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How to Get Noticed by a Recruiter

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Note: A good friend of mine is an experienced recruiter in the IT space who wanted to share some tips to prospective employees on how they can get the most of their experience of using a job recruiter. The author wished to remain anonymous, due to company policies. I hope you find this beneficial!

The overall unemployment rate in the United States dropped to 7.3% in August. It hasn’t been that low since December 2008, so we’re making some real progress. Meanwhile IT unemployment is significantly lower than that. Depending on where you are in the country it could be 4% or less.

How to get noticed by a recruiter

Working with a good recruiter can make a world of difference.

But not everyone that is employed is happily employed. Many took jobs because they had no other option—and credit to them rather than sitting with the rank and file of the unemployment line.

As the economy continues to heat up more jobs will be created. That’s a good thing.

However, there are some people who have dropped out of unemployment not through working, but by giving up on looking for work. They are technically not working anywhere, but since they aren’t searching for a job, they don’t hit the unemployment number. They’ll start to come back to compete for those jobs.

That means more competition for the same number of jobs. Whether or not they are even qualified for those jobs doesn’t even matter.

What does matter is how many resumes get stacked up on a hiring manager’s desk while she tries to do her job and hire three new team members. The average hiring manager looking to fill an IT position will end up with 40 to 80 resumes on her desk to fill one position. That’s why you hear advice like, “You only get 30 seconds for them to look at your resume so make it short.”

All that competition and resumes for the same jobs… that my friends is where it pays to get noticed by a good recruiter.

But how?

How to Gain the Interest of Recruiters

Before I jump into how to get the right recruiters to want to put you to work, let me address the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Yes, some recruiters suck at life, are horrible career agents, and should find some other type of employment. These recruiters give all recruiters a bad name. On the other hand, a great recruiter is worth his weight in gold.

Being a recruiter—the right kind of recruiter—is like being a real estate agent. A great agent can price your home right, give you honest feedback, and bring the right buyer—all of which leads to a quick sale. If you’re buying they know the great neighborhoods, the good but affordable neighborhoods, and the places where you absolutely do not want to buy a house.

You probably know a good real estate agent. And you’ve probably heard horror stories about other agents.

The same is true for recruiters except there are probably more of us because we don’t need to get a “recruiting license” like real estate agents need to. Anyone can declare themselves a recruiter—which can make finding a good one a bit more challenging.

So why not let them find you?

Update your resume frequently

What were you doing 11 months ago? What projects were you tackling at work? What new skills did you pick up? What else was going on in your life?

I can’t remember what I did last week sometimes, not to mention months ago. I’m guessing you can’t either.

So spend some time every three months to think back on the previous quarter of the year. Ask yourself, What did I just do for 90 days at work? If you suddenly remember some stuff that isn’t on your resume… update it and keep it on file.

NOTE: Unless you are unemployed and willing to take just about anything do not ever put your resume on a massive job board. That is unless you like getting 12 calls per day from people asking if you want to do 100% commission door-to-door insurance sales.

You want to have your resume updated and on file in your own records so when that right job comes along that you’re interested in you can quickly get your information in front of the hiring manager via the recruiter. Taking 2 to 3 days to update your resume can be the difference between you getting an interview and the next guy getting it.

Don’t fret about resume length

One of my favorite resume rules of thumb I love to destroy is that of resume length. Everyone from college career counselors to your best friend that’s never worked in a human resources role will tell you to keep your resume down to one page… maybe two if you have to.

That’s… an interesting take. So how do I accurately describe the positions and projects I’ve worked on in enough detail to excite a hiring manager if I’ve been working for more than 5 years?

The bottom line is you can’t fit everything onto one page unless you are using microscopic font. Your resume needs the right kind of detail—not just fluff —but that detail is what tells a hiring manager you aren’t just stuffing keywords onto the page. You actually have experience in the things they’re looking for.

Of course this advice doesn’t work if your resume goes in the stack of 70 sitting on the hiring manager’s desk. That’s why you only get 30 seconds.

The right recruiter will get her candidates to the hiring manager directly and bypass the stack of resumes sitting there untouched.

Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a gold mine for you and for the recruiters looking for you. It’s online networking for people that want to move their career along. It still baffles me to run into people in the IT industry who either don’t have LinkedIn profiles or have them… but never use them (have 2 connections, no detail, and so on).

If you’re not posting your resume to job boards (see above!) then the only way a recruiter is going to find you is either 1. on LinkedIn or 2. via word of mouth from other people you both know. And since you can control who can and cannot contact you on LinkedIn it is the best balance of keeping your information out there while not getting bombarded with phone calls about jobs you don’t want to hear about.

Be polite

It probably isn’t very often that you get a call from a real estate agent wanting to see if you’d like to buy another house or sell yours. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that call. (I do get the occasional random mass mailer in my mailbox, but that doesn’t bother me.)

Yet if an agent called me out of the blue and used the right approach I would probably stay on the phone with them. I’m not looking to buy or sell right now, but I’d have a conversation with them and be polite.

Again, I know this happens because recruiters have a bad name thanks to the terrible ones, but you’d be surprised how many people are complete jerks on the phone. Someone saw your background online, got excited about the prospects of moving your career along, and reached out to you in some manner… even if I’m not looking for a job I probably take it as a compliment, thank them for their time, and get off the phone.

What’s ironic is that I’ve had multiple people in my career hang up on me one day, and a few months later call me back looking for work because they were laid off. How do you think I feel about those candidates?

On the flip side I’ve talked to a multitude of people in my career that had no interest in leaving their current job but were supremely polite like you would expect any other business person to be. I’ve kept in touch with them, sometimes for years, without a single job that interests them. Over time I learn what they really want… and then along comes that job that is a perfect match.

So be polite. You never know when you might need to make that dreaded phone call to ask for some help in finding a new job.


Published or updated October 2, 2013.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Bryce @ Save and Conquer

Good tips. I have never used a recruiter to get a job, but I am still polite and respectful whenever I get a cold call from one. I try to practice the golden rule with everyone on the phone or in person. And I know that recruiters can certainly help you when times are tough.

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