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Are Recruiters Really Working for You?

Here are 7 myths (and the truth) you need to know when it comes to landing a new position

An African-American job seeker, Recruiter myths

Do job recruiters work with your best interest in mind to connect you to the right employer? — Istock

En español | While it's flattering to get a call from a recruiter, it can be a complicated relationship.

A good rapport can be a win for both of you. You get the inside track on great jobs — ones that may never have hit your radar. If you get the gig, the recruiter earns a fee — paid by the employer — for playing matchmaker.

Yet this seemingly symbiotic relationship can be confusing for a job seeker, especially if you've never worked with one before and are not sure what the recruiter's role is in getting you hired.

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Here are seven myths about recruiters that you should know about in case you get a call from one.

1. Recruiters find you from industry colleagues who sing your praises

While that's possible, it's not so much the norm anymore. Recruiters increasingly are using the Web to seek out experienced candidates. That's why you must have a digital profile with an active social media presence on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You might also have your own personal website to highlight your work and write a blog.

As I wrote in a previous column, "15 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile," a study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77 percent of employers are using social network sites to recruit. Among the recruiters using social tools, 94 percent said they use LinkedIn to find candidates.

Recruiters also search job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed. Still others look at Instagram and Pinterest, where folks with visually oriented jobs (such as graphic design) are posting résumés, says Sandra Jackson, an information technology (IT) industry recruiter for nearly two decades and founder of JobTownResumes.com, a résumé writing service.

2. Recruiters find you, not vice versa

If you want to work with a recruiter as part of your job-hunting strategy, go for it. You can track them down by using the methods they employ to find their candidates: via networking, referrals from colleagues and social media.

"You can shop online for recruiters the same way you can shop for a new car or for a vacation spot or for home repair," says Thomas J. Dixon, a food industry recruiter and president of Dixon Associates.

For example, if you type "Food Manufacturing Recruiter Plano, Texas" into the Google search engine, you will find Dixon's website. There are also trade associations of executive recruiters in most urban areas that provide a website with their members' names and expertise listed.

LinkedIn Groups and Twitter chats (such as #OMCChat and #InternPro) are places to meet active recruiters, too, says Mark Babbitt, CEO and Founder of YouTern, a leading career website.

Look for a recruiter who has expertise in the industry in which you're interested. It's best to choose one or two recruiters that specialize in your field and build a relationship with them, says Jackson. "If you submit your résumé to every recruiter, thinking it will improve your chances, it can cause conflict at the hiring company — something you definitely don't want to happen," she adds. That's because agencies often work with the same clients, and if you have several agencies submitting your résumé for a job, it puts the hiring company in a tricky spot.

Keep in mind that a recruiter you contact may not have time to meet with you or talk to you at length until a job opening that's right up your alley crosses his or her desk. Recruiters typically will do a prescreening over the phone if you contact them and then file your résumé in their database for future jobs.

3. The recruiter works for you

The voice on the other end of the phone is super friendly. Your calls are returned in a nanosecond. The recruiter assures you that you're perfect for the job, and naturally, you get your hopes up.

Be forewarned: Despite the pursuit, chances are that you're not the only candidate a recruiter is presenting to a client. "They will try to find four or five great candidates for the client to choose from," says Jackson. "You're not going to be the only game in town."

Be careful not to fall under the spell of the courtship, or you'll be upset when the recruiter suddenly goes into "radio silence mode" and your calls are no longer returned.

Don't take it personally. It's business. There's probably a good reason — the company filled the position in-house or changed the criteria of what it was looking for. Once the job is off the table, so are you.

The full-court press that recruiters use to get to know you is like speed dating. The recruiter is eager to forward your résumé to a hiring manager at a firm that's hiring and get an interview on the calendar immediately. Recruiters generally work for a finder's fee. "They don't get paid by their client until you've signed a job offer, so they're typically very anxious to talk with you about the positions they're trying to fill," says Babbitt.

The bottom line: Recruiters are salesmen. It's about closing the deal. So time is of the essence.

Next page: Do recruiters know the best job fit for your experience? »

4. Recruiters know what the best job fit is for you

Many times, recruiters who call you are simply fishing to round up a batch of potential candidates. They may actually know very little about your work experience and current situation beyond what they have seen via your social media profile and online résumé.

See also: Looking for a job? Why you need to go social

It's up to you to take charge so that you don't waste your time getting calls for jobs that don't interest you. Ask upfront if there's a specific job they have in mind for you, and be clear about the salary you require. Prepare to answer detailed questions about your résumé, job experience and any gaps in employment.

You should be able to "quickly review the highlights of your career success, the things that you think clearly separate you from all the other candidates out there," says Dixon. "Quantify your achievements. Don't simply say that you improved results … instead state that you improved results by 47 percent and saved the company $2 million. Using numbers drives home your achievements much more than just words."

Many recruiters look at how often you have switched jobs. Job changers aren't looked on favorably. They will also want a list of references. And the recruiter might need to know if you have any issues with relocation if the job involves that. If you have to travel to get to an interview, be clear on who is paying the travel expenses.

Depending on the job opening and employer, the recruiter will probably ask if you're willing to agree to a drug test, criminal background check, reference checks, educational background checks and credit checks.

Next, tell the recruiter that you want to be notified when your résumé is sent to one of his clients or if he makes any changes to your résumé.

One caveat: Your conversations with recruiters should be kept strictly to business. They're not your career coach. Don't mention money concerns or insecurities about your chances for landing the job. And unless it's part of the job description, this is not the time to ask about telecommuting policies or other flextime options. Save that for until after you get an offer.

5. If you don't get the job, they will stay in touch

It's a recruiter's job to find people for jobs, not jobs for people. "A recruiter will show interest in a candidate when they have a position that they think the candidate is qualified for," says Dixon. "So if a recruiter doesn't call you, it means that they don't have a position that matches your qualifications at the time."

That said, many of the best recruiters network with other recruiters. So even if they don't have an open requisition that's perfect for you right now, if you have built a good rapport with them, they just may know of another opportunity and make an introduction, Babbitt says.

6.  They're résumé wizards

Résumé writing is not a recruiter's job, but it's generally in his or her wheelhouse. While good recruiters will take the time to fine-tune your résumé for the specific job at hand, this isn't a revamp for you to use universally. The onus is on you to bring a résumé that's in good shape.

"Both recruiting agencies I worked for required recruiters to rewrite résumés," says Jackson. "We stripped objectives from résumés and replaced them with summaries that bulleted sentences targeting the parts of the candidate's experience that matched the job opening. We added information that was obtained from our screening interviews. This is so that the hiring manager will immediately see if the candidate is a match. Additionally, we proofed the résumés for consistency, matching tenses, spelling and format."

7. The recruiter negotiates your salary with the employer

Recruiters aren't paid to negotiate your salary. That's your job. Recruiters are paid by the employer, so technically it's in the best interest of the employer to keep your salary within the set parameters.

Many recruiters, however, will provide coy advice like, "I wouldn't take their first offer" or "If it was me …" says Babbitt. "Even the noncommitted recruiters who refuse to give advice will send you to resources such as Glassdoor.com and Salary.com so you walk into the interview with data that will help you make a good decision."

That's not surprising. The recruiter's fee is paid by the client — typically based on a percentage of what your annual salary will be.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and  Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.


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