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Job Magician Treat Recruiters Like Employers  

  • Recruiters are not on your side, and are not agents for you. All are paid by employers. They decide who will be presented to the employer, and who won’t be.
  • Job hunters should treat recruiters the same way they treat employers.


Someone asked me what the most common mistake that job hunters make when dealing with me, an executive recruiter. The answer is not difficult – job hunters frequently treat me differently than they would treat an employer.

Whether retained (I am retained, and most Job Magician advice on recruiters pertains to dealing with retained firms) or contingent, an executive search firm is always paid by the employer. Their job is to please the organization that is paying them, not you. That means that the good ones are going to do their best to present candidates to their clients who will be outstanding, or at the very least, be productive employees, well-regarded by their new companies. That’s where repeat business comes from.

When speaking to a candidate that I have decided not to present for a position, in some cases, I’ve gently told the person that he or she shouldn’t have dressed casually for the interview, or have come late.

I’ve had more than a few job hunters respond to this by saying, to my surprise, “You’re only a recruiter – I always wear a suit when I meet with an employer, and make sure I arrive an hour early for an interview with one.”  A pretty insulting comment. Is this one of those people who sucks up to the president, yet treats the receptionist poorly, then tells the guy on the lift that he’s “just a forklift driver,” and acts as if his opinion is unimportant?


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There’s a disconnect here.

The recruiter decides who will be presented to the client. Fail to impress her, and she’ll be calling you in two weeks to tell you that she’s presenting five candidates to the client who were closer fits to her clients’ specifications.

The good recruiter comes across like she’s your best friend. From the moment she first talks with you on the phone, she makes you feel so comfortable that you figure you can relax, take it easy, and treat the interview like a coffee break.

You’re smarter than the average job hunter (and fully a third of the people I interview for 6-figure-plus jobs make one of the blunders mentioned below). You won’t fall into this trap. You know that you have to treat a recruiter with the same respect and caution that you would use if you met with an employer.

That means:

  • Dress properly (no business casual, even if that is commonplace in your industry).
  • Arrive early.
  • Tell the recruiter only things that you would tell the client – avoid saying things like, “Just between you and me, there are two jobs that I left off my resume because …”  The ethical recruiter shares all relevant information with her client.

And of course, you’ll extend one additional courtesy that is frequently and shockingly ignored: You’ll turn off your cell phone, and won’t sneak peeks at your Blackberry during the interview.

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