Question:  How do you build a relationship with a recruiter?  I was recently notified that I was going to be laid off in a restructuring following a merger. I have been calling recruiters but no one is calling me back?  What am I doing wrong?


JGS Response:  You are too late.  Once the restructuring bell has rung, if you do not have a go-to relationship with two or three busy/respected recruiters, you have waited too long.  Executive recruiters have demanding schedules and they simply do not have the time to call, or accept calls, from every out-of-work executive  who is looking for a job with a story to tell.

Executive recruiters are focused on two central points:

  • Meeting the needs of current clients, and
  • Finding new business

If they fail on either of those two points, they may well find themselves in the unemployment line with you. To be successful in the search business requires a laser focus on activities/actions that support those two points.

First, an explanation to provide context for my answer.  I work with executives, not Directors or managers, unless they have a systemwide scope of responsibility. So, my advice is geared to executives, not lower level managers or hourly employees. 

Here is what I tell my outplacement clients regarding building relation ships with executive recruiters:

  1. Take their calls:  When a search consultant calls you, always take the call, but here is little trick you need to learn to avoid wasting your time.  If you do not recognize the
    recruiter’s name, or the name of his or her company, which is not uncommon given the rise of boutique search firms, ask whether they are retained or contingency.  Contingency recruiters rarely handle senior level assignments so investing time with consultants at that level will not be a good use of your time. You want to zero in on retained firms who work in your space. 
  2. Offer to help: Always offer to help them find candidates, even if you are not interested in the position yourself.  When you tell or email a recruiter that you are not interested and do not offer to help, you are telegraphing that you do not understand how the game is played. Bad idea. Allocating 45 minutes to an hour trying to help a recruiter who may one day think of you for a much better job than the one you have, is an  investment. 
  3. Provide career updates:  Recruiters are busy creatures and they do not have time for a lot of chit-chat from people who are not active candidates. Once a quarter, provide them with a short note on career activities, highlighting any notable/memorable accomplishments.  Include a mini-case study if you feel it is worthy. Most importantly, reiterate your offer to help them identify potential candidates for any future searches. Market intelligence that might lead to another search engagement is always appreciated. They will protect your confidentiality. Recruiters tend to remember executives that help them find new business.
  4. Be visible on LinkedIn: Search firms handle only about 35 to 40 percent of the executive positions that are filled each year.  This means that you also need to get to know internal recruiters as well. But here is the problem, internal recruiters rarely, if ever, make telephone calls to source candidates. They will circulate the opening to their LinkedIn networks and they will probably post it there as well. So the question is how do you get noticed by these recruiters?  I have a one-word answer for you:  LinkedIn.  Establish a profile that allows internal recruiters to easily understand your experience and your record of accomplishment. You cannot be a passive social media person and expect internal recruiters to know who you are.  You must engage in strategic networking, identifying internal recruiters and then connecting them with your career value statement. You might also consider posting mini-case studies of your successes, and volunteer to speak at local, regional or national trade meetings. Selling your value is an essential aspect of personal brand management. By the way, invest your money in a professional portrait that will be compatible with the LinkedIn format. A good photo is an excellent first impression.  Using selfies or photos that are not tightly framed is not advisable.

Note: John is an executive recruiter and outplacement consultant with more than 22 years of experience working on C-suite assignments.  He has advised some of the top leaders on career matters. In addition to his outplacement work, he specializes in career crisis advisory events. You can reach John at AsktheRecruiter@JohnGSelf.Com