Working with Job Recruiters for a Successful Job Search

Recruiting Best Practices

Job Recruiters - Working with a Recruiter for a Successful Job Search

Apr 13, 2022 / by

Working with Job Recruiters Reference Guide

1. Introduction    2. Who are Professional Recruiters   3. Types of Recruiters   4. Building Relationships   5. Where to Find Recruiters   6. Convincing Recruiters  7. Evaluating Recruiters   8. Screening Questions   9. Protection from Fake Recruiters    10. Tips for Candidates   11. The Right Recruiter   12. Free Get Hired eBook!

Job Recruiters

Are you looking for a job? If so, you may find it helpful to work with job recruiters. Job recruiters can help you find a job that's the right fit for you. They can also help you prepare for job interviews and networking events, and shepherd you through the interview process. In this blog post, we'll discuss how to work with job recruiters and get the most out of your job search. We'll also provide tips on how to choose the right recruiter for you. Read on to learn more!

Intro to Working With Job Recruiters

When it comes to finding jobs, you could go it alone — or you could conduct a more effective, efficient job search by working with a professional recruiter, or "job recruiter" as many call them. Locate recruiters at professional recruiting firms who value you as a candidate and have strong relationships with your target employers, and you'll be on your way to a better job in no time.

When you're looking for a new job, it's important to find someone who will work hard on your behalf. The recruiters at professional recruiting firms have strong relationships with target employers and are dedicated professionals committed to helping their clients land great positions - just ask them how they can help!

Trust us: We know a thing or two about the subject of recruiters! helps both job seekers and employers connect with a global network of recruiters to facilitate successful job placements. With thousands of freelance recruiters on our platform, we help bring together what was once a very fragmented profession. After reading this resource, if you are interested, please learn more about Recruiter and our recruiting solutions.

Who Are Professional Job Recruiters?

Professional recruiters sometimes called "search specialists" or "headhunters," can work independently or with recruitment and staffing firms. Recruiters earn a living by making placements: they get paid when they help employers find top talent and hire qualified job seekers.

Note that some people use the clarifying designation “job recruiters” to refer specifically to those recruiters who place people in jobs with employers, as opposed to sports recruiters, military recruiters, and other types of recruiters. There is some crossover between the professions, as some of the same skills apply to each, but they are generally distinct groups of people.

Usually, recruiters work on particularly hard-to-fill roles that require niche skill sets, such as information technology positions or management roles in specialized industries. When you're looking for a new position, connecting with quality recruiters can help you find unique open jobs with top employers that may not be available on job boards and other public channels. As many as 80 percent of jobs are filled in the hidden job market, meaning they are never publicly advertised. Working with recruiters is one of the easiest ways to gain access to these "secret" roles. 

If you’re looking for a new job, or if your business is in need of top talent, consider working with a professional recruiter. Recruiters can be an invaluable resource when it comes to finding the best candidates for the job. They have extensive networks of qualified professionals and they know how to navigate the hiring process. And, because they get paid only when they make a placement, recruiters have a vested interest in helping you find the perfect fit.


Types of Job Recruiters

Some of the recruiting industry jargon can be confusing, and there are a few different types of job recruiters you may run into during your job search. Here's what you should know about them:

  • Contingency Recruiters: Often called "headhunters" because they are free agents that don’t work for one hiring company exclusively, contingency recruiters are hired by a company to find qualified candidates for a specific position. The recruiter will have a contract with the company that promises a fee if and when one of their candidates is hired by the company. In other words: A contingent recruiter only gets paid if a company hires one of their candidates, hence the "contingency" part of the name. Contingent recruiters are highly motivated to make placements, which can work in your favor. They make money if you get the job.
  • Retained Recruiters: Like lawyers, some recruiters are retained by companies to fill a specific position. In these arrangements, the client company pays all expenses related to recruiting until the position is filled. Sometimes a fee is paid when the position is filled or if it isn’t filled by a certain time, and this payment ends the contract between the recruiter and the hiring company. When you are working with a recruiter that has been exclusively retained by an employer, it is almost guaranteed that they have a close relationship with the employer and are serving the employer's best interests. A retained recruiter's inside knowledge of their client can be a big help as you strive to make a great impression on the employer.
  • Generalist Recruiters: Instead of focusing on one industry, a generalist recruiter helps companies in a wide variety of industries fill positions. Many generalist recruiting companies have many different employees with various specializations and job titles. The biggest benefit a generalist recruiter brings to you, the job seeker, is their wide reach. If you are working with a generalist firm, however, it's a good idea to find the right person at the company with the best experience for your specific job search.
  • Specialist Recruiters: In contrast with generalists, specialist recruiters focus on one kind of role or industry. As a result, they develop in-depth knowledge that allows them to better source and match qualified candidates with the right employers. Because they spend all their time in one particular field, specialists tend to amass deep networks of candidate and employer contacts, which they can leverage to your benefit. 
  • Staffing Agency Recruiters: Sometimes called "temporary agency recruiters," staffing agency recruiters focus on temporary and contract positions. These recruiters can help you secure hourly or project-based positions with employers, rather than full-time jobs. Often, when taking a role through a staffing agency, you will be legally employed with the staffing company rather than the employer where you are placed. For that reason, it behooves the job seeker to understand a staffing firm's administration and benefits structure before accepting a role through a staffing firm.

