Recruiters can open connections in your job search, help you negotiate your salary, and more. But keeping their attention and getting them to commit to helping you isn’t easy.
After working as a recruiter for more than five years in Boston and New York, I’m going to share the biggest “red flags” that will scare recruiters off, so you can make sure you’re avoiding mistakes and enticing them to help you as much as possible in your job hunt.
Red Flag #1: Telling half-truths (or lies)
Recruiters ask a lot of questions, but it’s usually to help you. So the best advice I can give here is be upfront. If there’s something “sensitive” about your background or your story (like being fired), we’ll help you explain it to companies you’re interviewing with.
Why will we help you? The companies we work with only pay us if you get hired. That’s how recruiting agencies operate for the most part (ever notice you never pay us a penny, even if we find you an amazing job?)
So we aren’t going to judge you. But we need to know the truth. We need to ask so we can help explain the situation to companies we show your resume to.
One of our biggest fears as recruiters is looking bad in front of a hiring manager or one of the companies that hires from us. And we’re definitely going to look bad if we send your resume without knowing the full story and then they ask us about it. So if we don’t have a clear picture, we aren’t going to risk sending it, and your resume will sit on our desk and collect dust.
Red Flag #2: You’re not “coachable”
The only reason a recruiter will recommend doing something (like a resume change): They think it’s going to get you more interviews and job offers faster (remember, that’s how they get paid).
So a recruiter is far more likely to continue helping you, answering questions, and dedicating time if they feel you’re taking the advice they’re giving and putting it to good use.
Your recruiter might know a few specific things a certain hiring manager looks for in an interview, so they might be giving you suggestions or telling you to prepare differently based on this knowledge.
Or they might know a certain hiring manager really appreciates when someone sends a certain type of follow up after the interview. So they’re going to be frustrated if you do something differently and cost yourself the job offer after the interview. A lot of work goes into getting you interviews, and if they feel like you’re doing something to hurt your chances after all that work, it’s a big red flag for them.
Red Flag #3: You don’t make adjustments
A second part of being coachable is being able to make adjustments. If you go on an interview and it doesn’t go well, call the recruiter you worked with and ask them about any feedback they received.
Try to show the recruiter that you’re taking the feedback and adjusting and improving so that you’ll do better in your next interview.
They’ll forgive a LOT of mistakes if you’re improving and learning. Even saying, “That’s a great point, I’ll definitely work on that for next time,” will motivate them to keep helping you.
That’s how to get them excited about sending your resume out and continuing to represent you in your job search.
But if a recruiter gets the sense you’re unwilling to change, they’ll start to feel it’s a “lost cause” and they’ll dedicate less and less time to helping you. Or they’ll stop entirely and help other job seekers instead.
Red Flag #4: You’re unpredictable
I mentioned earlier that one of our biggest fears is looking bad in front of a hiring manager we work with.
And the quickest way to look bad as a recruiter is to send someone in for an interview, tell the hiring manager one thing, and have the job seeker say something else to them. Because it makes us look incompetent, or lazy (like we didn’t take enough time to talk about your background with you).
So if we talk with you and say, “Whatever you do, don’t mention the argument you had with your last boss in this interview” and you say “Okay, I guess I’ll try not to”, but you sound hesitant and brush it off, it’s a huge red flag. Because we’re not sure what you’ll say and it makes us nervous.
If this happens, most recruiters will be hesitant to continue setting up more interviews, which is going to slow your job search down a lot.
So if you want the recruiter on your side, make it clear what you’ll do in the interview so they have no doubt what’s going on when they’re not in the room with you.
This doesn’t mean you need to say “yes” to everything they say. If you’re told to do something (or not do something) and you’re not sure why, ask! No good recruiter will fault you for asking them to explain why they recommended something. Just don’t brush it off and say “whatever” when they tell you something, because it’s going to scare the recruiter immediately.
Red Flag #5: You’re scattered
If you’re working with 12 different recruiters and applying for six different types of positions in 9 cities, it’s a problem.
It’s okay if you’re not 100% sure what you’re looking for but I recommend:
- A) Being able to at least get close to defining what it is you’re looking for in your job search (“I’m looking for a supervisor or manager position in either sales or marketing. I’m hoping to directly lead a team, but I’m flexible in terms of team size”)
- B) Being prepared to show the recruiter how else you’re looking for jobs, and demonstrate that you’re organized and have time available to work with them.
All of this happens in the first phone call. It’s how you answer when the recruiter asks, “Tell me about what you’re looking for in your next position?”… or, “Tell me about your job search so far?”
So make sure you’re prepared to impress them on those two questions and it will immediately make them want to help you. If you follow the advice above, you’ll have recruiters working hard behind the scenes to help you find a great job.
Biron is an Executive Recruiter, Career Coach and founder of the blog CareerSidekick.com. As a recruiter he has partnered with Fortune 500 firms down to 6-person tech startups while helping hundreds of job seekers advance their careers. He’s passionate about business, entrepreneurship, and technology. To learn more about Biron’s work you can connect with him on LinkedIn.