The Difference Between a Recruiter and Me, a Career Coach

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I’m not a recruiter. But, here’s what you should know about how recruiters work. And why you need to know what you want before you contact one. That’s where I come in.

Often when experiencing career confusion or feeling stuck and not knowing what to do people might think of calling a recruiter. Bad idea. This post explains why. And why working with a career coach is a much better first step. A second step may be to bring in a recruiter as of course, they can sometimes help you get a job. But read this first.

The TLDR version; I’m a career coach. I work for you. I help you figure out what you want to do and how to do it.

Recruiters work for companies. Not you. They will not help you figure out what you want. And if you ask them to or use them to figure out what you want things probably won’t go so well. They also have some pretty narrow mandates and tend to stick to them, so you will need to do lots of your own legwork and not rely on them to get you a job. They’re just one of many things to possibly include in your overall job search strategy.

How Recruiters Work

Note that here I’m talking about recruiters that work for recruiting firms, but what I’m saying is also broadly applicable to recruiters who are internal to a company (ie. those you may have seen at university campus career fairs).

Recruiters work for companies to find a person that meets specific requirements

They are hired by and work on behalf of companies. Companies hire them to find qualified candidates to fill an open role. So, after you contact/submit your resume to them, if your resume and skills do not match what their clients at the moment are looking for you won’t be hearing from them.

And what they are looking for can be pretty narrow. For example, if they have been mandated by their client to find someone with 3 years of experience and you have 5, you’re outside of their box. It depends on the situation of course, but you likely won’t be getting a call, even though you could totally do the job. Frustrating right? But, they have no incentive to go outside the lines for you. No matter how good you are. They’re not there for you. They’re there for themselves and for their client. You are potentially an asset to them, but only if you are a match to the specific list of requirements their client has asked them to find.

Don't rely on them to find you a job

So, don’t rely on them. You can’t just sit back and think the interviews will pour in. You also have to do your own legwork. Recruiters are just one way you may be able to get your foot in the door. You will also have to try other approaches such as, networking, contacting companies you want to work for directly, parachuting onto their roof, etc.  

Don’t ask them to help you figure out what you want/should do

If you do hear from them about a position, you need to know whether the job they are putting in front of you and suggesting they put you forward for is something you actually want to do. Otherwise, you could end up just going with the flow and find yourself in a job you hate, but was just offered to you, so you took it. You don't want to go through that. 

But don’t expect or ask a recruiter to help you figure out what you want to do. If you go to a recruiter and say something that comes off as “I don’t know what I want, tell me what I can do”- first, that’s not their job. They work for companies, not you, remember.  Second, it makes you sound super flakey and doesn’t give them confidence in you. If they have two people in front of them to choose between to send to their client for an interview, they’re going to go with the person who is clear in what they want every time. Why would they risk wasting their clients’ time with someone who doesn’t really know what they want and after the interview could decide it’s not for them? It could make both you and the recruiter look bad. And now he/she’s not on your side and reluctant to put you forward for any other roles.

Do the pre-work - know what you want and everything will go much better

So, you really need to go to a recruiter only when you’ve done the pre-work. When you know what you want in your next job and can be clear in what you’re looking for. Then, they can see if they have anything that matches that. If they do, you go on an interview and everyone is clear what is happening and no bridges are burned or time wasted.

You can still go to an interview and afterwards decide you don’t want to move forward in that interview process or take the job, but there’s a big difference between saying, something like, “the cultural fit at this company or the salary isn’t exactly what I’m looking for” vs. “I don’t actually think I want to work in investment banking/in communications/in sales anymore, what else ya got?”

So, if you go in with some clarity, at least a good ballpark sense of what you want, everything goes a lot smoother. You can even leverage the recruiter to end up working for you in a way. The recruiter will likely be more willing to work with you over time and send you on more interviews knowing you have your act together.

The Takeaways

Only go to a recruiter when you know what you want. And view them as just one part of your overall job search strategy.

I can help you with both of these. I can help you with figuring out what you want. And I can help you with laying out your strategy of getting it. I’m a career coach and I work for you.