The Career Conversation
Updated Nov 21, 2019

You’re likely to meet a recruiter or two during your job search, so it’s important you know how to get the most from your relationship with them. Although they sometimes come in for criticism, they can provide advice for landing your next job, so you need to understand what recruiters and recruitment agencies do.


In this guide, we help you understand the role and influence of the internal and agency recruiter and how to build a relationship that delivers results.


Not all recruiters are the same. There are external agency recruiters and internal recruiters and they are subject to different pressures and expectations.


To be successful an agency recruiter needs to generate opportunities to sell to candidates and find suitable candidates to deliver to their clients. Their agency is paid a fee by a client when a role is successfully filled and the recruiter is paid a salary and commission linked to the revenue they generate.

An agency recruiter’s performance will be measured in several ways including client visits, candidates submitted, offers generated and roles filled. A good one can earn a sizeable amount and you, as a candidate, play a critical role in their success. But it’s worth remembering that they’re paid by the company, not you, and will focus primarily on delivering for that company.

The experience of a recruiter, their influence and their approach will depend on the needs of the client and the quality of the recruiter themselves. Some will have deep industry knowledge and will consider your experience and motivation. Others will be used to make the first cull by screening a large number of applicants based on their location, eligibility to work in the job location, salary level, relevant skills and so on.

Either way, they are juggling lots of candidates, clients and roles and won’t have the time to speak to every potential candidate or coach you into being a better fit for a role, which can be frustrating and demoralizing but shouldn’t be taken personally.


Working as part of a talent acquisition or recruitment department, in-house recruiters only fill roles for the organization they work for. Because they work internally they are likely to have a very good understanding of the roles they are recruiting for and have more influence on the recruitment process. Although they are less likely to be paid commission when they fill a role, their performance will be measured by the time it takes to fill a role, the number of roles filled, the quality of each hire and so on.

Internal recruiters are usually managing a variety of recruitment processes at any one time (sometimes up to 50 roles at once) as the operational needs of a company change. Which means they often turn to technology for help. For example, if you apply online your application could be screened and rejected by recruitment software before a human has looked at it. So don’t expect high levels of human contact unless you come within touching distance of the job.


If you work, or want to work, as a contractor or temporary worker it is likely a specialist recruiter will manage the process. This could be a temp agency, an internal contract team or a specialist agency. For this type of work the recruitment process is usually much shorter and a client will rely on the recruiter’s knowledge to identify suitable people. If you work in this capacity you should aim to develop a strong relationship with a few trusted recruiters in the sector you work in.


Recruiters can have a really positive impact on your job search and there are several scenarios when it’s worthwhile engaging with them, such as:

  • When a company has asked a recruiter to source candidates.
  • When a recruiter with significant sector knowledge has a strong relationship with the hiring manager of an organization you’re interested in joining and can make an introduction.
  • When you are considering a job or career change and will benefit from a recruiter endorsing your potential, experience and compatibility with the company’s culture.

As a minimum, a credible and experienced recruiter should be able to:

  • Tell you the name of their client (sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised…).
  • Provide some context around the opportunity (why has it come up? Is the company expanding or has someone left? and so on) as well as specific details about the role and the motivations of the hiring leader.
  • Provide you a job description.
  • Give constructive feedback on how suited you are to the role, gaps in your experience and on your resume and how you performed in an interview.
  • Help prepare you for an interview.
  • Work on your behalf to secure the best possible salary package if you’re identified as the preferred candidate.
  • Keep in regular contact with you during the hiring process.


Just because a recruiter is helping you find a job doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of landing a new role:

  • Approach a company directly if you know somebody there, rather than going through an external recruiter. Employers prefer candidates referred by their employees because they are considered a better judge of who would fit in at the company. Research has shown that employee referrals are the most successful hires, so if you have contacts in your target companies use them.
  • Use an agency recruiter if they are engaged to find candidates for a company either exclusively or as one of several approved agencies and have a strong relationship with the client. They are more likely to know who the right people to approach are.
  • Keep your online profiles up to date using plenty of key words for your area of specialization so both internal and agency recruiters can find you. For more help take a look at our guide to online profiles.
  • Control your job search. Only let an agency recruiter distribute your resume when you are sure they have a good relationship with the company and the role suits you.
  • Be honest with internal and agency recruiters about the status of your job search. If you are at an advanced stage in another hiring process let them know. They can accelerate the process if they think it’s worthwhile for everyone.
  • Debrief with your recruiter after each interview. If you can’t call, drop them a quick mail. Let them know how it went, what concerns you have and tell them how you feel about the opportunity in comparison to others you might be considering.
  • Connect with appropriate recruiters. If you’re starting a job search have a look at which agencies are advertising relevant roles in your sector. Ask around to find out who your contacts have found most valuable when looking for a job or doing the hiring. Narrow it down to two or three good recruiters and get in touch with them.
  • Don’t be upset if your recruiter represents other candidates for the same role. They want to maximize their chances of filling it and will work with everyone who meets the requirements.
  • Have realistic but credible expectations. A good recruiter will be doing their best to fill a role but some things are out of their hands. Clients often move the goal posts: their reasons for hiring and their needs can change and internal candidates can come forward. Trust yours is doing their best to keep the process ticking over.
  • Be clear with your recruiter from the start what you will and won’t consider. If you’re not interested in an opportunity they show you, explain why so they can refine the search. If your situation changes let your recruiter know.
  • Don’t lead your recruiter on. If you’re not interested in a role, don’t pursue it. You’ll look unprofessional if you pull out of an interview at the last minute without good reason, turn down on an offer because you were just testing the waters or look for a counter-offer from your current employer. And recruiters will remember that.
  • Always go through your recruiter once they have presented you to a company. If you contact the employer directly the recruiter loses control of the situation, which can put them on the back foot when negotiating on your behalf.
  • Treat in-house recruiters with care. They work for the company you’re trying to join and can make or break your chances of getting in front of a decision maker. They also know the business intimately, are trusted advisors and understand the company culture. Unless told otherwise always go to them, not the hiring manager, if you have any questions.
  • Know your salary. Make sure that you know exactly what you are worth and why. If you’re unsure you can ask your recruiter for guidance and advice based on your experience. You’ll know what feels right.
  • Don’t be pressured to make a decision you are not comfortable with. If an offer is made there will be pressure to accept it but always do what is right for you, while being as transparent and respectful as you can.

It takes work, but creating a good relationship with recruiters will prove fruitful in your short term search and long term career.


  1. Identify relevant and quality recruiters through your network.
  2. Be transparent, respectful and knowledgeable about yourself.
  3. Remember it’s not a perfect process. Have realistic expectations.
  4. Ensure you always have control of your job search.
  5. Continue to work your professional networks