Building Relationships With Recruiters

Are you interested in collaborating with a recruiter on your job search, but not sure how to find the right one? and other websites can help you evaluate recruiter profiles and connect with the right recruiter based on their career specialization, industry, and location.

Ideally, you're looking for someone who regularly works with employers in your field and regularly places candidates with skill sets similar to yours. For example, if you're an IT pro looking for your next job working with a tech startup, find an IT recruiter rather than a recruiter who mainly places nurses in healthcare roles! 

It's important to understand that not every job recruiter will want to work with you — even if they do work in your field. Don't take it personally. Recruiters simply have to focus on candidates who fit the needs of their employer clients. If a recruiter turns you down, it's not because you're not a good candidate — it's because you're not the right match for any of the roles they're trying to fill at the moment.

Generally speaking, if you have strong qualifications in a field with a reasonably high demand for workers, recruiters will be receptive to working with you. However, that doesn't mean you should count on the recruiter to perform your search for you. At the end of the day, a recruiter's main goal is finding the right hire for whatever roles they happen to be working on, so there's a slight element of chance at play. 

While you shouldn't expect a recruiter to go out of their way to find you a job, they very well may be able to identify a shortlist of open opportunities that might be a fit for you. If a recruiter doesn't have any matches at the moment, you can always ask them to hold on to your contact information. Top recruiters maintain databases of prospective candidates, and if they know you're interested, they'll reach out when a new opportunity arises that could be right for you.

Working with a job recruiter doesn't replace your job search, so it's a good idea to keep doing what you would always do: surf the job boards, proactively reach out to employers, and apply to open jobs. That said, your recruiter might have contacts at your target companies, so before you send that cold email, try asking if they know anyone. If you're a strong candidate, most recruiters would be happy to put you in touch with their professional connections.

Where to Find Recruiters to Represent You

  •’s Recruiter Network: You can find recruiters with has built a very large community of recruiters on its platform. We list recruiters by geographical and functional areas, as well as industry focus, so you can find people whose expertise aligns with your career needs.
  • Recruiters on LinkedIn: You can use LinkedIn for your job search by looking up recruiters in your geographical and professional area. Search for keywords such as “recruiter," “talent acquisition,” or “staffing.” You can also get recruiters to come to you by marking your LinkedIn profile status as "Open to job opportunities." Of course, that's not guaranteed to bring a flood of recruiters to your inbox, so keep the active search going as well!
  • Browse Google for Local Recruiters: Carrying out a Google search with "[location name]" and phrases like "recruiters in my area," "local staffing firms," and "employment service" will certainly surface agencies in your area. Business publications often create lists of top recruiting and staffing firms, such as those found in the “Big Book of Lists” or on the Staffing Industry Analysts website. Try searching "best recruiters in [location name]," "top [preferred industry] recruiters," or similar queries to find such lists.
  • Referrals From Colleagues: Networking is one of the most effective ways to get a job — and it's also one of the most effective ways to find recruiters. Recruiting is a relationship-centric field, and if a trusted contact vouches for you, a recruiter will be much more likely to work with you. Ask your friends, family, and professional connections if they've worked with any recruiters they'd recommend. Try tapping professional and alumni associations, as well as LinkedIn contacts. Remember: Recruiters tend to specialize in certain fields, so you're most likely to find success here if you ask someone who has a similar career as you. Do be discreet about it: After all, job searches can be tricky subjects, and you may not want certain people to know you're on the hunt just yet.
  • Recruiters Involved With Professional Associations: Creative and dedicated recruiters often maintain relationships with professional associations and business networking groups. If you belong to any such groups and associations, you might check with the administrators or managers to find out whether they have specific recruiter recommendations for you. These professional organizations will often also host networking meetings, which recruiters attend. If you are actively seeking to meet recruiters, you may want to join these meetings and network with people there.

