A guide to working with recruiters

Recruiters can be a critical connection for professionals who are looking to advance their careers. This is particularly relevant to recent MBA graduates: According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, approximately one in three MBA graduates are looking to move up in their industries.

Many graduates are also facing the challenges brought on by the current state of the UK’s job market. The April 2020 Recruitment Trends Snapshot report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies indicates that openings for permanent job placement in the professional sector in the UK had decreased by 56% since 2019, and contract positions had decreased by 44%.

In an increasingly competitive job market, it is important for current job seekers to leverage every tool they have to get noticed. Recruiters can be a helpful resource when professionals know how to build and maintain relationships, present their skills effectively and communicate employment goals.

“What companies are looking for are those individuals they can hire, who can add value to corporations, and who can essentially hit the ground running,” said Eugene Washington Walker, Teaching Fellow and Immersion Coordinator for UCL MBA. “There’s a benefit in [working with] a recruiter who knows what’s out there and what the job market is like.”

How recruiters work

The role of recruiting agencies is to fill open positions by matching candidates to job vacancies, according to reed.co.uk, a London-based online resource for employers and job seekers. Recruiting agencies serve as a connection point between companies and potential talent.

Recruiters, who also may be referred to as consultants, work with candidates directly to identify opportunities. They may also provide advice and guidance to job seekers.

“Sometimes, just one conversation with a recruiter can really help put someone on track, or help them change track, if need be,” Walker said.

Job seekers may reach out to a recruiting agency seeking opportunities, but in some cases a representative may contact potential talent directly, especially when seeking MBA graduates for executive roles.

Why use a recruiter?

According to Walker, there are many benefits to working with a recruiter. These consultants do the following:

Share industry expertise.

Recruiters know the sectors they work in well and are aware of shifts in the market and current trends that may be relevant to your job search.

Provide an objective opinion.

As someone who is working with you in a professional capacity, recruiters can offer a meaningful critique of your resume and job experience.

Offer inside tips.

Some recruiters may offer specific guidance to that can be helpful in securing a particular job, such as how to approach an interview.

Connect you with opportunities.

Even if a recruiter does not have an opportunity for you currently, they may be able to call on you later for another opening.

How to find the right recruiter

When reaching out to a recruiting agency, or fielding offers when a recruiter reaches out directly, it is crucial to ensure the relationship works for both parties. Consider the following:

What sector do they work in?

Identify the type of role you want and which industry you want to work in to make sure the recruiter is connected with relevant organisations.

What positions are you interested in?

Make sure the recruiter is able to connect you with potential roles for which you are qualified.

Are they internal or external?

Some larger organisations hire internal recruiters to fill openings, while others work with agencies that serve multiple clients. If you are interested in working for a specific company, see if they have a recruiter. If you are looking more broadly, an agency consultant may be better fit.

What are recruiters looking for?

Ultimately, a recruiter’s goal is to find the right candidate to fill a position for the company they are serving. However, recruiters are also looking for candidates who are ready to put their best foot forward. Too often, Walker said, job seekers make the mistake of not putting in the work when seeking job openings through a recruiter.

“You are working just as hard with a recruiter, and you still have to present your best self, sell yourself, and keep in touch,” Walker said. 

Building relationships with recruiters can be beneficial both in the short term and later in a professional’s career journey. To maintain these relationships, job seekers should be careful to avoid common mistakes. To stand out to recruiters, Walker recommends the following do’s and don’ts:


Conduct a self-assessment.

Make an inventory of who you are, what you do, what you want to move towards and what you want to move away from. Doing so can help you communicate your needs to a recruiter so they can match you with potential opportunities.

Know your qualifications.

Be prepared to provide an overview of your skills, interests and passions. Your ability to perform in a job and your desire to be in that role are both important factors.

Research your area of interest.

Walker said it’s key to be knowledgeable of the sector you want to work in. “Just having done that bit of homework can put you in a stronger position with a recruiter.”

Know your values.

Understand what is important to you and communicate those values early. For example, you may not want a job that requires travel because you value spending time with your family. “The last thing a recruiter will want to do is to get in touch with an organisation, and then halfway through the [negotiation] process, it falls apart because a key factor wasn’t mentioned at the start,” Walker said.

Identify key skills.

Look at job descriptions for the type of role you want and look at the skill requirements. From there, you can identify examples of how you have shown those skills in past work experiences that you can share with a recruiter.

Provide numbers.

When possible, it’s helpful to have quantifiable examples of past successes. For example, sharing that you increased profits by 10% in your current role can serve as evidence of your abilities.


Lie about your past job experience.

This includes explaining gaps of unemployment and disclosing whether you’ve been fired, Walker said. “I think that you owe it to the recruiter, because they’re very likely going to be your first port of call in discussing you with another organisation. Don’t put them in a position where you are leaving them in a very awkward place, or where their integrity could be questioned.”

Speak negatively about past employers.

A recruiter may work with multiple companies, including those you have previously worked for. Insulting a former boss or organization could put the recruiter in an uncomfortable position.

Ignore offers from recruiters.

When a recruiter reaches out about an opportunity that is not of interest to you, responding to the recruiter allows for the opportunity to build a relationship. “Recruiters generally have very good memories as to people they think are high quality, and definitely people that they reach out to in the first place,” Walker said. “So, [responding helps in] laying the foundations for a future relationship, or future transaction.”

Assume recruiters will do all of the work.

It is important to take an active role in your own marketing. Keep your CV up to date and engage with your personal networks. This can allow recruiters to find you, especially if you are currently employed.

Citation for this content: The UCL Online MBA