Turning The Tables - Job Searching As A Recruiter

As recruiters, we're uniquely positioned to see job searches on a daily basis. We see how they start, the progression of the interview cycle, and the end of the cycle where a candidate lands in their new job. As is often true, it's hard to see something clearly when you are right on top of it. Recruiters are notorious for being good at facilitating this type of life change for others, but for also having a very hard time to do it for themselves. Many questions start to surface as you prepare to dive into the job search as a recruiter marketing yourself. Is my resume up to date? Who have I kept in touch with? Who do you reach out to? It's also interesting to think about how recruiters perceive candidate experience when they are in the middle of a search....for themselves.

It's not always easy. Sometimes you're planning for this change, and other times you aren't looking, and its a major surprise. We spoke with three DC area recruiters about their job search, and what it was like when the tables were turned. We've kept their identities masked, so that they could be as candid as possible with us.

How did you come to be on the market, looking for a new recruiting role?

John Doe: It's a rather simple story. I came from government contracting. Historically, they view recruiting somewhat as "I need what I need when I need it" sort of thing. I was ultimately laid off due to lack of work. I've had opportunities to go back, but I don't think I will ever go back to government recruiting for that reason.

Sam Smith: After nearly 4 years with my former employer, some recent organizational changes coupled with the desire to gain experience outside of the gov’t contracting world fueled my desire to look elsewhere. I made this a voluntary search.

Bob Jones: had experience in tech companies and startups in the DC area. It can be a bit volatile, depending on the company. I was laid off after surviving a few rounds of layoffs. I'd probably have stayed if things hadn't gone the way they did. But, my hands was forced, so I began my search.

What were some of the first things you did when you knew you'd be looking for a new role?

John: EVERYTHING!!!!  I updated the LinkedIn account, made announcements in ALL my groups on both LinkedIn, Facebook and G+. I also made sure that my resume was up to date and looked sharp, ensuring no misspellings or anything like that.

Sam: I am a very proactive person by nature. I always tell candidates that the best time to look for a job is when you still have one as it is always better to proactive then reactive. With this mentality in mind, I constantly update my resume. Not because I am always looking for the next best thing, but I want to make sure that I am documenting specifics successes and changing responsibilities.

Bob: Much like Sam, I always tend to do a sweep of my resume every six months. To be honest, the first thoughts I had were filled with panic. Then I thought about the network that I'd spent years cultivating. I reached out to my closest recruiter colleagues and asked who they could introduce me to.  I looked online, but didn't see a great deal of things that I'd be really interested in.

Was it a challenge to shift from an employer mentality to a candidate mentality?

SamYes, it was challenging for me. I forgot how vulnerable you are from a candidate standpoint. It had been quite some time since I had been in a full job search mode. I've had some big life changes since the last time. And I had many questions - Would I find a job that was flexible enough so I can still drop my kids off at daycare? Will I find something that will still enable me to maintain my current standard of living? Am I going to get interviews? Is this really all of the job openings that are out there right now?

John: They are very different roles, but you come to the realization that looking for a job becomes your job. You need to get up just like always and work the emails and phones and mentally set yourself up for interviews.

Bob: A little bit. You're usually so focused on helping others, that you often don't think about the potential need for your own search. Instead of selling a candidate, you're selling yourself. That takes a moment to get used to again.

How did you find your opportunities?

John: Once again for me personally I am well connected. I used my networks because they are the ones that know about open positions within their organizations. I also use Indeed and other boards and see who is looking for my skill set, apply, then reach out to people that are in my network that may work there.

Sam: It was a combination of replying to job postings and networking. The most success I had though was finding opportunities through my network. Those took the longest to manifest but ended up being the most promising opportunities. I was fortunate enough to eventually have two companies interested in me (and eventually accepted an offer from one of them) and I was introduced to them both through recruitDC in some capacity.

Applying to job postings was the most frustrating part of the experience because I felt like I was submitting my resume into that “black hole” that many candidates refer to. It was interesting being on the other end of said black hole, and I definitely sympathize much more with the candidates applying to postings now, than previously.