Convincing Recruiters to Work With You

If you want job recruiters to work with you, you need to start thinking like a recruiter. It's all about marketing yourself properly. Recruiters put “square pegs in square holes” — meaning they look for job seekers with marketable experience that matches the typical job requirements of their employer clients. View your professional profile with this fact in mind, and revamp your resume, social media accounts, and other important materials accordingly. The key is to present yourself as an attractive candidate who clearly fits the recruiter's niche — that will make recruiters want to poach you!

Without a doubt, LinkedIn is the first platform most recruiters turn to when hunting for job candidates. LinkedIn has close to 600 million users, so the competition to get noticed by recruiters can be stiff. You can give yourself a boost by fully completing every section of your profile. That shows recruiters you're a serious professional who is invested in their career. Be sure to include recommendations, work samples, and an engaging LinkedIn summary.

Recommendations can be particularly powerful in attracting the attention of recruiters. If others are willing to publicly tout your abilities, that's a good sign you'd make a great asset to an employer. Try reaching out to clients, colleagues, and former managers and asking them to write recommendations for your profile. Offer to write recommendations for them as well: People are more likely to help when a mutually beneficial exchange is on the table.

You may also want to get more active on LinkedIn. Interact with other people's posts, and share interesting articles of your own. Join industry groups and participate in the discussions that happen there. When you're proactively networking on LinkedIn, you're more likely to run into recruiters. Plus, it shows recruiters you're passionate about your field and genuinely interested in new opportunities.

While a robust LinkedIn profile matters, it's not the only place recruiters look for candidates. Job boards are still important, especially the major ones like Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed. Be sure to upload your resumes to these sites, as well as any niche job boards that focus on your specific profession/industry. For example, if you're an information technology professional, you'd want to have a presence on Dice.

Because job boards can attract such a variety of recruiters working for a broad spectrum of employer clients, it's important to make sure the resume you upload casts a wide net. Be careful of being so highly targeted and specific in your language that you seem suitable only for a very narrow slice of roles. You don't want to make your resume so generic that your skillset becomes diluted, but you do want to showcase your top talents in a way that makes them seem applicable to an array of employers. It doesn't hurt to emphasize your transferable skills on your resume!

Evaluating Recruiters

Working with the right recruiter is important. Not only do you need someone who will be able to connect you with relevant roles, but you also need someone who is going to represent you well. That means both accurately conveying your fit and engaging positively with employers on your behalf. Remember: A recruiter's conduct can influence employers' decisions about their candidates. Your reputation is on the line, so you should only work with trustworthy, friendly recruiters you'd be proud to associate with.  

In general, look for a job recruiter who:

  • is knowledgeable about your specific industry.
  • offers you personally relevant advice about job searches and informational interviews.
  • has good relationships with their employer clients and can speak specifically about their roles, cultures, expectations, etc.
  • asks your permission to represent you for each job, rather than assuming they can submit you to any roles as they see fit.
  • is friendly, courteous, and professional in all interactions.

Screening Questions for Recruiters

When you're interviewing for a new job, it's good practice to ask employers questions to determine whether they can meet your needs as much as you can meet theirs. The same principle applies when searching for a recruiter: You'll want to conduct your own evaluation to ensure this person will be a good partner for your job search.

Here are some questions to ask a recruiter to get a feel for how well they'll be able to help you find the kind of job you're looking for:

  • Why did you become a recruiter? What do you like about working in this profession?
    • You’re looking here for people who emphasize making a difference for employers and candidates alike. While recruiting can be a lucrative job, the paradox of recruiting is that the most successful people in the field are the ones who put relationships first.
  • What is your recruiting specialty?
    • Ideally, you want a recruiter who has extensive experience with both your specific profession and employers in your target industry. Ask for the types of roles that the recruiter has placed in your specialty, in particular in your local area.
  • What kinds of companies do you work with?
    • You're looking for a recruiter who works with employers that match your professional, geographical, and other preferences. Ideally, you want to find a recruiter who represents jobs from multiple employers that you consider to be employers of choice.
  • How long have you been recruiting?
    • You want a recruiter who is dedicated to the profession, someone who knows what they're doing. While a short tenure isn't necessarily a red flag, you do want to avoid recruiters who seem like they're just in it for a quick buck or that have not yet established good industry connections.

Protecting Yourself From Job Scammers

Recruiting scams and job scams are not extremely common, but they do happen. As you vet potential recruiters, lookout for any signs that they may not be genuine.

Most recruiting scams follow a similar playbook: The scammer claims to be a recruiter in charge of hiring for various positions, and then they ask for sensitive personal and financial details they claim their clients need.

In general, don't give someone claiming to be a recruiter any sensitive financial or personal information, such as your bank account or social security number. Employers often request that information upon hiring you, but that transaction should be between you and your new company alone. The recruiter should play no part in it, so be wary of any recruiter who claims to need this information upfront.

