How to successfully work with recruiters from head hunting firms

You have decided that you want to reach out to a recruiter and gain their assistance in your job search. You have contacted several of them, but none of them have responded and you can’t understand why. I have had several of my clients get jobs through recruiters, so thought that I would share how to work with a recruiter and gain their attention in a good way! In order to do this, you must first understand how a recruiter works, who they work with and how they get paid.  Below are a few highlights that will be helpful for a jobseeker.

Do you have unique skills? First off, recruiters do not recruit for easy to fill positions, there are hundreds of suitable candidates that can be easily found. For example, if you have an MBA and no experience it is unlikely that a recruiter will be searching you out to promote you to an employer. If you have just completed your MBA and have ten years of experience in a field that is in high demand, then you could be of interest to the recruiter. Understand what your unique skills are and how these make you marketable.

Recruiters are specialists. Most retained executive search consultants have very specific niches. They know lots about the industries, job functions, and employers in their space – and probably not much about other industries. So when reaching out to recruiters, do your homework and find out what types of positions they recruit for and make sure your interests and skills fit with these. If you approach a recruiter who recruits for IT, and you are looking for a Business Development role, they will probably not respond to you.

They are interested in hearing from you… provided you are in the area they recruit for! That doesn’t mean that they’ll take every call and respond instantly to every email, because…

Their priorities are different from yours. You want a job – they have jobs – a perfect match, right? Not necessarily! Recruiters work for (and are therefore loyal to) their clients, the hiring companies. They have no vested interest in any particular candidate.

They are not sitting around waiting for candidates to contact them. A key part of their job is scouring all of their vast resources and contacts to find potential candidates for specific opportunities.

Can they find you? If you’re not visible in your industry, not easily found online, don’t work for a prominent company, or don’t have a decent network, recruiters may never find you. Start by posting a well-written, keyword-rich, accomplishment-loaded profile to LinkedIn – a favourite resource for recruiters!

Establish interest before sending your résumé. A quick phone call or email to determine if there’s a common interest is a great way to launch a relationship with a recruiter in your space. Then, assuming mutual interest, forward your resume.

Get to the point in your résumé. The first half-page of a resume should provide the recruiter with the key skills you have to offer and the rest of the resume should back it up. Make sure your resume is sharply focused, easy-to-skim and easy-to-read. It must error-free and well laid out.

Be polite. Never launch into your “elevator pitch” without first determining that the recruiter has a few minutes to chat. Ask questions, don’t just spew out information. Listen to learn what is important to that recruiter, given current searches and anticipated needs.

Understand that the right fit is paramount. Recruiters don’t match “a” candidate to a job; they recommend “the” best candidate given everything they know about the job, its challenges and opportunities, the company and its culture, and you – from their very careful interview and vetting process.

Be transparent. Recruiters need to know it all – your compensation expectations, your reasons for leaving a job, your strongest interests, your ability to relocate and travel, and much more as they strive for that great fit. If you are less than honest and less than forthcoming, you’ll lose that recruiter’s trust and never be considered again.

Don’t take it personally if you’re not chosen. You’ll never know everything that’s behind any particular search or client situation. Recognize that the recruiter is doing his or her best job for that particular client.

Stay connected. As mentioned, recruiters specialize! Stay on their radar screen and you may be contacted for other opportunities – now or in the future.  Most importantly, understand that recruiters are just one channel in an executive’s targeted search strategy. They can be extremely valuable during your search and throughout your career, but they are never the only avenue you should pursue when looking for work. You must recognize their needs and priorities to build a positive relationship and create a happy matchmaking environment.

About Dorothy Keenan of FutureWorks

Dorothy is a certified résumé writer with 25 years of experience in providing career advice and support to 5,000 professionals in diverse industries including technology, science, gaming, trades, finance, manufacturing, warehouse, and administration to find fulfilling careers. Through her work, she has gained a solid understanding of the needs of British Columbia’s dynamic labour force. Her expertise in developing résumés, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters has helped her clients move forward in their careers. For more information visit or contact

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash