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November 15, 2012

Can Recruiters Really Help You?

I recently read a blog by another Recruiter and wanted to share it with you (with his permission of course), along with some comments and insights from me. While he is mostly talking about internal Recruiters in his blog (the people who are employed by a company in an HR or recruiting function, much of this is true of 3rd party Recruiters and staffing firms like WunderLand.

My comments are in red; the original author in black type.

Recruiters are your friend

(Well, they can become your friend, but it's best to keep it a friendly business relationship. And keep in mind that you cannot hire one to help you find a job. More on that as you read on.)

Can a Recruiter really help you?

I was recently on an HR panel answering questions from folks who were in the process of looking for a new job. What stuck out to me was that this group was asking some very specific questions around the application process and were surprised by my answers.

I thought it might help to share their questions and the reasons behind my answers. Here is a sampling of the questions:

  • --Why don’t we get a call back when we are told we will be called?
  • --Why does the process take so long?
  • --Why don’t we at least get an email back?
  • --Why doesn’t the Recruiter know anything about my position?
  • --How come they don’t call back. I am overqualified for the job and could do that role in my sleep.

The list went on, but most of the questions dealt around the “Recruiter” role in the hiring process.

Let me try to put things into perspective.


If you are working with a Recruiter that works out of an agency (like WunderLand), their customer isn’t you the candidate; the customer that is paying their fee is the hiring company. If you can’t fill the agency’s open positions, they are going to move on to a candidate that can.

Let me try to explain this 3-way relationship: If you go to a third-party Recruiter or staffing firm, give them your resume and tell them you're interested in finding a new job, you are not hiring them to work for you. They work for the entity that pays them. You are just agreeing that you will let them call you if and when one of their clients asks them to find a candidate just like you, or submit your resume to a particular company for a particular job opening. Then the rest is your call, whether to go after that particular job or not.

Some of you (no doubt those who with ample savings) might be wondering, why can't I hire and pay a Recruiter to find me a job? It seems that this would be a huge money-making business model in these times of massive unemployment, doesn't it?

Well, that type of business model has been tried (starting with the Industrial Revolution in America), and has failed miserably. It's the reason that the government stepped in to regulate the 'employment agency' business, requiring staffers to be licensed and having all sorts of do's and don'ts. It's the reason that recruiting has gotten such a bad reputation over the last century and hasn't been able to shake that image, even though the business model changed (rightly so) a long time ago to having the hiring companies pay the Recruiter.

Imagine how unhappy job seekers were when they paid a Recruiter (often more than a couple thousand), and the Recruiter couldn't find them a job they wanted! No wonder the recruiting profession is still looked at suspiciously.

A business model wherein job seekers pay a Recruiter to find them their perfect job didn't work. No Recruiter can guarantee to find someone their perfect job, because the hiring decision isn't up to the Recruiter! There's a 3rd party involved, the hiring company. Only they have the power to hire someone or not.

The Recruiter is someone who finds potential candidates for their clients, and then acts as a matchmaker between the job seeker and the hiring company. They search for specific types of workers that their clients (often hundreds of companies all with different needs) want to hire. That's why you get contacted by so many Recruiters on LinkedIn or anywhere else online where you list your name and job title or work experience.

So the Recruiter IS helping you, but you have to be cognizant that they are not working for you; they are not responsible for finding you a job. Working with a Recruiter is just one thing you can do to as part of your job search, and should never be the only thing you do.


Often times, in-house Recruiters, have 15 positions to fill. I know of some Recruiters that have 40+ positions in their que. 40 positions!!!! Depending on the position, 7-10 positions would be considered a full time gig. 15 positions is a lot to fill. Here is a sampling of what it takes to fill a role:

  • --Meet with the hiring manager and set expectation around the timing of the hire and the salary market (this is also true of agency Recruiters)
  • --Come up with a job description and get approval from the hiring manager for that description (Agency Recruiters usually have to rewrite what their client gives them, because what they are given is usually a company's formal HR Job Description, a generic listing of what this type of person should know or bring to the company. However, agency Recruiters dig deeper. We find out what the culture is like at that company and inside a particular department within that company. We find out what types of people they have hired in the past for that role. We try to get inside the mind of the hiring manager, because the decision to hire is ultimately theirs)
  • --Post the ad on Monster, Craigslist, Ladders, and then come up with a social networking strategy which will include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to name a few. Many agency Recruiters rely on job postings to passively source candidates; we laughingly refer to that practice as "Post and Pray." but WunderLand doesn't. We proactively find and contact people and turn them into job seekers. Every experienced Recruiter knows that more times than not the best candidates do NOT come from job postings, so we proactively find and contact people and see if we can turn them into candidates.)
  • --Start sorting through the 100 or so responses they will receive on this ONE posting and try to narrow it down to 5-7 candidates which need an email / call or both to set up an initial phone screen (this is another reason we don't post every job; there aren't enough hours in the day to weed through the mostly unqualifed people who apply to jobs)
  • --Meet with the hiring manager to let them know which 2-3 they want to bring in for an in-person interview
  • --Call / Email to set up appointments for in person interview
  • --Interview the 2-3 candidates and then hope that 2 of these are worthy of pitching to the hiring manager
  • --Set up interviews with hiring manager, department manager and a few team members

The above steps do not include trying to get meetings scheduled with the hiring manager. Uhhggg! We haven’t made the hire yet on the above position, but you get the idea. If we get through those steps and don’t make a hire, back to the drawing board. (If it's hard for an internal Recruiter to meet with their hiring manager, who is a co-worker, imagine how hard it is for outside agency Recruiters to get an appointment. There are many companies who specify in their contract with us that we CANNOT contact, in any manner, their hiring managers, or we'll lose their business. Now isn't that shortsighted thinking? The best way to help them hire the right people is to learn about that company inside-out, to learn what the hiring manager really wants (not just what the generic job description says) is to talk to person who this employee would be reporting to! That type of contractual prohibition actually hurts the hiring company because Recruiters might not present the right type of candidates.)

