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How To Effectively Work with a Recruiter

By Michelle Kedem

Many firms, both large and small, work with headhunters to help them fill empty positions. Headhunters are therefore the first gatekeepers in the interview process, determining who gets interviewed for many desirable positions.

Headhunters typically work with more candidates than clients and have many applicants for any given job. At the same time, their credibility with clients is determined by the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of the candidates they present. Convincing headhunters that you are a high caliber candidate will get them to call you when they have openings that match your skills, and to push for you when the right position is available.

So how can you convince a headhunter that you are a high quality candidate that will represent them well in front of their clients? Respect their time!

Specifically, here are five tips that will help you impress:

1) Your initial email or phone call should be professional, polite, and direct. No fancy cover letter is needed.

2) Remember the headhunters’ interests. Their clients are the companies extending offers, not the candidates applying for jobs. Target your resume and pitch, based on the job or type of job you would like to get. If you are applying for a specific role, modify your resume, where appropriate, to reflect the language of the job description. If a role is not right for you, refer friends and colleagues that meet the job specifications.

3) Know your own goals, with defined parameters around how far you are willing to stray from the ideal. (e.g.: I would like to decrease my commute time and work in my town, but 20 minutes each way is OK).

4) Follow-up appropriately. Keep the headhunter posted after interviews with his or her client. A quick e-mail or phone call is sufficient; a lengthy rehashing or multiple follow-up inquiries can be viewed as an irritation.

5) Remember: Every interaction is part of a larger interview process.

Michelle Kedem is a partner at On-Ramps, a recruiting and consulting firm focused on placing people in flexible work