Archive for the ‘Hiring’ Category

Recruiters don’t ease up during the holidays – neither should you

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Story from Craig Fisher Posted by Miriam Salpeter on Keppie Careers

Recruiters don’t ease up during the holidays – neither should you – Original post on

Published on December 2nd, 2009

smartphone.red2306615976_2952f1cc23_mIf you are a regular reader, I hope you are already convinced that it’s important to job hunt during the holidays. Do you know where you are going with your job hunt? Today, I’m happy to share insight from the “other side of the hiring desk.” Today’s contributor, Craig Fisher, is a management and information technology recruiter, staffing entrepreneur and co-founder of A-List Solutions.


I know Craig via Twitter and saw him tweet on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving about placing a candidate:

craig tweet

Of course, I immediately DMed and asked if he’d contribute to this series. This is Craig’s take on looking for a job during the holidays…


So perhaps you are thinking that hiring managers won’t be in the office over the holidays.  Maybe you should ease up on your job search.  But you should know that your friendly neighborhood recruiter is likely still in touch with those managers and trying to make placements happen.


As a case in point, I just placed a candidate in a great new position.  It is Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving.  I was able to facilitate a background check and offer letter while both candidate and client were already out for vacation.  All parties were thrilled and the candidate gets to start work on this coming Monday morning.


Today it is easier than ever for recruiters to do business even when nobody is at work.  Smart phones make it so easy to text and view documents.  And smart recruiters know that many hiring managers are trying to spend budget money right now before year end.


Just remember that we recruiters are ALWAYS trying to get people placed in jobs.  And we are likely in touch with many of our clients even when they are out of the office.  Recruiters work hard all through the holidays.  And if you are a job seeker, you should too.


Craig Fisher is a founding partner of A-List solutions, blogger at and host of the TalentNet Live #TNL recruiter forum. As a 15-year recruiting industry veteran, Craig is a social recruiting and new media branding strategist for job seekers and employers. Follow Craig on Twitter @Fishdogs

Recruiters don’t ease up during the holidays – neither should you : Keppie Careers by Miriam Salpeter

The Importance of a Consistent Message

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Whether you are searching for a job or searching for the best candidate, a consistent message needs to be communicated throughout the entire candidate selection process.  For both parties, the message can center around the Five W’s:

  • who you are
  • what you seek in an employer or employee
  • where you are in your career or hiring process
  • when you expect to make a decision
  • why you are looking for a job or candidate
  • (and even how: how you expect to arrive at a decision)

For example, some who’s and what’s for both:

Candidate:  I am an experienced marketing executive looking to lead a team marketing custom software.

Company:  We are a Fortune1000 software development company looking for a marketing executive with 15+ years software marketing experience, an MBA, and five years experience leading others.talkdirectly

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  You might be surprised how often both sides veer of the path of delivering a consistent message. 

The Candidate’s Message:

Candidates need to follow the advice I’ve written for interviewing. Specifically, they need to understand what the company is looking for and communicate the experiences and skills that tie directly to those requirements.  An inconsistent message starts to form when a candidate starts layering in all the other things they might be interested in or relating skill sets that the company does not need.  Mentioning all these things dilutes the core message.

Throughout the interview, all the interview responses and examples provided need to tie back to the core message.  By doing so, a candidate will reinforce the impression that has started to form of what they are all about.  The more examples provided, the stronger the message gets.

The Company’s Message:

On the company side, the consistent message can get diluted when there are a series of interviewers who have not been prepared adequately.  Each interviewer should be asking questions tied to the same requirements.  Also, when asked, "what is the company looking for in a candidate," every interviewer should answer the question almost identically.  Granted, direct reports to the position may have different needs than the supervisor to the position.  However, all these answers should be agreed upon up front.

Another area of concern is the messaging on what the company is all about.  If one employee says the company’s core competence or mission is X and another says Y, what is a candidate to think?

Even little things like "where are you in the process?" can be a tripping point.  If one interviewer says, "we just started looking at candidates" and another says, "we’re close to picking three finalists," what is the candidate going to think?  Although, both statements could be true, it doesn’t sound very consistent.

