There are some realities of the job search process that applicants must understand if they hope to avoid frustration or depression, neither of which are particularly helpful as candidates struggle to put their best foot forward in an increasingly crowded job field.

  1. Most recruiters do a terrible job returning telephone calls. If they do not know you or there is nothing in your outreach to suggest they may need you as a candidate for a current search, the chances of speaking to a partner or senior associate are not very good. That is why that when recruiters call you networking for candidates always take their call and offer to help even if you are not interested in the position.
  2. For search firm partners, their primary duty is to find new business. That is where they invest much of their time. Those are the telephone calls that do get returned
  3. The search process almost never proceeds as fast as anxious job applicants would like it to. Before you blame the recruiter, remember the client can create delays as well. Ask the recruiter on the front end about the project schedule, most especially the projected date for candidate presentation. Then be patient. If you have not heard anything for four or five days after the planned presentation date, call the recruiter and request an update.
  4. Clients do not always know what they want in a candidate so you shouldn’t automatically blame the search firm if confusion or doubt emerges. You wouldn’t think that could happen but it does, and more often than you think. For a few organizations, it is a regular occurrence.
  5. When you are contacted by a recruiter, always ask whether they are retained or work on a contingency basis. How you will be treated in the search can be vastly different depending on the firm’s business model. If the firm works on a non-exclusive contingency basis it means you will face less screening and probably not have access to any detailed information on the organization or its culture. Contingency recruiters get paid only if they make a placement, so beware of the hard sell.
  6. Unless you enjoy wasting your time, always ask for the salary range. You do not want to invest time and possibly risk having your boss find out that you are interviewing elsewhere, for a job that pays less than you are currently making. This happens more frequently with internal and contingency recruiters.
  7. Most search firms do not invest a significant amount of time at the start of a search trying to understand the client organization’s culture. This can be a serious issue because it is estimated that forty percent of those recruited from outside the hiring organization fail to survive 24 months. The most frequently cited reason for this mis-hire is “bad fit,” a nice term for cultural mismatch.
  8. Understand the firm’s placement guarantee. The longer the guarantee the more diligent the firm will be in ensuring the chosen candidate is successful. The shorter the guarantee period…
  9. Submit a resume that is specific to the job you are pursuing. Help the recruiter by connecting the dots between the job specifications and your skills and record of success. Some recruiters are lazy, some are constantly overworked. Some are not as experienced in making those connections. Make it easy for them. Be a helpful candidate.
  10. If you are an executive, always include your address and contact information. Some resume experts now say that putting the address and professional summary — where you can customize your message for a particular job — is a waste of valuable space. Yes, the top of your resume is valuable real estate but not putting that basic information creates headaches for recruiters, especially the people who are entering your information into their database. I believe that new trend is a rotten idea. Why anyone would suggest something that will irritate a recruiter is beyond me.
  11. Be responsive. If you are approached by a recruiter about a new job, and you decide to become a candidate, do not become hard to get — on the telephone, for telephone interviews, meetings with the partner or visits to the prospective employer’s site. Very few candidates are irreplaceable. Besides, if you are not responsive, you may not get another call from that firm.