All of the above is for a SINGLE position. Multiply that by 15-40 and you get a logistics and scheduling nightmare.

I say all of this to set the tone. The Recruiter is the gatekeeper and doesn’t want to waste their time, they don’t want to waste your time, and they are essentially vouching for you when they schedule you with the hiring manager. They REALLY don’t want to get a reputation for wasting managers time.

I know when I bring a candidate to our CEO, I am putting my name on the line. Make a great hire and it is the hiring managers effort. Make a bad hire and the Recruiter will be blamed. (Very true of agency Recruiters too! Only if we don't provide good candidates, they just fire us - forever.)

You as the candidate really do get about 10 seconds of eye time on your resume and cover letter. When I am looking at a stack of 50 (these days it is more like 200) resumes and trying to weed them down to 5-7, I am looking for reasons to throw the resume out before I am looking for reasons to keep it.

This is a huge distinction that all job seekers need to know; the first job of a Recruiter, internal or external, when faced with too many applicants, is to find a reason to reject as many people as possible.

I am not reading each one line by line and stack ranking 50 resume’s. I am literally looking for reasons to take them out of the running, and here is the reason why.

If I receive 50 resume’s it will break down like this:

  • --7 of them will have a misspelled word or grammatical error. OUT.
  • --7 of them will have so many technical acronyms, or are so tough to read, I won’t be able to figure out what they are trying to say. OUT
  • --5 of them will be under qualified. OUT.
  • --5 of them will be over qualified. OUT
  • --10 of them won’t even be related (even remotely qualified), and I can only imagine that this is someone that needs to collect unemployment and has to apply to 3 positions a week to qualify - OUT.

Most resumes will state what they have done with no details, no numbers, no percentages. “Increased sales,” or “Led Agile dev group” is not as effective as “increased Sales by 25% in the first 2 months” or “Led a team of 5 developers that released product every week using an Agile development methodology.” The latter two say the same but sound much more effective than 'Lead Agile dev group.' Not necessarily out, but if I see others that do list percentages and numbers, those are definitely in, and make the job easier.

Tailor the resume to the job listing! Only put down what is relevant to that position on your cover letter and resume. If I wanted more qualifications, I would have listed them in the job description.

Now come on people, especially those of you who own their own computers and are unemployed. Being out of work, you now have 40 extra hours of time each week. There's no excuse for you not editing your resume and cover letter so it matches as much as possible (without lying) the Requirements or Qualifications listed in the job posting! Here it is again: NO EXCUSE. If you use one version of your resume and/or cover letter to apply to jobs, we CAN tell! And you will be thought of as lazy and be rejected.

Oh, one more thing. Most generic HR job descriptions ask for the moon. They list anything they can think of. However, if we agency Recruiters are allowed access to the hiring manager, we can find out what the REAL qualifications are; what the 'must-haves' are; what the deal-breakers are. This is often radically different than the HR description. So if you see a WunderLand job posting on our web site (or on one of the aggregator sites like, you can be sure that our list of Requirements is set in stone.

And if you don't have the type of experience or skills they want, but you know you can do that job if given a chance?

Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but I can tell you that 100% of the time, our clients will not hire you; and if we dared to present your resume to them because we too believe you could do that job, we would most likely lose that client because we didn't give them what they asked for.

The above statistics are not scientific of course, but they are realistic. Out of 50 candidates, 35 will take themselves out of the picture and I am really only looking at 15 or so resumes. I don’t say this lightly. It is VERY easy to stand out in a crowd of resumes these days.

Read and re-read your cover letter and resume. Then read it word for word backwards. Then ask a friend to proof it. Minimize technical acronyms. As the Recruiter, I don’t know what you and the hiring manager know. Assume I don’t have your technical expertise.

If the job is entry-level and you have a PhD or an MBA, don’t list that background. I am not looking for a PhD. And if you DO have a PhD or MBA and are desperately trying to get ANY job, it won't work. Companies are very reluctant to hire someone who is that overqualified, because they assume you will quit their job the minute something better comes along (and you will, won't you?), or that you will be bitter about the low level and low pay of the job, and that bitterness will show up in your work.

Make it easy for your Recruiter to understand you. Help me help you. I DO want to fill that position. I DO want to bring candidates to the hiring manager.

(And at WunderLand, we DO want to help people get jobs even though you're not paying us! It's in our DNA; we only hire staffers who like to help other people, not just make money.)

But please be patient with us and realize that we need to go through the above process along with the other items on our to-do list, which could be new hire paperwork (lots of it required by the government), on-boarding, 30 day check ins after a placement, benefits paperwork, etc.


I hope this has given you a better sense of what Recruiters can, and can't, do for you. Armed with the knowledge that an agency Recruiter cannot be hired by you, and that internal Recruiters need to reject as many of you as possible, you should be able to adjust your job hunting plan and land that new job.

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