By Robert Ruth, Vice President & Managing Director, Ashton Tweed
With over 25 years of experience driving recruitment strategies and providing support as a business adviser in the life sciences, I can confidently say that every contact you have with a recruiter matters. No conversation is just a conversation. Each small interaction builds up over time to strengthen your relationship throughout your career.
Nowadays, with digital interaction and social networking, many are putting less effort and thought into these conversations. This isn’t surprising, as we are all constantly connected – literally able to receive a message from anywhere in the world at any time right on our smartphones and other devices. We are rarely not connected, which may make some of us feel jaded when interacting with others, especially someone we’ve never met face to face. In our minds, they can become just text on a screen to us. As a result, one can come off as unengaged to a recruiter, which is not the impression you want to make when being considered for a new job opportunity.
It’s so easy to send out mass generic emails or quick, impulsive, and often unedited messages. Some don’t even think twice about it. However, I can honestly tell you from my own experience that this all reflects strongly on recruiters and, ultimately, their clients. Instead, I encourage job hunters to use this technology smartly and take advantage of the incredible tool that it is! Digital companies like LinkedIn are making the job search process much more efficient and expanding the market worldwide. You could craft an email to make a great first impression with a recruiter that is filling a job you’re interested in right now. It’s really amazing, but one must not forget the people element. Someone that looks great on paper may not vibe with certain companies, and that’s where we come in…
Why are these interactions specifically important to the recruiting industry? I’m a people person, as are most recruiters. I like to get to know people, learn about their lives, and pick their brains. It’s in my nature and it’s part of what makes me good at what I do. Our job is to network and connect, so our wheels are always turning in that regard. For example, in the book The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell describes three types of people and their respective social skills useful in making a change in their environment: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople. According to this theory, we would fall into the “Connectors” category. In Gladwell’s words, “[…] Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone,” and they tend to have an “extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances” that not everyone shares. For many of us, it is a natural personality trait that drew us to this profession in the first place. We love to make introductions, especially between different social circles, if we think it would be useful to either party. But hey, not everyone is like us! That’s why we do the job we do and let the scientists and entrepreneurs do theirs.
Recruiters often pride themselves on their high emotional IQs and ability to compatibly pair new members with teams. Therefore, we tend to pick up on all the little nuances in our conversations with clients and candidates, which won’t be forgotten. When you talk to as many people as we do every day, it comes in handy to track your history with each contact. So, many of us write descriptive notes after meeting with an individual, which are logged for future reference when considering candidates for an open position – it’s best to keep that history positive! I would never advise someone to put on an act or be overtly formal to impress a recruiter. Instead, I would encourage you to simply listen, be engaged, and present your authentic self. That is what results in a successful partnership and an ideal hire! Here are a few points to focus on when communicating with a search firm:
We all know that first impressions carry a lot of weight, so make sure to put some thought into how you introduce yourself. Keep in mind, we get a lot of blank emails with résumés attached – not the best first impression. Ask yourself how you would like to make yourself stand out and gain our attention. This is critical no matter how you meet a recruiter, whether that’s online, on the phone, or in person (each of which I will delve into next). Even your LinkedIn profile can make a first impression in our field. Don’t worry if your profile isn’t super in depth, just make sure that it is at least good quality and thoughtful.
It’s great if you want to sound like yourself in your emails by using your own voice, making a joke, or simply being more casual. We love to see individuals embracing whatever they think best depicts their professional personalities. However, poor grammar and spelling can make you look hasty and careless. Via email, all we have to base first impressions on are the words in front of us, so I would make sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. This same rule applies to your résumé. Additionally, consider including an executive summary or a bulleted list of key points about yourself in your email intro, as the use of cover letters has become antiquated. I know for me personally, this is helpful in context and helps me get a good initial snapshot of a candidate.
Phone calls are a great way to express your personality and potential culture fit with a company to a recruiter. It also provides the opportunity to exchange some small talk and get to know each other better. Make sure to show that you care about your call by setting aside a quiet space and time to speak and consider having some notes in front of you to keep you focused.
Obviously, the major difference to consider here is that your appearance is appropriate for the situation. Your meeting may not be a full-on interview, but you want to present yourself as the professional that you see yourself as. As you are each taking time out of your schedules to meet in person, be sure to prepare for your talk. Unlike emails where you have time to construct your thoughts and phone calls where you may have notes in front of you, when you’re face-to-face you have no choice but to be sharp, be engaged and be ready.
Follow-Ups & Thank Yous
In order to prove your commitment to a recruiter, provide timely responses, be accessible, and try to be open when giving and receiving feedback about your job search. Recruiters thrive on this part of the process, so don’t skimp on these follow-up conversations. And, as usual, it is wise to express your appreciation for receiving someone’s time and consideration during the interview process, especially the hiring client. If you don’t thank them, someone else surely will, and you don’t want that to be the differentiating factor.
As the intermediary between clients and candidates, we have a reputation to uphold on both ends. A poor match reflects negatively on us, and our goal is to make sure that both parties are happy with their placement. So, when a candidate seems disengaged or inattentive, we see red flags. Therefore, it is worth the effort to nurture your relationships with recruiters so that you don’t fall victim to the social trends mentioned above. Every interaction matters down the road! And don’t think all the pressure is just on the job candidates – the same goes for our hiring clients. We gauge their company cultures in the same manner, ensuring our candidates will be a good fit when joining their teams.
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