Bottom Line:

Just like in traditional marketing, when the message is not consistent across all sources, the receivers of the information lose sight of the intended message.  A little preparation and strategy can go a long way (on both sides) to ensure both clearly communicate what they are looking for and what they are all about.

Jump Start Your Job Search on Twitter

Monday, May 18th, 2009

There are now many great resources now to help job seekers better utilize Twitter in their job search.  I have put together a few of my old favorites and a couple of new ones to help job seekers either get started or take it to the next level. 

The first thing to do after you set up your twitter account is follow some people who regularly post job search advice and job openings on Twitter.  The list below was announced this week by Ryon Harms, The Social Executive, and is a “hand-picked collection of the 100 most influential personal branding gurus, power networkers, resume and interview experts, job boards and fellow executives on Twitter. If you’re seeking out resources to assist you with your job search or for career advice, Harms calls his list the “who’s who of career management.” 

Follow TheCareer100 on Twitter to get assorted posts from all of these resources.  I know or follow many on this list, Ryon did his homework.  For more info about the list check out @TheCareer100 Must-Follow Mavens on Twitter by Ryon Harms, and The Social Executive: @TheCareer100 must-follow mavens on Twitter by Stephanie Lloyd.

Next, go to the Advanced Twitter Search and type in the word jobs in the space next to "This hashtag".  Then type in your zip code next to "Near this place".  Companies and recruiters now regularly attach #jobs to their postings on Twitter to make this a convenient way for job seekers to search.

Hope this is helpful.  Feel free to contact me if you need assistance.  And please follow me on Twitter!  @Fishdogs

Some other good resources to get you going are:

Mashable HOW TO: Find a Job on Twitter

The Wise Job Search: Five Best Ways to Use Twitter for Your Job Search!

Fishdogs: Who Should I Follow on Twitter?

ComputerWorld: Twitter Bible: All You Need To Know About Twitter

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Hiring Managers: Have You Wooed Lately?

Monday, May 4th, 2009

A-List candidates want to work for A-List companies.  And, they want to be treated like an A-List candidate.  As companies interview and identify the best candidate for the job, many act as if they are the only (or best) opportunity the A-List candidate has. This is counterintuitive.  A-List candidates typically have more than one opportunity and often have a hard time choosing between them.  The choice sometimes boils down to the level of wooing!

So what is professional wooing, anyway?  Just like selling a product to customers, hiring managers/interviewers need to sell the company to candidates, especially the A-List.  For great companies, this can be easy.  They just need to strategically communicate what makes them great.  Like most things, it comes down to execution.  Here are some of the details on communicating a company’s "greatness" and wooing the candidate during the interviewing process.

What to communicate?

What differentiates your company from the rest?  What do you offer that is part of their list of "wants" for their next job?  A-List candidates want autonomy, challenge, education, strong growth potential (for themselves and their company), and long-term respect.  Interviewers must listen carefully when A-List candidates share what has made them successful before.  What was it about their past environments that propelled them to greatness?  Listen for aspects that describe the perfect "fit" for the candidate.

I was recently reminded of one other key attribute that almost all A-List candidates want in a job by Michael Kelemen, an experienced recruiter in Toronto:  Great candidates only want to work with other great people.  Meeting the company A-Players is better than just saying you have A-Players, of course.

When to communicate?

Don’t wait until the end of the interviewing process to share all these winning qualities.  You need to be doing it all along.  Even in early stage interviews, when candidates ask about the company, you should be prepared to share all the aspects of the company that would be appealing to the candidate.  During the offer-to-acceptance period, realize that counteroffers from current companies are possible and stay in tune with the candidate’s feedback.  Even after acceptance, be sure to keep the new employee upbeat about starting the new job (before starting, upon starting, and for weeks after starting).

Side note: Outside of the interviewing process, many of the best managers are even wooing candidates when they do not have an open job.  They talk to A-List candidates all year long anticipating following up with them later.  Others leverage Social Media to communicate about their Employer Brand.

