Aug 012013
Identifying a good recruiter

Picture: Free Digital Photos

The role of agency Recruiters in Africa has greatly evolved. As recently as 10 years ago, there were very few African agency Recruiters because the industry was in its infancy in many parts of the continent. Previously, candidates had little or no contact with agency recruiters, except when they received feedback on their applications which was typically made via offline media channels, but there has been a lot of changes.

Today, the increased demand for Africans to take on African roles, war for great talent and technological  advancement has ensured that agency Recruiters are now proactively identifying and approaching locally and internationally based professionals to discuss career opportunities with their client-companies, sometimes before job adverts are put together. This is good news for candidates as they are now more engaged throughout the hiring process. However, not every agency Recruiter can work effectively with every professional. So how can a professional identify the best agency Recruiter to work with?

In two previous articles (7 Tips for Working with African Recruiters – Part 1 and 7 Tips for Working with African Recruiters – Part 2), I described some key things candidates need to do, to increase their chances of a getting a job through an agency Recruiter. One of which is – Identify the best and most relevant one for you. Candidates can do so by asking Recruiters who approach them some simple questions…

1.       What industries do you cover? Do you specialise in my niche? What regions do you specialise in? An understanding of a Recruiter’s niche will help determine if he/she is able to assist you. Although recruitment principles are the same, it is not possible for an agency Recruiter to know everything about every industry or region. Some of the best agency Recruiters are specialists in specific industries or regions. The more they know about their niche, the more successful they are – working with relevant employers and engaging with relevant candidates.

2.      Can you describe some of the recent roles you have worked on? Some industries have unique specialisations and agency Recruiters working across these industries may require mid to advanced knowledge of the industries to be successful. Engineering and IT industries are good examples. The more a Recruiter can show that they have previously recruited for roles or industries relevant to you, the higher the chances of success with them.

3.      How are you planning to work with me? Are you going to actively promote my profile to specific companies? Are you going to let me know when you have an opportunity that matches my expertise? How do you present profiles to your clients? Understanding how an agency Recruiter intends to work with you will help you manage your expectations, but also determine if you want to work with them. Confirm how they will treat your application as it is important to be comfortable with how they work, especially how your confidential information is managed. Good Recruiters respect candidates data and will confirm how they intend to present your profile to their clients.

Confirm if you are happy (or not) for them to send your profile to clients without your consent. You will be amazed how many Recruiters send profiles of candidates without their consent. I have shortlisted candidates who have never applied to a company or role, only to find out when discussing with the potential employer that they have them “in their books”. Applying directly or indirectly for a particular role more than once,  looks unprofessional and can ruin your chances of success. In addition, you could be perceived as desperate and/or dishonest.

4.      Who are your main clients? Knowledge of a Recruiter’s active clients will help you determine how well they are doing within your industry of interest and if their potential roles would be relevant to you. Having this knowledge will help you analyse your prospects and manage your expectations.

5.      What levels of experience or salary range do you work across? A lot of successful Recruiters specialise across a level of experience – early career, mid-level or executive-level or salary range. The answer to this question will help you determine if a Recruiter could potentially assist at your level.

6.      What support do you offer candidates? Recruiters are not CV writers or career counsellors; their core responsibility is identifying the best candidates for specific roles for their clients-companies. This said, good Recruiters will assist candidates they work closely with to sell their skills in the most effective, but honest way. Many will assist in salary negotiation as it is in their best interest to do so. It is important to note that resource and time constraints may hinder Recruiters from assisting every candidate they come across, but good ones will whenever they can.

7.      What information do you provide to candidates with regards to your client-companies? Ideally, you want to work with a Recruiter who is honest about the companies they recruit for, roles they work on as well as the relevant remuneration packages. This said, in some situations, a Recruiter may be unable to disclose some information for confidential reasons. If this is the case, find out why and follow your instincts on whether to proceed with the opportunity or not.

8.      What is the best way for me to find a job through your company? This is one question a lot of candidates do not ask. Recruiters work differently. It is important to determine if the way a Recruiter works suits you and the best way to maximise your relationship with them. Any good Recruiter will give you this information and if you are happy with their response, work with them.

The recruitment consulting industry is largely unregulated and as a result there are different standards for different recruitment firms. I have had the opportunity to discuss with candidates who have had great and not-so-great experience with other consultants.

There is a push for proper regulation of the recruitment industry, but until this happens, it is a good idea for candidates to take charge of the relationships they have with Recruiters. It is in your best interest…


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