The Smart Job Search #5: How Recruiters Can Help You Tap Into the Hidden Job Market

This is the fifth in a 10-part series entitled ‘The Smart Job Search.’ You can find the series so far by clicking here.

The professional recruiter (aka the headhunter) may be the most maligned figure in the careers field. I can’t count the number of times a job seeker has told me “I don’t work with recruiters – I just don’t trust them.”

This is understandable. Recruiters can seem an uncaring bunch when you’re looking for work. Especially when they don’t return calls or respond to resume submissions.

But it’s vital to understand the role they play in the hiring process. Because the truth is, if you don’t work with recruiters, you are missing out on tons of opportunities – opportunities that will never be advertised anywhere else.

One Caveat

If you are inexperienced in your target field, recruiters are not a solution for you. Companies hire recruiters to bring them experienced, qualified candidates. Therefore a recruiter will not consider sending you for an interview unless you are a match for the position requirements. If you’re just starting out in your career or you want to make a career change, you should focus on the other strategies in this course and forget about recruiters. Everyone else … read on!

The role of the recruiter

Recruiters are hired to find candidates when a company doesn’t want to manage the hiring process internally. The recruiter finds suitable candidates by searching his database, making cold calls, conducting internet research, and contacting his network to ask for suggestions. When the recruiter finds a suitable candidate, he conducts a screening interview and then presents the resume to the employer.

Generally the firm only interviews candidates the recruiter has presented. In this sense, the recruiter is the gatekeeper. If you don’t connect with him, you will never even hear about the position and you certainly won’t have a chance at an interview.

Is it worth putting in the effort?

Back when I first started out in Human Resources, I applied for jobs just like everyone else. And just like everyone else, I found the whole process demoralizing and frustrating.

But when I discovered recruiters, all that changed. As I built relationships with specialty HR firms, I started to get fairly regular calls about vacant positions. During the last 10 years of my HR career, I never applied for a position – I simply explored opportunities as they came to me.

You can do the exact same thing and here’s how.

The 5-step system for building recruiter relationships

There are 5 simple steps to getting noticed by recruiters. Do them all, and you’ll be receiving calls about job opportunities long into the future. (I’ve been out of HR for 8 years but just the other day I got a call from a recruiter wondering if I’d be interested in a VP position!)

1. Research
Most recruiters specialize in a profession or industry and only hire for those positions, so it’s important to find the ones who need candidates like you. You must also find as many of them as possible, because each recruiter is only handling a few searches at any one time. (One free source for finding recruiters is

2. Send them your resume
Start with a mass mailing to all the recruiters on your list. Send a short email along with an MS Word version of your resume. It’s important to send MS Word because most recruiters will store your resume in a database. Even if they don’t call you immediately, they will search that database on a regular basis.

3. Make yourself a resource
As you make contact with recruiters, be sure to offer your assistance as a resource for their searches (someone they can call to get names of possible candidates). They may not need someone like you just now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have the perfect opportunity for you next week or next month or next year. Nurturing the relationship will mean they remember you when that job comes up.

4. Build a strong online presence
I talked about the importance of making yourself visible online in my last post, but it’s even more important when you’re trying to attract the attention of recruiters. They love finding a candidate without having received a resume and, if you have presented yourself well online, you’ll definitely get calls from recruiters.

5. Stay in Touch
If you are still looking for work, send your resume again to all the recruiters who already have it. It’s amazing how many times this strategy works. (Often you’ll get up to 40% of the initial response). And when you do find a new job, drop a note to all the recruiters who’ve contacted you so that they can update their databases and find you again in the future.

But what about confidentiality?

Once you put your resume out into the world, there is always a chance that someone at your current employer will find out about it. Recruiters are generally very good at keeping your information confidential, but your resume could always land on the desk of someone who plays golf with your current boss.

That’s true of any job search activity and it’s no more or less so with recruiters. It’s a slim chance but it’s there and you should be aware of it.

I hope I’ve persuaded you that working with recruiters will help you tap into those hidden opportunities. In my next post, I’ll show you how to construct a LinkedIn profile that will maximize your visibility and ensure you start getting some of those recruiter calls. (If you’re not already getting emailed updates, sign up here so you don’t miss it.

If you need more help

For detailed instructions on how to find hundreds of recruiters looking for candidates just like you, download the Blue Sky Guide to Job Search now. You’ll get detailed step-by-step guidance and template letters/emails you can use to introduce yourself, along with tips and strategies on all the ideas covered in this course. Plus, there’s a money-back guarantee, so there’s nothing to lose!

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