How Recruiters Really Work

Let me share with you what my thoughts used to be about how recruiters operate, before I
became one myself: a company would have a job opening, so the recruiter would advertise
the job, then as the resumes came in, the recruiter would place them in a nice, neat stack,
and at some point, would sit in a nice, comfy chair with a cup of coffee and peruse the
resumes. She’d study the details of each job in a candidate’s past: what responsibilities they
had at the various companies, what their successes were while there, and what innuendos
she could pick up on; their educational background, and their career aspirations. She wants
to learn all about where they're going in their career, and how well they would fit into the
organization; she’d have her pencil handy so she could highlight all the points of interest.
Call me naive, but that’s how I thought recruiters operated, before I knew better, before I
learned the truth.

At one of my contract recruiter assignments for a large corporation, I was the sole recruiter
for one of their entire business divisions, and that particular experience can best explain how
a recruiting department works, more often than not. As the only recruiter for that large group,
it meant that I was responsible for each and every job opening that came along within that
group. My work load wasn’t four or five jobs at a time, or even eight or ten, but 45. I was
responsible for filling on average 45 jobs at any given time! (In fact, one of my fellow recruit-
ers there was responsible for a handful of office-type openings, plus all the customer service
openings which alone averaged 65 at a time!) So do the math. In a 40-hour work week, I had
less than an hour to devote to any particular job. In that time I had to discuss the new jobs
that came in with the appropriate Hiring Managers to learn what they were looking for; I'd
then post the job internally and out on the Internet. I’d review all the resumes that came in,
select the top candidates, and share those with the Hiring Manager. Once we jointly selected
the best candidates I’d reach out to them, which typically meant leaving a voice mail or two,
or sending an email; then of course there’s the phone tag. That hour also included phone
interviews, in-person interviews, and of course actually looking for candidates if those that
have submitted resumes so far weren’t what we were looking for. The phone rang on a
regular basis, so I’d have to switch gears from one job search to the next, depending on who
was calling, or which Hiring Manager wanted an update. Seriously, the pace was so unbeliev-
ably hectic that it barely allowed for the occasional bathroom break. Lunch was taken at our
desks, and really, our 40-hour work weeks were more like 55.

Lesson 1: Recruiters are extremely busy
So often a recruiter’s plate is so heaping full that they don’t have the luxury of kicking back
with a soothing cup of coffee to peruse the resumes. You have to get their attention, and you
have to get it now! Your resume must be clear and concise. It must be well-prepared. In fact,
two years ago, at the monthly meeting of my state's Technical Recruiters Association, we
took a vote on the average amount of time we give to the average resume, and what do you
think the result was? Fifteen minutes? Five minutes? Two minutes? The answer was fifteen
seconds. That's it. That’s all the time you have to make an
impression. And think about it: if that’s the average, then
many resumes get even less! By the way; you may think
that in this more-than-tough economy and with less com-
panies looking to hire that recruiters today are less busy,
but you'd be wrong. Many recruiters have been laid off, so
the few that remain are doing the work of many; in addition,
there are many more resumes received for every job open-
ing, so recruiters are now busier than ever!

There are certainly exceptions, but this is true more
often than not for corporate recruiters; the pace for
some agency or independent recruiters may or may not be as hectic as this.