Also, beware of recruiters who claim to need any sort of payment for representing you during a job search. Legitimate recruiters are normally paid by their employer clients, not by the candidates they place. Any recruiter who says otherwise may be a scammer. The exception may be a career coach, who may provide you value-added services such as resume critiques and interview coaching - but be very selective with whom you work.

If you're unsure whether a recruiter is the "real deal" or a fraud, start by checking their email address. Is it connected to a real company with a real website? If there is no website or the website seems unprofessional, you may want to stop engaging with this "recruiter."

Tips From Recruiters for Candidates

For some final pointers, let's go straight to the source. Here are a few key pieces of advice to help you make the most of your relationships with recruiters, according to recruiters themselves: 

  • The Recruiter Interview Is a Real Interview: Many candidates don’t consider meeting with a recruiter a “real” interview. That's a big mistake. You need to show the recruiter you're the kind of valuable candidate their clients are looking for. To that end, treat meetings with recruiters the way you would treat a meeting with a dream employer: dress to impress, come prepared to pitch yourself and formulate a list of questions you'd like to ask. When meeting with recruiters, follow the same job interview tips you would follow if were you interviewing with an employer directly. If you make a good impression on the recruiter, they'll feel more comfortable and confident about submitting you to roles.
  • Don't Blast Your Resume Out to Every Employer: You'll have the best results if you find a small handful of recruiters who work in your industry and develop strong relationships with them. The same goes for employers: Identify a few organizations with open roles that fit your background and career goals, and focus on those. If you send your resume to every organization so much as tangentially related to your field, recruiters may be hesitant to work with you. Mass applying can make you seem unfocused and uninvested in your career, making it hard for recruiters to sell you to employers. There's also a practical problem from the recruiter's standpoint: If you apply directly to companies they're already working with, they can't help you get your foot in the door because you've bypassed them. Be selective about where you apply, and keep the lines of communication open with your recruiter. It never hurts to run your applications by them before hitting "submit."
  • Develop Strategic Relationships With Recruiters: Once you have established contact with a recruiter, be sure to check in with them regularly. As with any relationship, it takes some time to build a strong rapport with a recruiter. The more work you put in, the more you'll benefit. Keep a recruiter updated about your current employment situation and target employers — they may be able to help you take the next step. And if they can't help right now, staying in touch means you'll stay top of mind. When a new position opens up, you'll be one of the first to get a call. Remember, recruiters only get paid when they make placements, so they want you to get a job. Invest in an open and honest relationship with a recruiter, and they'll be more willing to put you in front of their clients as a good hiring choice.
  • Say Thanks: You would send an employer a thank-you note after an informational interview — why not thank your recruiter as well? Thank them for their help in securing the interview, and give them a quick overview of how it went. They'll appreciate the update — and that you took the time to express your gratitude. Again: Positive relationships matter with recruiters. The more you do to build that relationship, the more they'll be willing to help you. Note that you might also want to run your employer thank-you note by the recruiter for their input before sending it off. A good recruiter can help you craft a thank-you note that really speaks to their employer client — and they can act as a second pair of eyes to catch mistakes.
  • Keep Your Expectations Realistic: Remember that recruiters are typically working on multiple jobs with multiple clients at any given point. While the best recruiters will be as responsive as possible, understand that they're juggling a lot of responsibilities. Understand, too, that recruiters typically submit multiple qualified candidates to a client. You may not be the only candidate they put forth for a role. Don't take it personally: Employers like to have options.
  • Understand How the Recruiter Fits Into the Hiring Equation: Recruiters don't make hiring decisions — they just source the best candidates and pass them on to their clients. The good news is that recruiters will only submit candidates they believe in, so if they send your resume to a client, they'll be willing to advocate for you. However, they can't make the employer hire you. That's up to the hiring manager. 

For a More Effective Job Search, Work With the Right Job Recruiter

In some circles, recruiters and professional recruiting firms have a bad rap. As a result, many job seekers overlook just how valuable it can be to work with a recruiter to find their next job. The vast majority of recruiters are dedicated to connecting great employers with great candidates, to the benefit of all involved. Finding and working with the right job recruiter can be one of the most effective ways to land a job you really want.

For best results, don't approach working with a recruiter as a transactional relationship. Instead, develop long-term, strategic relationships with recruiters who specialize in your field. This can help you stay apprised of open positions throughout your career — and it can help you land interviews before jobs are even publicized. Plus, recruiters like to work with candidates they know well. The stronger your relationship with a recruiter, the more likely they are to help you take the next step in your career.


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Written by Miles Jennings

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