All things being equal, if one person applies directly to a company online, and another person has their resume handed to the hiring manager from someone they trust with a personal recommendation about why they fit the position, is briefed before each interview about what to expect and how to approach the interviews, and has someone who can negotiate salary for them, express any concerns for them and get delicate questions answered for them without having to ask themselves, who has the best chance of getting the job? Obviously going through a good recruiter gives you a tremendous advantage. However, your approach to the application process needs to be different than just applying to jobs on a corporate website.
Recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people. Knowing that, it’s important to position yourself as someone they need to find.
Tip 1, Make them look good. Imagine you recommended someone to an acquaintance, like a mechanic for example, and then that mechanic did a terrible job for that person. How would that make you feel? How do you think the person to whom you made the recommendation feels about your ability to make more recommendations? Now, what if your livelihood depended solely on making good recommendations? How likely would you be to ever recommend that mechanic to anyone else?
You are the potential mechanic recruiters can recommend to their acquaintances. So they’re evaluating whether you can do the job, AND the impression of THEM that you’ll leave on their client. Combative attitudes, bashing prior employers, racial remarks of any kind, and comments starting with “I wouldn’t say this to the client, but…”, all present risks that you’ll make them look bad to their client. Be prepared to instill confidence that you’ll make them look good.
Tip 2, Help them sell you. Recruiters often list the most essential skills first in the job requirements. Make sure it’s obvious in your resume that you have those skills! You don’t need the whole list, but the first 2 or 3 are essential.
The reason some recruiters are considered “the best” in their field is because of their relationships and their ability to help people understand each other, it’s NOT because they are experts at what you do. The best technology recruiters likely couldn’t tell the difference between a line of PL/SQL code and basic HTML, but they don’t need to know, they only need to know how to ask the right questions to make sure YOU know, and then be able to motivate their clients to meet you. So let them know WHY you would fit their role specifically, and give them memorable selling points.
Tip 3, Target job types. If you apply to multiple positions with the same recruiting firm, it should make obvious sense why you chose those jobs, per your experience. Many recruiters do not read cover letters, your resume does the talking.
When a recruiter sees you apply to a junior-level Java development position, a Network Architect position, and a Director of Technology position, they think you either A) are not paying attention, or B), you’re just blasting your resume everywhere (our clients won’t pay us a fee for someone they could have easily found on their own). Applying to 5+ unrelated positions to “get your foot in the door” hurts more than it helps.
Tip 4, Be persistent, but not desperate. Applying to a position and immediately calling to follow up, calling and emailing once the next day, and again 2 days later, is persistence. Calling multiple times every day, is desperate. If someone wanted to network with one of your connections and they called but got your voicemail, then called again an hour later, and 4 more times that day, how would you evaluate their business sense? How do you think they might make you look if you introduced them to your connections? How motivated would you be to help them?
Tip 5, Be respectful. It’s true, recruiters don’t have your job skills, but they do have something you don’t: the relationship. They have the trust of the person you want to meet. They are the first evaluation of your skills and culture fit; they make the first decision. Talking down to a recruiter, being disrespectful, annoyed by their attempts to help you, will dictate how hard they will work for you.
Recruiters can either open doors to people you’d like to know with a recommendation, or close those doors and lock them. Recruiters are “connectors” as Malcolm Gladwell put it in his book, “The Tipping Point.” Connectors should be priority contacts in your network. So before you apply, prepare your resume, prepare your conversation, and make sure they know that you’re a low risk, high reward investment they should recommend.