Do You Know How To Get a Recruiter’s Attention?

I lost count of how many clients have told me they hung their hat on one or two recruiter relationships but nothing ever panned out in terms of landing a great job. If you don’t know how to work with recruiters, you can easily be tempted to feel that you have been let down in your relationship with them.

Here are a few facts about recruiters to help you get a baseline perspective…

Recruiters work for (and are paid by) their client companies. They don’t work for you, have no real allegiance to you, and will only be interested in you if your career history is a match for their searches. Knowing that will help you establish relationships with recruiters with more objectivity.

Recruiters come in all shapes and sizes. I have met many of them and I was one of them for seven years. Some are good, some are nice, and some are neither.

When you send your resume to a big handful of recruiters that specialize in your industry or position, you will get a mixed bag of responses. Some will respond with interest, some will send you an automatic message to fill out their generic candidate form on their website, some will not respond at all, and some may even respond negatively. Be prepared for all of it – and take none of it personally.

And by all means don’t skip this step! Mass distribution is necessary in order to garner the interest of the smaller percentage of recruiters who may be able to help you! If you are considering sending your resume out to recruiters, I have a great distribution service.

Recruiters generally like straightforward resumes. They tend to prefer the right keywords and summary statements that highlight your main selling points on the first page. They look at a lot of resumes each week and they don’t like to have to scan through a resume to try and guess what you do.

If you have a functional resume (one that highlights skills rather than industry background and job history), don’t be surprised if you catch some terse comments from recruiting firms. Don’t worry – chances are your resume isn’t bad, nor have your done anything wrong; this is just a typical preference of recruiters.

Recruiters look for job histories that match their search criteria. If you are looking to make a slight shift into a parallel industry or a slight shift in terms of your position, then a recruiter may be able to help you. If you are looking to make a career transition into another industry, then you can skip connecting with recruiters all together. They are paid to find exactly what their clients have asked them to find.. and nothing more (or less). Other job search methods will work much better for you.

What is the definition of a recruiter’s “star” candidate? If you are looking to remain in your industry and have a solid and successful background in it, then you will be especially attractive to recruiters: a “star” candidate. Star candidates are also defined as those who have held no more than three jobs in the past ten years and those with a complimentary and impressive academic background. The more attractive you are to recruiters, the more negotiating power you have.

What else does a recruiter look for? A good personality, tact, diplomacy, and promptness when returning phone calls and emails are often major components to a successful match. Remember, when a recruiter sends you to one of their clients, their reputation is on the line. They are acutely aware of this, and you should be too.

And one last valuable tip! A recruiter is somewhat limited in his or her ability to bring you your “dream job”. They can and will only offer you positions they are working on for their clients, and only if you are a potential match for the position.

Additionally, you will probably not be the only candidate they send to interview for the position. Generally, recruiters send in two to four qualified candidates for each position they are paid to fill.

If you want to build good relationships with recruiters – both short and long term – you should:

  • Find either paid or free lists of recruiters who specialize in your position or industry. You can search on LinkedIn for recruiters in your industry and ask them to connect. Generally the recruiter’s geographical location is of little importance – they often have many clients outside of their physical location. I have a recruiter distribution service that emails to 1,000+ recruiters.
  • Follow up with courtesy phone calls to the best recruiters on your list based on your needs and how they measure up. You will look more professional and get on their radar screen.
  • Always be pleasant, positive and diplomatic.
  • Treat the recruiter just the same as you would a potential employer in an interview.
  • If you are really attached to your industry, then building long term relationships with recruiters isn’t a bad idea. Recruiters are heavily networked, appreciate referrals and the good ones will remember your generosity, kindness and professionalism. They will go out of their way to contact you with five-star positions they may have down the road.

Recruiters can be extremely helpful to you and your career. Knowing the best ways to find them and also build positive relationships with them will not only save you time but serve to flush out additional job opportunities!

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of and and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

If you are a Director, VP, CxO, or Board Member interested in an executive resume package or working directly with Mary Elizabeth, click to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call.