If there’s one thing that seems to be difficult for many job seekers to come to terms with it is recruiters. Internal or external ones, the same issues abound: Candidates continue to misunderstand exactly what recruiters do and how they do it, and recruiters don’t necessarily have the time (or are willing to take only so much time) to explain it to them.
The other day I had a prospective client call me about preparing his resume, LI profile, etc. When I asked him about his job search “strategy,” he told me that he plans to rely heavily on recruiters. In fact, he had already begun engaging several of them and he had a long list of “advice” from them on what his “brand” messaging should be. He then proceeded to rattle off this long list of “must-haves,” much of which contradicted itself.
It wasn’t that the advice was bad; it was that the advice was specific to the recruiter, the companies the recruiter recruits for, and sometimes off base from what the candidate is really looking for (or at least what he said he was looking for).
Basically, the recruiters were telling my prospect: “You don’t fit my current profile. Here is what I am really looking for.”
Now, here is what my prospective client heard, “I like you, and if you are just willing to jump through a few hoops, then I’d like you so much to find a job for you.” In other words, he walked away from these conversations with a positive feeling that if only he could untangle this mess of contradictory resume advice, the “job” was his! Not surprisingly, then, he was anxious to get it “right”.
The problem, of course, is that with most of the recruiters he was speaking with, there was no getting it right. They just weren’t that into him to begin with.
How can I say that? How do I know?
For one thing, my prospect did not “match” himself up with these recruiters. He reached out to any and all that would speak with him in his geographical area or that worked internally at some companies he was interested in. He spoke vaguely to them about what he wanted because he was more concerned about what they wanted from him. In other words, he didn’t really have a message to deliver; instead he was kind of hoping they would tell him what his message should be based on his background (and boy did they…so much so he was left more confused than when he started), and he would invent his “brand” around that.
On the surface, it seemed like a good strategy (find out what they want and give it to them), but in the end, it didn’t leave the good impression he was going for.
(Also, recruiters are people too after all. It’s easier to tell someone to go back and fix something and then “we’ll see” than to come right out and tell them that they just aren’t the right fit for you.)
When I suggested to my prospect, we look at the market he was in and build out a branding and job search strategy based on that market forecast, he was hesitant. When I told him that once we set that strategy, then we could match him with recruiters who placed candidates in alignment with his goals, he was quiet. When I recommended we go even further and profile companies based on the strategy developed and work to make introductions to decision makers at those companies, he became defensive.
Because he was still convinced that these other recruiters were really into him and just waiting for him to get his resume fixed. When I suggested he try both things: “fix” the resume but still develop a more proactive strategy, he stammered that he didn’t see the point. My point was that if he spent a month or two months solely on trying to get it “right” for these poorly suited recruiters, it was that much longer he was on the job hunt and less likely he would land the type of job he really wanted.
Much like we find in the dating scene, it is tough to admit when someone we want to impress just really isn’t into us, especially when we are really anxious for it to work out. So we cling to any hope he or she might give us (“fix this or that and then we’ll see”). And it can take a lot of wasted effort before we finally read between the lines (because, you know, maybe they kind of like us but they aren’t head over heels about us).
One thing I’ve witnessed played out time and again is that when recruiters do think you are the right fit for their companies, you will certainly know it. It’s not something they tend to hide like in a game of poker or in the dating world where you don’t want to come off too strong.
So engaging recruiters as part of your job search strategy is a fine move, but first you need to be properly matched and that starts with knowing who you are and what you want, not with what you need to fix.