Lesson 2: Don’t ask for an update
In the midst of the recruiting chaos, candidates would oftentimes contact me. ‘Did you receive
my resume?’ ‘Did you have a chance to read it yet?’ ‘Do I have a chance of getting the job?’
It has always been my desire to provide outstanding customer service to everyone I deal with,
whether it’s the VP of Human Resources that I report to, the hiring managers that I recruit for,
or the candidates that are interested in joining our organization. I never want to be rude or
disrespectful, but really, we recruiters don’t have time to take such phone calls or emails. I
myself will always answer each and every one as a matter of courtesy, but really, there isn't
enough time in the day for this. Please, when you apply for a position, don’t try to contact the
recruiter for an update. They have your resume, it'll be put through the normal recruiting
process, and you’ll be contacted if they want to move forward with you. This may sound
harsh, but it’s the reality of recruiting. And you may think this rule only applies to large
corporations, but you’d be wrong. As a favor for a production supervisor friend of mine, I
recently concluded a search for an hourly production worker, and that search resulted in the
successful hire of a very good candidate. When I posted that job on the Internet I had just
shy of 200 responses, and I had the tedious responsibility of wading through the resumes. As
expected, perhaps 35 people sent emails asking for updates, and while I can appreciate their
wanting to find out where they stand--especially in this economy--please, let the system run
its course. And I want to point out that all organizations should, as a matter of courtesy,
respond to you in one way or the other so you know the outcome of your application, but
unfortunately that’s not always the case. If you’re in a position of needing or wanting a new
job, you should be very diligent about searching for any and all positions that match your
skills, interests, geographical preferences and compensation requirements, and not come to
depend on the outcome of just one or two applications.

Lesson 3: Respond quickly!
This may seem obvious but it warrants inclusion here because not all candidates have this
insight. If we reach out to you, please respond to us quickly! Don’t assume that if you re-
spond right away that we interpret this as a sign of desperation. Far from it. Keep in mind that
in many organizations, the recruiter will share the top resumes with the Hiring Manager be-
fore making contact with the candidate; if that manager agrees on the choices, then the
recruiter will reach out to the candidate or candidates. Unless there’s a legitimate reason to
do so, never delay returning the recruiter’s email or call! We’ve specifically put you onto our
radar screen and we want to speak with you, so don’t play games by slowing down the
process.

Lesson 4: Apply only to jobs for which you’re qualified
In this day and age of technology, it should be no surprise that if you apply online to an
organization, the software they use to keep track of candidates will also provide a complete
list of all the other jobs you have ever applied for at that organization. It’s always amazing,
then, to see that an individual has applied for 15, 20, even 40 or 50 different jobs with us,
and more often than not, the jobs are not in the same range of skill level, or even in the same
line of work. People will actually go to the job boards or a company's website and click, click,
click to randomly apply for endless jobs, regardless of whether they're qualified or not.

I recall a candidate that applied for everything from an
hourly worker position on the production floor, all the
way up to Director of Strategic Sourcing.
Really. So do
you think I looked at this person’s resume to determine
which of the jobs he actually was qualified for? Not for
a second. This person clearly had no idea what he wanted, he didn’t have a clue what skills
and experience a person needs for higher-level jobs, and he’s never done self-introspection
to determine his own value to an organization. (Actually, it's just as likely he was throwing his
resume out anywhere he could just to "see what would stick".) For this person, I sent a
computer-generated TNT ("Thanks, but no thanks") letter, and never wasted any more time,
or a minute of sleep. I also hoped I’d never see his name show up on my computer screen
again, because it was a total waste of my time.

Lesson 5: Be respectful
Remember, the recruiter is the gatekeeper, and the one that decides if you’ll move one step
further in the recruiting process; this is the person that can make or break your opportunity
for being hired, or decide to call you back sometime down the road about a new opportunity  
if this particular one isn't a match. This is also the person that works hand-in-hand with the
hiring manager, who’s the ultimate decision-maker. Be very respectful of your recruiter.

Lesson 6: Not being selected may be for the best...
If you’re not selected for a particular job for which you applied, it may not be a bad thing.
Remember, the recruiter’s top goal is to find a candidate that’s a very nice match for the job
and the company; the ultimate goal is that the candidate selected can come on board and be
successful. You may think you’re perfect for the job, but the recruiter—who has more inside
information than you do—may know it’s not an ideal fit for you. Deciding to hire a candidate
who’s marginally qualified is not good for anyone involved, and is only setting the candidate
up for failure. It really is best all around to ensure the candidate is nicely matched to the job.
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