Career Advice Tuesday – Selecting a Recruiter

July 7, 2009

Hi Lee and Mike:

I am beginning to search for new employment and have not had much luck using job sites like Monster and Dice. I believe that I am at a point in my career where working with a professional recruiter would benefit me. What qualities should I screen for in making my selection?

Looking for Representation

Dear “Looking for Representation”:

I believe that you have to be very careful in whom you decide to trust your career. Therefore, you should place a great level of effort in selecting the best recruiter to assist you in your search for a new opportunity. To follow you will find, what I believe are the some of the most important criteria:

1) Responsiveness - This one is simple, if you call them, they should answer. Please do not confuse calling with e-mails – since the best recruiters are inundated with requests for assistance, and sometimes e-mail gets overlooked. However, if you reach out to speak with a recruiter, they should be able to call you back within a reasonable time table.

If you are looking for guidelines, anywhere between one and three business days should be acceptable parameters. If a recruiter regularly takes more than a week to get back to you, it is time to find another recruiter.

2) Candor – When you are dealing with your career, you have to be willing and able to have unfiltered conversations, where both sides can speak frankly with each other, and not worry about hurting the other side’s feelings. A good recruiter will ask you difficult questions regarding your intentions, and you will have to be able to provide good thought in answering them. On the other hand, the recruiter can not be afraid to express their opinions to you, regarding your experience and qualifications, even if they may be unpopular, and not what you want to hear.

3) Industry Awareness -
You have dedicated your career to the field of Information Security. You should expect the same level of commitment from a recruiter who you are looking to for assistance in your job search. A recruiter with Information Security industry knowledge will be able to provide you with greater insight regarding specific career opportunities and their potential to help you accomplish your career goals. They should also be able to provide you with a proper compensation assessment, so that you can understand if your skills are being correctly valued.

4) Knowledge - It is important that the recruiter that you are working with understands your skill sets and how they relate to specific openings. Since information security is comprised of many specialties, it is key for the recruiter to be able to correctly identify opportunities that align with your skills. This understanding should aid them in assisting you in identifying opportunities that enhance your career development and fit your long term career plan.

5) Access Through Relationships - One key component to all good recruiters is their access to opportunities. A good recruiter will have trusted client relationships that can be leveraged to help bypass the traditional gatekeepers and streamline the interview process. Usually, more experienced recruiters will have deeper relationships with their clients.

In my opinion, the number one reason that recruitment processes deteriorate is because of the recruitment process itself. Opening the door to an opportunity is only the beginning; a good recruiter will be able to drive continued interaction and feedback throughout the interview process, because of their client relationships. Due to the development of trusted client relationships, a good recruiter will be able to help prepare you for the interview, provide you with background on the interviewers, and navigate through the offer process and employment transition.

As a rule, if a recruiter is nothing more than a resume router and does not add value, you may be better served by representing yourself.

6) A Relationship Builder – Not a Transaction Processor - What this means is that you want a recruiter that is in it for the long haul, not the quick buck. You want to make sure that they are willing to invest their time in building a relationship with you for the length of your career, not just at the time of a transaction (job search). It is true that recruiters earn their fees at the time of placement, however you should have enough foresight to select a recruiter that will take an interest in your career and candidacy, when there is not any transaction pending. This could be something as simple as returning a phone call, providing career guidance, or helping you evaluate an opportunity (even if they are not your representation).

In closing, one of the nice things about selecting a recruiter is that you are not obligated to select only one. I often counsel my candidates that they should explore all avenues to locate the best position for their career. However, if you are able to identify multiple recruiters that fit these requirements, it is imperative that you keep them informed of all of your recruitment activities, so that they are aware and do not get blindsided by developments in your recruitment process.

In addition, you should not judge a recruiter by their ability to find you a position, but their ability to understand which opportunities are best suited for you. Sometimes the best thing a recruiter can tell you is that they do not have current opportunities that fit your parameters.

Beware of recruiters that operate under the premise that “any job, is a good job.” You want to avoid becoming the proverbial “round peg” that is being shoved into the “square hole.”

Also remember, good recruiters have high expectations of their candidates, and will be holding you to similar standards throughout the duration of your relationship.

Lee Kushner

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


One Response to “Career Advice Tuesday – Selecting a Recruiter”

  1. Selecting a Recruiter – Follow Up | Information Security Leaders on July 16th, 2009 8:44 am

    [...] week, I posted some guidelines about selecting a recruiter, and I wanted to add to that post. I have recently spoken with a number of Information Security [...]