At a glance
In the current employment landscape, where most roles are never advertised, scanning the job ads might not land a candidate their dream job.
Many companies engage external recruiters to headhunt for senior positions, and many more trust recruiters to sift through applications and candidates.
In this environment, developing relationships with recruiters is critical for professionals who are seeking a new challenge or a step up on the corporate ladder.
A “career concierge”
“A great recruiter is worth their weight in gold,” says Michael Edelstein CPA, founder of Recruitment Expert. “It’s like having your own personal career concierge.”
A recruiter can do the legwork of sorting through job vacancies and creating a curated list of opportunities for a specific candidate.
“I like to compare it to the old-school real estate window with multiple listings. Instead of having to door-knock and figure out what properties are for sale or lease, you have one place where you can choose your ideal place or in this case role, company or location,” Edelstein says.
In many instances, a recruiter is the only pathway to a vacancy. Geoff Balmer, a director at Richard Lloyd Accounting Recruitment, estimates that 30 to 40 per cent of roles that come across his desk aren’t advertised.
“You want the recruiter to know about you and to get a good idea about where you are, what you’re looking for and what you’re trying to achieve,” Balmer says.
A good recruiter also supports candidates throughout the recruitment process, from start to end.
“They will prepare you for the interview and push you ahead of direct applicants,” Edelstein says.
“They have a relationship with the client, so you have someone on the inside advocating for you and doing all the uncomfortable negotiations on your behalf.”
The result, he says, “is generally a better outcome in terms of salary or conditions”.
A connection with a recruiter doesn’t have to end when the candidate lands a role.
Long term, he says, “recruiters are a great source of information on industry trends, salary guidance when it comes to pay review time, inside company information and additional job opportunities that you normally wouldn’t have access to”.
How to establish a relationship with a recruiter
A candidate needs to find the right recruiter for their needs.
First, ask colleagues and associates in the industry for recommendations of recruiters they have worked with in the past.
Next, search employment sites and job listing platforms to create a list of recruiters who advertise roles in the relevant field or area of specialisation.
Before reaching out, however, Edelstein recommends checking an individual recruiter’s experience and how long they have been with the agency.
That’s because recruitment can be a high-turnover industry. “There’s no point in building a relationship with someone you will outlast in 12 months,” he says.
“Another option is, if you have marketable experience, mark yourself as ‘Open to Opportunities’ on LinkedIn,” Edelstein says.
“You’ll find yourself bombarded by recruiters within 24 hours and will be in the enviable position of picking and choosing your preferred recruiter.”
The right time to reach out
It isn’t just senior candidates who benefit from establishing a solid relationship with a recruiter. Edelstein says these connections can deliver value at any stage of a career.
“At the junior level, the candidate needs a lot more basic handholding when it comes to interviews, CVs, social media profiles, job selection and then how to behave appropriately to pass probation,” he says.
“At the senior stages, a recruiter becomes your strategic advisor that can lay out a path for you to get to where you want and always keep an eye out for career-enhancing opportunities, while you focus on what you’re good at – because job-hunting can be a very tiresome process.”
A recruiter can also act in a consulting capacity to give candidates an edge in their efforts to advance their careers.
“They could also assist you with presenting your CV and LinkedIn profile in the best possible manner and give you inside intel on the company’s strategic direction and management styles, or issues inside the company you’re applying for, so you can assess if it’s the right fit for you,” Edelstein says.
Craig Du Rieu, managing director at Lawson Elliott Recruitment, tells a story that echoes Edelstein’s point.
One of his long-term clients, a CFO, recently secured a new position – through a different recruiter.
However, Du Rieu still played an instrumental role in the recruitment process. “The client used me as a trusted adviser to discuss his approach and strategy,” he says.
“He would look at that experience and our relationship as positive, even though it wasn’t me who found him that role.”
Snagging a board role
David Schwarz is the CEO of Board Direction and a recruiter with more than two decades of experience, specialising in helping clients secure board and executive roles.
He says that executive and board appointments are highly competitive, with often hundreds applying for a single role. “There are always going to be more candidates than there are opportunities.”
Board appointments attract interest from people at all career levels – from “twenty-something overachievers” to “people who want that CEO or that executive role and need more strategic experience”.
Candidates generally find board roles in one of four ways - “through a recruiter, by responding to an advert, by directly approaching an organisation or through a personal connection,” Schwarz explains. “Each of those requires different strategies and tactics, and processes.”
This is a world in which networks and relationships are critical.
“About 50 per cent of all board appointments and about 40 per cent of all executive appointments occur through somebody that you see rarely or infrequently – we call them ‘weak tie’ connections,” Schwarz says.
Against this competitive backdrop, understanding how recruiters work and forming a genuine relationship with a recruiter can give candidates a competitive edge.
A recruiter can offer guidance on the types of roles a candidate should target and help refine the all-important pitch.
“We write applications for our members that are really clear and compelling, because if you're not, somebody else will be,” says Schwarz.