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ask a recruiter

The Question:

How does one find a good recruiter (i.e. good for them)? I need one!

(What can a recruiter do for you? What can you expect? How do you choose someone? How would the relationship proceed? How much does it cost? What information do you need to know before you go searching?)

The Answer:

Recruiters can be a great support for both job seekers and employers. Here are some tips to find a good recruiter and maximize the value you get out of him or her.

For job seekers:

Many recruiters today specialize in a particular area. It may be industry-specific (e.g. accounting, advertising, engineering, etc.), or it may focus on other employment needs, such as bilingual French placements (my area of specialty). As a first step, research recruiters who work in your employment area – they are more likely to be connected to your target list of employers and the type of job you are looking for.

Use recruiters as just one tool in your job search arsenal. Remember, recruiters are not agents working on behalf of job seekers. They will not charge you anything for their services (it is against the law in Canada for them to do so). They focus on their client's needs (employers), and work to find the right person to fill those needs.

Maximize what you get out of recruiters by:

•Entering your profile into their database (this can often be done online)

•Connecting with them through social media and checking their website often – most recruiters will immediately post available positions online

•Keep in touch with recruiters regularly to keep yourself top-of-mind – especially when they've just posted a job for which you may be qualified

•Don't be offended if you don't get a call back – recruiters will usually contact you only when they have a job in mind for you

•If you are short-listed and called in for an interview with a recruiter, take that opportunity to seek out additional advice. This is your chance to see how you can strengthen your résumé, and polish up your presentation and interview skills, etc.

Finally, a good recruiter won't waste your time if they can't help you (e.g. if they don't have the types of jobs for which you'd be qualified). They will tell you up front exactly what they can do for you.

For employers:

First off, let's consider the question: Why use a recruiter? There are two very valuable benefits that recruiters offer: 1) they can tap into talent that companies do not have access too (e.g. approaching workers who are currently employed, scoping the competition, etc.); and 2) they can save a company considerable time on the search and prescreening process. This allows executives to focus on what they do best, while leveraging the "finding a needle in a hay stack" search skills of a recruiter.

When it comes to finding a good recruiter, here are some considerations:

•Ask recruiters where their expertise lies. It's best to hire a recruiter whose focus complements your hiring needs

•In recruitment, success is more closely tied to quality than quantity. Beyond years of experience, or size of a firm, successful placements are key (even if a recruiter was able to fill 150 positions in a short time, if many ended up not working out, that can't be deemed a success)

•How responsive is the recruitment firm? Will your recruiter put you at the top of the list? Ask if they have service level commitments in terms of getting back to you within a certain time frame, etc.

•Also ask: Should a new hire not work out, will the recruiter support you in finding someone else?

Recruiters should really operate as an extension of your HR department. They will do all of the prescreening, liaise with short-listed candidates, schedule interviews, check references, assist with negotiations, etc.

In terms of remuneration, outside of some executive search firms that have retainer fees, most recruiters operate on contingency, meaning the recruiter essentially works for you for free until they have successfully placed someone in the job for you. Once a candidate is hired, a fee is paid to the recruiter based on a prenegotiated percentage of the employee's salary.

If you work exclusively with one recruiter (as you generally would with a doctor, dentist, real estate agent, etc.), you are more likely to get their full attention and effort, and the best service from them. In addition, the more open you are in sharing your company's culture and the nuances of your workplace, the greater the chances that your recruiter will find the best candidate for your team.

The best hires are found when the company and recruiter commit to working together as if they were on a joint venture.

Julie Labrie is the vice-president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions in Toronto.

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