What are recruiters to you? Recruitment agents, head-hunters, or whatever else you call them. What do they mean to you and how do you feel about them?
I’ve been involved with recruiters for a long time now. At least as long as I’ve had a career – if you call it that. I started out early on feeling confused and sometimes antagonistic toward these people. They were fast-talking, smooth-talking, often had a British accent, and seemed to be kind of “salesy”. I felt like they were salespeople who were trying to sell a product, and I supposed that the product was me, or a job, or both!
Over time, I’ve started to notice some of the things recruiters have done for me.
They’ve landed me jobs. Most of my jobs have been through recruiters.
Another thing they’ve done is educated me. Educated me about the job market, about what employers are looking for, even down to small details. I remember one recruiter helped me out with some fashion advice, regarding what sort of clothing to wear to a job interview! They’ve also educated me about interpersonal skills and behaviour during an interview and what to expect from the interview process.
A third thing recruiters have done for me is, on certain occasions, worked with employers to create a new role for me that didn’t exist before. So, not only did they sell me to an employer, but they also sold the role – the job title – to the employer.
Recruiters do seem very much to be salespeople. I’d have to agree with that proposition. And in the past, I thought of myself as an engineer, a developer, someone who makes stuff. And I would ask, what do these salespeople do? What do they contribute to the world? All they seem to do is make things look flashy or convince a client or put on a good show. But the more I think about this, the more I think about aspects of my own role, and of job out there in the job market that are sales kinds of roles.
Even as a developer and an engineer, I have to sell myself for a job. In an interview, I have to highlight my relevant skills and show where I can help out a company. I bring up examples and case studies and what-have-you.
And even after getting the job, there are sales-like things one has to do. For example, there might be a software framework that the company is very keen on using. So I have to take a module of code and fit it into that framework and make it look good in that framework. Or I might have to present a piece of data, which in truth is just a bland list of entries, and present it in a graphical, interactive, animated kind of way, so that someone non-technical can look at it and understand what it means.
I would consider many activities to have a sales component to them. So in a sense, I think we’re all salespeople, to a lesser or greater degree. And I think recruiters are very important salespeople, who fill an important space in the job market.
And for all the talk of systems or tools that can replace recruiters, and of companies refusing to work with them (which, granted, some companies manage to do) in the main, they’ve stuck around and they’re still with us. So they’re doing something that is useful – at least to someone.
So my way of thinking about recruiters today is this: I don’t see recruiters (or employers, for that matter) as entities in a position of power over me, or ability to harm me in any way. Rather, I see them as tools.
If you have some idea of what you want out of your career, perhaps you’re feeling around and learning about the job market, but you also have a vision of what you want to do in the job market, then recruiters and employers are really tools to help you achieve that vision. And a recruiter can be a tool to educate you about the market, a tool to get you into a particular company or industry, and a tool to create a new industry or niche for you. And employers can be tools for you, where, in the course of working on a project, you acquire skills that will help you land the next project, which is more aligned with the course you want you career to go in.
Through this process of learning more about the market and then getting on the right projects, you can develop yourself, personally and professionally, in the directions you want to develop.
So I see recruiters are powerful tools. You don’t want to rely on any one of them and you don’t want to become limited by any one of them. But you want to judge them, identify which of them can help you with your strategic career objectives, and then take advantage of them. And they’ll love that, because their advantage is your advantage! If you find a role or career path that you really want and work towards it, then recruiters and companies – the right ones – will want to place you in a role. So they’ll help you get there and they’ll accelerate your growth!