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Ask a Recruiter: How to Work with a Recruiter

babyhands.jpgSome professions were born with a stigma, and recruiters, also known as headhunters, seem to fall victim to this fate. Whether it’s the result of a candidate having a bad experience or simply a misunderstanding on how the recruiter/candidate relationship works, let’s address what you should and shouldn’t know when it comes to engaging a recruiter.

Recently, a co-worker of mine told me a story about her husband who was reluctant to connect with a recruiter. When she asked him why, he mentioned because he wasn’t actively looking for work. While not statistically proven, that’s a valid concern that, I would venture to say happens every few minutes or so.

Whether you are actively interviewing or are gainfully employed, there seems to be a major disconnect on how active job seekers and passive candidates should engage and partner with recruiters.


For Active Job Seekers

Let’s start with active job seekers. By definition, an active job seeker is an individual who is in pursuit of work. This means they are regularly updating and posting their resume online, applying to jobs and attending networking events and job fairs. 

The first misconception I often hear from candidates I’ve placed is that they should only reach out to me, a recruiter, when all of the above fails. Depending on how aggressive your job search is (meaning how competitive the market is) there’s no reason you can’t partner with a recruiter earlier in the process in order to amplify your job search.

Consider that a good recruiter will tackle a lot of the front-end tasks of your job search, like identifying which jobs are the best match for your skillset and professional growth aspirations. This enables you to focus on preparing for the interview and sending follow up communications. But, and there’s a big but here; if you do so, do it responsibly.

How to select a recruiter

If you’ve never worked with a recruiter, or perhaps have had a bad experience with one in the past, here is what a healthy candidate-to-recruiter relationship should look like.

  • To start, find one that works in the industry you are currently working in or wish to work in. Even better, if you have a target company, try to connect directly with their corporate recruiters.
  • A professional recruiter will walk you through their process. From the latest job market conditions to a projected timeline of events, they should be able to provide you with some of the parameters on what to expect.
  • Your recruiter should be confident in the market they work in. Check out their connections or ask if you can speak with someone else they’ve placed if you are hesitant to partner with a stranger.
  • Be aware of the bait and switch recruiters. This is when the recruiter posts a fake job in an effort to connect with new candidates. This is typically a red flag.


Tips for working with Recruiters


  • Set up an initial call where you and the recruiter get to know each other candidly. Be upfront about your professional strengths and weaknesses as this will ultimately benefit you when they present you for a position.
  • Everyone is different, so establish your preferred modes of communications. Text is a growing way to connect, but be sure to OK this with your recruiter. By doing so, you will eliminate any chances of a missed opportunity.


  • Always follow up with your recruiter and not the hiring company as it will make both you and your recruiter look unprofessional; significantly jeopardizing your chances to get the job.
  • There is nothing worse than a candidate who is submitted by multiple agencies. As the job seeker, never farm your resume out to multiple agencies at once. It won’t increase your chances of getting hired, and will likely get you blacklisted by recruiters.
  • Keep in mind that the feedback provided by your recruiter or the hiring manager isn’t personal; it’s business. With that being said, your recruiter should openly communicate feedback in a way that is constructive and useful for your continued job search.
  • If at any point you are unsure of how to handle a situation with your recruiter, look at it as building a professional relationship. The more you give, the more you will get in return.


Keep in mind, if you feel that you aren’t connecting with your recruiter, you can politely explain that you’d like to take your search into your own hands, or in a different direction. Like any professional relationship, it’s okay to walk away, as long as you don’t burn any bridges in doing so.


For Passive Job Seekers

Not everyone is actively looking for work. However, the majority of us would explore a job opportunity that was cherry-picked for us, and if you agree, then you are what’s known as a passive candidate.


How to Passively Engage Recruiters

While you are not looking for work now, remember when you do start your search that it’s a full-time job. The recruiter you ignore today could be the gatekeeper to your dream job tomorrow, next month or next year. So, before hitting ignore on their LinkedIn request, here are some of the top reasons passive candidates should engage with recruiters.

  • Recruiters connecting with you are probably doing so because you match their network and/or industry experience. While you might not be looking for work now, consider that the need for a new job might pop up when you least expect it.
  • LinkedIn is the best way for recruiters to find and connect with talent. If you aren’t interested in learning about new opportunities, that’s perfectly OK. Simply reply back to the recruiter letting them know you are not interested in job notifications at this time. Otherwise, you can expect to continue receiving communications from them.
  • If you are curious about what opportunities currently exist in the market, consider a recruiter can partner with you on a confidential search. Therefore, you don’t open yourself up to an awkward situation with your current employer.

Hopefully, this guide helps walk you through what should be a very fruitful experience for both parties. If there is something that I missed, please leave me a note in the comments section below.


Tina Medaglia is a veteran in the staffing and recruiting industry.  With nearly two decades of experience, Tina launched her career in sales and recruitment with a Fortune 500 staffing company; forging a path into management and team building.  She has a passion for bringing people together and making the right fit for both the candidate and the client and prides herself on her ability to identify the right candidate to form a lasting career. She has built a nationwide network of professionals who trust and utilize her as a resource for their career and staffing decisions. 

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