To whom to communicate?

You need to provide information to anyone who is part of the candidate’s decision-making process.  At times, this might be indirect by asking what questions a spouse or parent might have.  At other times, it might be chauffeuring the candidate and his family around a new town or providing a real estate agent.  The key is to ask questions to the candidate that probe into the lingering issues that are being discussed at home.

Who is to communicate?

In a word: everyone.  Make sure the messaging is consistent.  All interviewers should be appraised of what is important to share with an A-List candidate.  Each will have their own way or perspective communicating the selling points which will build reputation equity, a consistent image, and excitement.  All levels of the organization should be involved.  A-List candidates like talking with the executives and typically have great questions for them.

How to communicate?

Don’t make it a hard sell.  Many companies shy away from this process because they don’t want to appear to eager or are not comfortable pushing too hard.  If done right, these are not issues.  If you are building the impression of the company one brick at a time throughout the whole process, you don’t have to build the whole house at the very end.  Be matter-of-fact about the information you are sharing.  Weave it into conversations along the way as you hear the triggers in the questions that are asked.  When they talk about their goals and vision, mention the company goals and vision.  When they talk about their favorite job experiences, share some of yours with your company. 

Sometimes, you will need to be more direct.  If you sense there is a concern the candidate is not sharing, ask if they have any hesitations about joining the team.  Sometimes just asking, "What about this company and job attracted you to interview with us?" will prompt a great deal of conversation.

Why to communicate?

As stated above, you can never assume a candidate will take your offer.  You need to act as if you are one of three choices for the candidate.  Even if your company is truly fun to work for, many may not know this.  If you are not communicating your Employer Brand through Social Media and other methods, how would they know?  It is your job to share this in a unique, conversational way.  By the way, do not assume economic conditions alter the level of communication required.  This is always a requirement.  At times, this effort can even mitigate the chances of getting into a salary negotiation.

Often the interviewing process is compared to dating, and why not?  Both sides are getting to know each other over the course of a few meetings by asking questions and learning about each other.  Both sides go back to their peers and influencers to seek approval of the other.  Both sides compare the other to an ideal benchmark.

So if only one side is doing the wooing, chances are the romance is not going to last.

Keep High Standards in Selecting Employees and Employers

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

high jump We tell ourselves we are looking for the best.  The best candidate.  The best job.  The best fit.  But often times the process gets compromised along the way and we settle for less.  For employers, it might be the timeline, the looming workload, lack of patience…or quality candidates.  For job seekers, it might be desperation to move on to a new opportunity or fooling themselves about the true fit for a long term relationship.  No matter the reason, the reality is neither party should compromise the high standard.

Having a high standard makes us all better.  The benchmark of quality or ability should stay in place regardless of circumstances.  Even when it becomes tiresome.  My freshman year of college, I learned to play racquetball by playing my roommate who had been playing for years.  I would lose each game by 16 to 20 points every week.  This went on for months–halfway into sophomore year, in fact.  But during that time, my ability got better and the score got closer and closer.  Until one day, I won a game.  After that, all our games were close.  My friend Tim was the benchmark and he never wavered from giving me the same challenge each week.  There were several lessons learned from this experience:  never give up; playing someone better than you makes you better; and stay true to a high standard–aim high!

So how do we ensure as employers and job seekers we keep our standards consistently high during the employment process?

