Your Job Search Starts Before You Think It Does

Banner image for the article

Many of you will know that I often end up talking to recruiters even though I’m neither looking for a role nor trying to fill a role. Have you ever wondered why I do this? Hopefully I’ll manage to explain it properly in this article, and I’ll also try to include some hints and tips to help you on your career journey.

As I write this I have had 16 roles throughout my career (about to start my 17th) and tried the self-employment/start-up gig six times. Through this journey I’ve learnt a bit about what gives me the best chance of being recruited for the roles I want. One of the most important parts in finding the right role with the right employer is to ensure that recruiters (both internal and agency) know you.

For most of my career I’ve been told “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; recently I was told this isn’t entirely accurate, it’s far more accurate to say, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. This correction changed the way I interacted with not only recruiters, but others within the industry and my life in general. I stopped looking for what benefit I can derive from others and started looking at what benefit I can provide to them so they remember me.

To bring the focus back to recruitment, I made some changes with how I responded to the cold-contacts on LinkedIn and through other channels. I stopped telling recruiters I wasn’t interested and instead asked if I could share the role with my network; I’d ask for a bit more detail about the role to help narrow down who to share it with; I’d also ask a bit more about the employer so I could work out if I wanted to be associated with the role.

Over time this style of interactions has morphed in to more personal interactions either through phone or video calls (and occasionally over a coffee). I now have a regular catch-up with a couple of recruiters and I also have ad-hoc catch-ups with a number of others. The content of these catch-ups is widely variable, but value is always provided in both directions.

Let’s start with the value I can provide to recruiters. The easiest one to cover is when a recruiter has a role that they can’t find an ideal candidate for; they’ll sometimes talk to me about the role and I’ll scour my network to see if there’s anyone appropriate, sometimes I’ll even make suggestions about the role to make it easier to fill. Another common way I can provide value is by helping the recruiter to build their network; this can be done by recommending events that potential candidates may attend, helping them to discover new Slack groups, or connecting them to individuals who may be able to help them. I’ve also noticed a trend recently of recruiters wanting to learn more about the technology they recruit for; I’ve had several who want to learn the basics of coding or cloud services. I’ve also talked to recruiters who are looking to set-up events to help increase their visibility, from webinars to in-person events I’ve been invited to talk/present, attend and sometimes just help with ideas for topics.

So what value do I get out of this I hear you ask? Well, first of all I get to know the recruiters and establish trust. This means that when they contact me for a role I know it is likely to be one that will pique my interest and help my career journey. I also get offers of advice and coaching when I am applying for a role; when was the last time you had a recruiter offer advice about how to get a role through a competing agency? Finally, I get the honour of helping others in my network to find roles that will suit them and to know I am helping them on their journey.

I said at the start of this article that I would try to give some pointers to help on your career journey. In case you missed them in the article, here they are as dot points:

  • Don’t just reject cold-contacts from recruiters, instead share the roles with the right people in your network;
  • Build relationships with recruiters, you have some skills they want, so help them on their journey by:
    • helping them better understand code and developers;
    • help with events they may want to run;
    • give them constructive feedback on position descriptions;
  • Don’t be afraid to accept advice from recruiters.

Of course, after saying all this, some recruiters don’t see the value of building relationships; so if it’s a one-way street, or the recruiter doesn’t want to engage, don’t be afraid to walk away