Set your Expectations when Working with a Recruiter

After reading a few articles on the difference between bad recruiters and awesome recruiters, I wanted to write about what you should TRULY expect from a recruiter. The relationship between you and the recruiter is as valuable as the opportunity you are focusing on. Know what to expect to keep control of your career path.
Understand you have the choice to work with an individual recruiter to help you make what I consider life-changing decisions, including helping you evolve your career path and showing you the correct opportunities to fit what you really want.

Set it up by understanding what you really want as you are creating/updating your resume.
• What organizations do you want to work for?
• What is important to you in finding the next company?
• What skills/roles/responsibilities do you want on your next move?

If your bullseye is too large or you are vanilla on your ideal opportunity, you will get a vanilla, unsatisfied result.

Here are few things to consider and things your recruiter should be identifying when helping you make the next big move.

“Is the recruiter identifying what are my strengths/weakness?”

Every recruiter should identify this (even though they have the resume in front of them) through conversation. “Does this recruiter really know my background, my experience, what is the best fit for my skills?” Presenting you to a company for an opportunity in which you have no experience, no technical/functional match can leave you, the candidate, walking away with the feeling of failure or even wasting your time.
The recruiter should identify not only what you are good at, where you will succeed in a role, but identify what role isn’t the match for you. “Are my skills aligned with this role?”

“What’s important to me?”

“Is my recruiter working with me to understand what I want? Do they have my best interest in mind?”
Recruiters should be highlighting what you are looking for, who you are, and why you are looking. Understanding your motivating factors plays a key part in making the correct placement and securing the right opportunity.

Questions like:
What are you looking for in the next company?
What is important to you about your next role?
Are there any non-monetary incentives you are expecting/looking for?
What is your ideal environment?
What companies/industries do/don’t you want to work with?

These questions should be asked by every recruiter and the weight of the responses is varied by the particular employment arrangement, contract vs. permanent. If your recruiter isn’t asking these types of questions, are they just trying to make a placement or are they working with you to find the right opportunity?
If you are a passive candidate, ask yourself, “does the recruiter know my motivating factors for wanting to make a change in my career?”

Identify your market value.

Is the recruiter able to provide a market value for the skills? The agency is typically given parameters (range) by the company to stay within. “Can they provide adequate compensation for my experience? If the actual dollars aren’t aligned, is the company offering other perks or benefits?” The recruiter should be identifying what your compensation history is and what your expectations are. The recruiter should never allow you to position compensation higher than your skill level, no matter your history. It should align as close as it can to the market. You should understand what your market value is before your next move. Allowing you to overshoot your compensation will force the company to set high (sometimes too high) expectations for your interview. The company should know your salary expectations upon submittal.

Does the recruiter understand the requisite?

Each company has a requisite for each job opening, most of them being provided by HR and some may even use a template, over and over. You should be asking the recruiter, “is this opportunity qualified by your agency?” Most agencies are set up where their Account Managers work the company side of the business and recruiters work the candidate side of the business. I have worked with great Account Managers that really breakdown the templated job requisite from the company and identify what the “KEY POINTS” are from the company.
Recruiters should be finding candidates that match 3-5 key technical skills the company struggles to find. Does your recruiter know and understand what technical/functional experience the company is looking for? The recruiter should really focus on the day-to-day responsibilities of the role. Getting outside of the “must haves skills” is important when discussing the role. You should understand what functions you will be engaging in, and if there is a particular group/product you will be working with. I always work with candidates by trying to gain an advantage with the product/industry/responsibility match.

Do they understand the company?

“What does this recruiter know about the company they want to send my resume to? Do they understand their benefits? Their culture? Most importantly, why won’t they give me the name of the company?”
Relationships between agency and company are key in this Human Capital industry. Don’t let the recruiter present your resume to a company they know nothing about. How can they identify if this is something that’s right for you? How do they really know you want to work for XYZ Company? I like to provide all details I have about the company – the more info I have, the more I am comfortable selling the company as a great place to work. When the recruiter lacks in responding about company info, they are pushing a “placement” – not providing you an opportunity.


Most recruiters are locating resumes with “buzzword” searches, but not all candidates should be contacted. The recruiter should CLEARY understand what the resume tells them and understand each candidate’s experience before any contact should be made. I work in technology, I am NOT technical, and most of what I have learned in matching candidates with the skill targets comes from asking candidates about their technical background and LISTENING to them.
Recruiters should work with you to determine the content in your resume. Recruiters should NEVER add content to the resume. If there is a situation to better the opportunity for an interview by adding more content, this should be done by the candidate. I have removed non-relevant content from the resume after speaking with the candidate and we feel it betters our chance at an interview. Recruiter will almost always change the format of the resume and that “final copy” should be provided to you before the interview. During the phone screen the company is reading the resume and you should be reading the same exact thing as well.

How long is the process and what does it involve?

The AGENCY/RECRUITER/ACCOUNT MANAGER does not always control the process, the timing of the process no matter what the company has agreed to, no matter what the hiring managers have said. You should know what the process is, you should know how many steps in the process, and you should know if the agency has placed candidates with the company before. A recruiter that has made placements with a particular company in the past has a greater chance of filling another role with the same company. They know more about what to expect, what pieces they are looking for, and typically what the culture is like on the inside. Understand, the recruiter, no matter the relationship with the agency and the company, will not always get feedback on every single submittal. I seriously think some get lost or just flat out ignored.

Recruiters are typically working on 1-3 requisites a day, trying to identify the right fit for the right spot. If they want to immediately introduce the details of a role, they are typically working to make a placement. If they are working with you to understand you, the approach is different and should have a different feel. It will feel more like they are providing YOU a service, offering YOU an opportunity. Your relationship with the recruiter should ultimately CLICK.

I do understand there are good recruiters, there are bad recruiters, but you do have a choice to say “No I am not looking to utilize your services.” As with everything else, research your recruiter, understand who you are working with. Don’t waste your time.

Remember, recruiters are a resource and should be viewed as a VAULABLE resource in your life decisions, but you have to choose the right resource for you.

“If you’re not the hero of your talent story, you simply become a player in one you didn’t choose.” —Jay Perry


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