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Understanding the mindset of recruiters can be the first step to a sccessful job search

Updated on July 7, 2015

Recruiters aren't always thinking about things the way that you are, but you can strategize how to beat that if you understand them

Your first question as you read this probably is whether or not I even am a recruiter. I am not. However, I was a broker for years, and recruiters are merely brokers too, they just are job brokers. The one other thing that one must realize also about this piece is that this is being written about recruiters who were not retained by the candidate, but by the employer. The first thing that one must understand about how a recruiter thinks is that they are typically purely commission based and have to "eat what they kill." Therefore, no matter how much they try to act like they care about you, the prospective candidate (and a good recruiter should care), many recruiters do not. They view you, the candidate that they just contacted, as a lead in their attempt to fill a position and make their money. Therefore, if you are not the perfect looking candidate (education, experience, salary requirements, etc.), many recruiters will be cordial but not take you too seriously. Unfortunately, a lot of times when a recruiter says to themselves that they are trying to be more efficient with their time, that could just mean spending less time on low percentage leads -I.E., perhaps you, if your credentials are not earth shattering. A lot of the recruiters who get all optimistic and happy when they talk to you (and get your hopes up) are likely rookies. The truth is, it does not matter how much you need the job. Unless the recruiter has also been retained by Wendy's (or Tim Horton's, etc.) or perhaps you have interest in being a bank teller, you probably are not getting a call back.

This is an issue that unfortunately too many job seekers do not realize. It is not always the company itself that does not want you, they just likely will never hear about you. Recruiters typically major in human resources in college, so, aside from being commission based and having to manage their time to "make more deals", they are quite similar to the folks in human resources departments. Many people from human resources departments become recruiters, and it goes the other way too. What this means is that people in human resources departments are trained to also not pay attention to you unless you are "interesting." Remember, people in human resources departments and recruiters alike typically have busy schedules and may not have time for you. Also, while it might not have as immediate dire consequences for the person in a human resources department if they do not make enough hires or do so fast enough as it would for the recruiter (who might be on the corn flakes and pinto beans diet until the next "deal"), they still stand to lose their job sooner or later if their performance is deemed poor. Job seekers need to realize that there is hardly an ounce of altruism in most hiring processes. The candidate that makes the recruiter and/or HR person look best is probably going to get job. Some of these "golden" candidates probably will look better on a resume than they will preform. Perhaps you would have worked harder. You also likely will never know.

There is hardly a cure for this, or an antidote. However, understanding that the person interviewing you (at least on that first in-person interview, before- if you make it that far- they have the "honchos" meet with you) likely is just in it for themselves and not for you (not that it is supposed to be that way) is key to how you approach it. If you would like to come into a lower position and work your way up, then you absolutely can and should concentrate on the fact that you are looking to build a career in your interview among other things. This is what they like to hear (especially HR). Turnover costs money. Plus, the truth is, you might be helping them to fill a lower level position that generated less interest amongst prospective applicants. However, if is a little more aspiring what you are applying for, then you have to convince the interviewer that you really are that "golden" candidate. Find at least one selling point to discuss, or preferably, touch on all the hot-button topics. Be it your education, experience, or hopefully a lot of different things, you need to prove that you are "that candidate" that will get them a pat on the back for finding. You need to show, without coming off desperate, that they can't afford to not recommend you. Recruiters and human resources departments are gate keepers. It is no different than somebody who does telemarketing. You have to perfect the art of not only getting past the gate keeper, but getting the gate keeper to help you in. You know that you can do the job. You just need to talk them into giving you a chance.

The trick is that once you have a good idea of your interviewer's mindset, all you have to do is plan accordingly. Remember, it is still a relatively weak job market in many white collar sectors no matter what the numbers say, so it is an employer's job market. Therefore, recruiters will usually contact you about lateral moves more than upward ones. Also, if the job that you are applying for is good enough, everybody including your Uncle Harry probably has already applied. Many companies nearly always need people at the bottom of the food chain, so if that is the job that you are going for, you might not have bad odds at all (granted it might not be easy to work your way up from there). If you are shooting for the stars, remember to only devote as much time to it as you are willing to waste, and it might be time to finish that degree that you never finished. Remember, the recruiter is a broker. They are looking to make money. Once they see you as an opportunity to make money, you will likely see their interest in you increase greatly.

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