Recruiters are jerks… aren\’t they?



It\’s no secret that the job-seeker\’s relationship with recruiters and HR people can be fraught with fear, confusion, irritation and anger. It doesn\’t take long in this business, or in your job search, to hear those feelings surface among people looking for, or open to, new employment.

So let me explain why recruiters aren\’t jerks, and how understanding their behavior, incentives, and needs, can help you get hired faster.

First, some truths:
– Recruiters and HR people work for the hiring manager, not you.
– Their career choice is HR / recruiting, not the other field in which you\’re currently employed.
– Their job is to get a position filled, not to get you a job.
– They have dozens of open positions, with demanding clients, and too many applicants.
– They\’ve discovered from long experience that professionals, like you, sometimes don\’t know what they want.

So you will inevitably find that HR people and recruiters:
– Don\’t have the same sense of urgency about your fate as you do.
– Don\’t prioritize your needs over the needs of their client.
– Might not have the technical / business / experiential grasp of your field that you do.
– Fail to take into account nuances of what you believe you\’d like to do next.
– Don\’t respond as often, accurately, or forthcomingly, as you\’d like.

So, of course, you might feel entirely justified in writing off the whole bunch of them in your most irritable moments.

But that\’s not actually going to help you get hired.

And, truth be told, the hiring managers that desperately need you for their job, don\’t have the time and attention to manage the entire process, which is why they introduced an HR professional or recruiter into the equation in the first place.

So rather than treat recruiters and HR people as miserable service providers, might I suggest a different approach?

Treat them as customers.

After all, you\’re selling the most important thing you\’re going to sell this year — your labor — probably three, four, or more, years\’ worth.

That\’s multiple hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.

So instead of grumbling about how poorly they\’re doing at the task of purchasing your labor, perhaps you could help your customer out?:

When they don\’t understand your industry or specialty

Explain to them, non-condescendingly and without irritation, how your specialty works, and where their perception misses the mark.

When they call or e-mail with a job much different than what you do

Politely explain why it\’s not a fit, or, much, much better, connect them with someone who does fit the requirements of the position they\’re looking for today. Making a customer happy by sending them to the right shop is a great way to build their trust in you for the future.

When they do get you an interview with the \”buyer\”

Don\’t take it for granted and feel like you can abuse them once you\’ve met the \”Big Cheese\”. Keep them informed, keep them in the loop, and keep being honest with them. In addition to your getting a job offer, it\’s their reputation as a \”buyer\” that\’s on the line when you go in for an interview, and they\’ll be just as anxious as you are. It\’s only fair that you keep them apprised of your progress.

When they\’re unprepared, lazy, or obtuse

Realize that when you\’ve bought a car, an appliance, insurance, or some big-ticket item in the past, that you, too, were once unprepared. Being a professional, at your high level, means that not every day and every encounter is going to go perfectly. Remain professional, courteous, and keep focusing on your ultimate goal — to make a sale and get a job. Blowing up at your customer isn\’t going to help.

When you don\’t hear back from them at all

There are so many reasons that a \”buyer\” will stop calling you — ranging from bureaucratic roadblocks on their side to simple forgetfulness. Desperate, angry follow-up never helps. The most effective tack to take is to call once a week for three or four weeks. If you haven\’t heard back by then, you likely won\’t at all.

Look, I understand that treating recruiters and HR people as your customers will have all the usual frustrations of customer service, and is especially nerve-wracking at a time and life situation in which you really need to get out of your current position and into a new one.

But no matter how badly you want it, burning the people who are there to facilitate your getting hired is short-sighted and ineffective.

To make the most out of your job search, you\’ll need to treat the recruitment professionals with whom you come into contact, as buyers of a very important, and very expensive, product: You.

And that\’s the best way to get past your initial impression of HR people and recruiters when you begin your job search…

Now, inevitably, a few dozen of you will write in to share the \”Tale of the Big One That You Landed All By Yourself\” — that time you got the job by ignoring the HR person or recruiter and going directly to the source… the hiring manager.

Congratulations on that.

But how would you feel about a salesperson in your company who said they didn\’t need to do any pro-active selling because the last big deal fell right into their lap when the buyer sat next to them on the flight home from San Diego?

Lucky happenstance is not a plan for success.

Work with the system, and not against it, to maximize your outcome.