There are several reasons why a job seeker might decide to use a recruitment consultant and it has to be said this might not always be with great enthusiasm!
A good recruitment consultant will provide a quality service and also earn both their fee and your respect by adding value and expertise and treating you with professionalism and courtesy. But how do you identify the good amongst the mediocre?
Here are the key requirements which distinguish a first-rate recruitment consultant:
1. Return of calls
You want to speak to someone before sending your CV: entirely understandable. You leave a message. Nothing. Sadly it happens all the time. Let’s be frank: the recruiter doesn’t have time to speak to everyone who is interested in a position so might not call you back personally but as a basic courtesy someone should get back to you.
2. Acknowledge your application and follow up with an answer
You send a CV and hear nothing. Did they get it? Is there a problem with the email system? Has it gone into spam?
It is incredibly simple for a recruitment firm to set up a system and process for responding to applications yet the overwhelming feedback I get is that it doesn’t happen very often. There is no excuse.
3. Willingness to spend time talking to you if they consider you a potential candidate
If a recruiter doesn’t have a job for you or doesn’t work in your space then it’s understandable that they won’t want to interview you whether by phone or face to face. However, if they do then they need to talk to you. In my experience it takes at least 30-40 minutes, and often a lot longer, to thoroughly get to understand a candidate and their skills. So if a recruiter gives you 10 minutes and then says they’ll send your CV to the employer how can they possibly understand what you’re looking for and how to sell you to their client? This is of course ideally face-to-face but an in-depth and detailed telephone discussion is nearly as effective and a much better use of your time.
4. Probing questions and honesty
You should feel they are really delving into your requirements and motivations and not afraid to ask challenging questions. If there are aspects of your aspirations that are a concern they should tactfully tell you. It won’t do you any favours if they consider your demand for a 25% pay rise unrealistic but don’t tell you. Similarly, if your CV requires some loving attention they should raise this..
5. Attentive but not pushy
A recruitment consultant won’t call you every day to tell you they haven’t heard back from their client but should get back to you with updates and to let you know if it’s not going to go any further.
If they call you about jobs that are irrelevant then make sure they understand what you are looking for but if they persist or worse, try and persuade you to go for a job that is wholly unsuitable then show them the red card and make sure they confirm they have removed you from their database.
6. They should know the market
And therefore readily understand you, your career, the employers you have worked for, the roles you have held and are looking for. They will also be able to give you advice and pointers too. They won’t be likely to admit any weakness in their market knowledge so if they are asking odd questions or few questions, that might be a clue: otherwise, the first indication might be that you are being bombarded with irrelevant jobs!
7. Professional manner
For executive and professional roles it is essential that a recruitment consultant, who is de facto an extension of your personal brand, represents you in a professional manner whether that be speech, appearance or integrity.
8. Intelligence: emotional and brainpower
Many professional and executive roles are complex and require the ability to understand and weigh up complicated candidate requirements. If the recruiter doesn’t seem “on the ball” and to comprehend the subtler aspects of what you are discussing with them there may be a problem and the result might be wasting your time with irrelevant roles or worse, attending interviews.
9. Attention to detail
If their emails have mistakes in, for example, how can you be sure they will get the time or address right when confirming the interview? Or get the salary and benefits right when presenting your CV to a potential future employer? Or when relaying details of the job offer to you!
Unfortunately, this is not always a feature of people in the recruitment industry. Of course, you believe you want to be dealing with someone of integrity but how do you know? Do you inadvertently collude in poor practice? For example, would you use a recruiter that sends your CV to an employer without your permission? Many candidates do but it can cause you huge damage: if an employer sees the CV from two different agencies it can make you look bad but also means the employer might decide not to meet you for fear of facing a demand for two fees. Also if a recruiter does that what else might they be doing you are not aware of? Keep in mind they are dealing with your extremely personal and confidential information.
Finally: Thorough job briefing
We always give a candidate as much information as we can before an interview: occasionally this isn’t very much but usually we are able to give a candidate a pretty thorough briefing. In this way, they can prepare for the meeting, give it their best shot and in the process make us look good too! And if the result is they get a great job and we get a fee, then, candidate, client and recruiter are happy!
This is of course entirely self-evident and we are always amazed when candidates tell us how unusual it is.
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