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What recruiters do in the shadows…

What recruiters do in the shadows…

Last year I wrote a brief post about how “good recruiters aren’t witches and we can’t charm you into doing things you don’t want to do” – but what do we actually do?  It’s a pretty important question in light of the fact you, the job seeker, are fundamentally the one taking most of the risk.  There’s no reason you should automatically know how we approach things, as you probably only need us a few times in your career, so I thought this might be a useful explainer.

*just to note – some recruiters are actually witches of course but I’ve been doing this for 25 years and would definitely have been burned at the stake by now if I couldn’t offer honest advice.

What we do, do:

  1. I have no fear of comparisons to a really good real estate agent.  Ultimately, you’re the house and we can tell you precisely what you’re worth.  We can also tell you what you’d be worth if you added an extension, waited for the market to improve or moved down the street or to a better suburb.  Style of firm, practice area, geographical location all affects what we can get for you and a good recruiter, like a good real estate agent, can put a spookily accurate price on your head.
  2. Furthering the real estate comparison, our clients are the purchaser to whom we represent you, we market you and we promote you.  We highlight your best bits, and we address your weaknesses.  We counsel our clients around how often someone like you comes onto the market, what salaries previous candidates have secured and, if you end up going to auction, we manage the competing interests to secure you the best outcome.
  3. Fundamentally, a good recruiter is like your own personal job change manager.  We introduce you to our clients, we prepare you for the meetings you’ll have with them, we trade feedback afterwards and we advise you on what’s a good deal and what’s a bad deal.  We have the conversations you don’t want to have and, all going to plan, we deliver a result that ticks the majority of the boxes you came to us with at the outset whether that’s work, career advancement, salary or something else.

What we don’t do:

  1. We never act in our best interests; we act in your best interests.  There’s a client involved certainly, but what they require from us is transparency around your feelings towards them, your motivation and updates on the competing interests for your attention.  The client’s job is to lay out their stall, my job is to drive you to the market, your job is to decide what to buy.  I can’t force you to you eat kale if you came looking for donuts (see post above under “I’m not a hypnotist”)
  2. We don’t ruin our chances of you referring your friends to us.  The legal recruitment market is incredibly tight knit and there’s almost always an extreme shortage of candidates.  Any decent human who’s done this job for any period of time lives or dies based on their reputation and the referrals they receive from previous candidates who had a good experience.  A recruiter can operate like a wrecking ball, make some quick money but leave a trail of unhappy bodies behind them but it’s short-lived career, it’s much harder work and karma will eventually find you. If we look after you, you’ll look after us.  It’s pretty simple.
  3. We don’t talk out of school.  Every conversation you have with us is entirely confidential; we don’t disclose things that are private, we don’t speak to firms without your consent, and we never use your name outside of the process you’ve asked us to initiate.  You can tell us anything and everything relevant to you job search – what motivates you, what you love and what you hate.  Work is more than the place you go every day and very few people come to us with money on their mind.  We’ll both save a lot of time if we’re open with each other so tell us everything knowing that we’re totally discreet.

So, there’s obviously a book in me somewhere entitled “Hilariously mad things people do when you spend 25 years sending them on interviews” but that’s for another day.  For now, what we do is complicated but it’s also straightforward and trust plays a big part.  My advice is to pick a recruiter with a few years under their belt, they’re either good recruiters or they’re lucky. And lucky recruiters don’t last long.

Matt Harris

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