One day last month, the recruiter spoke with more than a dozen potential candidates about various positions she was recruiting for clients. While she worked, she got more than 600 new messages from job seekers asking for her help. “I have a ton of people in my inbox who say, ‘I’m in the job market. I want a Zoom meeting and grab coffee.’” she says. “I’m like ‘No.’”
According to one survey, about 75% of people applying for jobs say they never heard back from the firm—and that was before the pandemic. Now overwhelmed with the millions of unemployed and often with resources reduced, HR officials and headhunters alike may fit the cliché of being next to impossible to reach. Yet, of course, recruiters are critical to the whole job-hunt process. One pre-pandemic study found people who get mentioned by recruiters were 16 times more likely to get hired than someone who applied through a job-posting site.
Clearly, cold-calling recruiters you’ve never met—or nudging them through LinkedIn messages—is a fruitless endeavor. Here are suggestions from the HR experts at Korn Ferry (which places a professional in a new job every three minutes).
Even while they’re being inundated with resumes, recruiters don’t know every good potential job candidate immediately. They’ll search sites such as LinkedIn or trade associations affiliated with the industry or sector in which they’re trying to find candidates. Nothing stands out more than candidates who have written articles or given presentations or other displays of insights about the industry or role. “The more people demonstrate thought leadership, the easier they are to find, and those are the people clients often want to speak to,” says Dan Kaplan, a Korn Ferry senior client partner in the firm’s CHRO practice.
Have your resume attached to those articles and presentations so a recruiter can quickly assess if any open role might be of interest. For example, when she gets a new industrial or packaging executive role to fill, Korn Ferry senior client partner Mary Elizabeth Sadd says she often initially will peruse LinkedIn for potential candidates. If someone’s page stands out, she wants to see whether the person’s work experiences match up with the open role. But often people won’t have a current resume, or any resume at all, attached to their LinkedIn page. “If it’s incomplete, you’ve frustrated me and I’ll move on,” Sadd says.
Have an elevator pitch.
Whether it’s on the phone or over email, candidates should have a concise story to tell recruiters. They don’t need to know a full career history—for executives, they can usually get that from a corporate biography page. Experts say recruiters want to know two or three valuable skill sets a candidate has, what role a candidate has now, and some idea of what type of emotional intelligence—so-called “soft skills”—the candidate demonstrates. “Sell yourself fast,” says Deepali Vyas, cohead of fintech for Korn Ferry’s Global Financial Markets practice.
That type of information should come across quickly on a resume as well. Sometimes resumes are too broad, Sadd says. “At the executive level, you have to know who you are and what you are,” she says.
Help the headhunter.
The most successful people will develop good relationships with a few good recruiters who can help them throughout their entire careers, Vyas says. That can mean telling recruiters about other people who might fit open roles. Recruiters are always looking to broaden their network and industry knowledge. Anyone who can do that now will be one of the first people a recruiter wants to talk to about a related open role in the future, Kaplan says.
At the same time, recruiters appreciate if job seekers are receptive to meetings with clients that may not have the perfect role right now. Many recruiters also don’t mind being asked to share their industry contacts, so a job seeker can expand their own professional network.
Recruiters get it. The downturn caused by the pandemic has created a tremendous amount of pressure. But candidates need to be respectful. Desperate or anger-filled messages will not get returned. At the same time, candidates should do a little homework on the recruiter. Find out the industries and roles in which a recruiter specializes. Don’t ask a recruiter who places manufacturing executives for help getting a job as a retail data analyst. After every interaction with a recruiter, send a follow-up note of thanks.
One final thing, obvious or not: don’t badger recruiters. Recently, Kaplan says one job seeker called him 20 times … in one day. “I get the anxiety, but try not to take it out on a headhunter,” he says.