Bob: I looked through Indeed, but wanted to find a job where I could fit. The idea of hopping into a new role because I needed a job made me shudder. I actually thought it was a good time to do some contracting, which would allow me to "try before I buy". I was able to leverage some very trusted and connected colleagues who had some inside tracks to these opportunities.

What about candidate experience? It's a big deal as a recruiter to provide this for candidates. Did you find your candidate experience to be up to your standards?

John: Communication is always key when working with candidates. Once the initial call had been made, it was nice having constant updates and being called or emailed when that expectation is made.

Sam: My current employer gave me the best candidate experience though that I ever experienced. From the initial introductory phone call through the offer they were crisp and on point the whole time. There was this great energy that was exuded by everyone on the team that I met; as well as, a consistency between the team members and stakeholders and that resonated most with me.

Bob: I had a mix of experiences. For the most part, they were good. But I did have one opportunity that took NINE weeks to come to any sort of fruition. Communication was scarce at best, and everything was a bit hurried. Interviewers seemed a bit uninformed on what they were hiring. My biggest concern was if this is what my candidate experience was ,how would I change this for other candidates. It would have been an uphill battle for sure.

Did any particular experiences stand out as particularly good or particularly bad?

John: The number one thing I notice is the demeanor of the employees at he company. I garner a great deal from what the employees look like. Are they happy? Is there a buzz? What is the style and culture, and would I fit in there? I have been to many interviews where the interviewer was bashing their own company they wanted me to work for!!!

Sam: I know this is simple but PLEASE….PLEASE after a candidate interviews with your company please give them a call back to let them know you went with someone else or that they’re not being considered anymore. This happened to me on 2 occasions and I was floored that Senior level recruiting professionals were still falling on their face with this seemingly basic recruiting 101 fundamental. I definitely understand why recruiters do not always have the best reputation, because it is utterly maddening to have taken time out of your day to speak with a prospective employer and then to hear nothing….for weeks. Another thing that stood out, is that it’s clearly evident when someone you are interviewing with has not read your resume. From the candidate perspective it is apparent when this is going on and obviously can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

What would you recommend to companies that are hiring? Particularly those hiring for their recruiting teams?  

John: It's really simple. The best way in my opinion to evaluate a recruiter, is to have them do an intake meeting. I always look to hear what questions they are asking. Or for that matter, not asking. Next thing to do is ask is how they set up their day. I.E. what is their daily routine? How do they evaluate the jobs they are working on daily? Lastly, I like doing a role play as though I was a candidate. I want to hear what they would consider a candidate experience.  I think that this is trainable but I want to see what I am working with.

Sam: The 3 things that are at the forefront of my mind are: 1) Stressing how important it is to ensure a positive experience. This means having constant communication, providing timely feedback, having engaging meetings w/ those who are interviewing you, etc. 2) The other piece of advice would be do not drag your feet…especially if you have a candidate who you are very interested in. I ran into a couple of situations where the opportunities sounded great unfortunately the companies were not able to turn things around as quick as others. For me, it was definitely a red flag when it would take close to 2 weeks just to schedule a follow-up interview.  3) The last piece of advice is to ALWAYS prep for your candidate for giving notice and the possibility of a counter offer. It's clear to see how easy it could be to talk somebody into staying, and why it is vital to what to we do to help walk candidates through this critical part of the recruiting process. This is the part of the recruiting process when the touchdown has been scored (offer accepted). However, the extra point hasn’t been kicked and a flag could be thrown (candidate backs out). We need to do all that we can to make sure there are no flags on the play.

Bob: Just communicate and level with me. Many recruiters who are looking have been doing this for a long time, and know the drill. But we're also not mind-readers. We want to know where we stand. We're evaluating you for the opportunity of career growth, but also with the thought in our mind, "Could I see myself being here 10 hours a day with these people"? A bad experience really makes that answer an unequivocal "no".