Employers must do the following:

  • First, establish a true job description that is based on the needs of the organization.  Be specific.  Have clear goals.
  • Dig deep for candidates.  Don’t rely on one source, whether it be internal, networks, or recruiters.  Although, once you find a good source, sustain it so it will be there whenever you need it.
  • Be critical.  Although a candidate might be good at a lot of things, make sure they are good at the "right" things.
  • "Fit" is not just ability, it includes cultural/organizational aspects.  Will the candidate get along with the team and follow well-established, proven processes?  Or will they be too much of a maverick or "high-maintenance?"  Keep in mind, as Mary Lorenz of CareerBuilder reminded me recently, "you can teach a candidate new skills, but you can’t teach attitude."
  • Have a consistent interviewing process that provides objective evaluations.  When holding to a process, it is harder to fall back to "gut decisions."
  • Software recruiter Gil Vander Voort suggests employers develop these evaluations into objective feedback for the candidate (and recruiter when using one). This allows the recruiter to fine tune their search and the candidate to understand where he/she missed the mark.
  • Know how to seal the deal.  Just the other day, a friend told me a story about his employer bringing a candidate in from out of town and having no plan to take the A-List candidate to dinner or tour the city.  When employers lose the #1 candidate, they at times settle for #2 (who may be a far cry from #1).

Job seekers must do the following:

  • Before interviewing, make several lists:
    • your attributes you want to use in your next job
    • the best elements of all the roles you’ve enjoyed in the past
    • the requirements for the next job including location, salary, level of responsibility/decision-making, visibility, day-to-day tasks, and others
    • what is missing is your current (or past) job that you really need for personal job satisfaction
  • If necessary, consult a job coach to learn more about yourself and your qualifications.
  • Next, combine all these lists in a job description that you should pursue. Set priorities for the elements of the job description.  Determine what are deal-breakers versus bonuses.
  • Although it may be hard to stay true to the vision you have set (as it make take time to find it) accept trade-offs based on your pre-set priorities.  Don’t rationalize. My friend Gretchen Benes shared a great story on this:
  • "When I was looking for a job last year I made my “wish” list and the sky was the limit. Regarding the type of company and culture I was interested in, I included things like: high level of community involvement, philanthropic, progressive, etc. I wanted those things in a company because it was in-line with who I am. When I got my new job, a crazy thing happened, I hit almost 85% of my list. Never hurts to put it out there!"

  • Ask probing questions to interviewers that clarify the job description they are offering versus what you want. 
  • Make sure you meet a cross-section of the organization to solidify your impressions of the company. My buddy, Jeff Hurt, shared with me that he often asks a potential employer if he can talk to some of the other employees before taking the job. Jeff has had some potential coworkers come right out and tell him not to take the position because it was tough place to work or turnover was high. With the right questions and sincerity, you can learn a lot from current workers of a company about the company’s culture.
  • Do your homework on the company.  Find out everything you can about the hiring company leveraging Social Media channels, financial data, and personal networks.

Fellow recruiter, David Graziano calls the melding of the Employer and Job Seeker’s job descriptions an excellent cognitive map. He suggests both parties take more time to find the right fit on both sides so there will be no "undiscovered agendas." 

My business partner, Craig Fisher, has observed job candidates applying for positions for which they are not even a close fit and employers hiring candidates who are a poor organizational fit just because they meet the minimum requirements. Craig has seen both scenarios lead to unhappy endings.

We know the cost of a bad hire.  For employers, it can be a daunting task to find a new employee after a recent-hire leaves due to a bad hiring decision.  For job seekers, a short tenure at a company listed on the resume prompts questions and doubt. 

Even if it takes 25 to 50% longer to find the right fit, both parties need to hold themselves accountable to a high standard for the decision.  When this happens, we all win.  We might be exhausted when it’s over, like playing my buddy Tim in racquetball.  But ultimately, we will find it well worth the effort.

Recruiting a Recruiter for Your Job Search

Friday, April 10th, 2009

line of peopleMany of us have many stories to tell about working with external recruiters during job searches.   Some good, some not so good.  It is no different than any other professional role–some folks you can collaborate well with and some present challenges.  One of the key hurdles specific to recruiters is that you are working with them during a pivotal time in your personal life:  your career transition points.  That’s what makes these experiences stand out more.

With this in mind, I’d like to share guidelines for job seekers to use to ensure a best-in-class experience working with their present or next recruiter. 

