Turning a call from a recruiter into a networking call…

On Monday, I posted on what to do to manage your career during an economic upturn. And I encouraged you to take advantage of calls from recruiters (in-house and third party). I've also seen lots of posts from people complaining about recruiters...mostly third party recruiters. It's better than not getting calls from recruiters at all. Be flattered that you are in demand!

Anyway, I thought I would give you a little tool here. Let's say that you do get a call from a third party recruiter and they start talking to you about a position that you are not interested in. How do you turn that call into a networking opportunity? And before I go into this, let me just remind you that your goal here is to get the information that benefits you and establish a professional relationship...you don't have to go on vacation with the person or invite them to dinner. So even if they are a little salesy/weird/whatever, as some recruiters can be, it's up to you to make this call work for you and it's always an opportunity. Here are the questions that I recommend working into the conversation. You are going to have to reciprocate with some info about yourself, but I'd set a goal of getting this info before you get off the phone (maybe you can print this off and leave it by the phone for such a call):

“Tell me about the opportunity“ (Trust me, just listen to them and take some notes and then if it's not for you, let them know that that position does not sound like a fit for what you want to do. But at least give them the sense that you listened to them)

“What is your area of specialty...what kinds of positions do you recruit on?”

“What levels of responsibility do you usually cover (individual contributor, people manager, Director+)?”

“What kind of client companies do you serve? Can you give me an idea who some of your clients are?”

“What kind of career paths would exist for someone with my background at a company like this client company? At other client companies that you work with?”

“Can you give me a ballpark idea of what a position like this pays (both at this client company and others)?”

“What kind of benefits does this company offer? How do they compare to other benefits in the market? Are there any companies offering anything new and interesting?”

“Tell me about opportunities for relocation (programs and assistance) and telecommuting”

“Are you interested in keeping in touch to network? I know a lot of people with <x> type of background and I would be happy to share some details of this job (and others) with my network. Do you want to e-mail the job description to me so I can forward it to them?”

“<X> is my dream job. How often do you come across those types of opportunities? How do I get my resume to you so that I can be considered if such an opportunity crosses your desk? How and how often should I be in touch?”

Many recruiters will try and drive this conversation to get as much info from you as possible, but they realize the benefits of networking with people in the industry. Don't let them totally control the conversation, but don't just read your questions off either. You should be able to have a nice, mutually beneficial conversation and gather some info you can use to evaluate your current opportunity. And don't forget to thank them for the call (it's let's them know that if they were to call you again, you would be friendly).

PS: resist the urge to ask the recruiter whether they are paid by the hire. As curious as you are, and as much as it would seem to be OK, considering that they are probably asking about your compensation, it's really not appropriate.

Comments (5)

  1. As an aside, asking how the recruiter is compensated is pertinent. It helps one decide where the recruiter’s loyalty lies. I’ve found that recruiters who are compensated strictly on a per hire basis tend to be more likely to place you in a position that might not be best for either party, in an effort to just make the commision. Recruiters that just have a base compensation (perhaps with some sort of other bonus structure) tend to be more interested in making a "good match".

    This observation has also been made by many other techies. In short, knowing how your recruiter is compensated is important, whether or not you like the fact.

  2. Heather says:

    Jerry-I agree that it’s pertinent, but the problem is that it’s nobody’s business except for the recruiters. I understand WHY people want to ask the question. But the call is about finding a job for the candidate and filling a job for the company, not reviewing the recruiter’s compensation package. And asking the question establishes immediate distrust between the candidate and the recruiter (it’s not like we say "gee, whyever would you be asking that question?"). And my post was about how to use the call to build a networking relationship with the recruiter.

    By the way, recruiters that get paid per hire are actually motivated to make good hires because if they don’t, they lose their client. So it’s not as simple as you make it out to be. I’ve been paid both ways and still would not have intentionally placed someone in the wrong job just to make some cash for myself. But as I have reiterated throughout my posts, there are bad recruiters too just like there are unethical people in every profession. I’d rather not promote a sterotype by assuming that people that are paid by the hire are the "bad" recruiters. It’s just not the case.

    Regardless, I still feel that, despite the curiousity or a sense from the candidate that they "need to know", the question is out of line.

  3. From my vantage point I have to ask what business is it of mine to know how the recruiter gets paid? Could be a flat rate, % of the starting salary or just a flat rate for a number of hires. The point is that the rate has nothing to do with the candidate or the quality of the recruiter. I agree with Heather, the recruiter is trying to find and establish a excellent stream of candidate for the client since that is the only way to continue work for the client.

    I never ask how the recruiter gets paid. Just like I never ask how much my coworkers get paid. At the ned of the day it means nothing to me and my potential paycheck.

  4. Kate says:

    Heather – I’m interested in obtaining a consulting gig at Microsoft. I recently interviewed with a staffing/recruiting firm in Seattle and completed lots of paperwork, including reference checks. I have been told from this company that more positions at Microsoft will be opening in July, at the beginning of the fiscal year. I have an M.B.A. and several years of Product Management experience in the Internet industry. Any suggestions about how I may increase my chances of finding consulting work at Microsoft?

    BTW, I love your blog. Thanks!

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