I’ve spent most of my career as a recruiter in Boston and New York. I’ve been able to help a lot of job seekers, and one the reasons I love what I do is that I get to share good news.
I get to tell candidates when they’ve made it to the next round, and when the company they're excited about loved them, and the best news of all, when an offer’s being sent!
But, there are some things I can't share. One of the hardest parts of my role is not being able to tell the applicants I’m working with everything going on behind the scenes.
However, based on my experience, I can let you in on four things you need to know that your recruiter isn’t going to tell you.
1. Recruiters Want You to Land a Job (For Better or Worse)
Most recruiters in staffing agencies are paid on commission, earning a fee based on your first year’s salary when you get hired. (It doesn’t come out of your pay. It’s just an added expense for the company who hires you.)
This often works in your favor. Since their bonus is typically 20-25% of your base salary, they’ll try to get you a great offer. The more money you make, the higher their rate will be, too.
However, if you don’t land a job, they get paid nothing. So, if they can’t think of other roles you’d be a fit for, they may encourage you to take a low-ball offer. (In their minds, they’re helping you be realistic.)
To make sure you get what you’re worth, have a chat with them in advance about the range you think is reasonable. Then, if you’re extended an offer that’s lower than you deserve, say something like this: “I’m really excited about the position, but I was hoping the offer would come in higher. I would accept on the spot if we were able to get it $5,000 higher on the base salary.”
Also, if you ever feel like you’re being persuaded to take a role that’s not right for you, say so. Don’t let anyone—recruiters included—pressure you into taking a job you don’t actually want.
2. Recruiters Have to Put Company Interests First
Job seekers often refer to themselves as the “clients,” and recruiters are trained not to correct them. The truth is: The companies who hire headhunters are the people who foot the bills.
So, while helping people is the most satisfying part of our work, it’s literally our job to put forth candidates who have a chance.
That sounds pretty cutthroat, but this can work in your favor. That’s because many recruiters want to coach a candidate to be more appealing to hiring managers. So, take advantage of their suggestions! For example, if they recommend a resume change, it’s because they think it’s going to get you more interviews or increase the odds that their client responds positively.
3. Recruiters Can’t Tell You Everything
Sometimes, we’re asked to look for things that have nothing to do with your professional qualifications. I’ve been told that a certain team has too many males, and they need to hire two women before we show them any more men. We don’t like it, but it happens (and we can’t tell you when it does).
So, if you’re told a company isn’t interested, don’t assume it’s because you’re not great or your experience isn’t attractive.There are several things that could’ve happened behind the scenes that aren’t your fault.
One thing you can do is ask the recruiter if they can share any feedback. If they revisit the topic of changing your resume around, you’ll know it had to do with your application. But if they say something reassuring about how, no, there’s nothing you should be doing differently, it’s a safe bet that you weren’t turned down because you’re doing something wrong.
4. Recruiters Don’t Always Know What Your Job Involves
Recruiters get comfortable using the right lingo for your industry. But for the jobs out there that are more technical, there's a good chance they don’t really know what you’d do each day.
However, the more he or she understands your field, the more likely they can find you a great-fitting job. So, I recommend asking questions like these to see how well they understand the space you work in:
- How long have you been recruiting in this industry? What about your firm?
- Why do you think my background is a fit for the job we’re discussing?
- What are some of the biggest technical challenges this group is facing right now?
- What can you tell me about the backgrounds of the other people in this group?
The best recruiters, and the ones who are doing it for the “right” reasons, will stand out because they know the history of each company they work with, the hiring manger’s story, and so on.
So ask a lot of questions, and trust your gut in terms of how comfortable they seem when answering.
Working with a recruiter can be a great way to advance your job search. But, remember it’s just one avenue. So, take the experience at face value: They can help you find your next position—and that’d be a great outcome for everyone. But in the meantime, keep reaching out to your network and investing your time in developing a strong personal brand, so you have as many options as you deserve.