Maximizing the Recruiter Relationship

Maximizing the Recruiter Relationship

Your recruiter can best help you achieve your career goals if you communicate openly and honestly, are responsive and respect the recruiting process. The following strategies will help you make the most out of the candidate/recruiter relationship.


The more information you provide your recruiter regarding your background and what you seek, the better she will be at finding the right fit. Also, tell your recruiter the compensation, hours and any other specifics you would like in your new position, so that she can help you achieve your goals. If, at some point in the process, you decide to broaden or narrow your search, communicate that fact immediately. Few things frustrate a headhunter more than a candidate who insists on a particular type of position or geographical location to the exclusion of other opportunities, only to find that you've accepted something completely different.

The primary rule for working with a headhunter is to be honest. Don't embellish your resume or inflate your salary or skills. Any experienced headhunter should know enough about the marketplace to discern whether the figures you quote make sense in your current environment. Recruiters may keep copies of old resumes and copious files on candidates and prospects. Therefore, if you send an updated resume that omits past jobs or changes history in any way, it most likely will be discovered. Don't ask a reputable recruiter to submit something that has been improperly edited. Search consultants stake their reputation on the caliber of the candidates they present to their clients. If you fudge, you'll lose the recruiter's trust and very likely their interest in representing you further -- in addition to not getting the job.

Be open with your recruiter about your reasons for seeking a new position. If you were let go, or have some wrinkle or blemish in your record, tell your recruiter the complete truth. Many excellent lawyers were laid off due to the recent economic downturn. That is not necessarily a deal-killer, as long as you are completely honest about the circumstances. An experienced search consultant can coach you in strategies to address the situation with prospective employers.

The legal community is deceptively small, and most facts will come out at some point in the recruiting process. It's best to deal with them up front rather than having them pop up later in the process, destroying trust and dashing your hopes of being offered your target job.


Your headhunter evaluates your presentation just as the prospective employer does in an interview. Therefore, dress to meet your recruiter as if you are meeting an important client or going to court. Be prepared to discuss your background and what you are seeking. Bring your resume and be open to any suggested revisions. Reputable recruiters understand that all discussions with candidates are strictly confidential. No information should be revealed without your specific authorization.

Your search consultant knows the kind of candidates that clients are likely to hire. Therefore, do not try to convince your recruiter you can fill a position for which you are not qualified. For example, if a search calls for a specific level and type of expertise that you do not have, being a quick study will not justify the submission of your resume. However, a candidate who is not quite right for one position may be perfect for another. Therefore, if a recruiter declines to submit you on a particular search, she may call you for something else in the future.

Except on rare occasions, recruiters cannot create a position where one does not exist, but job searches open and close continually. Even if there is nothing available for you at a particular time, that may change shortly. It's worth your time to meet your recruiter and provide your information, with the understanding that she may contact you any time there is an opening for which you might be qualified. Sometimes it may take a while, but you want to be ready when the perfect position becomes available. In the meantime, it's fine to call your recruiter or send another copy of your resume periodically to touch base and particularly to update your data, but do not be a pest.


Your headhunter should brief you on prospective employers, particular opportunities and the hiring process for each. Some clients move quickly while others have protracted procedures. Your recruiter knows exactly whom to contact within each client organization and how to follow up appropriately. If you have contacts within the target law firm or company, strategize with your recruiter regarding the timing and most effective way to utilize them. Prospective employers use recruiters to streamline the process and most don't appreciate direct candidate follow-up calls.

When your search gets under way, communication between the candidate and the recruiter is important. If you don't want to be contacted at your office, provide the recruiter with a cell phone or private email, check messages regularly, and return calls promptly. Let your headhunter know if you'll be out of town or otherwise unavailable. Your recruiter may be calling with a new opportunity or to get clarification for a client you have authorized her to contact.

Once a prospective employer expresses interest, be flexible and make yourself available for interviews. Although you were patient while the prospective employer sifted through resumes, any delay on your part may be perceived as a lack of interest. After each interview, call your headhunter as soon as possible to debrief and discuss next steps. The client is waiting to hear from the recruiter about your impressions and whether you're interested in pursuing the opportunity. Use the recruiter to air your questions and concerns, and for coaching through the process.


If your headhunter informs you that the client is not interested in pursuing matters with you, believe it. The recruiter wants to make the placement and will take all reasonable steps to facilitate it. Therefore, if you contact the client directly after a "pass," an attempted end run around the recruiter not only makes you look desperate, but also demonstrates your lack of understanding of the recruiting process.

However, when you receive an offer, respond in a timely manner. The offer might be extended either through the recruiter or directly to you by the prospective employer. If you receive the offer directly, call your search consultant immediately to discuss the terms. Your headhunter can be an invaluable assistant in negotiating the best offer. On the other hand, if you are not interested, let the recruiter and the prospective employer know as soon as possible, so that they can continue in their efforts to fill the position.

Don't waste your headhunter's or the clients' time if you have no intention of making a career move, but merely want ammunition to negotiate for a raise. In that case, go ahead and give your recruiter a call, but only to garner up-to-date salary information. Similarly, if you think you will receive a counteroffer from your current employer, inform your recruiter immediately to discuss the pros and cons of all of your options. With the assistance of an experienced legal search consultant, you increase your chances of making the right career moves.

Read articles in the series:

  1. Headhunters 101
  2. What Recruiters Can and Cannot Do for You
  3. How to Get Your Head Hunted
  4. Selecting a Search Firm
  5. Maximizing the Recruiter Relationship