I Hate Recruiters! Why Do They Pigeonhole Me?

The short answer? Because they don’t know you.

Last week, I spoke to a group of MBA students at a local University about how to use social media in their job search. At one point in the workshop, a young gentleman raised his hand requesting permission to ask a question that was “off-topic”. Since I’m always up for a good off-topic question, permission was quickly granted, and he continued.

The student shared that he wasn’t very fond of recruiters in general (present company excepted of course), because they only view him based upon his past experience, not for what he wants to be – or can be. Since he currently held a sales position in a hot industry, recruiters were very interested in talking with him about similar roles, but not about the career move he wants to make – a leadership role in another industry.

“How do you get a recruiter to pay attention to you when you contact them because you want to make a career change, or change industries?”

My advice (which applies to anyone who contacts a recruiter directly)? Treat recruiters like you would any valuable networking relationship.

You wouldn’t pick up the phone and start calling other professionals that you don’t know, and expect them to “get” you or to go find you a job without knowing anything about you, would you? A better is to choose two or three recruiters to try to build a relationship with first – before asking for their help.

4 Suggestions To Build Relationships With Recruiters:

  • Where possible, try to meet recruiters “out in the wild” (i.e. networking/professional development events/volunteering, etc.), so you can introduce yourself in person.
  • Get an introduction or referral to a trusted recruiter from someone in your network.
  • If a recruiter contacts you about an opportunity that is not of interest, offer to assist them with referrals or to be a resource for them in the future.

Once you’ve had some level of interaction with a recruiter, ask them about their process, and how they work. Do they work on a retained or contingency basis? Do they market candidates? If you provide them with your resume, what happens to it and will it be kept confidential?

It’s important to understand how you may or may not fit with their process, as well as what you should or should not expect in terms of follow up or contact. Having these conversations up front will help you to understand how they work, and eliminate possible disappointments.

Finally, ask the recruiter how YOU can help THEM (and mean it).

Basically, you want the recruiter to remember you. Always remember:

“All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” – Bob Burg, Endless Referrals

Just like everybody else, recruiters like and remember people who want to help them be successful!

When the workshop ended, the young man came up and we had a great conversation about the work he’s currently doing, what he’s interested in pursuing, and how he’s working very hard (funding his own education) to get an MBA from a top school. He’s hoping to pair that excellent education with his work experience and advance to the next level in his career. He was personable, articulate, and clearly good at what he does.

He was also bright enough to have listened during our earlier discussion, and after thanking me for my time, asked how he could help ME. The next day, he followed up with a personalized email, and invited me to connect on LinkedIn.

In the future, I’ll remember this young man, and I see him as what he wants to be – not just what he’s doing today. Although we didn’t have an opportunity in which to place him in currently, if one arises in the future, you can bet he’ll get a call.


Because he made me like him.

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “I Hate Recruiters! Why Do They Pigeonhole Me?

  1. I agree on everything that you said, but I just want to add that recruiters for companies are the wild card of the equation. I think third-party recruiters, like myself, act as agents or lawyers selling this person and could be effective since they have connections to the company.
    It depends on what the job seeker is looking for and what the employers are looking for. In those meetings, I do think the job seeker gives a lot of details what they’re looking for and beyond, but it’s the company that has to pull the lever if the person is the right fit. That part is the more frustraing of the interview process because each individual has a different idea who should be part of the company. There are some that exceed the expectations, but there are a few that can make it fit. That’s the hard part.

  2. Cincy,
    I have to admit, as a generalist and hiring manager I’ve grown a little suspicious of recruiters trying to quickly move bodies to earn a quick commission.
    However, to your point, the few that I’ve gotten to know well (and the good ones that have gotten to know me) have been the source of some of our best employees. Great post!

  3. @Totally Consumed – As a former HR professional/hiring manager, I know exactly where you’re coming from! Now that I’m on the other side and know that some Recruiters do wear white hats (the good guys), I realize that in my past, I didn’t take responsibility myself for building relationships with Recruiters I worked with. Who knows how many helpful search partners I could have found if I’d only tried!
    @Tracy Tran – Thanks for stopping by. I agree that recruiters can help with “selling” a candidate to a company who may not be exactly what they thought they wanted and you’re right that the really fun part is in figuring out exactly what each stakeholder in the equation is looking for so you know what to sell too!

  4. Great story and insight! I have always looked at recruiters as just head hunters in the past. The info used correctly will weed those kind of people out. I truly believe that you care and are different. Keep up the great work.

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