looking for a Network Engineer, a Web Developer, and a Project Manager all at the same time. Each position requires very different skill sets and an individual recruiter can’t be an expert in each one of them.

Asking detailed technical questions about a position to the recruiter will generally not get you the answers and insight you’re looking for. And trying to impress them with the deep knowledge you have your areas of expertise will not likely make the impact you hope. Detailed questions about the position are better held for the hiring manager, who knows much more exactly what they need and will much better understand your related experience. They are the ones in the trenches dealing with those things on a daily basis and better versed in the details.

It’s not possible for them to respond to every email and call. Recruiters at most companies are working on anywhere between 15 and 30 positions at one time. HR Representatives generally also have additional responsibilities than only filling the positions. Most companies, in today’s job market receive dozens, or hundreds of applicants for each job they have posted online. If a recruiter working on 20 positions, receives calls or emails from only 20 of the hundreds of applicants for each of those 20 positions each week, that would mean they would need to respond to 400 inquiries in the course of the week. In the vast majority of cases, that would be only to let people know that nothing has been decided yet. To respond to 400 inquiries, at an average of only 5 minutes each, would require over 30 hours out of their work week before they’ve accomplished anything proactively to actually fill the roles… i.e. reviewing resumes, screening potential candidates, arranging interviews, collaborating with the hiring manager, etc.

In most cases recruiters would like to respond to each one, however, it’s not possible for them to do and still be productive. The lack of response is not personal, or a judgment about you or your background. It’s simply a casualty of the reality of what they have before them.

They have to know whether it can work, or not. Job seekers often get irritated with the recruiters insistence on digging into salary history and expectations so early in the process. However, it would be irresponsible for them to spend a great deal of time with you and present you to the hiring manager if a deal can’t be reached because of your compensation expectations. They always have limits and salary ranges they have to stay within when filling any particular role. If your expectations don’t fit within the range, it’s a waste of time for all involved. They don’t have time to dig into all your other experience only to find out later that they would not be able to hire you, and so the question needs to be addressed very early on.

They have no news if they don’t get news from the hiring manager. While they are invariably an important part of the process, they generally are not the decision maker. If the hiring manager is not responding to them about your status, the recruiter has nothing they can share with you. They are not inclined to take your call, respond to your email, or proactively call you only to say they have no news. They, often, are in the dark just as you are.

They want to get the job filled! Their performance reviews, and often bonuses are largely based on how many positions they are able fill.  They want to get positions filled, and if you’re the right person to fill it, they want to do all they can to make it happen as quickly as possible. If the hiring manager gives them the OK to bring you in for an interview, they are generally going to try to arrange that as soon as possible. If they are going to move forward with an offer, they are going to try to execute that right away. One more position off their plate is a win for everyone. The internal recruiter is usually not the one slowing down the process or dragging their feet on next steps. They are usually subject to the pace of the hiring manager or other parts of the process.

So what do you do with all this???

The Recruiter is not your best networking contact. The recruiter is primarily focused on filling the specific positions they’ve been assigned to fill, and don’t have the time to help you find where you may best fit into the organization. Only call an HR person or Recruiter about specific roles they have, and reserve your more generalized networking questions for others outside of HR that will be more willing to help.

Keep your audience in mind! When you’re talking to the Recruiter or HR Representative, don’t try to drill down for specific detail of the position and what an average day is like. Reserve those questions for the hiring manager. Ask them about the corporate culture, about what it’s like to work at the company, what traits the company appreciates, and other things more related to their expertise.

No news is not necessarily bad news. When we haven’t heard back from a recruiter in a time-frame we think is appropriate, we generally assume there’s no interest or things have died. A job seekers time-frame, however, is almost always much shorter than a hiring manager’s time frame. While they would like to get someone hired quickly, they still have their primary job to do as well. Other priorities regularly take precedent and the hiring process can easily get pushed out another day, week, or month. Check in regularly, however, don’t assume that the opportunity has been lost. It’s likely just delayed.

You can still get points, even though there’s no reply. Even though a recruiter may not be able to respond to your voicemail or email, they are still likely to notice that you reached out to connect. Showing consistent interest is a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates. Mix up the forms of contact… leave a voicemail once, send an email, catch them on the phone, drop a note in the mail. Don’t leave several voicemails between actual contacts. Be sure your connections are brief, professional, and upbeat. Even if they can’t get back to you, it will make a positive impression.

Pursue multiple avenues. Even though you may have already interviewed, keep pursuing other contacts within the organization. Acknowledge to them that you are already in process on a position, however, let them know you are interested in learning as much about the organization as you can as you evaluate the opportunity. Let them know that any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated. Ask them what they would recommend would be the most effective way, in their organization, to set yourself apart from other candidates they are talking to. Consider all the advice you get carefully. Multiple advocates in an organization is a good thing for your prospects.

Understanding the internal recruiters role can help you be more effective in pursuing positions!


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