Guidelines for a Good Experience with a Recruiter

The Expectations

  • Before engaging with any recruiter, realize that the recruiter’s role is to serve the companies that pay him or her.  The recruiter’s primary role is to find the very best candidate for a job.
  • Be clear about what you are interested in pursuing:  type of job and company, size and location of company, company culture and type of clients.  Also make sure your recruiter understands any question marks in your work history.
  • Set boundaries.  Make sure your recruiter knows which companies you are pursuing on your own or are absolutely off your list.
  • Don’t assume you know the level of knowledge or size of your recruiter’s network.  Many recruiters have "reach" into companies that may not even being hiring, yet.
  • Good recruiters should know a great deal about the company, employees, and the job itself.  You can leverage this information.
  • Don’t expect recruiters to be career coaches.  Those people are out there, too.  These specialized coaches are professionals and can help more than a recruiter, especially when career direction is involved.
  • Only pursue jobs you really want.  Wasting employers’ and recruiters’ time will hurt a reputation in the long run.

The Process

  • Recruiters should always let you know when and to whom your resume is being submitted.  Make sure of this.  Recruiters should NEVER submit your resume without your permission.
  • Stay in touch with your recruiter, but not too often.  He/she may not be able to follow-up as often with you as you’d like, but you certainly can keep the line of communication open from your end (especially when there is recent activity to follow-up on).  Many appreciate emails over phone calls so they can manage their day better.  Communication is essential when your situation changes (i.e., another job offer pending).
  • It is not wise to work around your recruiter.  With the best ones, you can build a relationship and trust.  Be open about your desired strategies and come to agreement as to what the best approach is for each opportunity.  If you circumvent the recruiter, the employer may view you as impatient or a rule-breaker.
  • Recruiters can help with the salary question.  In many cases, there are other benefits (some monetary, some not) that a recruiter can share that helps with the decision.
  • Good recruiters act as your agent and move as swiftly as the employer process allows.  Listen carefully to what the recruiter is saying about the timeline and make sure it sounds sensible.
  • In some cases, there is an online application or audio-screening.  These are useful tools for conveying your fit for the job.  It can also confirm if you truly want the position.
  • There is no requirement to work with only one recruiter; however, keeping track of what is going on with each is essential.  Confusing these facts can lead to some embarrassing moments!  And make sure you’re only submitted ONCE to any given opportunity.

The Resume

  • When submitting a resume to a recruiter, realize he/she looks at many resumes every week.  Your resume should tell a story about you and convey your strengths.  An accompanying email can have three bullet points about the job you are looking for, even if you’ve already discussed this on the phone.
  • Also realize that resumes having exact keyword matches as job requirements have a better chance of being reviewed by a recruiter.
  • Reasons resumes get rejected early in the process: spelling errors, small font, weak summary/objective statements, poor career progression, and unrelated experience.
  • A good recruiter can offer advice on your resume and fit for jobs you are discussing.  Caveat:  This typically happens only when the recruiter is working on a job that is a good match for you.

The Interview

  • Good recruiters are expert coaches in interviewing.  If they don’t offer help for a scheduled interview they set up for you, I would question how good they really are.
  • Debrief with your recruiter after the interview.  Let him/her know your thoughts on the company/job.

The Person

  • Good recruiters talk with a lot of people each week.  Give them a little time to refresh their mind on your last conversations.  The very best recruiters are super organized and can reference all notes and activity regarding you and the jobs your are working on together.
  • Consider a recruiter a life-long friend in your career process, not two ships passing in the night.  If you have a well-established relationship with a recruiter, he/she is more likely to go beyond the norms to help you (or a friend) when you need it most.  And, the recruiter will know you as a person, not just as a candidate.  With this in mind, keep your recruiter appraised of all career changes.
  • The best way to return a favor to a recruiter is to network him/her to a new client you know is hiring.
  • Feel free to provide timely feedback, both to the recruiter and the employer.  Both stand to learn from this first-hand information.

Additional Information

I originally posted the information above in my own personal blog which I shared with many colleagues I follow on Twitter.  I requested their feedback, and what I received was very positive and several folks took the time to offer their thoughts on the subject-matter.

