Every relationship is a two-way street, including the one between job seekers and staffing recruiters.
A staffing professional is there to provide expertise, industry contacts and job leads — including those not on public job boards. They can also provide tips to improve your chances and direct your efforts to the most promising job opportunities, including those that will help boost your career.
But if you want to take full advantage of all their resources, you need to do your part to help and inspire them, too.
Here are seven ways to build a strong, collaborative relationship with a recruiting professional.
1. Ask the right questions
Every relationship begins with a courtship phase as the two parties get to know each other. When deciding on a staffing agency (or search firm, staffing firm — they're called by various names), you want to be sure they're a good fit for you, and vice versa. After all, not every staffing agency is the same.
When it comes to your career, there's no point in beating around the bush. The following questions can help you assess whether a recruiter will represent you well:
- "How often do you staff roles with the skill sets in my background?"
- "What types of roles would allow me to start working right away, as soon as tomorrow?"
- "What types of companies and industries have you placed people like me in?"
- "What experience do you have in the industry that enables you to relate to both clients and candidates?"
- "Do you proactively market your candidates?"
- "Do your clients pay you before or after a candidate is found?"
2. Stay in touch (without pestering)
Recruitment agencies want to stay up-to-date with your progress in your search. Likewise, you may want to call or write with questions, or simply let them know you're still an eager and willing job seeker.
For sure, you don't want to disappear. You also don't want to pester. So what's the right balance? Use your instincts, but a check-in every week or two is common industry practice. If in doubt, don't be afraid to ask how often your particular recruiter likes to be in touch — and what form of communication he or she prefers.
These communications are excellent opportunities to showcase interpersonal skills such diplomacy, active listening and willingness to hear diverse perspectives. Help the recruiter feel confident sending you to any job interview.
3. Be honest and open
Honesty is always the best policy. Be up front about what you're looking for — and what you're not — in terms of position and salary. That's the only way a staffing professional can do the best possible job for you.
Likewise, be straightforward about your salary history, the responsibilities you held at previous positions, and why you left or were let go from past roles. First impressions set the tone for your relationship, and being forthcoming demonstrates a trustworthy character.
It is fine to look for work on your own, but promptly inform the agency if you have a job lead in the pipeline. The same holds true for personal or familial obligations that might impact your availability.
4. Ask for guidance, but don't expect a recruiter to craft your resume
Because of their insider perspective, recruiters can provide great tips to improve your chances of landing a job. Ask for a candid appraisal of your strengths as a candidate, from your salary expectations to your interviewing skills and professional appearance.
If they're doing their job, they'll give you unvarnished feedback. But that means you need to listen without going on the defensive — and then be willing to capitalize on their tips.
But remember, they're there to give you guidance, not execute for you. Ask them for tips polishing your resume. But it's not their job to rewrite it for you.
5. Don't be shy about money
There's no reason to withhold information about your salary expectations or what you've been paid by past employers. The recruiter's job is to suggest a rate that's fair for both parties.
If you're unsure about your salary expectations, check out Robert Half's Salary Guides. They help you determine what to expect based on your skills, experience and location. Armed with that information, you'll feel more confident when discussing money.
However, don't be surprised if your recruiter suggests positions that don't perfectly match your desired location, hourly rate or type of job. They want to provide as many viable options as possible so you can start working sooner rather than later. Holding out for that perfect job could leave you waiting forever.
6. Stay in touch, even after you land an assignment
Many recruiters continue to provide guidance while you're on assignment — especially while you're still a new hire.
And be sure to approach your recruiter first about any issues you might be experiencing with a client company.
7. Spread the good news
When you find a staffing agency you love to work with, consider recommending it to friends and colleagues. Great referrals help raise your profile — and may inspire recruiters to think of you as new job opportunities arise.
No matter where you are in the process, honesty, responsiveness and grace provide a great foundation for a solid relationship with any recruiter.