Part II: Building Rapport: Once you’ve chosen a recruiter to partner with, the next step is to build off of that initial meeting/conversation by continuing to be transparent on expectations and your position relative to the marketplace. The toughest part of any relationship is developing open, honest communication that includes constructive, well-received critique(s) by both parties.
Begin with a framework of expectations that is realistic and well-thought out. Any recruiter that says you are the best candidate they have met has probably used that line with each candidate they met. A recruiter will try to match you quickly to a job. A great recruiter will partner with you by identifying your strengths and areas of growth, establish a time table that the process may follow, and set compensation expectations against your needs in a next step (work-life balance, salary, benefits, perks, career growth, mentorship, etc.). A great recruiter will not be afraid to tell you where you stand in relation to the marketplace, but with that critique will also come suggestions to help you improve your marketability. Should you take an excel class? Learn new systems and ask to take on new duties and responsibilities? Take on new projects at work? All of these things can be done if you are proactively meeting a recruiter to find that next, great step in your career. Reactive, ‘place me now’ partnership means you may find a better job, not a better career move.
You will be prepped by recruiters for interviews. A great recruiter will not tell you what to say; instead they will help you focus on what to research, how to formulate effective questions, and how to summarize effectively who you are and what you bring to a new company. Recruiters do this by getting to know their clients and sharing that knowledge; not only can you prepare effectively for an interview, but even before you reach that point you are able to determine if that culture is the right one for your career.
A great recruiter will give you honest feedback; no one interviews perfectly, so some constructive critiquing by the client will be communicated. “Well we have not heard back yet” is not a common response from clients after a week or more; usually this means either the client relationship is not strong or the recruiter does not want to give you bad news. A great recruiter will walk down the path with you, always providing feedback and insight, even if it is just “You did a great job, you’re in the top 3, and the client will determine next steps Monday…more to follow”.
This may give you insight into the mind of a great recruiter, but how are you partnering with the recruiter to be a great candidate? Remember, this is your job search, not theirs. It is your career that a recruiter’s entire team is willing to help further; and all recruiters work for free until they place you. If a great recruiter meets 5-10 candidates a week, they may place one. Most recruiters work for free for the rest…including you. It is important to respect a recruiter’s time and efforts with honest feedback and partnership on your search. Keeping your recruiter in the loop with respect to other opportunities you are pursuing on your own, for example, is something you should share. You do NOT have to share the company name, etc. But share progress; “I’m in finals with one company and declined a second interview with another.” is appropriate feedback. Managing that partnership is truly a two-way street. An engaged, responsive candidate will be mirrored by an engaged, responsive recruiter. If you only reach out once in a great while, you may very well be “lost in the shuffle” with respect to new leads, opportunities, and eventually career moves. Your bottom line is a well-informed and engaged recruiter is your career partner for years, not just for your first move but for years to come.