The following is offered as a recap of their thoughts. Much of the commentary emphatically stated all this information should be "required reading for anyone using a recruiter." More specifically, the more people that understand how to approach using a recruiter, the better the process works for everyone.

Feedback from Job Search Professionals Around the Country:

clip_image001When it comes to my comments about building a relationship with your recruiter, Steve Jones emphasized that “recruiters talk to each other, and if a candidate burns a bridge with one recruiter he may be burning a bridge with many others, including clients.” David Benjamin agrees there are good and bad professionals in the recruiting just like every other industry. He highlighted that “a good recruiter cares more about ‘fit’ than making a placement.” Brad Hogenmiller emphasized once you find a recruiter you really like, “it’s important for job-seekers to maintain those relationships just as they would with an employer.”

Dawn Bugni whole-heartedly agreed about the advice, “Don’t do an end run around your recruiter.” She provided very important feedback that “many candidates think if two recruiters submit their information, they doubled their chance at the job. WRONG! They’ve just knocked themselves out of the running. Few companies get into a candidate/fee argument between two recruiters. They disqualify the candidate.”

Susan Burns shared that the #1 frustration she has heard from job seekers is that recruiters aren’t following up with them. She went on to say that often times, exec recruiters are responsive when they have a specific job they’re working on, but at other times when the job seeker is trying to reach out and build a relationship, too often the recruiter does not respond. She raised an interesting question that asks, “with the technology and tools available today, what should a job seeker expect from an exec recruiter?”

The answer to the question lies in understanding the recruiter’s world. Abby Locke’s article on Building Effective Relationships with Recruiters highlights that recruiters’ daily responsibilities may include:

  • four to five hours a day on the phone
  • making contact with about 500 people every week
  • receiving anywhere from 500 to 1,000 emails every day

Regardless of technology assistance, job seekers need to OWN the relationship with the recruiter. By this I mean, realize a job seeker can remember a lot more about their recruiter than the reverse. And, a job seeker can check in with them more consistently than the reverse. Additionally, the relationship can be further strengthened, as Abby suggests, by having:

  • specific job targets and a well-defined message
  • a "comprehensive" resume
  • a compelling subject line in all email correspondence
  • something to offer the recruiter

In reading my original post, Jenifer Olson thought it wise to share the difference between the two main types of recruiters: retained recruiters, who are paid by a company to focus on filling a particular position and who are more or less guaranteed payment (usually for a higher level management role); and, contingency recruiters, who compete with recruiters from a number of agencies to fill the position and who are paid only when and if their applicant is hired.

In Jennifer’s experience, the type of recruiter can make a big difference in both the amount and quality of time spent with a job seeker. Therefore, knowing which type you are dealing with is often helpful in managing your expectations about the recruiting process. I agree that retained recruiters may operate a little differently where they can take their time and not worry about competition. In the end, both SHOULD be searching for the best candidate. If a job seeker is a true fit and presents themselves as such, the right result should occur regardless of the type of recruiter. As Jennifer is eluding to, working with contingency recruiters can sometimes be challenging when they are only trying to present a high volume of candidates to increase their chances of placing a candidate. The best recruiters focus on the “A-List” (or best fit) candidates.

Jennifer McClure advised job seekers to "always ask the recruiter how their process works, what happens to their resume if they send it to the recruiter and what should they expect from the recruiter in terms of follow up or actions." She added that many recruiters do not operate the same way, and “if job seekers would ask these questions of each recruiter they interact with, it would go a long way toward eliminating some of the frustrations with recruiters.”

One of my favorite peers in the industry, David Graziano, offered an additional resource on a related topic: How to Choose and Partner with a Recruiter. In this post, job seekers will learn, amongst other things, questions to ask the recruiter and what they should ask you.

Karla Porter and Grethen Benes appreciated the post and summarized the recruiters’ responsibilities well. Karla stated the post “serves as a great reminder to be all you can be with your clients.” Gretchen accurately stated, “It all comes down to the relationship and being “present” for the process and conversation.”

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