Is it Time to Ping “Your” Recruiter?

When we initiate contact with a recruiter – or they call us – we tend to think of them as our recruiter. That’s when the communication quandary begins.

Almost always, recruiters work for employers not job seekers. A typical misconception is that although many recruiters can and often do offer career advice, technically they’re working for the other side. You don’t want to convey to them a lack of confidence about your job quest because a) they’re not your confessor and b) they must have confidence in you to present you to an employer.

Of course, you want their advice, because without them you may not get through the front or side doors of your target employer or field. And they can provide you with valuable insights into a company’s culture and management. Not surprisingly, the number one question recruiters hear from job seekers is how often should I contact you?

It’s not obvious – there are no rules. The toughest lesson that anyone from an executive to an entry-level job seeker needs to learn is when to ping a recruiter and when to keep your distance. “I don’t think there’s a scenario where you should call a recruiter every three days,” cautions Kim Bishop, senior partner at Korn Ferry in New York.

On the one hand you want to balance appearing interested with a need to not seem overly eager or desperate. If you ping them too often, they might dislike you despite the obvious charms of your qualifications.

What are the best times to touch base with a recruiter? Bishop recommends that job seekers:

  • Share changes in your resume or employment status
  • Share changes in your contact information
  • When you win an award or accomplish something that improves your marketability
  • When you’re thinking of making a career change

In the heat of a job search, many job seekers grow anxious about reaching “their” recruiter. Yet, unlike busy housing markets where pre-qualified buyers work closely with realtors to pounce on newly listed homes, Bishop says that jobs are rarely filled that quickly. “When we work with clients it’s a detailed process where we’re spending time with them, learning more about the position, the role and who it reports to. We’re writing job specifications with the client. And we tell the client there’s a period of time that it takes to spend in the market contacting [candidates], interviewing people. It would be very rare that we need people tomorrow afternoon.”

Loyalty is yet another confusing part of relationships between job seekers and recruiters. “It’s always a good thing to build your network,” says Bishop. “It’s good to have relationships with multiple recruiters – everybody working on different projects and opportunities. Be targeted about who you are reaching out to.” In other words you might work with one recruiter who is tied into consumer packaged goods or another one with deep connections in financial services. But you probably won’t ask both of them out to coffee at the same time.

There’s one unobtrusive way to stay on a recruiter’s radar screen without bothering them. Recruiting firms often offer confidential résumé tracking services that enable job seekers to log in and update their changes directly. This is an important touch point because the recruiters are notified when updates occur, particularly when you have already been flagged as a possible candidate in a field that coincides with one of their client’s needs. “It ensures that we have your most up to date information and it ensures that all of the partners will have access to your info,” says Korn Ferry’s Bishop.

Finally, how do you know if you’re having a relationship with a recruiter? “You won’t build a relationship with everyone,” concedes Bishop. But if you hear back from the recruiter every now and then, that’s a pretty good indication of where things stand.